Archive | July 2013

Quabbin Reservoir

My grandfather and I had a special relationship. I was the oldest in a single parent family, and for a while, we lived with my grandparents. My grandfather and I were readers, and I know that a big part of who I am today can be traced back to his influence. Not only did he love history and reading, he also loved nature. I never did get all that interested in fishing or hunting (okay, not AT ALL interested), but I still love canoeing down the Assabet and Concord river, I still get excited when I see a Great Blue Heron and I think Quabbin Reservoir is one of the prettiest places around.

My grandfather died three years ago this summer. Which surprises me, because it still feels like it happened very recently. I haven’t gotten used to him being gone. I feel like he’s just off traveling somewhere, and I’ll see him again soon. Which is why, when I’m faced with proof that he’s gone, it feels like it just happened, and hurts all over again. I know at some point, I’ll have to adjust, I’ll get used to a world that he’s not in, but I’m not there yet.

This weekend, I found myself in the western part of the state. I grew up about forty five minutes east of Worcester, in Maynard. And before meeting Marc, I don’t think I had ever gone to Worcester, let alone traveled often out to the western part of the state. But we had a family party out there, at Look Park in Northampton, and so off to the western wilds I headed. We spent the day with family (looking at family pictures from twenty years ago, hence the tears and grief over missing my grandfather) and finally headed back home at the end of a long day.

We took Rte.9 the whole way, and I saw the signs for Quabbin on the way out there. I haven’t thought of it in years, and didn’t honestly know where it was, let alone if it was still open for people to go wander around. I pulled in, just to see, and recognized it.

It was bittersweet for me. I had my husband and three children with me, and that was wonderful. We pulled over at a few of the scenic viewing areas, and let the kids run around. We stood on picnic tables and read the plaques explaining the history behind what we were seeing. But I kept thinking back to twenty years ago, when I was my oldest daughter’s age, and my grandfather would take me up to Quabbin. I miss him still. I see him in my daughter’s love of non-fiction, in Sam’s affinity for nature and in my baby’s smile. I see him in my mother, with her ever present bird book so she can accurately name the new visitors to his birdfeeder – and I see him when I think of my husband, with his broad knowledge base, his desire to learn, and his love of family. I learned early on about what makes a great man and father, and know that I’ve found a man who will inspire his grandchildren eventually the way my grandfather did with me.

They live on, in us. It doesn’t make missing them any better. It doesn’t make it any less painful or any easier to accept. But this weekend, I got to show my kids a little bit of what I love most about this area, and rediscovered a place I had forgotten. If you haven’t been to Quabbin Reservoir in a while, it’s definitely worth the trip. Beautiful picnic areas, gorgeous scenery and if you’re lucky, maybe it’ll remind you of someone who made the extra effort, when you were a child, to feel loved and cherished and appreciated. I know it did for me.

What’s that strange noise?

I woke up super early this morning, because there was this odd sound… took me a few minutes to orient myself, and realize that it was actually RAINING.  It’s been a hot, hot summer so far, with a ton of humidity and very little rain.  It’s drizzling now, and I’m pleased on behalf of my poor tomato and pepper plants.  For the record, laissez faire gardening isn’t always the best choice – I realized yesterday afternoon that they were choking in weeds.  So I pulled out the tiny baby oak trees that had sprouted (there were several) and moved the containers around to give them a new perspective.

We’ve had a quiet summer so far.  Lots of swimming at various pools around Worcester, lots of little day trips around.  We had a birthday party for Abi and Tali, Julie’s best friends, on Saturday, and then a slumber party that night with Jordyn and Sarah.  Sunday, we went down to Look Park in Northampton for Nic’s 30th birthday party.

Sam’s not great at a party – at least not at first.  If it’s an all day party, he’s loving it, because once he adjusts and gets comfortable there, he’s totally fine.  He’s a social kid and loves being around people, once he gets over the crippling anxiety at first.  But in the beginning, he attaches himself to me like a suction cup and is really pretty miserable.  Julie mimics him – so the party wasn’t actually all that much for me.  Jessie was fine, she had Amber, and a zillion other little kids running around, so she was bopping all over the place.  But Sam and Julie stuck really closely to me.  Fortunately, Becky was there with Abby – who’s just as likely to stick to her like glue as well.

