Archive | March 2014

It’s allergies. I swear.

I’ve got a stupid, stupid cold.  I hate being sick, and don’t have time to get sick.  Not until maybe on Wednesday, but even then, it’s not ideal.  Tomorrow, I have to get Jessie and Sam to school, Julie to preschool, doctor’s appt at 10, pick up Jules at 11:30, run Marc home so he can eat quick, drop him at work at one thirty, back to get the kids at school.  Then we’re going to drop off a check at a charity and tour the facility (it’s a local non-profit for helping children with cancer and their families).  Then I drop Jessie at dance, walk with Yvonne, and then pick up from dance at five thirty.  Back home for dinner, baths, homework, and then cram the kids into bed.  Fortunately Aimee is here for a few days, so I can leave them here while I go and pick up Marc at work.  Wednesday, I think I’m good – I can be sick until the afternoon, when I have to do drop-off/pick up at school because Marc’s busy.  Thursday, I could be sick all morning, but then Marc is working in the afternoon.  Friday is a good day to be sick, excepting the fact that I have to be up at five to drive Marc to work for six, and then dump the kids at school.   But then I’m good until around two-ish and school pick up, Marc pick up, family service at the synagogue, and then Shabbat dinner.

Nope – I can’t be sick.  this has to be allergies.  Because I’ve only got a few hours, scattered here and there, when I can actually be sick until possibly Sunday afternoon.  And the only reason I think Sunday is free is because I’m too mind bogglingly exhausted to get up and check the calendar.

Allergies are better, they aren’t contagious, and it’s not accompanied by the mind boggling exhaustion.  I really don’t have time for mind boggling exhaustion.

What’s the likelihood that a three year old could do her own bath?

Passover Prep

Passover is just a few weeks away, and we’re starting to get ready. We celebrate both Passover and Easter in our family, although Easter is celebrated as a secular holiday, and more of a nice compliment to the Passover celebration. While the December Dilemma Debacle is something we struggle with every winter, the Spring version of it is considerably less tense. Passover is SUCH a huge holiday for us, and Easter has gradually become something that we celebrate mainly at my mother’s house.

(although the Easter Egg hunt at my mother’s is always a highlight)

The week before Passover is jam packed with activities. Monday is the day that my seven year old and the rest of his first grade class will be performing in the annual play. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, we’ll have Seders, the kids have school on Thursday (we’ll pull them out for the holiday celebrations) and then Friday is another day off, and the start of April vacation. Saturday we’ll have one final seder, and then Sunday is Easter.

I’m already a little tired.

The first two nights are family Seders. The word Seder means order, and we go through the hagdahah (which is the Passover Seder service) and eat. A lot. The third Seder is actually not a Jewish one. Every year, my husband leads the Seder for an Episcopalian church in Worcester. Their former pastor was our neighbor, and we’ve been doing it for the past few years. It’s one of my favorite parts of the holiday.

Passover is the holiday where Jewish people eat matzoh. Lots and lots of matzoh (matzoh is a flat, crunchy bread that looks like a giant saltine cracker. With no salt). My husband (and usually at least a couple of my kids) like to keep strict kosher for Passover, which is to say that they forego all products including wheat and/or leavening. This includes cheerios, which is a pretty major staple in this house. But there are some foods that I only make during these eight days, like matzoh brie (which is scrambled eggs with matzoh in it, and while it sounds odd, it’s unbelievably good), and matzoh pizza, chocolate covered matzoh and we eat a whole lot of fruits and veggies.

Another huge part of the preparation for Passover is the cleaning – oh, the cleaning. It’s actually a great opportunity to get everyone involved in spring cleaning. This year, I’m thinking a lot about springtime and starting fresh. Cleaning out the old and making room for the new. Not just clothes that we’ve outgrown and toys we don’t play with anymore – but really thinking about what we want to keep, material possessions and habits we want to let go of.

And mostly – Passover is a celebration. Of freedom, not just of the Jews escaping slavery in Egypt, but also of freedom from the shackles of winter coats, bulky boots, and the frantic search for mittens every morning. Passover is confirmation that spring is here again, and I couldn’t be happier.

Flashback Friday

A repost from a few years ago, and I think it’s worth repeating now and again.  It’s so easy to judge, and to assume that you’d do better, but until it’s your child, you honestly have no idea how you’d respond.  And wouldn’t it be easier for all of us if we tried harder to support one another as opposed to passing judgement on situations that we really don’t know enough about?

