Archive | January 2014

Blogging about tweeners

I’m not sure on blogging about my oldest anymore.

 

Sam is still little and doesn’t care.  But I’m still careful about what I write when it comes to him.  Because he is a kid who doesn’t like a lot of attention, and not that I think he’ll get any attention from my blog, but I’m still careful.  With Julie – yeah, pretty much everything she does is still fair game for writing fodder.  She’s young enough that I still feel like what happens with her is my story as well.

But with Jessie – it’s not as much my story any more.   It’s hers.  I’m still her mother, and raising her is still going to be a topic of mine, because… well, because I’m still doing it.  I’m always going to have my story, as her mother, and I’m always going to need to write about it.  But there comes a time when it needs to be less public.  I think.  Or more about me, and less about her.

I’m still feeling my way thru this (this actually could be my motto when it comes to parenting).

Jessie is growing up, and it’s not always easy.  Lots of times, it is.  Sometimes, often, it’s beautiful and funny and sweet and takes my breath away with how incredibly graceful and lovely it, and she, can be.  But sometimes, the whole process is infuriating and frustrating and demanding.  And posting about the lovely, beautiful stuff is easy – and there’s lots of material there.  But writing about the hard stuff… the tears, and the yelling, and the battles over how her hair looks and why Sam is so crappy to her… that’s not so easy.  It’s part of the story, but it certainly not a story that she would choose to be writing about.

So I don’t.  Not really.  I thought about a blog post about how a nap makes everything better, whether you’re a year old or almost eleven, but that would involve a description of what led to Jessie falling asleep at three o’clock in the afternoon, and that’s crossing the line.  It’s not a line that’s clearly defined, but it’s there.

What do you think?  When you write about parenting, how much of your children’s stories are fair game?

Hands off parenting

I’m a “hands on parent.”  The problem I’m facing is that hands on parenting, for an infant is completely right, and hands on parenting for an adult child is completely wrong.  And the whole transition from infancy to adult is this giant process of me letting go.

Some of the letting go is easy.  First they can hold their head up independently, and you don’t always have to support it.  Then they can sit up with support, and then by themselves.  I’m great at letting go when it comes to letting babies sit up.  And walking… okay, I wasn’t great at that, honestly.  Both my girls didn’t walk with any real frequency until they were at least eighteen months.  Sam was climbing on top of the table before he was a year old, but I didn’t have anything to do with that.  Hands on parenting can’t complete with Marc’s testosterone-laden gene, I guess.

But I was great at feeding them, happily introduced solids before I was supposed to – when they seemed interested in food, I gave them some.  And I followed Jessie’s cues, and when she was ready to stop nursing at nine months, I went with it.  I followed Sam’s cues as well – although those weren’t cues so much as blatant, in-your-face demands, and continued nursing into toddlerhood.  Julie is still nursing a tiny bit, and I’ve pushed that process.  Stopped nursing her at all for anything other than just before bed, but she was ready for it, and mostly just fussed a little.  A few bad days, and she was fine with not nursing during the day.

It’s the rest of the letting go that I’m struggling with.  Letting them go out into the world, without me.  Not trying to solve all their problems, and learning how to say “I can’t fix this one for you, you have to do it yourself.”   With Sam, it was almost easier – his adjustment was so fraught and so challenging, we literally had to get advice and help on how to get him thru the separation anxiety.  And he’s still little enough that he’s not dealing with PROBLEMS, exactly.  Letting go with Sam was just a matter of trusting Sue Gravel.  And God bless her, she got us thru kindergarten, and my boy is a happy, thriving first grader now.  My Julie is still so young.  Letting go, with her, means letting her have the tantrum in the kitchen and walking away after telling her that she can come sit with us when she calms down.

But my Jessica Mary, my angel girl – with her, I still struggle.  I struggle more with her, because she’s my first.  By the time Sam reaches her age, I’ll be so relaxed.  I’ll have done it already once, so I’ll have a roadmap to follow.  With Jessie, there’s no map.  There’s no frame of reference for me to follow, and I’m constantly straddling a line that I can’t always  see.  When she’s getting ready in the morning – how much reminding do I do?  Too much and she gets resentful and snotty, not enough and we’re late for school.  There’s a sweet spot there, and I don’t know where it is.  Doing homework – same thing.  How much assistance to give?  How much nagging?

