Archive | July 2015

Mid-Summer

It’s been a shorter summer, because of all the snow days earlier this year.  We really only had July and August, and we’re down to the last month.

It’s been a summer of changes, and I’m still catching my breath.  Starting work was more than a little overwhelming and I’m still not entirely used to it.  At the same time, it seems routine now, to get up and go to work in the morning.  I still have to go day by day, in terms of working out childcare and who’s going where when and who’s picking up who at what time, and that’s not getting any easier.  My job is less hours and more regimented, Marc’s is far more hours, but more flexibility.  It’s not unusual for Marc’s whole schedule to change from day to day, and plans for the afternoon can fall apart or suddenly develop at the last minute, requiring a whole new set of plans and adjustments.

The kids have adjusted beautifully to me going to work.  Now that I’m two months into it, Julie seems to be gaining equilibrium, and settling into her own routine again.  She’s grown up the most, this summer, in so many ways.  Going from being the last baby at home, and the one who got the most one-on-one time with me, to being without me for four days a week was a big jump, and then we tacked out moving into her own bed just a few weeks after I started work.  It was touch and go for a while there, with a lot of tears and an enormous amount of guilt on my part, but she seems to be better lately.  Jessie and Sam were both adamant that they wanted to stay home this summer and not go to camp, and although I’ve heard a few complaints about being bored, there haven’t been that many.  Marc and I are able to bounce our schedule around, and somehow we’re all surviving.  There’s a lot more minecraft and netflix than I’d like, but there’s legos and lemonade stands, coloring and math sheets too.

My afternoons are a blur of running around, trying to fit in bat mitzvah studying and flute lessons.  I have this list in my head of things that need to get done, and I’ve taken to emailing Marc when I want to talk to him about something because we’re always so busy at home that it’s tough to take the time to focus on conversation.

Jessie has started her lessons with the new cantor, and I’m still very much on the fence about religious school for her.  The reality is that both my older two don’t like religious school, and I hate the thought of forcing it on them.  We’ve definitely decided to not send Sam, but to either find him an on-line option or possibly a tutor.  Honestly, I think an on-line class would be best for him, combined with synagogue membership.  But with Jessie, I’m still unsure.  Julie will start at our local religious school, and I just hope that it’s a more positive experience for her than it was for the older two.

Vindicated Co-Sleeping Mama

I stumbled into the Attachment Parenting philosophy.  I don’t follow it slavishly, and I don’t follow a lot of the other lifestyle choices that seem to go along with it.  My kids eat cheetos and watch television.  I make them get their shots and brush their hair.  But I did pick them up all the time (to the point where my girls were both a year and a half before they started walking), I nursed on demand, and well into toddlerhood (Sam was three, Julie was closer to four before she stopped – Jessie bailed on me before she was a year old), and I co-slept with all of them.

Of my three kids – Jessie reliably sleeps every night in her own bed, and Sam has always been a haphazard sleeper.  He conks out wherever and whenever, sometimes in his room on the floor, sometimes on the dining room floor, sometimes in my bed, and very rarely – in his bed.  But he sleeps independently.  My bedtime routine has always been dependent on whoever’s needs were the most pressing – when I just had Jessie, I had this elaborate bedtime routine that involved reading and lullabies and quiet whispers until she finally drifted off.  When I had Sam, the bedtime routine shifted to getting ready to bed, trying to read to her while Sam nursed, and finally having both of them fall asleep on top of me in this huge love seat while we watched recorded episodes of George Stephanopolis.  By the time Julie came along, we had shifted over into Jessie reading to herself at night, Sam hanging with Daddy until he was really sleepy and I’d nurse Julie.  That stage lasted for years.  After having Julie, I gave up any illusions that I’d be able to stay up later than my kids.  We got a television for the bedroom when she was about a year old, and established the routine of nursing her to sleep and then just chilling out and watching television.