 

Yeah – that’s my kid (originally posted in July, 2012)

It’s always easier to parent someone else’s child.  And it’s always easier to know exactly what you’d do, if you were the parent.  Of course, you aren’t the parent, and thus, not always aware of the extenuating circumstances.  Not always aware of what’s been tried in the past, what hasn’t worked in the past.  And today, I’m just putting it out there – maybe instead of jumping to conclusions and criticizing other parents, we should all just take a deep breath, step back, and acknowledge that we’re all just doing the best we can.

My six year old son has extreme separation anxiety.  He becomes incredibly anxious and fearful when he’s going to be separated from me, and to some extent, from his father.  He’s been that way from the moment he was born, and there’s little I can do to prevent it.  The reason I know this is because he’s not my only child.  I have three of them, one is mildly shy and reserved, one is outgoing and friendly, and one is terrified in new situations and takes a good long time to warm up.  That’s how they were when I got them.  I am absolutely certain that so much of personality is there from the very beginning.

Jessie started dance class at two years old.   She’d been home with me full time, but was delighted to dance off with the other little girls, and has been in “activities” from a very early age.  She started summer camp when she was four.  While she certainly didn’t like going to kindergarten, she was content while she was there.  Shy, sure, but participating and comfortable.

Julianna believes that everyone in the world is her friend.  Literally.  If she sees another child, she happily announces that she’s her friend and will immediately go to play.  She can be a bit shy at times, a bit reserved, but overall, she’s enormously outgoing compared to her older brother.  She’s thrilled to betsy to see her grandparents, absolutely loves going off for the day with her Auntie Becky and Aimee.

Sam simply is who he is.  He’s pretty sure that the world isn’t entirely safe, and sometimes he’s nervous and scared when he’s forced to interact too much with too many people.

This week, he wanted to go soccer camp.  It’s Monday thru Thursday, from 9-12.  He was certain he wanted to do it, and his best friend signed up as well.  Monday, he chickened out right before we left, and only went once I promised to go up to the field and hang there.  After a half hour or so of clinging to me and saying he didn’t want to do it, eventually, he jointed the group and had a great time.  Tuesday was even better, he joined in right away and was great.

But there were a couple of issues, his friend had had some problems with other kids taking his ball and he got upset, and Sam was very concerned last night about how to handle that.  Then I told him that I wasn’t going to sit there for the full three hours, it’s too much time for me to be trying to entertain the two other girls, and Jessie needed to get dropped off somewhere mid-morning.  I’m sure those two things played into the fact that he lost his little mind about going to camp today.  He just didn’t want to go.  And there was no talking him out of it.

It’s hard for me.  I mean, it’s obviously hard for him as well, but as a parent, you want your child to thrive.  You want him to be bold and adventurous and excited about playing with his friends, and it’s hard to watch him be terrified and worried and anxious.  It’s even harder to admit that there’s not a damn thing you can do to change it.  So I was already at a disadvantage, after forty five minutes of trying to get him to participate in camp, and finally giving up.

Which is why, when the mom in the minivan next to me looked at me and asked if I knew that I was doing the wrong thing by letting him go home, I was initially just dumbfounded.  Really?  Really?  She honestly thought to herself that the best way to help, when no help was asked for, was to tell me that I’m doing it wrong???  I just stared at her for a minute, and then asked if she really thought she was being helpful.  Because really – what was the motivation there?  Take a mom who’s clearly, visibly upset, and patiently tell me that I’m doing it wrong.  She pointed out that I was only reinforcing bad behavior, and that what I should do was just leave him there.

I started to answer her, to tell her that this was something that we were working on, and it’s one thing to leave him at school, with staff that’s specifically trained in dealing with small children, but there wasn’t a chance in hell that I’d leave my hysterically sobbing six year old in the care of five college-aged coaches – who were already handling sixty other four, five and six year olds.  That leaving him there would require at least one coach, probably two, to hold him back from chasing me out of the parking lot – and that it wasn’t worth ruining everyone else’s camp experience to further traumatize him in the name of giving him a great summer experience.