She’s growing up.  Somewhere along the line, she started fixing her own hair in the morning, and it strikes me now that I can’t remember the last time I fixed it for her.  For school.  I still get to put in her ballerina buns for dance class, but every morning, most mornings, she gets up, gets dressed, and fixes her hair by herself.  In her bedroom.  Appears out here in the living room, with perfect hair, perfumed and lip glossed lips.  It’s only because I won’t let her wear make up that she doesn’t do that as well.

She’s almost eleven, and I worry about the next seven years (OMG – it’s only seven years until she’s 18).  Because there’s a lot left for us to figure out, in this whole mother/daughter dance we’ve got going.  I think about my own relationship with my mother, and how we transitioned into adulthood.  But in a lot of ways, my relationship with my mother was completely different.  And so much the same.  Because Jessie is a part of me, in the way that I’m a part of my mother.  We grew up together, in a lot of ways.  And I’ve lost track of if I’m talking about my mother and I, or Jessie and I.

Hands off parenting – I don’t think I’m very good at it.  But I’m trying.  But she’s always going to be my baby, and I’m always going to think that I should be more involved than I am.

Way Back Wednesday

Here’s a post from the archives from February 2012.  It really doesn’t seem all that long ago that we were dealing with tylenol suppositories and molars coming in…

For the most part, my kids are great thru the night.  Granted, I nurse well into toddler hood and co-sleep, and as a result, even if they were waking up, it wasn’t an issue because I’d sleep mostly thru it.  Last night was the exception.

Marc had gone to the gym, so he wasn’t home until after ten.  Jessie has been having trouble falling asleep, so I told her that she could sleep at the foot of our bed.  Sam only falls asleep with snuggles, so he was in there too.  And Julianna was on the other side of me.  Normally, we move at least one or two out of bed, but last night, when Marc came home, I was already asleep, so he just shut the door and tiptoed out to sleep in Sam’s room.

Julianna is cutting some molars, I think, because she woke up at three o’clock.  Now, if she’d woken up and said “Mama, my teeth hurt.”  I know I would have been sympathetic.  I’m a good mom.  But she’s a toddler, and instead, she woke up, sat up, and hollered happily “PAT PAT!”  Which is code for “Hey, lets watch Little Einsteins!”  At three o’clock, I’m not really into insipid Disney cartoons.  I’m just not.  And by the time I clued into the fact that she was actually rubbing her mouth and crying (due to the fact that I wasn’t putting on the television), Sam was awake too.  So I got up.

I brought them both into the kitchen, gave Sam some motrin because he claimed his nose hurt, and changed Julianna and gave her a tylenol suppository (she vomits the oral meds).  We watched an hour of television, then went back into bed, Sam finally drifted off close to four thirty, and Julianna fell asleep about twenty minutes later.  Which would have been great, I could have gotten at least another two hours of sleep – but Marc’s alarm clock went off at five.

I got up, because I missed him.  And I’m so glad I did, because (despite the fact that I’m now so exhausted I could cry but don’t have the energy) we got this lovely little interlude when it was just us, and we could talk and discuss and debate and hang out.  I love him so much, and it’s easy to sometimes lose sight of that connection.  Not lose it, exactly, but have it fall to the bottom of the list, between homework and dance lessons and teaching Sam his letters and getting Jessie to do her chores and wrestle Julie into the tub – spending quality time with my husband is an incredible luxury.  So today I’m grateful for the sleepless night.  And also grateful for a midday nap :-)

Daily chaos

It’s been one of those days.  You know the ones, where you’re just running from one place to another and the laundry is piling up, and there’s eighty seven thousand things on your to-do list, and you know that you’ve forgotten to put a bunch of stuff on there.  I’m not sure if it’s an organizational thing – perhaps I need to get better at actually writing things down on a list and not just keeping them in a mental file.  But I keep buying notebooks and writing things down, and then one kid or another will need to color and there goes my list.  My brain may be cluttered, but at least it’s just mine.  Nobody colors in my brain.

I turned 40 on Saturday. And it was… yeah, just what I thought it would be.  I meant to go to services at the synagogue and ended up dissolving into tears because I was so old.  By the time I pulled myself together, I would have been so late that it wasn’t worth it to go.  I felt… fragile, for lack of a better word, all day.  Like it was something awful that was happening to me.  I had stayed up all night the night before, trying to pep talk myself into it.  It’s better than being dead, for example.   But that didn’t make me feel better, oddly enough.  But the day came and went, and I’m still here.

