Archive | October 2013

October RoundUp

Things have been super crazy busy lately.  I feel like I’ve been running around frantically trying to get everything done, and only getting maybe 75% of it accomplished.  Kids are all well and healthy, with the minor exception of Jessie being sick last week (or was it two weeks ago?) and then Julie was throwing up on Saturday.

Jessie is doing really well.  She’s almost eleven, does that make any sense at all?  Eleven was a big year for me, when I was a child.   A lot happened that year, my grandmother died, my parents’ divorce was finalized, I got my period (TMI?).  I just feel like it was such a pivotal year for me, and it’s so bizarre and strange to me that Jessie is actually old enough to be eleven.  She’ll be turning eleven and I’ll be turning forty.   Hmmm – I sense a lot of introspective posts coming around the end of January/beginning of February.   She’s growing up so fast – and the reality that I have a tween-age daughter is still one that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Sam’s rocking the first grade, and all is well there.  We’ve had a couple of fairly significant hiccups, times when the anxiety gets really intense and he struggles, but mostly, he’s doing great.  What I like most about pick up after school is watching him interact with all the other kids.  He gets up to the top of the hill, tosses his backpack at me and then dances off to run and yell and be insane with all the other kids.  He’s got a best friend – he and Nicky have been together for the past two years, and I love it.  But he plays with a whole bunch of different kids, he’s so social and relaxed with his peers.  I love it.

My Julianna – oh, my Julie.  In some ways, she’s thriving – she’s finally at the point where she actually enjoys going to preschool.  It was a HARD adjustment, and so many times, I wanted to give up and just let her stay home.  She was too young, it wasn’t worth this level of stress for a three year old.  But we seem to have to gotten to the other side, she isn’t crying anymore, she’s still a little wistful at drop off, but only at drop off, and she isn’t sobbing relentlessly all morning on the way to school.  On the flipside, she’s also adopted this incredibly infuriating habit of fake crying when things don’t go her way.  Just hollering in a wailing sort of way, no tears, just loud irritating screaming.  The other night, she dropped to the floor and yelled for fifteen minutes because she changed her mind about the way she wanted her hot dog (in a bun as opposed to cut up) and I had already gotten it ready for her.  I try to not stifle their expression – it’s okay to cry if you’re upset, or express unhappiness  – but I swear, I’ve found myself actually yelling at her and demanding that she STOP screaming or I’ll put her in time-out.  What consistently surprises me is that it works – putting limits on the yelling is almost a relief to her, because left unchecked, she just keeps yelling.

I’m busy, busy, busy doing Sisterhood stuff, ECC stuff, and trying to keep up with the housework (which never happens) and, when I can wrestle the computer away from Marc/kids, and the house is quiet and I can actually work uninterrupted – writing.  I wish I had more time for writing, but it’s hard to find it.  Even right now, I’ve got laundry piled up, and a dishwasher to unload/reload and Julie is sitting right beside me, a few minutes away from demanding time/attention from me.

Mama, if you had to decide right now, would you have another baby?

Jessie wants a baby.  Bad.

Every couple of days, at least once a week, my girl comes to me with some version of the question above.   Do you think someday, you might have another baby?  And each time, I want to shake her, just a little, and point out that I’ve been trying to read Anne of Green Gables to her for the past few months and we’re still on chapter four.  I want to show her the books piled up on the living room couch that never get put away because Mama’s just too tired to fight that battle, the piles of outgrown toys that used to be neatly organized but are now just heaped up in a corner, bins on top of other bins, and crowned with a doll house.

I have a million other reasons why I’m not having another baby (finances, lack of a second car, lack of a first car that’s big enough for another car seat, inability to pay enough attention to each kid now, miserable memories of a really tough pregnancy with Julianna, etc), but I can’t quite bring myself to completely squash her hopes.  “Maybe someday, not right now, and maybe not ever.”  That’s the response I’m sticking with.  Maybe someday.

