Archive | December 2013

Midwinters Walk

Today’s a relatively warm day (in the forties, I think) and I’ve got four kids here.  Sarah and Jessie have been holed up in her room for the past couple of days (with a brief break when the slept over at my in-laws last night), and Sam and Julianna have been together, playing and bickering.   I spent  most of the morning cleaning and reading (I like to bounce between the two), and by a little after 1:00, we were all relatively stir crazy.

So I made them all put on shoes and got buckets.  No real reason for the buckets – although I’ve used them in the past when I was doing scavenger hunts (give them a list of ten things – like sticks, rocks, flowers, etc – that must be collected on the walk) and set out.  Julie was miserable, but willing to go along with me if I’d push her in the carriage.  Yes, I know she’s closer to four than three, and I know that she’s far too big for the carriage, but I shoved her in there anyway because Girlfriend was not going to walk willingly.

Sarah, Jessie and Sam put the buckets on their heads and off we went.  Sarah was bouncy and delighted, fresh air and nobody yelling at her to hush was just what she wanted.  Jessie was still in her new red Charlotte Klien sweatshirt (she hasn’t really taken it off since Christmas Day) and Sam was so right there with Sarah.  He likes to match her, crazy for crazy, and the two of them screamed their way around the block, laughing and racing and running.

One thing that I’m really grateful for, now, as the kids get older, is that we spent as much time together when they were little.  Marc and I got together a few months after he filed for divorce, and the girls were very young.  They don’t remember a time without me, I don’t think.  We always taught the kids that they were a family – they were sisters (and later sisters and a brother).  Even though we don’t see the girls anywhere near as much as we used to (and adjusting to that loss has been really hard on my kids), because they’re getting older, when we are together, they’re still siblings.  The foundation is there – and my kids, and my stepkids, function as a family.

Mostly now, it breaks down to Jessie/Sarah, and Lilli/Sam/Julie, but make no mistake – these five kids are a unit.  They’re family, and siblings and crazy and insane and loving and fighting and bickering and driving their parents crazy together.  And it was a lovely midwinter walk that just reinforced that for me today.  We may not do everything right, as parents.  (In fact, at any one time, I’ve got a lengthy list of parenting screw ups I’ve committed that day.)  But one thing we did right, from the very beginning, is to raise our family as siblings.  Lilli and Sarah are a separate unit, as are my three – but for sure and for certain, the five of them together are a unit too.  And that’s lovely.  Even (maybe especially?) when they’re running up the hill, with buckets on their heads, and screaming with joy and laughter.

 

Goodbye Christmas 2013

This wasn’t a great Christmas.  Wasn’t a great holiday season, honestly.  I took the tree down yesterday afternoon, and felt a giant weight fall off of me.

I’m incredibly conflicted about the holidays, and vowing to stay the hell off the internet next year, from Thanksgiving to New Years.  At least to avoid any blog posts or articles about Judaism and Christmas.

I like to communicate – which you probably know if you read this blog.  I like to talk and to write and to share.  It’s not just the sharing, because I’ve always written, and it’s not just the writing, because I love comments and interacting and sharing ideas.  I love community, at the heart of it.  I like finding people I agree with, and debating and discussing and analyzing and learning.   I love reading things that are honest and real and true.  I like knowing that people are reading what I write.  What I don’t love is conflict and judgement and disapproval.

That’s what the holidays represented to me for me this year, conflict and judgement and disapproval.  From the embrace of celebrating Thanksgiving and Hanukkah together (which made no sense to me – why was that okay but celebrating my secular Christmas and Hanukkah such a sin?), to the article on kveller that I wrote about the interfaith message, and the firestorm of comments that followed it, including the response from the rabbi bemoaning the spiritual future of my children.   It just felt… like nobody liked what I was doing, and I was isolated and kind of alone out here.

I don’t like feeling alone.  I’m Jewish, but I’m also a woman who grew up celebrating other holidays.  Judaism is another step on my journey, and one that I’m profoundly grateful I was able to take.  Judaism is the path I’ve chosen for my future and for raising my children.  But I still value my past, and the way that I was raised.   Christmas is a part of who I am, and it’s part of who my children are.  Negating that isn’t true, and I refuse to live my life according to rules that have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with fitting in and following the party line.