I had hesitated about putting her in Jessie’s bedroom.  Ever since moving into this apartment, I’ve been thinking that I’d probably be moving within the next six months or so – which made it easy to tell myself that I’d just keep her in my room until we moved.  Start fresh in a new place, have everyone get used to a new bedroom and sharing at the same time.  I got her a toddler bed, and put it in my room, because it was just easier.  I’d snuggle her to sleep and then throw her into her own bed.

The first night with the bunk beds didn’t go well at all, and the second was better, but still it took me almost two hours to get her to sleep and she was miserable.  Desperately wanted to sleep in her bed, but couldn’t get herself to settle down in her own space.  The third day, I got some construction paper and markers, and she and I made a Bedtime Book.  I wrote down every step in the get ready for bed process on a separate page and she illustrated it (and her depiction of a toilet is masterfully executed…).  And that night, we read the book, and then went thru, step by step, and she fell asleep, by herself, in her own bed and slept all night.  We’ve repeated it for the past four nights.

The best part is that now, I just put both Sam and Julie to bed at the same time.  I will reluctantly admit that Sam is sleeping on a hard plastic six foot table top (because I needed the twin mattress from the top of his loft bed, and suggested that instead of getting another mattress – because he’s got a big bed on the bottom – we just set up an art corner, where he can work on his legos, and color and get away from everyone.  A six foot folding table fit perfectly (with the legs folded up, of course), and it’s his favorite spot in the world).  I should have predicted that he’d sleep up there – but I naively thought he’d sleep on the bed as opposed to a hard plastic table… But  my point is that every night now, I tuck all three of my kids into bed (or onto a table).  Jessie goes up on the top bunk, with netflix and a book light, Julie sleeps every night in her own bed with no issues, and Sam conks out reliably up on his loft.

It took me three kids, twelve and a half years, and I’m still not sure how it worked out so well.  But all of them sleep in their own beds (or tables) and it’s blissfully easy.

Operation Bunk Beds/Sleep in Said Bed

It was a busy weekend (as are they all, really).  We had been talking for a while about getting Julianna into a larger bed in Jessie’s bedroom.   Talking for a lot longer than we probably should have been, and not actually doing anything about it.

I’m a co-sleeper from way back.  I slept with babies all my life, from my little sister to cousins to nieces and nephews.  I loved babysitting, loved taking a kid for a weekend, and never had trouble sleeping with a little one next to me – and that was before I had my own kids.  Once I had my own, and combined nursing with sleeping – it was a no-brainer.   With Jessica, I had a crib for her (and it was lovely, pale purple and so sweet) and I diligently put her in it every night.  At her first wake up, I’d just take her back to bed with us, and eventually, stopped waking up.  With Sam – his anxiety and colic led to a boy who didn’t ever relax unless he was next to me, and he never even laid in his crib (let alone slept in it).  By the time Julie was born, I didn’t even bother.  She just slept in bed with us and it was fine.

Part of the reason that she’s been in our bed for so long has been that I keep thinking we are going to move.  It seemed like such a big transition for Jessie – to give up her own room to share it with a five year old, and I kept thinking that it’d just be easier to wait.  And I loved sleeping with our girl – she’d snuggle in between Marc and I.  I had a toddler bed in our room that I’d throw her in more often than not, and she was outgrowing it.

It was time.

So we got some hand-me-down bunk beds, and they’re perfect.  Jessie was game for bunk beds, but asked for stairs, and Marc built her some bookshelves/stairs that he attached to the beds.  I took them shopping, and bought pretty new comforters and throw pillows.  Saturday, I went thru the closets and dressers, and rearranged all of them.  Jessie got Sam’s old dresser, Julie got Jessie’s old dresser, Sam got the bonus dresser I used for extra clothes, and Julie’s old dresser became the arts/crafts dresser.  So to speak.  I don’t know, really, what I’ll do with that one…

Sunday, Marc transported and built and shopped for wood and built some more.  By Sunday night, the beds were perfect, and my little girl was ready, psyched, even to sleep in her Doc McStuffins bed.