And I had a lovely party – Marc worked so hard, and my friends David and Aviva let him throw the party at their house.   Marc’s family came, and there’s a whole lot of Cohens, so that was lovely.  My family was not as big, but my parents were there, and my sister and Becky.  And all my friends were there, and it was…. nice.  It was.  I’m very lucky, and I’m not unaware of that.  Because I do have a big extended family and lots and lots of wonderful friends, and it was loud and fun and kids were running everywhere.

But I was still 40 – and mostly, I’m just glad that the day is over.

So – life goes on.  Which, in and of itself, is a pretty major statement and a good reason why I should stop writing about being forty.  Jessie was sick all last week, with a sore throat and headache.  Lethargic and mopey, and I brought her into the pediatrician twice to make sure that it wasn’t strep.  The second time, the doctor suggested that perhaps we do some bloodwork to rule out mono – and that was enough to kick-start her into health.  She was magically much better after that.  Girlfriend hates bloodwork.  Julie is still a little misty at drop off for preschool, but not going in the castle any more, which is good.  Sam is my easiest kid, most of the time.  Except for when he isn’t – and then he’s holy moly incredibly challenging.  He still struggles with anxiety, but it’s only for specific things – like being late for school.  But we keep working on it.  He works on it, and one of the challenges is that because he is so emotionally sensitive, and such an introspective kid, getting him to get outside of his head and gain a little perspective is a struggle.

 

Fight on the bed fixes lunacy

Sometimes, Sam just gets goofy.  I don’t know why – but he’ll do something stupid, intentionally, to get in trouble.  Not because he wants to be in trouble, but because he’s bored or wants attention or just because he’s a lunatic.  And there’s no cracking him, he just wants desperately…. something.  And will act like an idiot until he gets it.

And I think – I’m not sure – but I think what he wants is fight-on-the-bed.

Tonight was a classic example of this.  It had been a lovely afternoon.  Really.  Very peaceful and relaxed, the snow is coming down and we were all home.  Jessie isn’t feeling great, so she’s been moping around the house.  I spent an hour on the phone with the kindle helpline (turns out you can’t have two separate email accounts with two separate calendars sync-ed up without making the calendar app shut down completely).  We had dinner, Sam was teaching Julianna how to play chess (some would say it’s an exercise in futility to teach a three year year old chess).

Then it just all fell apart.  Sam just got… stupid, for lack of a better term.   He started screwing around and then when nobody reacted, he intentionally destroyed a paper thing that Julie had built.  He knew damn well that would get a reaction, and it did.  I lectured him, briefly, and when that wasn’t enough of a reaction, he then ripped it into little pieces.  When he wouldn’t pick it up, I told him that I’d put him in time out if he didn’t.  He said fine, but with a big grin on his face.   Then I threatened to take away all electronics for tomorrow.  Which he blithely agreed with – and that’s never something Sam is blithe about.  Ever.  I put him in time out, just for being… a pain.  So I’m sitting on him, to keep him in the chair, and he’s giggling and being stupid, and I’m looking at Marc and he’s looking at me.  We are just punishing him for being goofy.  And not stopping.

I gave up and just walked away.   I’ve got fraction homework to oversee and rugs to vacuum, punishing a seven year old for being giddy was ridiculous, and yet, he was being such a pain that I couldn’t deal with him.  So I left the room.  Which is where having two parents comes in handy because Marc handled it in a way that I would never have.  He took off his glasses, grabbed Sam by the waistband of his pants and carried him into the bedroom.  Then he flung him onto the bed.  After a solid half hour of wrestling and flinging and giggling and lunacy, Sam was able to stop giggling and answer coherently.  Put on pajamas even.  They’re snuggled up together reading Harry Potter.

Flinging and Fight on the bed.  Would never have thought of it.   Boys are weird.

Turning Forty

I feel like it’s a significant birthday.  I wasn’t particularly freaked out by any of my other milestone birthdays.   Turning thirty was nothing – I had a baby girl who was turning a year old two weeks after my birthday.  That was my focus.  Turning thirty five wasn’t a big deal either, I was busy.  I had a six year old and a three year old, and I was thinking about getting pregnant with Julie.