So I’m saying goodbye to Christmas 2013.   I’ll do a final postmortem, and try to figure out why this year was so tough and how I can avoid that next year.  I loved writing the posts that I did, and I loved, loved, loved the feedback from other Jews who emailed me and told me that they felt empowered and validated.  I loved knowing that my journey might make it a little easier for someone on a similar path.  I don’t want to stop writing about Christmas and Judaism.  But maybe next year, I vow to NOT read the comments.  Ever.  To not engage people who openly judge and disapprove of me, and just let that be their problem and not mine.

Next year, I’ll try harder to celebrate to take back Christmas for me.  To not feel… so vulnerable.

And now we move onto January.  I love January.   Not only is it my birthday month (40 this year!!) but it’s the start of the new year all around.  I’m all over Rosh Hashana as a Jewish New Year, but January is always going to be month of beginnings for me.   I feel like forty is such a milestone birthday – I’m both completely looking forward to it and feeling compelled to spend some time reflecting on the last forty years, and what I’d like for the next forty.

 

Harmony and how to get it

It’s my goal, and I often fall short.  It occurs to me that it’s not necessarily something I can do, so falling short isn’t entirely my fault.  Harmony isn’t something one person can create – it’s dependent on a whole bunch of factors (and by factors, I mean cherubs) working together.  And because it’s so important to me, I think sometimes I miss the good stuff because the bad stuff is so much easier for me to get upset about.   Because there are moments of absolute bliss… like Julie and Jessie playing together in the bathtub, and Sam working with Julie and showing her how to color.  And even more rare, Sam and Jessie actually being kind and buddies.   Those two compete all.the.time and it’s not pleasant.

BUT – my new goal is to not notice the negative and only focus on the positive.  I tried it last night, when Sam was being a pain.  He was mad about something, and was lying on the bed playing the poor me game.  The one where he moans periodically and talks about how horrible his life is (I remember now, he was mad that neither Marc or I have a smartphone, and thus, he’d deprived the opportunity to play on our phones.  Despite the DS, the computer, and the Wii that we just installed.)  I just ignored him, whereas normally I’d have tried to console him or (more likely) lost patience and gotten mad at him for wallowing in misery instead of moving on.  Last night, I just totally ignored it.

AND IT WORKED.   After about ten minutes of lying there, moaning and writhing around, he just chilled out and forgot about it.  It was lovely.  Far more efficient than anything else I’ve come up with…

Maybe that’s the key – stop trying so hard to prevent bad behavior and only pay attention to good.  It doesn’t seem logical, and there’s a huge part of me that thinks it won’t work.   Crappy behavior should be recognized, and clearly designated as not tolerable.  You don’t get to say crappy mean things to your sibling and make him/her feel horrible.  BUT what if I just ignored it?

It might not work, but I’m going to give it a shot, at least until Christmas.  Just ignore crappy – and focus on happy.

Little boys and guns

We have toy guns in my house.  Lots of them.  We also have daggers, swords, shields and helmets.

This wasn’t what I had planned.  I grew up in a family dominated by women – my dad wasn’t around, and I had a single mom and many, many aunts.  I believed that weapons were BAD.  And if we just eliminated them, the world would be a better place.  My brothers didn’t have toy guns in my memories (although I could be wrong), but my mother was always anti-toy guns.   I was certain that when I had kids, I wouldn’t allow toy guns in my home.

Then I married Marc.   Marc liked guns (although we don’t have any real ones in the house).  Marc liked boxing and mixed martial arts and the armed services.  Marc liked a whole bunch of things that I had never even considered.  Which is handy – because part of what’s awesome about him is that he’s so different from me.  We’re alike in the important ways (spirituality, commitment to family, we like intellectual discussion and debate, etc), but he’s into all kinds of stuff I’m not, and vice versa.

Marc had two girls from his first marriage, and our first child was a girl.  The weaponry discussion didn’t come up.  Jessie was not a rough and tumble sort of girl, her favorite activities were coloring and playing with her doll house.    Reading.  I knew what I was doing, as Jessica’s mom.  She was (and is) sort of a mini-me.  I understood her because I had been her.