Until she wouldn’t go to sleep.  The battle went on for three hours, with her wide awake and kicking at the wall, wiggling like a little worm, and me getting more and more frustrated.  She deteriorated into tears and I started yelling.  I ended up taking her back into my bed – she didn’t go down until after eleven.

Last night, we made books.  One called “Julianna Goes to Bed” and the other one called “Julianna Wakes Up.”  I wrote down every single step, from cleaning up to having a little snack, brushing her teeth and picking out her clothes for the next day.  We read two stories and snuggled her to sleep.  It took me an hour and forty five minutes, and she cried (because she couldn’t sleep – IT WAS HARD – and why didn’t I understand that???) but I never raised my voice, and she slept all night in her own bed.  So it counts as a victory.  Not as much as a victory as it would have been if she hadn’t sobbed, but progress.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

 

Trade-offs

This is the summer of minecraft, nail painting and spending time with Grammy.  It’s also the summer of me learning that everything is a trade-off.  If I choose to do one thing, than something else that I should have been doing is going to go unfinished.  Or never get started in the first place.

My job is going wonderfully well – but there’s a lot to it.  A lot.  And I’m still on reduced hours (in a month, I’ll be doing 32 hours a week, but until then, I’m doing 20 hours in the office, and working from home when I can).  I’m grateful, so grateful, for the ability to work from home, to be able to work while my kids bike ride and play with barbies and to stop and get a snack or pour a drink.   But working from home has it’s own challenges.

Yesterday, I was feeling particularly professional.  So I worked, a lot, from home.   This morning, I’m looking around at the living room floor, covered in books and empty cups, papers and crayons and pillows and hair ties, and regretting it.  Or not regretting it, because I got a LOT done yesterday, and it needed to get done, but my house is suffering.

I think it’s mostly the house that suffers.  And my kids, a little, my husband, a little.  Because I don’t function well in a really messy house.  For my own sanity, I need a relatively clean house.  Relatively.  We went to the beach on Saturday and it was beyond fabulous.  The kids had so much fun, and I loved being in the ocean more than I can express.  But Sunday was an epic disaster, in large part, because I was so damn frustrated by the fact that I hadn’t cleaned on Saturday.  I still had dishes to do from Shabbat dinner, so much laundry to do.

I keep telling myself that it will all get better in September.  I won’t have to juggle childcare – everyone will be in school.  I won’t have to clean so much, because nobody will be home during the day.  I won’t feel guilty because I’ll be home when the kids are home.

Julie didn’t go to bed last night until after eleven.  Not that she wasn’t in bed, because she was.  I got her to bed around eight thirty.  But that’s her one-on-one time with me, and I couldn’t help feeling like I needed to just snuggle and talk and be with her.  She didn’t want to sleep – she had a lot to talk about.  So I let her, but she’ll suffer today because of it.  Marc can go in later, so he’ll let her sleep for a while, and I’ll get out at two and go pick her up.  She’ll sleep on the way home.  Or the way down to my mother’s house.

She’s having a harder time than the other kids are.  Jessie and Sam aren’t loving me being gone part of every day, but they are already used to spending that time in school.  Julie is not.  As much as I tell myself that kindergarten will be easier for her, that she needs to adjust to this anyway, this way she does it with my mother and her dad, which is so lucky for her, I still feel guilty.

 

Picnic Fridays

It doesn’t always work out.  Sometimes, you plan the perfect family outing, and in your head, it’s going to be wonderful.  Fun family memories that will make everyone smile twenty years from now.

I’m thinking specifically about a mini-golfing trip from a week ago.  It sounded SO good.  We’d go mini-golfing, just the five of us, and it’d be fabulous.  And looking back, I do think it was fun, overall. But during the game, it was kind of craptastic.  It started raining in the middle of it, Marc was grumpy because nobody took it as seriously as he did.  Sam and Julie started a massive brawl in the middle of the the fourteenth hole, and Jessie stormed back to the car and kept firing off angry texts to me about how her fourth of July got ruined by her siblings.  Twenty years from now, we probably will look back and smile – “Hey, remember that time we went mini-golfing, and it rained, and Daddy got mad because we kept cheating and then Sam and Julie started screaming and crying and Jessie stormed off?”

