Archive | May 2015

Preparation

I spent all morning cleaning.

I tackled the playroom.  Okay, so it’s not a playroom, so much as a play CORNER of my dining room.  But it’s got a cute little rug down, and shelves along the wall that I bought and assembled.  Tables that have seen better days, and so, so many toys.  I’ve got legos and lincoln logs, barbies and ponies.  Doll houses that don’t fit well anywhere.  Magnet dolls and bingo games, more stuffed animals than any one house should lay claim to, and whole picnic’s worth of tea party accessories.

I also had a half-eaten snack bag of cookies, three spoons, one pill that Sam swore he swallowed, 36 playing cards, and eighty seven thousand broken toys.

I’m on a new organization kick – there’s a voice in the back of my head telling me that now’s the time.  Now I have to get everything efficient and in control, because once Tuesday comes, I’ll be WORKING.  Even though I’m only working 10 hours a week for the next three months, even though I’ve got another month before the older two are home for the summer, I feel as though I’ve got this weekend to get my whole household under control before everything changes.

It took me three hours (with breaks for blogging and bragging that my piece is up on the Mid today). And it took less than two minutes for Julie to celebrate the newly organized and pristine area by promptly dismantling all of the stacking, all of the cleaning and creating her own system. A neighborhood, if you will, of adjoining dollhouses, cars, and figurines, and she’s over there happily talking to herself and singing.

Let’s be honest – come Tuesday morning, my house isn’t going to be any more (or less) organized, efficient and put together than any other day.  But my kids will still be happy, they’ll still have far more toys than they need, and they’ll still spread them out, create worlds and imagine lives in spite of the mess.  Just like they always have…

Tenderness

There is this incredible sweetness and beauty in raising children.  There is chaos and frustration and holy-moly-if-you-don’t-stop-whining-I’m-going-to-cry-right-along-with-you too, but last night, my twelve year old fell asleep with her head cradled on my chest and it was so achingly perfect.

It wasn’t a great night.  Heat, exhaustion, hunger – I don’t know what it was, probably a combination of all three – but my kids were absolutely miserable.  Fighting and squabbling non-stop, whining at me when they weren’t trying to kill each other.  I made Julie go to bed at seven (after she shouted at me while she was supposed to be brushing her teeth that she wished that she would never, never see Mama ever again).  Sam had passed out on the dining room floor – for no real reason.  I think he just wanted to be contrary – if I wanted him tucked safely into his bed, he wanted to sleep on the wooden floor in the middle of the dining room.

Jessie appeared to be sound asleep on Sam’s bed (WHY won’t they sleep in their own spots?) when I got out of the shower.  I shut off all the lights (except for the one in the dining room, because Marc wasn’t home yet, and I didn’t want him to step on the Boy).  After about ten minutes of blissful ALONENESS,  Jessie came stumbling into my bedroom.

She was miserable, congested, sleepy and couldn’t sleep.  She wasn’t feverish, just unhappy.  And when she laid down next to me, there was this little moment of perfection.  Her body fits to mine, in a way that it has since she was born.  She laid her little head down in her spot, just below my shoulder, and just sighed.  Like this was what she needed, just to be right there, in that moment, with her head on my shoulder and my hand rubbing her back.

There’s this incredible intimacy, in raising children.  It’s raw and it’s hard and it’s overwhelming.  But there is this sense, and it comes off and on, less often as they get older, that the two of you – parent and child – have this bond and connection that’s so intrinsic to who you both are.  She’s my baby, my first little girl, and she’s growing up so fast.  She’s closer to an adult than an infant now, and I love that.  She’s beautiful and brilliant and so incredibly sweet and funny and kind.  But this love, this bond, it has nothing to do with anything she does or says – it’s that she’s connected to me and I’m connected to her in a way that I can’t explain, and can’t express and can’t define.  She’s mine and I’m hers.

It’s not unique to her, I have the same connection with my Sammy and my Julie-girl.  But it is unique because it’s Jessie (in the same way that I love Sam because he’s Sam, and Julie because she’s Julie).  Jessie is Jessie and she’s stunning and wonderful and I’m a different Mama to her than I am to each of her siblings.  But with each one, there is this unbelievable beauty and tenderness that still takes my breath away.  And it’s a lovely counterpoint to the nights like last night, when I count the minutes until bedtime, when my baby girl fell asleep furious at me, and my son took perverse joy in trying my patience.