Then we had Sam.  And while I am certainly aware that gender roles can be incredibly limiting, and rigid definitions of what  a boy likes versus what a girl likes don’t really do anyone any good – I see where they come from.  Sam’s just different from Jessie.  In a whole bunch of different ways.   For example – Jessie took her first steps when she was eleven months, and then sat back down and didn’t walk again until she was a year and a half.  Sam was running at thirteen months, and before he learned to walk, he could pull himself up by holding onto the furniture.  He’d labor to get his little body upright, turn around and then topple over.  And then do it again and and again and again.  Marc and I were watching him one night, and I remember telling Marc that he didn’t seem to learn – he just kept falling, and Marc laughed at me and said he was a boy.  That’s what they do.  Sam would climb up on top of table and jump off, which is why for about a year and a half, I couldn’t keep my chairs at the dining room table.

He was just different.  He loved things that were big and bold – the trash truck’s arrival every week was an event, and when we got a new vacuum cleaner, he bonded so closely with it (because Marc had let him “help” him put it together), he gave it a hug and a kiss before going to bed that night.    We used to pack picnics in the summer and go sit on the sidewalk to watch the construction vehicles building a house a few streets over.

I’m not sure when the gun thing started.  It might have been when he started sitting up with Marc at night while I was reading to Jessie and watching the History Channel on battles and armor.  It might have been when he started sitting with Marc and playing the computer game where you build a civilization and have armies and navies and kings and battles.  Or it might have been when Marc brought him home a plastic rifle and handed it to him.

I was shocked and horrified – a toy gun?  In my house?  For my little boy???  Absolutely not.  It was bright orange, and the look on his little face, he was in love with it before we got it out of the package.  Marc shrugged off my concerns, he had played with them as a kid, and it was no big deal.  And I thought of all the ways in which Sam made sense to Marc – all of the ways that he idolized his Daddy and all that he did.  Marc was as much his parent as I was.  And perhaps he had a better sense of what Sam would like.

Turns out I was right – Marc did know what Sam would like.  And seven years later, we’ve got swords and nerf guns and battle armor and army guys galore.  Because Sam adores all of that.   And my Julianna – the daughter who’s growing up with a big brother – she wields a sword with skill and grace.  And is just as happy to chase after Sam clutching a toy pistol as she is to play dress up with her big sister.

I know it’s not always a popular position, but I’m okay with the guns and the weapons and battles.  Because I’ve been doing it for a while now, and I have learned that the guns are really more a representation of being able to defend yourself, and stand up against evil.  To protect and defend.  I know that this gets into dicey stuff – about what being a boy/man is versus being a girl/woman.  I know that my children, my older two, line up along very distinct gender roles.  They model themselves after their dad and I.  And Marc’s really into stuff that’s very stereotypically masculine.  He loves the military, loves physical activity.  He also really likes to pretend to hunt zombies (with Sam, as opposed to by himself – which would be weird), by sneaking around the house, armed with nerf guns and a sense of drama.

I also feel really strongly that this is a part of who Sam is, and that nurturing, accepting and embracing that is part of my job as his parent.  To make him feel as though liking that is wrong, that pretending to be a brave knight fighting a ferocious dragon to rescue the princess is not okay would stifle him in ways that I wouldn’t dream of doing to my daughter.  Jessica loves mothering – she loved baby dolls long past the point where other girls had outgrown them, and is happiest when she’s got a real baby in her arms to hold and snuggle.  Very stereotypically feminine – and I celebrate that as well.

My job as their parent is to support and encourage them to be themselves.  Present the options, and not push one way or another.  Would I have bought Jessie a toy gun?  Probably not.  But I’m pretty sure that I would have let Marc buy her one.  Do I make sure that Sam has baby dolls and snuggly things as well?  Absolutely, because he loves that too.   All of my kids, regardless of gender, love baking and reading and coloring.  But one of them also likes really cool weapons, and that’s okay with me.  I’m not going to make him feel ashamed of liking it, or make him feel as though he’s wrong to want to learn more about them.