So I walked away.  I just walked away.  She was still talking, but I was past the point of trying to justify my parenting to her.  Because in the end, I did what was right for my son in that situation.  It might not have been what was right for her son, but you know what?  I don’t get to parent her child.  I don’t give her advice on how to handle her most challenging parenting problems.  Because that’s not how I roll.  I don’t give unsolicited advice, and if I did, I’d never start off with “you know you’re doing that wrong.”

I really, really wish that she had paused and thought before informing me that I was a crappy parent.  I really, really wish that she had smiled at me, told me that it’d get better, that we all have days when our kids are miserable and unhappy – because we do.  I know enough other moms, I’ve dealt with enough other kids to know that my son is far from unique.  He may be a bit more extreme, in this one area.  But he’s a great kid – and you know what?  I’m a great mom.  Shame on her for insinuating otherwise.

 

I don’t need to be holded….

Julianna wants a baby.  A baby girl, specifically, and she’d like it now.

She had suggested that we get a baby last week.  Because, after all, we don’t have one.  And she loves babies.  I was mildly amused, and kind of brushed it off.  But this afternoon, she really stepped up the intensity on the plea.  She had all of her reasons lined up – repeating that we don’t have a baby, and she really likes them.  Marc tried to explain that she was our baby, but she wasn’t impressed.  A baby that doesn’t talk.  That’s what she wants.

There was no distracting her this time, she was convinced that we needed a baby, and I should go get her one.  Now.  I explained that I didn’t think we were having any more babies.  I told her that babies take a LONG time to grow, and even if we decided to get one, she wouldn’t get to even see it until she was closer to five years old.  And there was that beginning pang there, but I soldiered on.   And babies can’t even play when you first get them, they just sort of lay there (and coo and smile and smell delightful).  Finally, as we walked out to the car, I looked down at her sweet little face, and told her that if we got her a baby, I’d have to hold it all the time.  Julie is still at the point where she would rather I swing her up on my hip that walk herself – and because I can – I indulge that.  She’s light enough, and she loves being carried.  But she thought about it – and that’s when she decided that, if I’d just go ahead and get her the baby, she’d walk all the time.  And while I’m perfectly happy with the fact that I’m not currently pregnant, or planning to get pregnant in the near future – it only took about ten minutes of earnest pleading on the part of my three year old to make me think wistfully back.  About the pregnancies (and enough time has passed that I only remember the anticipation, the baby moving, the excitement – none of the round ligament pain, the braxton hicks contractions, the non-stop vomiting, and the itching – oh, the itching…).  And then the babies.  I love the infancy stage.  SO much easier than older kids.

We aren’t having another baby right now.  It’s the wrong time, for a whole host of reasons.  And by the time it’s the right time, I may not be able to get pregnant again.  Even if I do get pregnant, it’s not like pregnancy is a walk in the park for me.  I’m forty.  That’s not the same thing as thirty.  It’s not the same thing as fifty either, as that little voice in my head.  It’s the same little voice that reminds me about how much I loved having my babies.  How much each one has added to my life, and why wouldn’t I want to do that again?

 

The perks of antisocial children

Not that my kids are anti-social.  They aren’t.  They just aren’t party people, in a lot of ways.  And I’m generalizing – because each one is different, but as a group – big loud parties with lots of strangers are not their cups of tea.  Jessie is pretty relaxed, and after four hours or so, Sam loosens up as well.  Julie usually follows the lead of which ever sibling is closest, it’s tough to tell how she is independently.

Every year, my kids’ elementary school has a spring dance.  And yes, even though it’s frigid freezing cold, and next Wednesday is supposed to be another raging storm, spring is officially here and tonight is the dance.  We are not at the dance, though, and I couldn’t be happier.

My history with the dance isn’t good.   The first year, the year Jessie was in first grade (she had gone to a different school for kindergarten), that was a good year.  I was hugely pregnant, if I remember correctly.  Or I had a tiny new baby girl at home.  Either way, I had a built in excuse to skip it (it’s possible that they inherited their dislike of loud parties from me).    Jessie went with her older sisters, and her dad, and had a lovely time.  At least, that was the story I got, and I’m not going to question it.  The theme was beach party, if I remember it right, and she had big sunglasses and a halter dress.