End of an Era

I’ve loved being home with my kids.

I start my new job next week, and I’m mostly delighted (slightly panicked about the changes it’ll bring, but mostly absolutely shocked and thrilled at how perfect this job fits into what I was looking for at this stage).  But what’s more surprising to me is how many people have assured me how much better my life will be now.  Now that I’m not stuck at home with the kids all the time.

I have three children.  Jessica is twelve, Samuel is almost nine and Julianna just turned five.  And being at home with them for the past decade has been, without question, a dream come true for me.

I’m sure I’ll love my new job, and I’m equally sure that I’ll love all of the perks that go along with working – the new facet to my identity, the extra money that’ll come with having a two-income family, etc.  But I’ve loved being at home too, and I’m baffled and confused as to why anyone would think that I’m going to be better off now.

Going to work is the right decision, my kids are going to be in school six hours a day, and won’t need me at home.  I’m being outgrown, essentially.  At least, outgrown in this incarnation.  With all three kids in full time school, this is exactly when I should be looking at getting back into the workforce, and I was fortunate enough to find the perfect position in a great company.

So I’m not regretting my decision to go back to work.  What I’m doing, I think, is mourning the end of something wonderful for me.  Maybe mourning is the wrong word, I’m not sad that it’s ending, I think it’s more that I’m so aware of it being an ending.  Of a stage in my life, being at home with my babies, coming to an end.  It’s ending in the best possible sense, all three kids happy, healthy, and excited about going to school, and I’ve got my dream job, with perfect hours, the best location and absolutely everything I could want in a new job.

But I still loved being at home, and I’ll miss it.

I’ll miss the slow mornings, with my laptop on my lap, and my little girl beside me playing.  I’ll miss setting my own schedule, deciding that the dishes can wait while I fold the laundry, or randomly decide to rearrange the dining room.  I’ll miss having the freedom to run over to the school and bring in a forgotten flute, or to arrange doctor’s appointments or conferences during school hours.   (I won’t necessarily miss the whining and the crying – or the shipping of a hostile and angry five year old to her room because she holds me responsible for everything that ever goes wrong her life, but that’s another story).  (And I might even miss that, given enough time away from it.)

I’ll miss knowing everything that happens in their world. It’s a loss that’s coupled with the joy of watching their worlds expand, and their self-confidence grow.  And it would happen regardless of me starting work – Jessie will be in seventh grade, Sam in third, and Julianna in kindergarten – and me sitting at home while they were gone wouldn’t change it.   But me being at work while they are at school just feels different.  Even if the reality won’t be all that different for them, they’ll still have me dropping off and picking up most of the time, and when I’m not there, their dad will be. But our world is going to different now – I have responsibilities that won’t have anything to with the care and feeding of these three kids. My world is going to get a lot bigger now too – and that’s what’s so different. I won’t just be watching them go out into the world, protecting and waiting and watching them.  I’ll be waving goodbye and heading out to work.

And that’s so dramatically different from what I’ve been doing, I’m a little scared, a little thrilled and mostly just incredibly thoughtful and aware of this huge transformation in our lives together as a family.

So, so many updates

Major life changes going on around here these days.  We’re wrapping up preschool, and getting ready for Mama to join the world of employment.

The absolutely perfect job appeared just when I was starting to think about maybe I should go back to work in the fall.  Now, having accepted said job, I’m not sure why I wasn’t positive that I wanted to go back to work once Julie starts school.  I didn’t really think I’d be able to find the perfect hours, the right location, the ability to combine being available for after school and being able to work.

I’m starting on Tuesday, and I’ll work 8-10 hours a week thru the summer and then start the full hours once school starts up in the fall.  I’ll be able to drop off in the mornings, and then be there for pick up on Mondays-Thursdays.  Marc will do Fridays, because that’s the one day I’ll work the full day.

I’m confident about the job, and while I’m nervous about a whole bunch of things, doing the actual job isn’t one of them.  What worries me is all the other stuff.  I’ve been home full time since Sam was born.  I did work similar hours when Jessie was a toddler (same number of hours, different configuration), but that was with one child.  A toddler, who went to my sister-in-laws down the street from where I worked four days a week).  My life is a lot more complicated now.