To me, there’s a difference between a discussion on gun control and a discussion on whether or not you let your kids play with toy weapons.  It’s not that there isn’t a need for responsible gun control, and a definite need for a discussion on the state of mental health treatment in this country – there is.  But it has very little to do with the plastic dagger that lying on the carpet at my feet, along with the colored pencils and the army guys and the Barbies. Those are toys – and tools for imagination and storytelling.  For playing together, making up elaborate games and running around and being a kid.  I’m in favor of all of that.

My wounded tree

My tree fell over. Twice. And at least once, my toddler toppled off the couch into it.

Last night, my husband took the whole thing apart, and realized that I had not precisely put it in the tree stand the way that I should have. Okay, maybe I just shoved it in and assumed that it would be good. It was – for a few days anyway.

The tree is a big deal for me. I’m a Jewish convert, and putting up the tree has been a difficult topic every single year. Putting up a tree is representative of a whole lot more than just a tree – it’s a symbol of my past and my traditions, and my children’s connection to it. And when it fell over last night for the second (or third) time, I burst into tears and sobbed all thru the clean up. I lugged it outside and propped it up on the porch, so I wouldn’t be staring at the glaring failure of all my Christmas dreams all night long. I moved some furniture and put Julianna’s baby tree (she wanted her own little tree this year)into a place of prominence in the window and even put my angel (the one my mother bought for me twenty years ago, when I first moved out) on top of it.

And this morning, Marc took his little saw outside, and cut and trimmed my tree, and we shoved it back into the stand. Brought it back inside and and then took off all the lights and garland, popcorn and cranberry strings my son had made for me, and it stands there, naked, waiting for decorations. After a teary phone call home (because only my mother would understand why I was so sad last night), my mother is coming over this morning with new ornaments to replace my broken ones, and lights (because she never thinks I have enough lights), and Julie and I will decorate the tree with her this afternoon. So when my older kids come home tonight, they’ll have their tree back, prettier than before. More stable. Less likely to fall.

I’m thinking of the tree as an analogy for me this year. This month has been hard – the December Dilemma has been particularly difficult this year, and I’m feeling battered and worn down and tired. Just like my tree. But there’s another week and a half before Christmas, and I’m vowing, like my tree, to emerge ready and steady, newly decorated and committed to making sure that December is not the month of conflict and isolation, but rather a month of warmth and peace. Of celebration and gratitude and love. Hot cocoa and candy canes, looking at lights and watching holiday specials. Of anticipation and parties and quiet nights reading together. Like my tree, standing so proud, I’m going to embrace the scars and battle wounds – because all of it makes me who I am. Christmas means more to me because I fight for it, because I insist on bringing a bit of my past into my Jewish home. My tree is prettier because of the hole where Julie toppled into it, and it’s more stable now because it fell over. Twice, or was it three times?.

Merry Christmas everyone – may we all emerge from December a little stronger, a little more settled and, like my tree, able to wear the wounds and bruises proudly. Because it’s what makes our tree, and us, who we are.

 

Repost from three years ago

It’s not easy to find a December post that isn’t angst filled over the whole December issue, but I was looking back and found this one.  I remember this night so clearly, and the feel of her little head on my shoulder.  I really don’t regret holding Julianna as much as I did when she was tiny – and now that she’s a big almost four year old girl – I’d give anything to go back for an afternoon and hold her tiny little self again.   Just for an afternoon – because time moves on, and she’s equally or more awesome now – but I do miss it…

(repost from December, 2010)

Sure, sometimes it’s aggravating.  Sometimes I think about the dishes I could be doing, the laundry I could be folding, the dinner I could be making.   Julie is an angel baby – she’s social and happy, and still a pretty good sleeper at night – but she’s a crappy napper.  Unless she’s being held.  She’ll snuggle down and just sleep for hours as long as one of us is willing to sit still and hold her.

The other night, I had so much to do.  I had spent most of the week at the hospital with my cousin and her gorgeous baby, so my house was crying out for attention.  The laundry was washed and dried, but there were oceans of it waiting to be folded, toys were scattered all over the place, the dishwasher had to be emptied, and I was starving (because I had fed the kids dinner and cleaned while they ate).  I put the two older ones to bed, and had Julie snoozing in our bed.  I eased away, slowly, so slowly, holding my breath – and she started fussing.  Then she started wailing and I just sighed and picked her up.  She laid her head down, patted my back gratefully and went right back to sleep.