Becky and I spent most of the party over at the playground with our three kids, none of whom wanted to actually socialize with anyone else at the party.

My aunt Anne brought an album full of old pics to the party.  And I started glancing thru them, and had to stop.  My grandfather has been gone for three years now, and it still feels far too soon to be able look back at pictures of him and smile at the memories.  It’s too painful.  On the way home, we drove up to Quabbin Reservoir.  My grandfather loved it up there, any time we were out in the area (and really, you’re never in the area – we had to make a special trip because it’s in the middle of nowhere), that’s where we’d go.  I drove up there with the kids and Marc – the first time I’d gone as an adult, and it’s really, really beautiful.  I felt like it was a fitting way to remember him on that day.  It didn’t make me miss him any less, but I did feel like my kids got to enjoy a little bit of what he brought to my life.

 

Mid-July Status Report

I haven’t blogged in a while.  Probably for a couple of reasons, but one of the biggies is that I’m just flat out heat stunned by how freaking HOT it is in Massachusetts this summer.  We’re on day 58 of this massive heat wave, and I’m holed up in the house with all the kids.  It’s like we’re camping, really.  We’ve got the air conditioners going, and enough food to keep everyone happy.  We play board games, I freak out at least once a day about the fact that the house is a mess and nobody is helping me clean.  The kids build forts, work on summer reading, fight bitterly, play board games, watch far too much television, and play elaborate imaginary games that require more setup and planning than actual execution.

Jessie and Julie had their physicals yesterday.  Both are happy, healthy content girls.  Jessie, at ten, is exactly twice as heavy as Julie at three.  35lbs and 70lbs.  Julie is way ahead of where she should be, milestone wise, and Jessie is a paragon of health, despite a staggering number of random injuries over the past year.  Concussion, foot injury, thumb problems, knee issues and just yesterday, she bent her finger backwards and is now wandering around with it taped to the one next to it.  I raised the concept of her pain tolerance just being exceptionally low with the pediatrician, and she just smiled at Jessie and told her that she was highly sensitive.  Highly sensitive – that’s a better way of putting it than drama queen, right?

On a side note – I love my pediatrician.  I’ve known her since Jessie was two years old, and she’s wonderful.  Not at all an alarmist, very relaxed and hugely knowledgeable.   And before we left, she reached over, took my hand in both of hers and told me that I was a wonderful mother.  I think that’s how all pediatrician’s should end appointments.

Samilicious Boy is having a good summer.  He’s such an even tempered, easy kid.  Except when he isn’t – but those occasions are such a major departure from his basic personality that it doesn’t detract from my impression of him.  He’s just relaxed, happy, good natured and easy going.

 

 

I think I might be a hoarder

I’m probably not.  Because I’m pretty sure that I can throw most of this crap away easily enough.  Maybe it’s just that I’ve got three kids and a husband who ignores everything in the house that doesn’t immediately impact him.  So if there are piles of paper tipping over on the desk, he doesn’t see it.

I’m speculating that if I threw away 90% of the toys here, nobody would notice.

Unless they were here to watch it go.  They’d notice then, and sob unrelentingly until I put it all back.  Because the second they see it go, that’s the moment they realize that they NEED that particular toy, whatever that toy is, regardless of the fact that they’ve ignored it for the past six months.  Obviously, what  I need to do is get a dumpster and send the children away for the day.

Very tired this morning – Jessie wanted to sleep in with me last night, as did Sam.  Jessie was feeling lonely, I know, because her beloved Glennys went home yesterday and her bedroom was too sad all by herself.  Sam ended up in there because Marc got home sometime after midnight and it was just easier for him to crash in his room and leave Samilicious where he was.  It’s a king size bed, so we all fit in there comfortably – it was just kind of hot.  The two girls are still asleep, as is poor Marc.  I need to go food shopping, but I don’t want to leave Julie here.  Not because Marc’s not completely capable of handling her, but when she wakes up and I’m not here, she expresses her extreme disappointment loudly and inconsolably.  Which isn’t a pleasant thing to wake up, especially when you worked until after midnight.