The next year was… well, I had decided to embrace the volunteer thing, and had somehow signed up to head the dance committee.  Why I thought that was a good idea is beyond me, because I hadn’t ever gone to a dance at the school, didn’t know all that many other parents, and had no real clue what I was doing.  I think it went well – although I don’t know for certain.  Because my kids HATE parties.  Jessie was so not in the mood to socialize and kept trailing along behind me.  Julie wasn’t walking, and I was still wearing her in a carrier.   And my Sam was a hot mess.  There was nothing at all he liked about the dance, the noise, the strangers, it was ALL BAD as far as he was concerned.  I ended up leaving early – after some of the other moms took pity on me, surrounded by sobbing children, and sent me on my merry way, promising to clean up after the party.

But hope springs eternal, and I thought the following year would be different.  Julie was walking, for starters, so I was already light years ahead of where I was the previous year.  And Sam was actually attending school there that year.  There was every reason to think it would go well… but it didn’t.  It was crap.  The same thing happened – all three kids stood very, very close to me all night long.  Sam demanded to go home before we even got there, and Jessie started whispering that she was ready to go about five minutes after we arrived.  Julie was not a lot better, because she follows the cues set by the older kids.  And as a rule, if it’s something that Sam doesn’t like, Julie’s pretty sure she feels the same.  I left again, super early, and trailed by miserable children.

On the way home that night, I vowed never again.  Perhaps when Julie is in kindergarten, I’ll consider it.  Maybe.   But for us – every year on the night that the Spring Dance falls, we go out for Chinese instead.   And this afternoon was delightful.  I picked my two up after school, and we ran errands all afternoon.  We dropped off a bulk mailing for the synagogue, and then hit the library for new books for me.  We swung by Walmart, and then we got Chinese take out.  There is little my kids like more than sesame chicken and white rice, a little chicken and broccoli and some chicken fingers (we’re big for poultry, apparently).  Everyone was so happy and content, it was absolutely lovely.

Bowl of Basmati Rice

 

Interfaith and why it matters to me

According to most definitions, I’m not in an interfaith marriage.  I’ve converted to Judaism, and it’s the only religion practiced in our home.  We are a religious family, as well as spiritual (and I think there is a difference).   We come from different backgrounds, my husband and I.  On almost every level, we’re total opposites, in terms of history.  His parents have been married for fifty years, I grew up in a single parent family with an absentee dad.  He grew up as an enthusiastic, practicing Jew.  I grew up as a nominal Catholic, and have always felt much more drawn to wiccan traditions than anything else.

He has a visceral, bone-deep aversion to the celebration of Christmas, and I am completely committed to the celebration of it.  For me, it’s a line in the sand – and being able to share that with my kids makes it easier to raise them in a tradition so different from that of my own childhood.  I have so many memories and traditions, on a completely secular level, built up over years of celebrating it.  First as a child, then as an adult.  I have a whole history, more than thirty years of not being Jewish, and I can’t leave that behind.  I am Jewish – but Judaism is the culmination of a journey for me, the next step on my path.  It’s a part of me, as much as singing Deck the Halls and decorating Easter Eggs is.

My point is that while we’re not interfaith – we are interculture.  Our backgrounds and personal history are completely different, and our children are the product of our union.  Our union – which takes two.  My history is as much a part of their story as that of my husband, and our choice to raise them within the Jewish tradition doesn’t change that.  I was incredibly ignorant of Judaism when I met my husband.  I knew almost nothing about it, and from the  beginning, I worried about how a child, born of two such different parents, would be able to feel at home in both cultures.

So I studied.  I researched, and I thought and I debated and discussed.  I believed that they were Jewish, because their dad was.  I also believed that they were not Jewish, because I wasn’t.  The more I read, the more I learned, the more I discussed and debated, the more I wanted to change that.  I didn’t want them, and me, to be half and half.  Half Jewish, half not.  They were Jewish, and in the end, so was I.  Judaism made so much sense to me, and there was no internal, spiritual conflict about following the Jewish laws and making it official.  Especially because I could see that without a formal conversion, they wouldn’t be considered Jewish by the Orthodox or Conservative traditions.  And I couldn’t even imagine formally declaring that my children were something that I wasn’t.  If they were Jewish, so was I.  Because we are one family.