I came into the kitchen, got myself dinner, zapped it, poured a glass of milk, and settled down on the couch to watch television and eat.  All one handed (I kick ass at getting stuff done with a baby in my arms).  And she was so sweet and snuggly – and I realized that I’m not all that frustrated at holding her while she sleeps.  Because, really, how many more babies are going to sleep on me?  How many more times will I have a tiny little one who’s whole idea of happiness is just being with me?  I’ve learned that they grow so fast.  So freaking fast, and she’s my little girl.  My tiny baby girl, and in the same way that I love it when Jess staggers into my bed in the middle of the night, or Sammy curls up with me first thing in the morning, I love her little head on my shoulder and baby hand patting my back.  They won’t always be this little – and I don’t regret a single second of holding my older two.  I don’t regret holding Jessie so much that she didn’t actively walk until she was eighteen months old.  I don’t regret nursing Sam as long as I did.  I won’t regret holding Julianna thru her naps either.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that when she’s an active, roly poly four year old who won’t nap anymore, I’ll look back on the hours that I spent just snuggling her and miss them.

Fridays

know I’m supposed to be all “YAY – It’s Friday!” but really, about all I can muster up this morning is just an overwhelming feeling of “Again???”  In nine minutes, I have to launch into my merry mommy routine – whereupon I smile and occasionally break into song, all while packing lunches and fishing clean clothes out of the laundry basket full of other clean clothes I haven’t folded yet.   Packing lunches that my children will pick at (although they’ve been voluntarily taking salads to school for the past two weeks, so I shouldn’t complain).

Mornings aren’t too bad around here, mostly.  Moods are hugely contagious, so I force myself to be sunshiney delighted all.the.damn.time in the mornings.  Another tip is to not listen to Jessie’s tone in the morning, but rather hear her words.  Because Girlfriend has not learned my lessons about moods (or just doesn’t care, which I’ve also considered).  And if I respond to her grumpiness, she just rachets up the intensity.  Sam goes a little bat crap crazy in the morning, he fools around when I want him focused on eating and getting dressed.  And my Julie – maybe she’ll sleep in today.  Which she should, she spent most of last night rotating around the bed like a helicopter.    I can’t imagine that was restful.

Six to twelve inches on Saturday night.  Of snow.  I’m ill amused.

I’m tired.  Last night, I was cold, so I kept Julie snuggled up next to me, instead of putting her into her own bed.  I was suitably punished around one thirty, when she literally kicked me in the face.   So I’ll get the coffee (can you tell it’s still brewing?  I get cheerier as it kicks in….), and I’ll start the dance of getting the kids up and dressed and happy to start the day.  I’ll even work harder on loving it – because they’re gorgeous and healthy and happy about going to school today.  My girl is starting a new project at school that she’s psyched about – and Friday is gym.  If you’re Sam – gym is really the only reason you go to school at all, so Fridays are always happy for him.  And I’ll go food shopping and get stuff for a big Shabbat dinner tonight – I may even find enough time to make some challah to go along with it.

Happy Friday everyone – here’s hoping we all get enough coffee :-)

10 Fun Facts About My Life These Days

1 – We still play musical beds most nights.  The only constant is that I sleep in my bed.  Everyone else sort of rotates.  I know it’s odd, but it works for our family.

2 – We’ve moved Botulism Night (the night where I open the fridge and tell the kids to pick what they want from the leftovers and we hope it tastes good) into what we now call “Daddy’s Restaurant.”  Marc’s better at cooking leftovers and making them actually palatable – and the kids love placing their order and having Daddy cook it on demand.

3 – We’ve had to move Julianna’s car seat into the middle of the back seat, because putting Jessica Mary and Samuel Earl next to each other for car rides is a recipe for disaster.

4 – Jessie and I know read the same books.  Not all the time, but we can read a book together and talk about it.  I love that.

5 – Julianna now demands every night that I make her teeth dirty again (after we brush them) and last night was bitterly upset that I had forced her to pee against her will.  I put her on the potty, and told her that she had to go – and the look on her little face when she actually peed – it was like her body had betrayed her by listening to me.