But today – today really was perfect.   I work Mondays-Thursdays during the week, and Fridays are my days home alone with the kids.  Marc tries to cram a lot of work time in on Fridays, because he has to be so flexible the other days, so he left really early.  Everyone slept really late, and I worked from home a little this morning.  Jessie was in her room, repainting her nails (reinforcing why I don’t like paying for manicures – Girlfriend would rather do her own nails), and Julie and Sam were playing in his bedroom.  Around noontime, I closed the laptop, got everyone dressed and bounced off to Walmart.  We picked up Shabbat supplies, and I indulged them in crappy Lunchables.  Bought fruit and drinks and we went to a park.  We spread out the picnic blanket, ate our lunch together and then I laid in the shade, read my book and watched them play for a few hours in the sunshine.  The weather was blissful – everyone got along perfectly (I’m ignoring the five minute crying jag that Julie had half-way thru).  I even bought a $5 CD at Walmart, and got Katrina and the Waves Walking on Sunshine.  I played it super loud over and over again while we were driving.  Everyone was happy and loving each other and being outside.  It was exactly what I always want those family times to be like.

And even if I don’t always get the perfect afternoon (I’m looking at you Crystal Caves Mini-golf Course), it’s so worth it to keep planning them.  Because when it works, it’s so awesome.

Summer 2015

I could easily compose another blog post on maternal guilt. Especially because when I’m writing, most often what comes out in this blog is whatever emotion I happen to be bubbling over with at that moment.  And working seems to make me feel guiltier than I ever anticipated – especially as it relates to Julianna.  The other two kids seem to be rocking and rolling with the new schedule.  They’re getting lots of time with my mother and their dad, and even exploring their own independence – staying home by themselves sometimes.  I spent the afternoons with them every day, we go swimming most afternoons, Sam bops all over the place on his bike.  They have adjusted to mornings and early afternoons without me effortlessly.

But my Julie – oh, my Julie.  She misses me.  She cries easily and often, and clashes with her siblings all the time.   Last night, she literally sobbed because I told her that I couldn’t read her mind, and she had to use her words to talk to me about what she wanted done with her hair.  The idea that I didn’t just KNOW intuitively what she wanted was just more than she could take.  That breaks my heart.  Intellectually, I know that she’d have to adjust to this schedule regardless – going to school in September will be so much easier for her, because she’ll be used to having part of her days without me.  But last night, she rolled over in her sleep (it took me almost an hour to get her to settle down) and wrapped her little arms around me and snuggled in as close as she could.  This is hard for her.  I hate that.

But this isn’t a blog about guilt.  It’s about summer 2015.  It’s about trips to Dairy Queen and how fast Sam can go on his bike.  It’s about Jessie learning to cook and meal plan, and about Julie cleaning the dining room.  Because there’s a lot more going on this summer than me feeling guilty and Julie feeling neglected.

Marc and I are adjusting to being a two working parent family.  His schedule has a certain amount of flexibility, and mine involves fewer hours but probably more structure.  We still rely pretty heavily on my mother for childcare, especially with Julie, but this week, while she’s in Maine, we’ve been tag teaming, one of us here all the time, and it’s working.  I might even carve out time for a date night this weekend.  Maybe.

Sam is still playing far more minecraft than I’d like, but he does a lot of it with Marc.  One of the things about Sam that can be challenging is that he really prefers to appear utterly competent to his dad.  Marc’s always looking for an activity that they can do together, and I suggested that he learn to play with Sam.  Because Sam knows a lot about it, and it’s something that he feels really confident doing.  Which means that he’s a lot more open to doing it with Marc, and it’s still his preferred method of playing it.  He does it WITH Daddy, which means that they get a lot more one-on-one time to connect.