All of this, I’m sure, is part of why I’m so panicked about my fortieth.  I’m probably done having babies.  And even if I’m not, I don’t have any immediate plans to get pregnant, and I’m pretty sure that I won’t.  Such a huge part of my life is over.  The creation part.  Now I’m just living the dream.  So to speak.

This is horribly inarticulate, but it’s hard for me to entirely understand what I’m feeling right now.

Forty just feels like something I need to pay attention to – to take stock of where I am, what I’ve done.  To honor my past, to really think about what brought me here.   So I thought what I’d do, in preparation for my birthday next Saturday, is to take some time to look back.  Before I can look forward.  Before I can look at where I am right now.

So much of what I do these days is day to day chaos, running from here to there, school pick up and girl scout cookie booths, planning out dinner and pushing kids into the bath.  Trying to cram in a little bit of writing, desperately reading to try and center myself.  Focusing on my marriage in tiny stolen moments of the day, and rushing, rushing, rushing from one thing to the next.  Which is lovely, in and of itself.  I have this incredibly blessed life, filled with people I love and activities that bring me fulfillment and joy.  But it isn’t a life that leads itself to a lot of introspection, at least not at this point.

My first decade was probably the most challenging so far.  I was the oldest of four children.  My parents got married out of high school, and had me two years later.  My two brothers were born almost exactly two and four years after me, and my youngest sister was born when I was five and a half.  My parents’ marriage was ending, and they separated very soon after my sister was born.  I had a huge extended family, on both sides, my mother was one of six kids and my father was one of eight.   Both had grown up in the same small town that we still lived in, and I was enveloped in this incredibly close and loving world.  My father was…. around? for most of that decade.  I have very few memories of him, and the ones that I have aren’t entirely lovely.  They aren’t entirely bad, but they are few and far between.  His family opted out, and we were a single parent family long before it was something that was mainstream.  It was a “broken home” and I was achingly aware of it.  I was an introspective kid, and not at all comfortable with being a kid. I wanted to grow up, I wanted to be old enough to make the decisions and be an adult.  My mother gave me the incredible gift of absolute faith.   She loved me, and trusted me.  Because she was confident that I was responsible and capable, I was.  I felt like the other adult in the family.  I was always aware of being the oldest kid, of having to set an example of good behavior.  I loved, loved, loved reading.   I loved babysitting, and being the one that everyone turned to.  I felt much older than I was.

Mostly, when I think of this decade, I think of confusion.  My parents (my mother) always gave us the gift of our own feelings, she didn’t want to tell us how to feel about the divorce or make us feel as though we couldn’t express ourselves, but it was a double edged sword.  Because I hated being in the middle, being the one to decide where to go and who to spend time with.  Having the power and the responsibility for my own feelings was scary at times.  Because I was the oldest, the other three followed me, which meant that if I was with my mother, my father was alone.  And vice versa.  While it makes so much sense, and was a decision made with love and respect, I still remember that aching feeling, of knowing that whatever decision I made, one of my parents would be hurt.

My second decade was better.  It got better as I got older.  I was completely out sync with my classmates at school, and didn’t ever feel really comfortable.  When I was eleven, I met the girl who became my best friend and got me thru junior high and high school.  I grew into my identity as the slightly weird girl who read incessantly and was a good writer.  I babysat all the time, still spent far too much of my time worrying about self-imposed family responsibility.  I started to like who I was, and what I was doing.  I got a job after school and found friends that had nothing to do with school and family.  I fell in love, kind of, and went thru the requisitite series of unrequited crushes.  I went to football games and kept score for field hockey and softball, allowing me to sort of feel like I was doing stuff without actually having to do anything.  My teen years were fun, I think.  I didn’t love it, wouldn’t repeat it for anything, but I think I was happier as a teenager than I was as a child.

My twenties, though, I liked my twenties.  I lived with my cousin for most of it, in our little apartment in Maynard.  We had a dog, and a I had a series of jobs that were fun and not all that engaging.  I dated, if you could call it that, and had my heart broken a couple of times.  The drama of it all appealed to me, as did just being on my own.  I was starting to distance myself from being the oldest child, the one everyone turned to.  But only a little bit, because I was still really involved in everything.  I had nieces and nephews over all the time, family members coming to stay with us.  I was still very family oriented, and not really ready for anything else.  My love affairs, if you could call them that, were safe.  Nobody really challenged me or pushed me for more than I was ready to give.  I didn’t trust relationships.  And looking back, I’m sure it’s no accident that I was 28 before I met the man I’d spend the rest of my life with.  It took at least that long before I was ready for him.