Plus, I had a really crappy dream.  I had nowhere to live, and it was so horrible.  This househunting process is horrible – but nowhere near as horrible as it was almost two years ago, when he-who-shall-not-be-named broke our lease with three weeks notice and we couldn’t find an apartment in time and had to put all our stuff in storage and stay with Sara and Arlen for a month. Not that staying with Sara and Arlen was hard, because that was kind of fun, but the whole process  of searching and searching and being unsuccessful was really one of the worst things that had ever happened to me.

It’s important to remember that we’re in a very different place right now, and even if we can’t find a place – we do have a home.  And a landlord that adores us, and there’s no real rush, other than my own desire to be in a place that we can have a dog.   I need to take a day or two off, because I’ve spent a lot of the past few days on the phone with different finance guys, crunching numbers and scouring real estate websites, searching for houses in the right price range and location.

So today – no house hunting.  It’s beautiful and cool outside, and my windows are open for the first time in a week.  I’m going to clean today, and throw away as many little toys as I can.  When nobody is looking.  In preparation for when I move (see?  I can’t stop myself…)

Maudlin Monday

Last night, Julie was disturbed.  As she is, at times, she was sobbing because one of her siblings, I can’t remember which, was “being a jerk” to her.  Whenever you do anything that displeases her, that’s her go to insult.  So she wandered over to be, heartbroken and sad, and I picked her up and snuggled her little head on my shoulder and rubbed her back.  And then stopped, because it occurred to me that I don’t know how many more times I can do this.

I can’t pick up Sam or Jessie now.  They get heartbroken, I can sit and snuggle them, I can still rub their backs and kiss their foreheads, but picking them up is a thing of the past.  And I CAN’T REMEMBER THE LAST TIME I DID IT WITH EITHER OF THEM.   I realized, in that moment, that my days of being a mom to little ones are numbered.    Because Julie’s heavy, she’s almost three and a half.  She’s just going to keep getting bigger, and some day, not tomorrow, not next month, but someday, I’m going to just sit down with her when she’s crying and that’ll be that.

I think I’m mourning that today.  I think having three is the right number for me, and I’m not at the point where I want to get pregnant and do it all again.   Mainly, it’s the pregnancy.  Julie’s pregnancy was HARD, on me, and on everyone else.  I was miserable, sick, itchy, high blood pressure and non stop contractions.  And with Marc away as much as he is, I’m really the only full time parent here during the week.  I can’t put them thru me being out of commission for nine months.  And because I can’t guarantee that it’d be an easy pregnancy, because it’d probably be as tough as Julie’s, possibly worse with my blood pressure – I was really close to pre-eclampsia at the end of her pregnancy, it’s probably best for everyone that I stop at three.  All these logical, logical, sensible reasons – and I know all that.  But I’m wistful and sad today, because there’s a part of me that will always want another baby.

Then I looked back in the archives, and realized that almost exactly a year ago (July 12th, I think), I was feeling the exact same way.  I’m thinking it probably has to do with Sam’s birthday – another child turning another year older.  Maybe this is how I feel every February, April and July.

(post from last July) http://www.melissaannecohen.com/im-so-not-ready-for-this/

To my son, on the eve of his seventh birthday

Dear Sam –

At seven years old, I can see, sometimes, just a little bit, the man you’ll be some day.    Smart, so smart, and such a good, good man.   When people speak of you, the first thing they always say to me is that you are such a sweet, sweet boy.  You are kind and thoughtful and such a good brother and friend.  From the very beginning, you have stunned me and humbled me with your strength of will, your utter and complete devotion and your incredible sweetness.

When you were born, I was a pretty confident mother.  With a three year old already, I figured I knew what I was doing.  You quickly disabused me of that notion, and have, in the past seven years, taught me more about motherhood and standing up for what I know to be right, even when it isn’t popular or easy.   You came into this world with an enormous force of will, and the passion and drive to make the world conform to your ideas of how it should be.

You are incredibly determined, and such a tender, tender heart.  I think sometimes the dichotomy of that – your passion and strength, and your achingly sweet vulnerability and desire to please make it very hard to be you.   But what makes it hard at three and five and seven years old is what makes you so amazing.  You are simple and pure, and funny and sweet and mischievous.  You are an amazing friend, with best buddies that date from infancy, and both your oldest and youngest sisters’ favorite sibling.   Lilli will still get on the floor and wrestle with you, and Julie thinks the sun rises and sets in your eyes.  Sarah and Jessie love you, but it’s your oldest and youngest sisters that you gravitate towards most of the time.