I’m not ashamed of my past.  I don’t want to hide it, or walk away from it.  I know that my children are as much mine as my husbands.  And while I feel so, so strongly that they should clearly identify as Jewish, because their dad is Jewish, because I believe, profoundly, in the Jewish traditions and history and culture, and want to pass that along to them – I don’t, not for a minute, think that it means that they shouldn’t also feel a part of my history and traditions as well.

This makes me a minority.  A minority, within a minority that, at times, resents the majority.  A majority that includes most of family.  It’s an odd position to be in, and I don’t always handle it well.  I want to assert my right to be Jewish.  I want my kids to feel proud of their parents’ marriage, and not to hear that it’s wrong.  The concerns and fears around interfaith marriage are hard and it is scary.  The prospect of having your children grow up and walk away from their history is terribly, terribly hard to contemplate.  I know, because I did it to my mother.

I think that we’re in a unique position, those of us who converted into Judaism.  Those of us who converted because we fell in love, and we learned about Judaism, and we want our children to have that.  Those of us who are trying to hard to feel a part of it, and those of us who are consistently told that we’re different and our marriages are wrong.   Those of us who can’t help feeling protective and defensive about our relationships, and worry about the message we’re sending to new interfaith families.

We know how hard it is, most of us have already had those hard conversations with our own parents.  We know how much it hurts, we know how much you wish that your own child had married someone who knew what gefilte fish is, and had her own recipe for challah.  We know how much our parents wished for similar things.   We also know that our children are Jewish, and are growing up with a greater awareness of the culture at large.  Will they feel less Jewish as adults?  We doubt it, because they know that Judaism is a choice.  Because, in the end, it is a choice.

Even if you are a product of completely Jewish heritage, where everyone was born Jewish, married someone who was also born Jewish – you are still making a choice.  You can choose to celebrate your Judaism or to walk away, or to do neither, just not care either way.  My children will probably grow up to be religious.  Both their dad and I are drawn to religion and spirituality, and they’ve grown up hearing the discussions and debates.  They’ve lived a childhood marked by the Jewish calendar, putting up sukkahs, shopping for Passover and dancing at Simchat Torah.  Do I care if they grow up to marry someone who’s Jewish?  I care that they love someone who honors and celebrates who they are – and they are Jewish.  I care that they aren’t asked to be something they aren’t – the way my husband has always respected and valued my traditions.  I care that they find someone they love and respect, and that they are loved and respected in return.

The discussion on how to talk about interfaith families, how to welcome and embrace families that have non-Jews, and Jews-by-choice is a vital one.  And it’s hard and scary and feelings are going to get hurt all around.  But it matters – because there are an awful lot of Jewish kids growing up today.  The way their parents are treated, their non-Jewish parents, their Jew-by-choice parents, and their non-Jewish grandparents – that’s what’s going to impact their desire to Jewish.  By making it clear that Judaism is the right choice, that everyone is welcome if they want to be there – that’s how we make sure that our kids grow up to be Jewish.

 

Small Snippets Update

Much, much going on these days, and alas, I’m a crappy blogger.  Sometimes it’s really easy to get lost in the chaos, with everyone running around and so much going on all the time… Everyone is still asleep (and by everyone, I mean Marc, Julie, and my aunt Aimee, who’s staying with us for a few days).  And I sincerely wish that I was as well, but have armed myself with a cup of coffee and am hoping for the best.

– I let Julie sleep in this morning.  She’s got preschool, but she’s been operating at a sleep deficit since last weekend.  And she needs sleep more than she needs preschool today.  I just heard her bedroom door creep open, so I think her sleep time is over, but she got an extra hour and a half of sleep, so I’m still going to count it as a win.  She’s doing so much better in preschool.  She’ll be going again next year, and then the year after that, she’ll head off to kindergarten (sob).

– Jessie has MCAS this week, and she’s been totally stressed.  The challenge with  my Jess is that she’s does so many things so well, but she puts this huge expectations on herself and doesn’t talk about it or ask for help.  And unless I’m paying attention, it’s really easy to think that she’s got no problems at all, until she crumbles or melts down.  Then it all comes pouring out.  The poor kid had a paper that needed to be typed earlier this week, and instead of asking me to type it, she typed it all into her little kindle keyboard (which had to have taken forever) and then tried to email it to my mother to print it.    She ended up losing the document in email netherland, and then went to school without it and tried to explain that she’d get it and bring it on Thursday.  And of course, that wasn’t okay with her art teacher, who promptly deducted ten points from my poor kid and demanded that it be there first thing tomorrow morning or she’d lose another ten points.  Poor Jessie was so stressed, between the MCAS (which are elevated to such a level of importance) and the prospect of failing ART of all things… It’s so hard, because she does handle so much, so well, and without a lot of oversight on my part – but when she gets stuck, her instinct is to continue to handle it and not ask for help.   She’s so grown up and gorgeous – it’s hard to walk that line between letting her go and trying to help her.