I met Marc just after my birthday, and it was like a whirlwind.  I fell in love, so fast.  Got pregnant even faster.  I don’t always know that I believe that everything happens for a reason – but I do know that losing that pregnancy, losing my twins one at a time, pushed me closer to Marc.  It shattered me.  And when I was at my most vulnerable, he was there.  Solid and strong and loving and everything I had long given up any hope of finding.   And so we stayed together.  For all intents and purposes, we were a unit from that first night, and a week before our one year anniversary, we had Jessica Mary.

Which is a lovely segue into my thirties.  I learned more in the past decade, about myself, about mothering, about family. About marriage and identity and spirituality and everything else you could think of.  Marc helped me to grow up, in the nicest of ways.  I stopped defining myself as a daughter, a sister, and an aunt.  I became a wife and a mother.  Converted to Judaism, which was a long process that was so internal – really thinking about who I was, who I am.  What kind of values did I want to pass on to my children.  Standing up for what I wanted, and what I believed, even when it didn’t match up with what my family wanted.  And on the flip side, standing up for what I wanted and what I believed, even when it didn’t (doesn’t) match what traditional Jewish converts do.  I still struggle with that – I like to have everyone agree with me, and learning to live with disapproval is not easy for me.

My thirties is when I had my Jessie, and she completed my life in a way that I still can’t describe.  My Sammy – who taught me so much about motherhood, about strength and love and tenderness.  My Julianna, my sunshiney angel who brings so much laughter and joy into everything.  We’ve built us from the ground up – a marriage based on trust and communication and absolute commitment.  Parenting the whole family, his two daughters from his first marriage, and our three together.  I’ve been very focused on being a mother for this decade.  And it’s been lovely and hard and scary and so breathtakingly beautiful at times that I can’t begin to find the words for it.

Each decade has gotten progressively better.  Richer.  I’ve learned so much and changed and grown.   I’ve had this incredible life so far, blessed with a family of orgin that wasn’t perfect, but was loving and accepting and supportive and strong.  I had aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents who adored me, in addition to my mother, who’s just flat out freaking awesome.  And my brothers and sister, my stepsisters, and my stepdad, my nieces and nephews.  I was incredibly lucky to have that, as a child and as an adult.  I’ve got a husband who’s my best friend, and I’m endlessly interested in him.  He’s brilliant and kind, the kind of father every child should have, and I’ll never, ever stop being grateful that I’m lucky enough to have him.  I have two stepdaughters – and they make being a stepmother easier every year.  They are amazing sisters for my kids, and they are so blessed to have them in their lives.  I have my own children, my Jessie, my Sam, my Julie.  They are simply everything I’d ever dreamed of having, these beautiful, healthy children – and they make the prospect of getting older seem like such a gift.  To be able to watch them grow, to be able to be their mother, it’s my wildest dreams come true.

So maybe turning forty won’t be that bad.  When I really look at my life, at where I’ve been and where I am and where I’d like to be – when I see how much I’ve gained with each new decade, when I look at how much richer my life is with each passing year, how can I be anything other than delighted to blow out the candles on Saturday?

 

Preschool adjustment

 

We had Julie’s preschool conference last week, and overall, my girl is adjusting well.  She likes preschool and likes it more the longer she goes.  She’s not much of a joiner, not yet.  Is that something you can change?  The only one of my kids who consistently likes to be around other kids is Sam.  Jessie is happiest when she’s with older or younger kids.  And apparently, my Julie is following in her footsteps.  Liliya, her teacher, said that it’s completely normal, especially for a kid who’s got a lot of older siblings.  She’s just more “teacher oriented”.

Every morning, we had a routine.  I’d bring her in her, we’d pick a book and I’d put her in the castle.  I don’t like the castle, as it reminds me a little much of a cage, but it made her feel safe and calm.  She’d give me a kiss on the stairs, and then reach up high over the bars and kiss me twice.  Then I’d rush out the door.  And Girlfriend would stay up there.  In the castle.  She’d come down, if a teacher came and asked her to come participate in a classroom activity, but she’d go right back up there afterwards.  And if a child came to ask her to play, she’d politely decline and would stay up there, entertaining herself with her book or watching the other kids.

