I’m checking the mail on an hourly basis – waiting for the financial aid paperwork for Jessie’s school. I’m really praying that we get enough aid to be able to send her to private school… she’s going to be so disappointed if we can’t. Not that I’ve let on to her how stressed I am, or that I’m just hoping these total strangers decide to give us enough money so that she can go – I just told her that Mommy and Daddy are still trying to decide which school would be best for her. And I know that wherever she goes, she’ll do well, and that it’s just kidnergarten. But still… I want her to get the very best education possible, in the best, most nurturing environment, and I think the NJA is the best choice. But they want $500 by April 12 and unless financial aid comes thru, my girl is going to public school 🙁

Moving right along… all is well here. Sam is talking more and more – and has definitely started clearly saying “Dessi” – and now that he’s realized how to say it and that she responds – he’s just chanting her name. He’s fallen totally in love with her, the other day, he cried so hard when she left him to go to dance class, he choked on a granola bar. He’s demanding that she sleep next to him, sit with him, read with him, do everything with him. I worried a little bit that three and a half years would be too much, they wouldn’t be as close as they could have been if it had been two years, but am happy to report that my two kids are closer than I’ve ever seen any two, except for Eric and Mandi when they were little 🙂

We just survived Purim and Easter. Part of the joy of being in somewhat interfaith relationship is that we celebrate every freaking holiday imaginable. Purim was fun – I got to experiment with different recipes until I found a really good one for hamentaschen and we went down to the synagogue for the Purim carnival. Huge improvement over last year, Sam screamed like a lunatic thru the entire reading last year, I spent most of it hiding in a storage room at the Westboro JCC, trying to get far away from the noise. This year, he sat on my lap and was happy enough to wave around the noisemaker.

Then we had Easter – which was actually a really nice day. I had gotten the kids baskets and filled them with a couple of cute little toys and a serious minimum of candy, because I like to make sure that the kids don’t eat junk. A little, sure, it’s a holiday – and I’m not a zealot about it, but as a rule, I don’t give the kids crappy food. We’ve had the same two bottles of soda in the fridge for months, because I don’t let the kids drink it. I’ve had the same two half gallons of leftover ice cream since Jessie’s birthday back in February. We had dinner at Annie’s – awhich was fabulous, then we went to my mother’s – which was also lovely (because my cranky sister had already left, and my horrible brother never showed at all).

But the girl got candy. Oh my gosh, did she get candy. And we’ve already had three knock down, dragged out screaming fights about it. She wants it all the time. Right now. And while I’m relaxed about many mothering things, I let them eat artificially flavored and colored cheese curls, I’ve given a two week old a taste of whipped cream – I flat out refuse to give her candy for breakfast. After lunch, I say. I’ll let you have some after lunch. So she immediately starts clamoring for lunch. At 9:30. Lunch, nothing will do but lunch immediately, so that she can then move onto the candy. I’ve threatened to throw it out if she doesn’t cut it out, and finally pacified her with three mini marshmellows (that way she feels like she won by getting junk but I wont because three mini marshmellows is nothing). But this whole battle has renewed my resolve to not ever, ever have candy in the house again. Easter and Halloween – my two least favorite holidays as a parent…

He’s willing, no, he’s eager, to have her do ‘make overs’ on him. The poor kid doesn’t know any better, and is so happy that she’s interacting with him and treating him like a real person and not a baby, that he’s thrilled to betsy to sit there and let her paint glitter and eye shadow and blush all over his tiny little boy face.

I wonder, sometimes, what influence having three (four if you count Glennys) older sisters is having on him. His every move is accompanied by hordes of girls – frequently on the weekends, he has trouble walking because they are all clustered around him. While I have no doubts that he’s a hard core boy (the other day, he cried until Marc put on Conan the Barbarian for him), I am amused that he’s also a big fan of pretty pink tutus and glitter on his cheeks.

For the very first time, my girl made it thru the night dry. In big girl pants, no less. Very proud… although I confess that I got up at two o’clock in the morning to drag her into the potty. She’s very proud of herself… very big step 🙂

Had a busy day yesterday, between dance, and going to shull and then down to my sister’s house. Then we brought all of the kids to the Chinese buffet and that went terribly. It’ll be a while before I go back there with all of them again. Sarah was totally hyper and lunatic crazy and she and Glennys were both a little out of control. Sammy puked chicken up all over the place, and then scattered rice everywhere. One of those times when you know that every other person there is wishing that we’d just leave. One of my pet peeves is the kids being out of control at a restaurant. It makes me nuts.