Maybe I’ll do it again – feel that first stirring of nausea, and another nine months of building a baby.  Nothing brings a family together like pregnancy (I still have vivid memories of Sam, Marc, and Jessie all huddled around me, rubbing my back and trying to hug me while I vomited, day after day, with Julie).  It was hard, really hard being pregnant, and I was really close to preeclampsia and I was so ridiculously, painfully, tearfully itchy… I’m not sure I want to sign up for that again.  I remember thinking that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t put my kids thru another nine months of having me be so compromised.

But a baby… I love a baby.  And I look at Jessica now, almost eleven years old, and so beautiful and smart.  My Sammy boy, seven years old and so big and grown up -and my Julie, my baby Julie, and she’s so funny and sweet and absolutely adorable – why wouldn’t I want to do that again?  If I had missed on a single one of them – God, I can’t even begin to describe how much richer and blessed and perfect my life has become with each one.  How much I’ve learned, how much they’ve added.

But for right now – I’m going to keep in mind those million reasons – the finances, the lack of a second car, the lack of a first car that can fit another car seat, etc.  I’m going to remember that I’m not quite yet forty – there still is time, if I really wanted to.  Eventually, the choice will be taken from me, and if it doesn’t happen, I’m okay with that.  I have Jessie, I have Sam and I have Julie.

And if anyone has a baby – and is looking for a mother’s helper or babysitter, please, please, call Jessie.  She’s ready and available.

Sunday mornings

I love Sunday mornings.  It’s the only morning I don’t have to get up and do something.  Monday, Wednesday and Fridays would be my next favorites, because I don’t have to do the dreaded Julie preschool run.  Tuesdays and Thursdays unilaterally suck because really, when your toddler wakes up sobbing, it’s never fun – and Saturday, Sam starts sobbing about Hebrew School.

But Sundays, oh, I love Sundays.  I stay in bed for as long as possible, and make people bring me coffee.  Sometimes, if Marc is home as well, Sam will talk him into getting me breakfast in bed as well.  I make sure that I’ve got a good book in there, and just laze in bed all morning long.

Today, I’m up a little earlier, but mainly because Sam had taken over the television in there and I grew weary of Digimon.  There’s just so much Japanese weird little creature television I can take.  But both my girls are still sleeping (Julie is in her bed, and Jessie is oddly enough on the couch because Sam was watching a movie in her room last night).  The house is quiet and still, and I might know that there are baskets and baskets of laundry to be folded, but I can’t see them, and am finding it very easy to not think about.

I think Jessie might go back to the doctor’s today – Girlfriend is still sick.  It’s always hard with her to see how much of it is actual physical sickness, and how much of it is just drama.  Which is not to say that she feels wretched and miserable, merely that it’s not entirely of a physical nature, and if I just chill about it, and get her to calm down, she’ll feel better.  But she was lying in bed last night, sobbing and sobbing about how much she doesn’t want to be sick – and she was utterly, totally sincere.  We’ll see how she’s feeling when she gets up, but it’s almost nine and she’s still sound asleep…

I worry about my Jessie sometimes, one of the things I love most about her is the intensity and commitment that she has, but it’s one of the things that makes her life more challenging and difficult at times.  If she’s sick, or sad, or happy – whatever the emotion or feeling she has, she does it all the way, with no looking back.  It’s a double edged sword, because it’s part of what makes her awesome, part of what will make her successful and happy, and also a quality that adds an enormous amount of stress and difficulty to her life.

But today’s not the day to overanalyze (at least not more than any other day in my world).  It’s Sunday, my day of days.  And I’m going to spend it puttering around, cleaning and folding laundry, making finnish pancakes for my kids and waiting for Marc to come home from work.  Then I’ll either go visit my parents, home finally from their travels to Hawaii, or take Jessie Bug Noodle to the doctors.  Again.

 

 

 

Breakfast with the boy

I kept Jessica home from school today.  She’s not contagious, her allergies are so bad that her throat is all red and raw, she’s congested and crabby and just not feeling well.  I brought her into the pediatrician’s yesterday, and the doctor told me to keep her home, give her advil and let her rest.