I know the castle worked for her.  I know that it was a helpful tool to help her feel as though she had her own space, and gave her the opportunity to figure out what preschool is and what happens there.  And I also know that you can’t change her basic nature (nor do I want to).  If she’s introverted and not a joiner, that’s perfectly fine, but I don’t think that’s who she is.  She’s my social bug, she’s the one, of all three of my children, who happily engages other adults in conversation, who likes being around a lot activity.

One of the more dominating factors in Julianna’s early childhood is watching her older brother.  And Sam’s had significant problems with anxiety and fears around separation, and I worry that part of Julie’s reluctance to join isn’t hers, really, but more of a learned trait from watching Sammy.    I’m also concerned because the castle has become her spot, and now it’s her default to be uninvolved in the classroom.   The other kids play, Julie sits and watches.  Her teacher wasn’t overly concerned, partly because she’s only there for two and a half hours, twice a day, and reiterated that Julie didn’t appear to be at all unhappy up there, she just likes to observe.  I didn’t want to take it away cold turkey, because it works for her, but I also wanted to encourage her to participate, not just watch.

Last Thursday (the first day after the conference), we packed a book for her to read to her class.  And she was so excited about bringing it in and showing her teacher.  And her teacher was wonderful, she immediately got all the other kids over and sat them all down to read.  Julie never glanced at the castle, and spent the entire day playing with a little girl named Katie.  She was so happy!  Today was a little rougher, it was the first day back after a long weekend, and she had napped yesterday (which meant that she was up until close to midnight) so was still sleepy and clingy.  She was crying and upset, but Liliya took her hand and asked if she’d be the helper.  She was teary, but not in the castle.

I feel like this is almost a whole new preschool experience for her, as if we spent the first few months getting used to just going SOMEWHERE without Mama and being okay. And she’s got that down.  Now we need to have her tackle the next goal, being with kids her own age and having fun.

Kindle and the kids

 

I got a kindle for my birthday.  A week early, but still very excited.  Although I really only got it so that Sam and Julie could play with it, and let Jessie have her own.  Because we have one for her too.  Plus, there’s the added perk of having me explore the whole self-publishing thing as well, which is a whole separate blog post…

But my point is that now, we have a kindle.  I have a kindle.  And Sam’s better at it than I am.  He’s completely in love, enraptured and mesmerized by it.  He’s got this intuitive sense on how to work it, and while I know that he’s got some limited experience with it from watching his friends play with iPads, it still shocks me.  He’s downloading free apps like it’s nothing (which it is, literally).  He’s just completely competent.  I still struggle with how to turn it on.

The problem is that over the past few months, we’ve dramatically increased the number of “electronics” we have available in the house.  We had the Wii before, but didn’t bother to hook it up when we moved here two years ago.  I’ve got the dorkiest cell phone in the world, the farthest you can get from a smart phone, and it’s fine for me.  But about a month ago, Sam came home from school and was moping around the house complaining that we had no game system for him – all his friends had one, why didn’t we?  I was mostly tuning him out, and then clued in and remembered that we had the Wii, and had Marc set up later that night.  He got a couple new games for his DS system over the Christmas/Hanukkah combination – and then my aunt Aimee let us borrow her laptop.  So suddenly, Sam’s gone from having one or two games on a DS that he never used to drowning in a plethora of electronics, and a happier boy you’ve never seen.

Except… when he’s not playing.  It’s like kids who aren’t allowed to watch television, when it is in, they can’t look away.  Because he’s lived so long with little to no electronics, suddenly having all of these options are overwhelming and awesome and amazing to him.  He can’t stop himself, he’s like an addict who just.can’t.stop.himself.

I’m really kind of perplexed by the whole gaming thing.  It’s obviously not all bad – because he’s going to grow up in a world dominated by electronics, and increasing his fluency with it is a good thing.  And there’s vague problem solving skills he’s learning, at least according to Marc.  Marc loves computer games as well, so he’s not really flustered with Sam’s newfound love.  And I’m not unaware of the example we set – Marc’s default is in front of the computer.  He’s not playing games, most of the time he’s reading obscure economics blogs or arguing with someone on facebook.  And I’m in front of the computer a lot as well, blogging or writing or just wasting time on facebook as well (I also like to call that “building my platform”).