I’m just chilling out today – Marc is going downstairs to play D&D; with the guys until noontime and then he wants to go to the YMCA to go swimming… I’m not sure if I’m going to go along with the plan, I think hanging at home and relaxing might make more sense, yesterday was totally chaotic and we could use a break :-).

There, I said it. She has a fier, and I’m proud of her. She’s brilliant, kind, creative and can be the most poised, talkative engaging child in the world. And most nights, she drifts off to sleep with her trusty fier in her mouth. I refuse to lecture her, take it away, make her feel like a baby or in any way make it a negative experience for her. And you know what, she’s MY CHILD. Mine. That means that I get to make this decision and it should matter to nobody else. Marc, maybe. But even with that, he’s pretty much made parenting decisions like that to be my thing.

Why do so many people think it’s okay to criticize other people’s parenting styles? I don’t get it – there are LOTS of other parents out there, and for the most part, unless it’s a blatant screw up, I don’t comment. They might make choices that I wouldn’t make, allow their children to get away with stuff I wouldn’t tolerate, let their kids watch stuff I wouldn’t, but it’s none of my business. And I fully understand that what is the right decision for my children might not be the right decision for others. I’m not perfect, God knows I’ve screwed up lots of times as a parent – but for the most part, I’m pretty damn good at it. My children are gorgeous and healthy and happy and if you don’t agree with my parenting, then just shut up about it. Okay?

Bitter, much? I’m so tired of being told that she needs to give up the pacifier. She likes it, okay? And she’s a good kid, who’s already growing up faster than I can keep up with. It’s not like I’m giving her cocaine or heroin to sleep with. It’s certainly not going to hurt her, and probably saves her teeth from being worn down to bits because she grinds her teeth in the middle of the night.

He’s nursing like there’s no tomorrow. Like he has to get it all in now, because it’s going away. Which is accurate, actually. I’m finding more and more that I don’t want to nurse. I don’t want to be trapped in a chair, nursing for hours. Not anymore. I’ve gone for twenty months, longer than I had ever expected to. My original goal was a year. I’m going to be lucky if he stops before he’s five. And the more impatient I get, the more I try to wean him, the harder it gets – he follows me around the house crying, asks to nurse every ten minutes. It’s a complete catch 22 – the more I don’t want to do it, the more desperately he needs to.

My new theory is that if I just let him nurse as much and as often as he wants, maybe he’ll ease off a bit. He’s actually sleeping, he nursed down to sleep at twenty after ten, which is ridiculously early. Maybe he’s teething.

Again – have to state for the record how much I really LOVE staying home with the kids. On days like this, when Sam just wants to nurse 24/7, and nap two hours early – he can. No problems… Jess can run around with her hair not done, still in jammies, it’s cool – no pressure here. They can just be kids – with no schedule or committments or things they have to do. I love it.

Other than the nursing irritation, my day is going wonderfully well. I’m decluttering – I tend to save crap I don’t need, and it piles up all over the house. I organized the silverware drawer, adn am working on cleaning off the television, the bookshelf, and the ugly brown thing. Nothing feels better than throwing things out – which is why I don’t understand why I only do it once or twice a month 🙂

We did Sam’s hair last night – and for the record, I did agree to it and even held him while it was happening. That being said, I sobbed for ten minutes afterwards. He looks SO BIG. All of a sudden, he’s a little boy, he’s not a baby anymore. His eyes look huge and he could pass for a three year old. He’s talking a lot more now, just this weekend, he’s added Sessie, Belle, and Sarah to his vocabulary, and his one sentence that’s he’s been muttering for a while has gotten a lot clearer, he can say ‘that’s funny’ and you can actually understand it now. Everyone says it goes by so fast, but it REALLY does. He’s this grown-up little boy child, and I still don’t fully believe it. He looks SO much like Marc now – he’s a mini-Marc with my eyes.

He’s been nursing constantly lately. And it’s starting to make me nuts. I’m trying to be patient and look at it as something he just has to get out of his system, but I’m so ready for it to be done.

Jess went off to preschool this morning, all grown up in a long dress with her hair in a bun. She’s so gorgeous, I’m dreading her first day at school… when did my kids get so big?

Spent the whole day yesterday being Jewish – we left early in the morning to go to Mom’s house, then brought the girls back for noontime, then went down the Chabad for the penis party. So glad we went, we were the only guests there… then we stayed for a while, picked up one of the rabbi’s kids at a party, helped a couple of them with science projects and then met with the rabbi to discuss conversion.