Which is exactly what she needs, she slept for a while in the car last night to pick up Marc, and was in bed asleep by ten.  Then slept until well after nine this morning.

But… it did mean that Sam had to go to school by himself.  Which is always hard -whenever one stays home, the other one freaks out.  But he handled it really well yesterday, and didn’t balk at doing it today.  So I rewarded him – a little bribe, a little incentive to encourage good behavior.  I made a deal with him last night, and he got up super early this morning and got his little self dressed.  And we were out the door a full half hour earlier than we usually are.

I got up early and woke up just Sam.  He had crawled into our bed around five thirty or so, so I was tricky and quiet.  Didn’t want to wake Julie or Marc.  I plopped him on the couch and put on Big Bang for him.  I brought him his clothes, he got all ready.  And we snuck out the door.  We went to Dunkin Donuts, and had two donuts.  One chocolate covered with sprinkles and one honey dipped.  He finished up his homework that he forgot he had, and we talked and hung out and it was so sweet.

One of the hard things about having three children is just time.  Finding time to get everything that needs to get done is impossible, and scraping out time to spend, one on one, with a child is always a bonus.  And he was just so cute.  His hair is growing, and he was all scrubbed up.   Sam tends to get lost at home, I think.  He’s my easiest child, in a lot of ways (actually, I could say that about all of them – they all have ways in which they are my toughest and my easiest).  But emotionally, he’s very simple.  It’s not complicated with Sam – it can be hugely intense and dramatic and challenging, but it’s very easy to decipher.  My girls are more layered, emotionally.  And half the time, they don’t even know what’s bugging them, let alone how to fix it.  Sam’s just easier.  He’s more like Marc.  (The flipside is that I have to admit that Jessie is just like me, in terms of emotional processing – she’s hugely emotional and dramatic and handling fifty seven different emotions all at once).

But I loved having that time this morning with Sam.  It was lovely, he was fun to hang with, and I was so proud of my beautiful boy.  It’s enough to make me want to keep a kid home every week, just so I get that one on one drive time alone with the other.

Stupidity Induced Migraine

My head is killing me, and it’s my own damn fault.  I was too polite to refuse a cup of coffee at dinner last night, and because drinking coffee at seven thirty is never a recipe for a good night’s sleep, spent most of the night staring up on the ceiling panicking about money.  Which is what one does, in the middle of the night, right?  To mix it up a little, I also stressed out over Sam’s anxiety issues, Jessie’s allergies and Julie’s separation freak out at preschool.

I’m not happy today.

But I’m treating it with ice cream and advil, and yeah, more coffee.  Because as soon as Marc gets home from picking up Girlfriend at preschool, I’m going to launch into super productive mode, and drop Marc off at work, pick Sam up at school, take Jessie to the pediatrician’s office for her allergies (because she sounds so gross and congested I wouldn’t want to sit next to her at school), pick up Harrison, come home, cook dinner, feed them, drop Harrison off, pick Marc up and then go to the PTG meeting.  Late.

Marc and I had a nice talk last night, and he’s going to try and be more… anticipatory?  Is that the right word?  He’s always willing to help out, but sometimes he relies too much on just doing what I instruct him, which can almost feel like more work than just doing it myself.  Which leads, inevitably, to things getting missed and not done, and me feeling overwhelmed and like I’m really crappy at parenting.  This morning – Julie, again, woke up sobbing because she didn’t want to go to preschool.   But Marc handled it – just handled it, which was AWESOME, because I was too busy trying to figure out if Jessie was sick enough to stay home or not.  He told her a long involved story, which distracted her from being miserable and even managed to get her shoes on.  And dropoff went relatively well.  Because relative to other drop offs that we’ve had, this was was good.  She was crying but walking on her own.  Not begging me to stay, just sobbing quietly.  I called and checked on her, and she was doing great, even sitting at the table for snack (which was extra good, as she refused to eat any kind of breakfast this morning).