I’ve never really been much of one for setting arbitrary limits on electronics for the kids, namely because, other than the television, we didn’t really have any.  And the television isn’t an all the time thing.  We shut it off more often than not, but they watch it.  Probably more than they should – but they read and play and thing and imagine and create.  But now that we’ve got the bonus laptop, and the DS, and Wii and the kindle – suddenly I’m wondering what the limit should be.  Should I just let him be an electronics glutton?  The girls seems to be less engaged.  They like webkinz and playing on-line, but neither one likes the Wii, and I really think Julie only likes the DS and the kindle games because she’s mirroring her older brother.

Do you have electronics limits?  Where do you draw the line on how much is too much?

Lighthouses

I’m busy.  I’m not complaining – I’m really not.  Because there is so much in my life, and I love that.  I love having three children, I love having a husband.  I love writing.   I love reading too.  But my life is incredibly chaotic and sometimes I get totally overwhelmed.

For example – last Saturday.  I got up bright and early, around six thirty.  Marc had to work, and Jessie had religious school.  I got her into the shower, got Marc up, and got the little ones breakfast.  Jessie announced at 8:15 that she had to be at the synagogue by 8:30 instead of nine, so we rush, rush, rushed and got her out of the house.  Marc came with me to drop off, fortunately my aunt (who’s been staying with us for the weekend) was still there, so I could leave the two little ones.  We got to the synagogue, only to realize that she actually didn’t need to be there until nine thirty, but I dropped her off with early and then brought Marc down to Shrewsbury to drop him off at work.  I rushed back to the synagogue, watched her in services for about a half hour or so, and then dashed home, grabbed the two little ones and my aunt.  Dropped her off at her presentation/meeting thing she had, and brought Julie and Sam back to the synagogue.  We went to the preschool service, stayed for the kiddush afterwards, and then dropped Sam off at Harrison’s house for a playdate.  Drove back across Worcester to go to Jessie’s parent observation day at dance class, met my mother in law there, and then I stopped and got the girls frozen yogurt and me some much needed coffee.  We went to the NOFA conference, and then back to pick up my aunt.  I got home, threw some dinner towards the girls and then went to go grocery shopping and pick up Marc.  Got home, finally, and put Julie to bed, set up Jessie in front of the figure skating while Marc and Skip (who had THANK GOODNESS come over to watch the game, saving me a trip to pick up Sam), and the boys watched the Patriots.  I spent the next two hours or so trying to write the article for the telegram before finally trudging off to bed.

Sunday was better, but still crazy busy.  Yesterday was a frantic mad rush, I spent the time while the older two were in school trying to write and catch up on emails and then was busy, busy, busy after school, picking up Sam, dropping him off here, taking Jessie to Target to do some much needed clothes shopping, and then back to religious school.  Went grocery shopping and then back to pick up, finally making it home just in time to eat, teach Jessie how to do fractions and and then put the rest of the kids to bed.  Today’s not a lot different, after school activities and parent/teacher conferences…

But the downside to all of this is that my poor house is in constant shambles.  My to-do list is getting bigger and bigger and I’m feeling more and more… like I’m just spinning around and not getting anything actually accomplished.   I need to be like a lighthouse.  Steady.  Unaffected by the chaos.  And learning to take what I need, in order to maintain that level of calm, of order.  One of my husband’s favorite analogy is of the parent in a plane crash – put on your own oxygen mask first, because if you can’t breathe, you can’t help anyone else.  But I never remember my own oxygen mask, and I keep thinking I’ll just do this one thing (whatever that one thing is) really quick and then take care of myself.  And the laundry pile keeps getting bigger and the counters get more and more cluttered, and the pile of toys under the dining room table (why does Julie do that???) gets larger and larger.

So then I freak out, yelling at everyone because I’m BUSY and don’t have time to clean, and why can’t someone else occasionally put the shoes away?  Which helps nobody – because I’m not actually solving anything – I’m not giving them the tools they need to help, like clear cut expectations on what needs to be done, like telling Jessie that she’s going to be doing her own laundry and explaining to Sam that the playroom is his responsibility.  I’m just creating more chaos for everyone, including myself.