I think we’ll adjust fine.  I hope we will.  The impact on the kids will be negligible.  I’ll be there for the morning chaos, getting them ready and dropped off at school.  I’ll be there for the after school pick up, hearing about their days, nagging them to do homework and getting dinner/bath/teeth/bed done.

I’m a worrier.  I like to think about all of the things that can/might go wrong, and then try to avoid them.  It’s not necessarily helpful (although I’m secretly convinced it is), but it’s useless for me to try and stop.  I’m just going to have to THINK about all of it and worry before I get it out of my system.  While I’m going to still be there for the kids, I’m not going to have all the time that I’ve had up until this point.   All the errands, all the writing, all the STUFF -the dishes, the laundry, the STUFF – I do a lot of stuff.   That’s all going to be compressed into the time with the kids.  And okay, yeah, it’s all been done with kids all along – but there was so much more time before.

I know that it’s all manageable.  I know that it’s so exactly perfect, the job is literally everything I wanted, and I can’t wait to get started, but I still can’t stop myself from wondering how everything will work.  Will Jessie resent taking on babysitting responsibilities?  Will Sam feel abandoned, how much of his security was knowing that I was right at home, waiting for him?  Will Julie grow up feeling slighted, because she’ll get a much more harried and stressed mom when she gets home from school, frantically trying to cram in a full day of at-home stuff into the hours between getting out of school and going to bed?   Will I be a frantic, stressed out mess, with piles of dirty dishes, laundry spilling out all over the place and yelling all the time about chore charts and allowances?

I’m making myself just slightly crazy, I know that.

 

 

Grief

Grief is an odd thing, for me.  I’ve had limited experience with it, thank God, but there are really only two losses that still have the ability to sneak up on me.  I’ll be bopping along, and suddenly I’m teary-eyed and have to go away somewhere where I can be alone to mourn.

One is the miscarriage I had before I got pregnant with Jessica, and the other one is my grandfather.

He died on a summer day not unlike today.  It was six years ago, he died when Julie was an infant, so I’ve always got a reminder of exactly how long it’s been.  But at the Memorial Day concert today at Jessie’s school (she plays the flute), the focus was on our veterans, and Memorial Day.  The speaker asked that our WWII veterans stand for a round of applause, and three or four older men stood up.

It wasn’t that they looked like my grandfather, I couldn’t even really see much more than the back of their heads (I had gotten there late and was in the back of the auditorium).  But it hit me suddenly that my grandfather was gone, my veteran wasn’t there, and all at once I missed him so much I started crying and had to leave.

I don’t think that I deal with grief all that well.  Or at least, I recognize that probably not a healthy way of handling it.  I don’t actually acknowledge that he’s dead all that often.  I think of him as traveling, over in Europe perhaps. Somewhere far away, where he’s happy and loving it, with my grandmother.  But sometimes I have to face the face that he’s gone, he’s not traveling, looking for adventure and sending back postcards.  Sometimes, like today, I realize all over again that he’s gone, and I miss him so much.

The last time

Julianna wakes up every morning and comes to curl up on my lap.  She’s groggy and unsure of everything, and seems to require a little snuggle before she can face her day.

My older two used to do this too. Every morning, from the time they were old enough to walk, they’d wake up, realize that I wasn’t there, and come find me.  True to form, I’d be on the couch with a book or writing, news on in the background, drinking my coffee.  I’d snuggle and rub their backs, ask about their dreams and talk about the day ahead.  I remember making room for one or the other, because they’d both do it.

Somewhere along the line, without me noticing it, they stopped.  Both kids get up now, and start their stuff.  Sam flips on the television or minecraft, grabs himself some cereal (and when he remembers, he’ll turn on the coffee maker for me).  Jessie sleeps and sleeps, and gets up only when I wake her (and never on the first try).  They don’t wake up independently and come find me anymore.

I don’t remember when it stopped.

They aren’t like normal milestones – I can remember each kids first step, first first word.  First day at school, first time doing homework.  First time on stage in the school concert, first lunch box, etc.  But remembering the last time they needed me to help them climb up the stairs, the last time they asked me to push the swing, the last time I had to button the snap on their jeans… those don’t get any recognition.