– Sam was increasingly shaggy and desperately needed a haircut.  But he didn’t want one, and it kept growing and growing.  It had reached the point where it was just silly, it was so long that it was in his eyes and long enough to drive me nuts, so I seriously started pushing the idea of a haircut.  He agreed, and even said that he’d go to a barber shop to get it done.  Up until this point, Sam’s haircuts were always done at home, with Marc’s little clipper things.  So the other day, we went to get his hair cut, he walked into the barber shop, turned around and walked back out.  I ended up cutting his hair at home (please don’t kill me Mandi), and I think it looks lovely.  Fortunately, he’s such a good looking kid that even an uneven haircut looks good on him.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself….

– In other news… spring is finally here, and I couldn’t be happier (and I’m blithely ignoring the fact that temps are going to drop back to single digits this weekend).  We’re busy starting to think about Jessie’s bat mitzvah next year, and realized yesterday that her bat mitzvah is two days after Purim.   Not sure if I should change the date or not…

It gets different when they get older

My kids are growing up.  Which is obvious, and kind of the whole point of it, but still – I find myself realizing over and over again how DIFFERENT things are now.

Case in point – Purim.  Judaism has a lot of holidays, and Purim has always been my least favorite.  For a whole host of reasons, but mainly because it’s loud.  Really, really loud.  It’s a holiday celebrating the story of Esther.   I used to explain it to my family as the Jewish Halloween, only not really.  But I think it’s more like Mardi Gras, really.  Not only do they occur around the same time frame, they’re both big, loud rambunctious parties that appear to me to be mostly just parties for the sake of partying.  Everyone dresses in costumes, and there are noisemakers that are incredibly loud.

My first exposure to it was when Jessica was a few years old.  I had dressed her as a fairy, and it was our first time at the synagogue.  The rabbi dressed as a gorilla and jumped out and scared her.  Terrified her.  My pretty little baby, all pink and glittery, and he scared her to death.  For fun.  It wasn’t a good start – in fact, it’s safe to say that it turned me off the holiday, and that particular synagogue for a long time.

The next time I tried it, I had little baby Sammy.  He was less than a year old, and absolutely out of his mind freaked out by the yelling and the noisemakers.  I spent the entire service in a back storage room, with him sobbing louder every time the noisemakers went off.  After that, I kept going – but it was never good.  It was always a pain – the kids always started crying and had to leave the service, and I’ve never not had a kid attached to me during the service.   The service is usually followed up with a Purim carnival, and that wasn’t ever successful for me either.  Not the fault of the carnival, I just didn’t have kids who liked them.  It inevitably ended with me carrying at least one crying kid, and a couple of pouting ones out to the car and driving home, always feeling like I would so much rather have skipped it.

But… it gets different as they get older.  This year, we brought all five kids to the service and the party, and it was… kind of awesome.  My stepdaughters are, for all practical purposes, all grown up – they voluntarily go to services to hear the reading, and keep track of themselves the entire time.  Jessie is right there with them, and Sam has gotten so much more comfortable at the synagogue.  He was completely into it this year, got all dressed up and was a total joy all night long.  He sat in the services for longer than any of the other kids, and was completely relaxed and had so much fun all night long.  He played swords with one of the other kids, and then played ball and ran around like a sweaty little ninja.

(Marc dressed as a beaded lady, Julie was princess Sophia, and Sam was a ninja)
 

(Jessie and Julianna

I was actually able to go to the service, and stayed for almost the entire thing.  Read the service in it’s entirety (which I’d never managed before).  I danced with my husband, and shared spicy egg rolls with one stepdaughter.  Watched the other one dance and look so beautiful and confident.  I danced alone, with Marc, and sometimes, I danced with Julie on my hip.  I was the only one dancing with a toddler in my arms.  But I was dancing – and that was new.  I was not shuttled out to the lobby, trying to keep my baby calm – my baby wasn’t a baby.  My girls were old enough to keep track of themselves, and were out there dancing too.  My boy, my anxious, anxious boy, wasn’t huddled up next to me, begging to leave, he was winging a ball, and sneaking candy from some hidden cache he discovered, and playing with other kids (poor Isaac – Sam couldn’t remember his name and referred to him as “Dude” all night long).  And my Julie – she’s not so little any more.