Sam was even a little bit late this morning – not really, but late enough so that he couldn’t go out back and play, just went directly into class.  And it was a non-issue.  He didn’t freak, didn’t panic.  Definitely reassuring.

Columbus Day Weekend

Busy, busy weekend here.  Actually, it’s been a relatively frantic couple of days around here.  Thursday, my poor little Sammy had some massive and major issues at school.  He’s an anxious little kid, with some pretty major separation/social anxiety struggles that we’ve been dealing with since… well, birth, I guess.  And he’s gotten so much better, but there are still triggers that can send him completely over the edge.  Being late for school is still a huge one.  Because I know this – he’s simply never late.  And our policy is that if he was late, it was better to not send him to school rather than send him in late, because it’s that difficult for him.  But it’s not much of an issue, because we are just NEVER LATE.  Except for last Thursday.

Marc had forgotten to grab his backpack.  Or Sam did.  Or I forgot to remind him (nothing I like more than spreading the blame around).   But because he’s been so great lately, adjusted to first grade without even a hiccup, I thought we could power through.  I was wrong.  Long story short, the whole morning ended up a complete fiasco, with the Boy not making into school, me getting into a fight (me, a fight – I’m the least confrontational person I know) with a school adjustment counselor and Julie never made it to preschool either.  It was just a disaster, all the way around.  And certainly confirmed my original theory, which I will now never forget – if he’s going to be late, just don’t bring him at all.

So that was Thursday – and it was pretty much all day Thursday, because by the time I made it home, we had already missed preschool, and I was so stressed that the rest of the day was pretty much wasted.  Friday, the kids had off from school, and Glennys arrived.  All is better when Glennys comes down.  Marc and Jessie went to pick her up, and I had Abby-with-a-bow and Leah and Devin here as well, so it was chaos and busyness all day.  Devin ended up spending the night, actually, now that I’m remembering it, Leah slept over as well, so I put the three older girls in Jessie’s room, Devin in Sam’s room, Sam in my room and I think Marc crashed on the couch.  Becky and Abby stayed for dinner, which I loved.  Always happy when I’ve got my Becky here with me.  And I’m especially happy that she and I had daughters together, there’s something enormously satisfying about watching my best friend’s daughter be my daughter’s best friend.

Saturday – Marc was working, and I spent the day at home.  With a zillion kids, and it was nice.  I actually sent Jessie and Glennys out for a walk down to the park, by themselves.  And panicked only a little bit.  I baked cookies, had a long chat with my friend Dahlia, put Julie down for a nap.  Sunday was Sarah’s bat mitzvah.  And on Monday, my Glenny went home, the kids went bowling and Julie took another nap.  I totally jumped on Julie’s nap as an excuse to miss bowling, and stayed home to write an article that was due today.

This morning wasn’t easy – because Julie still hates going to preschool.  Oddly enough, she doesn’t hate preschool, she’s happy and content when we pick her up, and chatters about it when she isn’t there.  But oh – my girl fights going all the time.  She usually starts the night before, begging to stay home, crying and sobbing.  And the mornings are absolutely hellish.  Especially when Jessie jumps on board and starts complaining about how much she hates school as well, and then both my girls are grumpy and/or out and out sobbing, which makes it increasingly harder for me to stay sunshiney delighted about bringing them in.   And when I inevitably lose it, because I generally do at some point (because really, I’m not a morning person, and dammit, there’s only so much drama a mama can take before I have to start hollering at them), it just goes downhill from there.

Oddly enough, Sam is almost always angelic in the mornings.  He’s either flat out losing his mind and refusing to go (which happens so rarely, it’s only when he’s late – which WILL SIMPLY NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN), or he’s fine, no problems at all.  He gets up, watching a Big Bang Theory, eats a healthy breakfast, gets dressed and goes about his day.  Jessie is the middle one – mostly she’s fine, but she can throw down with enough frequency that it’s impressive.  And Julie just sobs, the whole time, every Tuesday and Thursday.