I’ve got kids who are outgrowing me faster and faster.  Each one, in their own way, they master new things and find new challenges and tackle them independently.  And that’s perfect – exactly as it should be.  But I still miss it, a little bit.  And I’m extra grateful each morning, when my sleepy-eyed little girl, with the long tangle of hair and nightgowns that reach down to her ankles, staggers out of the bedroom and into my arms.  Because I don’t know when it’ll be the last time.  I know it’s coming, but until then, I’m going to try and treasure every morning.

And then she was five

My living room is littered with dollhouses, magnet dolls, and a DocMobile.  The soundtrack to my morning is the clicking of the keyboard as I write, the sound of Doc McStuffins (because that’s the only show she likes to watch), and the chattering of an entranced Julie.  This is her favorite, I think.  When the older kids are gone, and she can set up her fantasy world with her princesses, Docs, stuffed toys and then do whatever she wants.

She loves her siblings, of course.  Her best friend is still, always, her brother, but she and Jessie can lose themselves for hours playing this same game.  She’s independent and confident, especially when she’s alone.  In social settings, she’s still more likely than not to hide behind my legs, and glare at people who try to talk to her.  But when she’s at home, or when she forgets where she is, she’ll talk and talk.  Explaining seriously about everything to anyone.

Five is a milestone age, in a way that the other ages weren’t.  Five means kindergarten, five means independence and the moving into a much, much bigger world.   She’s ready for it, I can see it in how easily she separates at preschool, how confidently she approaches the world and how she begs me to read to her, to explain addition and subtraction.

I wish I was as ready.  I wish I was as confident in what the future holds for me.   Or at least, as eager to get there as she is.

I loved having my babies at home with me.  I loved it when I had just my baby Jessie, then when I had my right hand man Sammy, and then when I just had my Julianna Ruth.  I loved baking with them, grocery shopping, going for long walks, folding laundry and pushing them on the swings.  This has been such a magical stage of life for me – and it feels like it’s ending now that she’s five.

I find myself reminding myself that it’s not over. Certainly not.  My kids are still young, there are still a lot of milestones yet to master.  Jessie isn’t even a teenager, Sam hasn’t started nightly homework yet.  Julie still has her first day ahead of her.  It’s just a new stage, a different one.  I’ll be the parent without a toddler at these events.  I’ll be able to volunteer during the day in their classrooms.  My house will reach new heights of cleanliness (at least one hopes….) now that they’ll all be out of the house during the day.  I could become a high-powered executive, now that I’ve got all this free time.

But to bring it back down to what I started with – my baby is five.  My last little love, my angel girl baby, the pregnancy that made me miserable, the child who entered the world when I was laughing – she’s five years old now.  Her favorite place is still right beside me, curled up (and when did I master typing with one arm completely immobile because her head is braced against it?).   She’s five, and I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have her.

 

Reasons You Shouldn’t Invite My Five Kids to Dinner on Friday

We normally do Shabbat dinner at my house.  It’s not always done WELL.  Some Fridays, it’s haphazard and chaotic, and I don’t manage to light the candles until late at night after I’ve managed to wrestle everyone into bed.  But there are a lot of Fridays when the table is set beautifully, the challah is baked, and the chicken is served in a pretty bowl.

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Periodically, often, we have guests for dinner. Sam usually has a friend over, and we invite people over to join us.  A few weeks a month, we have my in-laws over.  It’s still chaotic and crazy, but when we have dinner at home, it’s somehow easier.  Part of it is that we get the kids earlier, we pick up my stepdaughters about an hour before dinner, and part of it is that we just have more space – so if a kid is hormonal and can’t stop sobbing, she can disappear into her bedroom without too much drama.  If a kid is maniacally obsessed with minecraft, he can slip off into his bedroom to play that without an issue.  And if two kids want to brawl – well, we can generally send them outside to handle it.

My poor in-laws decided to take us out to dinner tonight.   Which was lovely, and a wonderful, generous idea – but wow – we learned again that you just shouldn’t EVER try and take my five kids out for dinner on a Friday night.  After being stuck in school all week, not seeing each other since the previous weekend – there’s just no way that they can hold it together to have a civilized meal.

Although, they did hold it together, mostly.  Dinner was… okay.  A little teary, for reasons that made no real sense, but a couple of girls had some issues.  Sam hyperventilated waiting for the pizza to come.  But the meal itself was mostly okay.  It was in the parking lot that everything went bat crap crazy, and it continued well into the night.