It’s not easier – because as they get bigger, the problems get bigger.   I’m dealing with a whole new set of challenges – and I’m still not sure what I’m doing.   But it’s not as hands on.  It’s more mental now, not physical.  I don’t need to physically comfort and hold and walk and soothe them.  It’s not that they haven’t been growing all along – it’s that as soon as one got old enough to get really independent, I had another one.  So it feels very sudden, but the reality is that it’s just that my youngest is almost four.

A Day In The Life

6:55 a.m. – woke up late.  I always wake up around six thirty, which gives me thirty extra minutes before I have to haul the kids out of bed.  Yesterday was kind of the day from hell, resulting in a pretty major migraine, so I had taken two benedryl before bed to make sure that I slept.  Which I did.  Twenty five minutes later than I should have.

7:10 a.m. – took me that long to really believe that I HAD to get up.  Marc worked last night until after ten thirty, so I was going to let him sleep in.   I poked Sammy awake, and put on Big Bang Theory (trickily fast forwarding ten minutes so it would still end by seven thirty).  Woke up Jessie and started packing lunches.

7:35 – commence hollering at children.  Sam has decided that he should get dressed under the covers every morning.  Which is charming and cute, but not when we have to actually go anywhere.

7:45 – Julianna woke up, and decided that she should come with us for the ride, instead of staying at home with dozing Marc.

8:00 – I finally get out the door.  Minor crisis over finding mittens for Jessie, and I ended up whipping the covers off and dressing Sam super fast so we could get out on time.  Julie went in her jammies, but I had all the lunch boxes, and backpacks and kids in the car.  And even got them to school a little early.

8:30 – I get home, and Julie started whining.  Apparently there was a Purim costume parade at her preschool today, and she had to go.  Of course.  I called to double check, hoping it would be later on in the day – but it started at nine thirty.  I choke down a quick second cup of coffee (having forgotten the first one half way thru earlier) and took two more motrin.  Dressed Julie up as Princess Sophia and headed to the JCC.

9:30 – March in the parade.  Yes, I was the only parent marching, and yes, I felt ridiculous.  But once we got there, it was clear that Julie wasn’t going to participate unless I was with her.  Her teachers suggest that perhaps we don’t have Marc come in on swim days to swim with the kids (he had talked about going in next week) because Julie is so… just clingy and shy if we’re there.  When we’re there, she won’t let go (which is why I was marching with 3000 little kids in the parade).  But when we leave her there, she’s totally comfortable and fine.  I spend the rest of the morning trying to figure out if I should leave her more often (so she gets used to it) or leave her less often (so she doesn’t feel like she needs to cling desperately).

10:30 – Get back home, eat some cereal, feed the kid, get back in the car.

11:40 – Drop Marc off for a doctor’s appointment, and go grocery shopping.  Julie likes to hang out in the carriage, and chats away with herself the whole time we’re there.  Clutching her little bear.

1:00 – Pick Marc up from doctors, go home because he forgot the lunch he packed for himself, get gas, drop him off at Home Depot.

1:45 – Leave Home Depot in Shrewsbury, where Marc works, and head back to Flagg Street School.  Did I mention that the entire time we’re in the car, I’m listening to the soundtrack to Sophia the First?  It’s a change from the Frozen soundtrack, which has been on auto repeat for the past few weeks.

2:25 – Go stand outside, shivering, to pick up kids.  Julie begs me to hold her, because she’s frozen solid.  I do, because body heat helps.  Pick up Jessie, Sam and Jordyn.

3:00 – Make it home, yelling at everyone, especially Julie because she’s incessantly fussing.  Decide ice cream for everyone.  Make big pot of coffee.  Take more advil.

4:00 – Reading for a half hour, ice cream and motrin helps with the headache, and I start cleaning and cooking.