You are my boy, my buddy, my baby.  You’ve grown up so much this past year, there was a time, not long ago, when you were my koala baby.  Now you’re running and jumping and only occasionally needing to check back, to make sure, to recharge yourself with a little Mama time.  It’s at night, snuggled up reading Harry Potter, or first thing in the morning when you still curl up in Daddy’s lap for breakfast and cuddles when we remember the tiny boy you used to be.  You are big and bold and brave, conquering demons that only you really understand.  We are so enormously proud of you, every day, and love you more than you can imagine.

I love you, my Samilicious Boy.  You are everything I ever wanted in a son, and you make your dad and I happier than you’ll ever know.  Happy birthday Buddy – you make my world a better place because you’re in it.

 

Three year olds and God

There’s something about that age, for my kids, anyway.  Three is where they start to get a concept of God – and I find it absolutely magical.

When Jessica Mary was three, she was so fascinated by the concept of God that I started looking much more seriously at Judaism, because I wanted a strong religious foundation for her.  There was no Church of Melissa that I could send her to for formal instruction, and when I looked at raising her in my spiritual tradition or Marc’s – Marc’s was the clear winner.  On the theological bones of it, Judaism was such an easy fit for my beliefs – and Judaism had the added bonus of already having a huge community waiting to welcome her.  She loved the rituals, lighting the candles and making the blessings, and explaining that something was a mitzvah was the quickest way to ensure her cooperation.  As a three year old, her spirituality was already so defined.

When Samuel Earl was three years old, he was the same way.  He wanted to have a birthday party, just him and God for his fourth birthday.  Part of that was that he didn’t like people all that much and at least God wouldn’t be looking at him and making him talk – but part of it was also that he had a profound connection to nature and trees and being outside.   I called him my little Druid – he was intensely connected to trees and the outside.  I remember him sobbing after a really bad storm came thru and so many trees were lost.  It was painful for him on a level that was hard to watch.  For Sam, his belief in God has always been intense and natural and easy.  God is his friend, God made the trees and when there is damage done to nature, Sam is devastated, not just for him, but also for God.

And my Julianna Ruth, who turned three in April – last night, I started reading a book that I had picked up for Sam for summer reading.   First Book of Jewish Bible Stories – and I just read the beginning of it, where God first created the world.  She was fascinated.  It was a story she’s heard before, because she goes to preschool services at the synagogue, and she knew the song about the days of the week, ending in Shabbat.  She was so excited about it, reading about her friend God.  She announced that he was her new best friend, and how he must have created people so that they could be his friends – and I thought about what a fascinating way children have of boiling down theology to their level.  And how safe and reassured she was – God was out there, and he loved her and she loved him, and it was so exactly what I wanted her to take away from the story.

I struggle sometimes with Judaism.  I don’t feel at home with the culture all of the time.  I don’t like gefilte fish, and don’t understand Hebrew.  But what I love about it is that the Jewish God is my God.  He (or She) is the one that I’ve been connected to for as long as I remember, I have always felt as though we have a very personal, individual relationship.  And when I’ve struggled the most is when I’ve felt cut-off from that relationship.  But in the end, I believe what my kids believe.  I think three years olds know it all already, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to understand it.  God loves us, he gave us tools to make it easier to connect with each other and with him, that the natural world is intimately a part of him, and that in the end, the world is a better and brighter place because of our relationship with him.

Listen my children, and you shall hear

So we went to the library yesterday.  Which was somewhat of a fiasco, due to a toddler who shall remain nameless but chose to sob unrelentingly throughout the entire experience.  I remember thinking that this girl was no joke when it came to teething, and she still isn’t.  But I was able to get books for the kids (and one or two books to get me thru the weekend), and one of the ones that I picked up for the Boy was The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I’m always somewhat surprised by Sam’s fascination with heros.  With soldiers and battles and rebels and wars.  Jessie read it out loud yesterday on the way down to my mother’s, and I read it to him this morning when it was just the two of us awake.  I like the poetry, and we talked a lot about how different words were able to create a picture of what it was like.

But after I read it, he curled up at my feet and started going thru it, examining the pictures and trying to figure out in more detail exactly what happened, and when.  His favorite cartoon is Liberty’s Kids, there’s something about the American Revolution that fascinates him.