So this morning was craptastic, and I’m already dreading Thursday.  Drop off went well, though, and I’m optimistic that it’ll get better for her as time goes on.  It has to, right?

 

 

Bedtime Champion

I’m awful at putting my kids to bed.  There, I’ve said it.  I like to think I’m pretty good at most of the mothering stuff.  I’m patient, pretty relaxed about most things.  I can bake really good cookies,  and get dinner on the table quickly and most of them eat it.  But I’ve never been good at putting them to bed, awake, and walking away.

When I just had Jessie, it was easy.  I was GOOD at bedtime with just Jessie.  We had an elaborate routine, involving stories and singing.  I sat beside her at night and rubbed her back and she’d drift off to sleep.  After Sam was born, it started to get more complicated.  He wasn’t an easy baby, he was convinced that his rightful place was in my arms.  All the time.  And while it’s possible to sing while nursing, reading a bedtime story is a lot more complicated.

That’s where George Stephanopolis came into my life.  I learned quickly that my kids would fall asleep immediately when faced with political commentary.  We had a big love seat then, and Marc was working most nights.  So I’d snuggle them in on either side of me, shut off all the lights and we’d watch a little George.  On the upside, I became incredibly politically fluent, and we had a bedtime routine that was perhaps unorthodox, but effective.  I’d slide out from under them, and then haul them both into their own beds.

Once Julianna was born – things got more challenging.  We moved to my king size bed.  And I’d put them all to bed at the same time.  Still watching George, or the Daily Show.  We had settled into a routine where we’d all snuggle up and watch recorded episodes of Big Bang Theory.   And it was nice… for a while.   But more and more, they were staying up with me, and I was feeling trapped and stuck because I had to stay there with them.  Nobody was getting that much sleep, and it was time for a change.  Jessie’s always been pretty good at sleeping in her own bed, but she’s struggled with falling asleep forever (hence the long drawn out routine as a toddler).  Sam’s the opposite, he falls asleep easily, but would always prefer to be in my bed.

Cut to – books on tape.  Or CDs.    I had a long conversation with both the older two, and explained that it was time for them to start falling asleep, in their own beds.  Their little bodies needed more sleep.  I googled sleep requirements and explained that they needed between 11 and 12 hours a night, and waking up at seven meant that they needed to be in bed by eight.  Julie had always been good at going to sleep, she’s down for the night at seven or seven thirty each night.

So now I’m in control.  We’ve got a SYSTEM.  I put Julie down first, getting Sam and Julie ready for bed at the same time.  Once Julie falls asleep, I focus on Sam, doing a little reading or Big Bang with him and then tuck him into bed.  He’s listening to Magic Tree House or Harry Potter.  I leave on the kitchen light, so he isn’t in the dark, and he just chills until he’s out.  Then I move on to my Jessie – she likes to read or sometimes watch television for a bit, but then it’s lights out.  AND IT WORKS.  Last night, I got Julie down by 7:15, and both the older two were sound sleep by 8:30.  I’ve got at least two extra hours a day!  Brilliant.  Bedtime Champion.

I just hope I haven’t accidentally cursed myself by bragging :-)

 

Way Back Wednesday

I’ve got a crappy cold, and feel no particular inspiration.  But I haven’t posted a blog entry in a while, so I thought I’d try and pull one off.  I just wrote a very long, incredibly boring blog post, and deleted it.  So here’s an old post, better written, from a few years ago, when Julie was little.

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/differences/

I had to go to the registry today to update my voter registration and get a copy of my title for the dead van so that we can get rid of it.  Marc and I both went, as we were both on the inactive voter list.  We had to wait for over an hour, and Julianna was mostly awesome.  She ate her goldfish and sipped her water and when those activities lost their appeal, she sat on the floor and went thru my wallet.