5:00 – Feed kids cheesy breadsticks and marinara sauce for dinner.  Sort of like a deconstructed pizza.   I put Julie in her pjs for the night, optimistically thinking she’ll fall asleep early.  She doesn’t.

5:45 – Pack all children in the car, and head over to meet Arlen, drop off Jordyn, and deliver Jessie to her girl scout event

7:00 – Make it back home.  Clean a little more, do a little blogging.

Still on the To Do List:

8:00 – Put Julie to sleep.  Because she needs it.  Desperately.

9:00 – Make sure Sam is ready for bed, warm jammies.

9:45 – Pack two kids in the car with blankets and pillows.  Make sure I’ve got a book.

10:15 – Pick up Jessie at girl scout event.

10:30 – Pick Marc up at work.  Hopefully he’ll get out in time.  If not, book will come in handy.

11:00 (if I’m lucky) – arrive home, Marc’ll lug the big kids inside, and I’ll haul Julianna in.

 

My Sammy

I was shocked when Sam was born, and confused.  We hadn’t found out before he was born, if he was going to be a boy or a girl, but secretly, I was certain he was a she.  I had already done this once, and had a girl.  Marc had two girls from his first marriage.  Of course, he’d be a girl.

But he wasn’t – and I spent the first few days baffled by the fact that I now had a son.  He was healthy and gorgeous, as you can see…

I often say that Sam came out of the womb with separation anxiety, because he did.  From the very first moment, Sam knew exactly who he was, who I was, and the only place he felt safe or calm was in my arms.  It’s a heady responsibility – to be someone’s whole idea of safety and security.  And after seven years and seven months – I can say only that Sam has taught me more about myself and about motherhood and about bravery and strength of will than I ever dreamed I would learn.

Because Sam is growing so fast, it’s easy sometimes to forget that he was once this tiny little thing, who never strayed far from my side.  I find that we gravitate towards each other at bedtime.  Not every night, but every couple of nights… one of the two of us will go find the other and just snuggle up for a bit.  Last night, he had gone to bed and just couldn’t fall asleep.  And eventually, he wandered into my room.  All frustrated and ready to fight, because he was so tired.  He was insisting that Marc make him dinner (again) because he was still hungry.  I called him into my bedroom, and asked him to just lay down for a quick second with me, and once he stretched out on the bed with me, his eyes shut, and he was fast asleep within minutes.  He wasn’t hungry, he just needed a little reconnection time.

I get a lot of one on one time with Julie – because she’s three, and her idea of a good time is still hanging next to me.  And Jessie and I connect in a lot too.  But I find that Sam is, more and more, just as happy to be elsewhere in the house.  We’ve recently rearranged his bedroom, and put the third television in there (we need a playroom but don’t have space, so the kids alternate having the television set in their room).  And he adores his bedroom, he  builds little nests and forts, and hangs out in there a lot.   When he’s not hanging in there, he’s busy doing something else.   Marc and he are still working their way thru Book Five in the Harry Potter series, and he and Julie spend a lot of time playing together.

I miss my little boy.  Because he’s big now, and so much more independent than he’s ever been before.  And it’s a constant dance, isn’t it?  Getting used to this new person – because all of a sudden, my little boy isn’t a little boy anymore.  He’s a big seven year old boy – and he’s almost eight.   He’s so smart and so sweet, and so much more confident and secure.  He’s better able to hold his own when Jessie gets snarky, and still so incredibly nurturing with Julianna.  He’s growing up, and it’s bittersweet for me.

With Sam, not necessarily more so than with the girls, but on a different level, I was his whole center.  I was his whole idea of safety and security.  With every baby, it’s like that, but Sam took a lot longer to move past that.  He’s probably always going to be a little trepidatious about trying new things, but more and more, he’s able to try new things.  Relax more.  Trust that the world isn’t dangerous and scary, and that he’s capable of a lot more than he realized.

Watching him grow – it’s a gift that I never tire of – and one that I never take for granted.  His journey isn’t always, or even often, easy – and I’ve worried and worried and over analyzed and read far too many books on it – because struggling with anxiety is harder than I ever imagined it would be.  Raising a child who struggles with it is harder than I ever imagined it would be.  But as with most things – the harder the journey, the more you appreciate it.  His victories are sweeter because he works so hard for them, and as much as I miss my little koala baby – the smart, confident, secure boy I’ve got now is more than I ever dreamed of.