We have two cars, and normally, we split up into the “quiet car” and the “psychotic car.” But for reasons that escape me tonight, all five of them wanted to ride together, except for two of them, who wanted to ride alone.  So all five of them jumped into the car, out of the car, in the car, back out of the car.  There were cups of water thrown, puddles created, laughing hysterically, sobbing uncontrollably – and it took about ten minutes before we managed to get everyone INTO a car and get home.

My kids range in age between 16 and 5.  And logically, I have to assume that this is they way that they’ll be forever.  I can completely see where, twenty years from now, they aren’t going to be any less likely to need a day or two of decompression before going out in public together.  They need time to yell and scream and laugh and squabble and get it all out before they can behave like normal people.

And they’re awesome.  Healthy, and happy and completely, utterly connected.  These five kids, these five completely different personalities somehow manage to merge into a unit that’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.  They transcend normal birth order, because we’ve got two oldest (Lilli and Jessie), three youngest (Sarah is the youngest of Lilli and Sarah, Jessie is the youngest of the three girls, and Julie is the youngest of all five).  Sam is the only boy, and Jessie slips into the middle child role like she owns it.  They aren’t a traditional band of siblings – but they are a unit.  And anyone who happened to be in the Papa Gino’s parking lot tonight in Webster Square around eight can attest to it.

 

Aging Gracefully

I don’t think I want to.

I’ve got to think about birth control.  My baby is five, which means that birth control I’ve been using for the past five years needs to be addressed.

Thinking of that just reminds me that I actually haven’t had a physical in about ten years, maybe longer.  I don’t think I’ve been to see a doctor in the past five years.  Three years, maybe.  I’m healthy, I hear myself whispering.  I’m a healthy girl.  Other than the headaches – which I’ve been prone to since I was a teenager, I don’t get sick.

But I’m not a girl anymore.  I’m a woman, who may or may not even need birth control anymore.  I’m forty one.  My chances of getting pregnant diminish every month, and my eggs are probably crap at this point anyway.  Which raises the question of even if I did get pregnant, could I stay pregnant and would the baby be healthy?  And do I even want to get pregnant?  But do I want to use hormonal birth control?

I don’t want to be here, in this space.  I don’t want to be wondering if I should be avoiding hormones, so that I can go thru the process of menopause naturally.  I don’t want to wonder if my eggs would produce sick babies, or hurt babies, or even be able to make a baby.  I don’t want to get old.

I don’t want another baby, I’m almost certain of it.   I think about it sometimes, imagine Sammy with a little brother or picture Jessie babysitting for her infant sister.  Imagine bringing a baby into Julianna’s class, the way I brought Julie into Jessie’s the spring she was in first grade.  I look at tiny onesies and gorgeous baby carriers and smile enviously at pregnant women – but then I remember the itching.  The vomiting, the lack of sleep.  I think about preeclampsia and high blood pressure, and remember how much easier it is now – they all are potty trained, and can buckle themselves into the car.  Everyone sleeps thru the night, everyone will be in school in September.  Do I really want to start again?  The truth is that I could easily be convinced either way, and since there are good and compelling reasons not to (I’m OLD, we don’t have any extra space, yada yada..), I’m coming down on the side of not having another baby.  At least not now – and I say that knowing that the longer I postpone that decision, the less likely it is that I’ll be able to do it again.

I have two white hairs on my head.  They taunt me every morning.  I could start coloring my hair, and going thru menopause and getting old and creaky and cranky.  But I’d rather not.

I keep feeling as though something is ending.  I know it’s normal, a part of me does recognize that with Julianna going off to school this year, I am graduating to a whole new stage in my life.   A stage that I’ve been in for more than a decade, and one that I’ve loved.

Building my family – it’s been wonderful.  And I’m not LOSING my family – I’m just transitioning from building a family into raising one.  My job as mama isn’t over, I know that.  Julie is just barely five, I’ve got at least another thirteen years to go with her.  That’s longer than I’ve been a mother.  Jessie is just on the cusp of such a huge transition, from girl to woman, and Sam’s right in the middle of his childhood – I’m not DONE with parenting.

I think I need another ice cream cone.