Jessie is still adjusting to her very short haircut.  She’s bitter about it, still, and will probably never get her hair cut ever again.  She’s working on summer reading, rearranging her room all the time, and watching too much Netflix.  But I think it’s been a good summer, so far, for her. She’s growing up – on her phone more and more, and growing ever more confident and gorgeous.   More importantly, she’s kind, interested in the world around her and how it works – and I love that.

 

Start of Summer

It’s been a busy week or two around here at the Cohen house.  I’m working part-time, four days a week, and when I’m not working, I’m frantically trying to cram summer joy into the time I have left in the day.  The guilt, oh, the guilt over not being home full time with them this summer… We’ve gone swimming several times, hit the playground and gone out for ice cream, lemonade stands are a regular occurrence.  But the XBOX and Netflix are still being used far more than I’d like.  I should take a page out of Marc’s book and blithely tell myself that they could have gone to camp, but were adamant that they didn’t want to – so I shouldn’t feel guilty about not providing a non-stop, activity filled fun summer. Maybe I should have forced camp on them.  But it would have been ugly, at least for Sam, and Jessie was pretty convinced that she didn’t want to even contemplate it.

Julie is the one that seems to be struggling the most – even though she’s loving spending so much time with my mother (she’s happy to go, blissful when she’s there), but she’s a hot mess when she’s home.  Fussy and argumentative with her siblings and her dad, dramatic and sobbing when she’s with me.  It’s a big adjustment, moving from being the little one who got tons and tons of one-on-one time alone with me.  Maybe it’s good – this way, kindergarten won’t be as much of a shock to her system in the fall.  She’ll be used to spending part of her day without me around.  This is me, trying to justify turning my little girl into a sobbing mess.   It’s vaguely comforting that everyone tells me that she’s happy without me, but when I’m around, more than likely, she’s crying.  I know it’s normal, I know it’s just that she’s adjusting to this new routine and new schedule.  And I know damn well that she has fun when I’m not around, she’s not inconsolable, she’s content and chatty and proud of herself and her accomplishments, but it’s still hard, on everyone.

We’re managing, day by day, figuring out child care on the fly, relying on a Daddy who kind of makes his own hours, a Mama who is only working five hours a day, a Grammy who is wonderful beyond measure and aunts and cousins and stepsisters who step in and help.

I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to school starting so much, if only because once school starts, all my childcare agonizing goes away.   The reality is that they are still having a pretty good summer, we’ve had Glennys down for a week, Lilli and Sarah have spent several nights here.  Julie is learning about gardening and squirrels and baking and shopping with my mother.  We’ve had long days running around David and Aviva’s pool, trips to the drive-in, and they get to sleep in and stay up too late at night.

In other news… we’re heading to Maine tomorrow for my step-sister’s wedding and then Monday will be Sammy’s birthday.  My baby boy is going to be nine years old.  I feel like nine is right on the cusp of adolescence, and it struck me last night that I’m woefully unprepared for having an adolescent boy.  Jessie didn’t throw me all that much – I was prepared for her to get bigger.  Lilli and Sarah were just a few years ahead, and I had been a pre-teen girl myself.  So I knew the signs, I was prepared for the worst and delightfully surprised to find that the tween years were filled with so many new discoveries about my daughter.  It might be one of my favorite parts of parenthood- the drama slowed down (note I didn’t say disappeared…), but it got calmer.  She settled into being herself, and I love this stage.

But what does a pre-teen boy go thru?  What is that whole thing like?  No idea.  Absolutely none.  I think back to my brothers, and draw a blank.  I don’t have any friends with older boys.  I’m used to little boys.  I’m GOOD at little boys.  I’m good at Sam, specifically.  I know that little guy inside and out – and the idea that he’s not a little guy anymore throws me off.  I’m not at all ready for my little boy to grow up, and I am going to pretend, for just a little bit longer, that nine years old isn’t a year away from ten, and half way to eighteen.