There has to be a better way.  Because I love my life, I don’t want to cut down on my activity level.  I don’t want to cut down on the kids’ either, Jessie loves dance and Hebrew and girl scouts – and let’s be honest, it’s not going to get any slower.  Right now, Sam has very little extracurricular stuff, and Julie has none.  That’s going to change as they get bigger.  I have to find a way to keep my center, to be able to be that lighthouse and not swirl around in the storm with them.  Not a perfect analogy, I know, but that’s where I am.  Especially because I’m trying to carve out time to write, and that’s next to impossible with everything else I’ve got going on.

So today, I’m focusing on figuring out what I need, in order for myself to feel as though I’m centered and calm.  A house that’s mostly clean is a huge factor.  I don’t need perfection, but clean counters, dishwasher running and laundry done (folded might be too lofty a goal).  I need reading time like I need to breathe, and I’m taking enough time for that.   So I’m going to leave a little early to go get my Julie and have her parent/teacher conference, and get a hot cocoa and sit in the car and read.  Alone.   I also might stop sleeping – because if I could get up a couple of hours early, I could get a whole lot of writing done.

 

My Julianna Ruth – at three and three quarters

I remember, vividly, each time we decided to have another baby.  I remember making the choice to conceive, and then finding out with each baby.   I bought a pregnancy test in August of 2009, and result was … vague.  Was it a line?  I don’t know.  I kept staring at it, in every different kind of light.  It wasn’t definitely a line, but it wasn’t NOT a line either.  So I shipped Marc back out to get a new test.  That one was absolute.  A bright blue line appeared almost immediately.

Her pregnancy was horrible, but enough time has passed that I’m able to look back and remember it wistfully.  My memories gloss over the terrible itching, the non-stop braxton hicks, and the exhaustion.  I just remember the fun parts, the first little twinge of morning sickness, when I was at the playground watching Marc push little Sammy on the swings, and how Marc, Sam and Jessie would all cluster around me in the bathroom, hugging me and rubbing my back when I was throwing up.  I remember feeling her move, and the look on Jessie’s face when the ultrasound tech said that she was a girl.  I remember Marc whispering in my ear as she was born, and how peaceful and easy her labor was.

She’s my third child, and possible (probably?) my last.  She looks like my mother, I think, and sometimes I think she looks like me.  She has my eyes, but so do Sam and Jessie.  And we all got them from my mom.  She’s got long brown hair that she hates to have brushed and every single night, she tries to “make her teeth dirty” by searching for chocolate after I brush her teeth.  She doesn’t really like princesses that much, but she loves her stuffed animals.  She dresses up only reluctantly when Abby-with-a-bow comes over (eerily reminiscent of how I used to play barbies only because Abby’s mom liked them).   She won’t watch movies, doesn’t have the patience or attention span to sit thru a full length feature.  More importantly, she gets too involved and yells at the screen, or starts crying because it’s too scary.  Team Umizoomi has the potential to be too scary for her, I avoid Disney movies as a matter of course.  My tenderhearted girl isn’t the right audience.

She wants badly to be big, like Sam.  I don’t think she thinks about being big like Jessie, that’s too far to imagine.  But sometimes, the fact that she can’t quite keep up with her seven year old brother breaks her heart.  She’s imaginative and dramatic, makes up songs and dances around the house.  She likes to fight the zombies and play army guys with Boy (and she’s just always going to call poor Sammy “Boy” – I can’t break her of the habit).  She’d always rather wear a dress than pants, and wakes up incredibly cranky and needs to be snuggled and hugged for a while before she’ll talk to anyone.  Jessie mothers her – which sometimes she loves and sometimes she hates.  Nobody can get her dressed quicker than her big sister, and Jessie has the magic ability to come up with the perfect distraction to make her forget her temper tantrum.

She’s my baby.  I know she’s not.  In a lot of ways, potty training specifically, she grew up faster than her brother and sister did.  She’s brilliant and kind, sweet and frustrating.  Sometimes I have to dig deep for the patience to get through another temper tantrum, another night when she’s awake every two hours (it’s rare, but not rare enough).  But there are more times when she takes my breath away, just with her utter deliciousness.   She’s social and happy, except for when she’s not, in which case, she’s hostile and openly resistant to the existence of others.  She’s very much the doted upon younger sibling, when Lilli and Sarah are over here, and all five kids are together, Julie owns them.   She’s imperious and demanding, certain of her place in the world and her importance in it.  She’s loving and tender, and her favorite place is still with me.  I know that’ll change someday, but I pretend it won’t.