I was sitting there, half reading my book (the new Anna Quindlin memoir) and half watching to make sure that she didn’t lose my license and other assorted cards in the wallet when it occurred to me that Marc would never have just handed over his wallet for her pleasure.  Just would not happen.  But it bothered me not at all, in fact, I was pleased that I had such a cheap, easy, accessible way to keep her occupied and quiet.

I’m not sure if it’s a difference between a mom and a dad, or a difference between men and women, or a difference between us, in specific.  I sense it’s more of a difference between he and I.  For as much as we are alike, there are major and distinct differences in us.  Somehow the differences work, mostly.  And if they don’t, the things we have in common are enough to smooth it over.   But the differences between us are huge when you think about it.

He’s much more organized and single minded than I am.  I’m more laid back about things and better at keeping vague track of a lot more information.  He never loses his keys and his peanut butter, but I know pretty much all the little details of the house and the kids’ lives.

I’m always going to give my wallet to a toddler and he’d never dream of it.   Because it’s just not that critical to me, if the price of keeping her content and happy is a confused and mixed up wallet, well, that’s not all that much of a price.  Especially given that it’s all jumbled up from the last time she did it.  It makes him nuts when his license is behind his health insurance card, or when his socks are to the left of his underwear instead of the right in his dresser.  It wouldn’t occur to me to mind.  I consider myself lucky to get socks and underwear into the dresser at all.

He’s better at stories than I am.  Every night now, he reads a chapter of Harry Potter to Sammy and tells Julie a Princess Julianna story.  Sam will reluctantly let me read to him if Marc really can’t do it, but Marc reigns supreme for Julie, in the story telling realm.   I’m better at setting limits, and at taking emotional control of a situation, assuming command of a tantrumming toddler (or rabid six year old, or dramatic nine year old).

He’s steady, emotionally, where I’m a lot more… mercurial, shall we say?  I’ve got a lot more highs and lows, Marc just exists at this steady content level.  I’m much more likely to get frustrated or impatient or irritable, or wander around singing and dancing or giggling to myself.  I’m a lot more in touch with my emotions as well – I can tell you exactly how I’m feeling.  Marc has trouble articulating it.  He can spend hours explaining in exhaustive detail about constitutional law or some abstract scientific principal that proves… something I can’t remember – but ask him to explain, in detail, his thoughts and feelings regarding an emotional issue?  He’s baffled.  It’s like asking me to know where north is – I don’t know.  I can, with a little time, orient myself eventually, but only if it’s daylight and I can remember that the sun rises in the east and then figure it out from there – but Marc knows instantly.   Exactly where he is, geographically, and where he’s going.  I spent at least 80% of my time when I’m driving at least a tiny bit lost, he’s always aware of where he is.

So why do we click as well as we do?  Part of it is the bigger issues – we’re both strongly connected to our families, we both want the family we’re building together to succeed in ways that our own might not have.  We both have a strong spiritual inclination, and tend to put emphasis on the same things.  We’re both aware that the two of us together is bigger than either of us, apart.  I just read (in the aforementioned book) that the biggest indicator of why a couple stays together is their own determination to NOT get a divorce.  I’d say that we’re the opposite, or rather it’s the combination of his absolute commitment (he’s already done one divorce and won’t do it again) and my exceptionally high standards (I see so many miserable unhappy marriages, or worse, resigned unhappy marriages and can’t understand why anyone would accept that as status quo.  I was raised by a single parent, that’s my default way of seeing adulthood – nobody is more surprised than me that I’m actually in this really great marriage) – that’s what works for us.  We have to stay together (for him) and we have to be happy (for me).   Not that I’m not committed and not that he doesn’t also want a happy marriage, but I think we put the emphasis on different things, and the combination is what works.

One thing is for certain – there’s nobody I’d rather sit at the registry for over an hour with than him.  There’s nobody I’d rather raise children with, nobody I’d rather wake up to every morning than him.  He’s the best and most consistent part of my life, he’s the person who’s always on my side, no matter what.  He’s my partner, in the truest and best sense of the world, and I’m always, always aware of how lucky I am.