6 – Sam is amazingly good with his little sister and cousin Abby-with-a-bow.  He’s ultra-responsible, caring and protective.  And teaches them about swords, what “ABANDON SHIP” means and the wonders of potty talk.

7 – Jessie is signed up (okay, not yet, but I will sign her up, I promise) for the Red Cross Babysitting Course in February, and I’ve made preliminary arrangements for her to volunteer at the JCC this summer as part of her bat mitzvah project.

8 – I’ve come to realize that December is the month where my friends and beloved husband will feel ultra defensive about Christmas, and I’ll feel the most alienated from mainstream Judaism.  Making a mental note to table all interfaith discussions for anytime other than the months of December.

9 – That being said, my Jewish husband is now adding a new tradition every year for celebrating Christmas, and is actively on the hunt for a train to run around the bottom of our tree.  Another mental note to pay attention to what Marc DOES, and not what he says.

10.  I’m never ever going to get caught up on the laundry. Ever.  I should just accept that, and move on with my life.

Why do we have to hide?

I put up my tree last night.  And on Sunday, I was at a PJ event, and one of my friends confided that her kids were picking out their tree later on that afternoon.  Confided, because it’s something that is still somewhat shameful.  And while a part of me understands the secrecy, I do, there’s a huge part of me that doesn’t.

I’m Jewish, and I’m doing my best to raise the next generation of Jewish children.  I worked HARD for this Jewish label, I met with a rabbi for close to a year on a monthly basis.  I took my two oldest children to a mikvah, and sat before a Conservative Beit Din.  I dunked my screaming toddler three times (okay, only twice, because the rabbi took pity on him and said enough was enough).  I’ve got my own challah and hamentaschen recipe, candlesticks, I crocheted matching yamulkes for my husband and son.  I’ve read and studied and thought and debated and discussed.  I’m proud of my Judaism.

But I’m never going to be a Jewish woman who grew up steeped in the culture.  My grandmother didn’t make matzoh ball soup, my grandmother was Irish and English and Catholic.  I’m not ashamed of that.  My mother isn’t a Bubbe with her own challah recipe, she’s Grammy and she decorates wildly and enthusiastically for all holidays, from Valentines Day straight through until Christmas.  My kids come from that.  I don’t feel like I need to hide that, or be ashamed of it, or pretend that it’s not a part of who I am, and who they are.

I know not everyone agrees with me.  I know that there are lots of people who really, really don’t agree with me.  People who think that being Jewish is, in large part, defined by what you don’t do, and putting up a Christmas tree and celebrating what, for many, is absolutely a Christian holiday, is perhaps one of the biggest signalers of being Jewish.  People who think I’m confusing my kids, and watering down Judaism and perhaps I never should have converted in the first place.  I know that.

But I truly believe that I’m a good Jewish mom.  I think I’m a good Jewish wife.  I think I’m doing my best, to be the best Jewish woman I can be.  By showing my kids that you need to honor all that you are, not just the parts that society deems acceptable.  That, in the end, all you can do is be true to who you are.

If that means that my family doesn’t understand why I converted, then it’s up to me to educate them.  To teach them what Judaism is, to show them why it’s so important to me.  To bring them in, as much as I can, so that they can see what I see when I see my oldest teaching my son how to read Hebrew, and hear my baby recite the blessings.  If being who I am means that there are members of my community who disagree with me, and think my tree has no place in a Jewish home, it’s up to me to show them that maybe they need to look past the tree to see the Jewish home.  To see the PJ Library books scattered all over the rug, and the Shabbat box that came home from preschool on Friday.  To see the Siddur on my daughters bedside table, and the bag of yamulkes I keep in my china closet so that guests in our home on Friday night can put one on.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s my job to make it a little easier for the woman who married a Jewish guy and is trying to figure out how to raise her children in a tradition that isn’t hers by birth.  Because it’s hard.  Really hard.  It takes determination, and flexibility and a lot of encouragement and acceptance.   There’s a huge number of us, non-Jews who married Jews and we want to do it right.  We want our kids to grow up feeling secure and welcomed and happy about both sides of their heritage.  Whether that means exploring Judaism and converting ourselves, or not.  I converted, and I’m so grateful I did.  For my family, for me, it was the right choice.   But a dip in the mikvah doesn’t change the thirty plus years of not being Jewish, nor should it.  I’m not ashamed of converting, and I’m not going to tell my children that they aren’t a part of my family’s traditions.  They are.   Their story starts with ours, with my husband’s journey as well as mine.