All looks good on that front – I just have to find a rabbi to work with to formally convert, and our rabbi going to e-mail a bunch of names, the rabbi down there will vouche for me and I can study with him, but there’s a formal Jewish court (I think it’s three people) that I have to work with to actually get it done. And I have to do it officially, because otherwise, Jess and Sam might run into problems down the road if they want to get married in a Jewish synagogue. Much pressure….

It’s an odd role – one that I didn’t necessarily want, but didn’t go out of my way to avoid it. When I first starting dating Marc, the girls weren’t really a factor – spending time with them was something done by him on the weekends. It didn’t influence me much more than I knew that Saturdays were my days to do stuff with other people, because Marc would be at Lisa’s house with them. Even after I had Jessie, Lisa still wouldn’t let the girls see her, and in fact, for the first eight months of her life, Jess was an only child in every sense of the world. I knew Marc had the girls, knew we were paying child support, but they were HIS girls, they weren’t mine, and I didn’t see that changing. Ever.

Eventually, Lisa caved, and started letting us see them, but it was sporadic, and we certainly couldn’t be trusted to watch them on our own. Then we moved out of Marc’s parent’s house, and started taking them most Saturdays. Somehow it’s grown so that we now have them all day, both days, every weekend. They’ve even started sleeping over, and I expect that’ll continue and probably pick up in frequency.

And I’ve had a hard time adjusting. I think so, anyway. I have higher expectations of myself – I feel like it’s a role that’s a constant challenge to me, and that I’m nowhere near as good at it as I should be. Being a stepmother isn’t something you can really prepare yourself for – despite all my efforts, reading books about it doesn’t help, being an actual parent doesn’t really help either, because you’re not a parent to them. At least in this situation – I always feel so aware of the fact that I’m not their mother. I don’t know their teachers, their friends, their doctor’s. But I know what they like, what they don’t like, their best and worst qualities, I know that Sarah won’t eat sauce and Lilli will eat junk food until she throws up. I know that Sarah is less affectionate with Marc, but more cuddly with Sam, Lilli is the exact opposite.

Once I accepted the fact that they are a consistent presense – that the expectation is that we WILL have them, of course, all weekend, both days, all day – it’s got a little easier. Before, I kept being surprised that we had them. Kept getting confused by Marc’s insistence that they be here, because for such a long time, we didn’t have them, or could only have them under controlled circumstances. I didn’t switch gears quickly enough, and sometimes I resented all the togetherness.

When you have a child, it’s instant, immediate. You just fall in love when you first hold that baby – and it just grows from there. When you have a stepchild, it’s a whole different ball game. You’re dealing with someone else’s child, someone else’s rules and odd little hang-ups. When they start whining and yelling and fighting, you don’t have that instinctive love and understanding under it to cushion it. And it’s hard – sometimes, it’s so hard. To be fair, to be loving, to be the kind of stepmother I want to be, the kind I’d want my own children to have. And I still struggle with it.

But it is getting better. It really is. We’ve been together for six years, and for the girls, they’ve never known any different. I think it’s easier for them than for me – they’ve got that bond with Jess and Sam and just sort of accept me as part of the package. We’ve started to get identified as a family, at the Chabad, at the YMCA, when we’re out to dinner, etc. I’ve started saying just a blanket ‘yes’ when I’m asked if all four are mine – because they ARE. I may not have been there from the beginning, I may not know if they’re up to date on their vaccines or when their next dentist appt is, but they are mine.

For better or worse, and when you marry a guy with kids, you marry them too. And for a long time, I didn’t understand that. But the girls are mine too – and I chose it, maybe not with a lot of forethought, maybe not really understanding what I was doing – but I chose them as much as I chose Marc. And they are mine. Maybe not with the same intensity and strength as Jess and Sam, but enough. I mother them too – when they are with me, they are my kids.

My son, my precious little love, was over in the corner making happy noises. I glanced over at him and he looked up. His face was red, his eyes were glassy, and he had the biggest smile. I asked him if he had been pooping, and he was delighted with himself. Nodded happily and went back to his business. He’s got a bizzare fascination with bodily functions – adores passing gas, burping, peeing, pooping – and it’s just as exciting for him if Daddy is the one doing it. Not pooping, I think that’d be a little sick, but he toddles in the bathroom and watches the peeing. Like it’s a sporting event, he ooohs and aaaaahs with appreciation. Mind boggling.

Not something my girl child would EVER have done.