And in our house, we put up a tree.  And we don’t hide it.

10 Pregnancy Facts

1. Aimee was the one who suggested that it was possible that I might be pregnant, and I’ll never, ever forget that feeling when I looked at the calendar and realized that I actually might be.  We were in the kitchen in our old apartment on Harriman Court, and she was standing by the refrigerator.  I looked at the calendar, remembered that I had celebrated my birthday the month and that I had definitely had my period then.  And it was holy moly, OH-MY-GOD, I was more than a week late.  I have never, in my entire life, been as shocked as I was that day.  That’s why Marc says that I’ve successfully predicted thirty six of my last three pregnancies.  I know predict I’m pregnant all the time, because I was surprised so completely the first time.

2. I threw up consistently, all nine months, with all three of my babies. And it was still my favorite pregnancy symptom, because in my head, if I was vomiting, it was a healthy pregnancy.  In fact, I think I talked myself into puking on several occasions, because when I was puking, I KNEW it was a good pregnancy.

3. I ended up in the hospital with both Sam and Julie’s pregnancies, because the vomiting got so bad in the first trimester that I was dehydrated to the point where I couldn’t hold anything down.  I’d feel so sick I couldn’t eat or drink, which, ironically, just made me feel sicker.  Once I was on that cycle, it only stopped when I’d get hooked up to an IV and rehydrated.

4. Jessie was breech and wouldn’t turn. So we scheduled a c-section. I went on maternity leave early, then she flipped. And was then so overdue, that they scheduled an induction for the following Monday. On Friday morning, at the start of a massive snowstorm, I went into labor on my own, and still ended up with a c-section after my contractions stalled out at nine centimeters.

5. My blood pressure dropped really low after Jessie was born, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I had passed out and it gets a little fuzzy now that I’m remembering it. But I know that nothing about the situation stabilized until Marc brought my baby girl over and laid her next to me. Once I had her with me, I was fine.  It was an instant connection and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  She was MINE in a way that I could never have imagined, and I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it.  I remember consciously thinking that I couldn’t stop shaking and because I was so violently shaking, I couldn’t hold her.  And since I couldn’t hold her, I might as well just pass out.  So I did.  And it wasn’t until Marc brought her to me, and I looked into her eyes that I stopped shaking and the blood pressure stabilized.

6. My water broke, in the glass elevator at St. V’s, when I was two weeks away from my due date with Sam. Standing there, holding onto my little three year old Jessie.  It was July, I was hot and miserable and absolutely delighted (although mortified that I appeared to have wet my pants in the elevator) that it was happening a week earlier than expected.  Jessie had been close to a week overdue.  I was completely shocked, and the fact that his delivery was so quick and so easy (I went from five to ten centimeters in a half hour), and then he was a boy (I was positive he was a girl) – I spent the first 24 hours after he was born still trying to catch up.

7. He was born separation anxiety, and knew, right from the very first minute, who I was, who he was, and that when we were separated, it was bad. Kids really are exactly who they are from the very beginning.

8. Julie was my worst pregnancy, I was so sick and so itchy and I cried all the time – but her birth was beautiful and peaceful and lovely. She was born after only two pushes and Marc and I were laughing when she arrived.  There have been lots of times, over the past almost twelve years, when I’ve really, really loved him.  But that moment, when he was right beside me, with his arms around me, laughing with utter delight as we welcomed our baby girl is one of my all time favorites.

9. I love the three to four year age difference between my kids – it’s perfect for our family.   I love having a ten year old, a seven year old, and a three year old.  And it was just as cool when they were 9,6, and 2, and all the way down.  Each one is at a different stage, a different place and they’re close enough so that they can be buddies as well.

10. As much as I loved being pregnant, and as much as I loved being a mama with tiny babies – I think we’re done. I don’t think we’ll ever KNOW for sure that we’re not having anymore (until it’s just a physical impossibility) but our family feels complete in a way that it didn’t before.