Yesterday afternoon, I formally converted to Judaism.

When I first met Marc, and immediately got pregnant :-), I was completely freaked out about the fact that he was Jewish. I didn’t know ANYONE who was Jewish and the thought of trying to balance out his traditions with mine was really scary. I knew that I wanted to raise her to have an awareness and understanding of her whole heritage, not just mine, and started reading all that I could about Judaism. We talked, incessently at times, about what being Jewish meant to Marc, what he hoped it would mean for his children, how I felt about raising her in a faith that wasn’t mine, what was best for her, for him, for me, and for us. And agonized and stressed out and worried and read. Read, and read, and read. I think at this point, I’ve read more books on Judaism than Marc’s entire extended family.

And the more I read, the more I started to realize that this was what I wanted. Not just for the kids, but also for me. This was an organized Church of Melissa – this summed up what I felt about the Divine, about my responsibility as a human being, about what I wanted for me, for my marriage, and for my kids. And once Jess got a little older, and started asking about God, it was easy to find the answers to give her in Judaism. It was easy to explain spirituality and make her a part of a community of people who all felt the same way. It was easy to show her a code of conduct, a way of living her life by showing her Judaism.

But… it’s still so hard for my family to understand. I have a complicated mix of pagans, witches, C & E Catholics (Christmas and Easter Catholics) and “I believe in God but not in organized religion” people in my family, but I don’t have anyone who actually belongs to a church, let alone a synagogue, and actually attends on a regular basis. Nobody who thinks that sending Jess to Hebrew School twice a week and attending services on Saturday is a good idea. Nobody who sits down with the their kids every single Friday night, has a big family dinner, blesses the children and makes a big production of it. And certainly nobody who voluntarily observes Shabbat, with no television, no computer, no driving if we can avoid it, and family time. They love me, they love my kids, but think I’m out of my mind.

I try to balance it out, make everyone know that I’m still me, I just light candles on Friday night, and really want to live my life this way. I really want to raise my children to feel a sense of obligation and gratitude for all that they’ve been blessed with. I want to hold them to a high standard of academic achievement, to encourage them to take nothing on faith, but to make up their own minds about everything. I love Judaism. I feel at peace with the decision. It’s like I found a whole group of people who want what I want, who believe what I believe, and I love that and value what it means for me and for my children. But I really struggle with wanting my family to understand that I couldn’t do any of this if I hadn’t been taught to make my own decisions, if I hadn’t learned these values from them. That going thru the mikvah doesn’t change anything about who I was, who I am, it just adds a layer onto to it.

On a side note – Sam’s watching Spongebob Squarepants. I never let my kids watch it, but it was on after Diego and I was doing dishes… and when I realized it was on and went to change it, he started crying. Feel like a bad mother because of it, but like the fact that I was able to type this whole thing in one fell swoop 🙂

That’s a whole lot of people visiting my blog. Given that most of the time, I think the only one who reads it is my husband, I’m impressed. And even though it may just be Marc clicking on it 250 times in a row, I suspect that there are more of you out there. Could you comment every now and again? I love comments. Makes me feel all loved 🙂

In other news… Jessica had a sleepover at my mother’s house last night. Every couple of months, my mom has all of her granddaughters over. There are thirteen grandchildren, and five of the six granddaughters are all within two years of each other. Jess doesn’t really like sleepovers yet, she’s more of a homebody (anyone remember how much going to school was an adjustment? Not because she didn’t like it, she’d just rather stay home). But she was excited about going, and from what I can tell, had an unbelievably good time. Mom did mani/pedis, let them stay up ridiculously late (this is the same woman who made us go to bed at eight o’clock every night until we were in junior high :-), and then made them pancakes with whipped cream and M&Ms; for breakfast. I love that Jessie went, I love that she had a blast with my mother and my siblings’ children, and I miss, miss, miss her. Can’t wait until she comes home.

Last night, Marc was out with his friends, playing D&D;, and I was home with the kids. I kept Glennys overnight and both girls were sound asleep. Sam had napped for three and a half hours, and was just wide awake and adorable about it. He spent forty five minutes playing on the living room while I watch a West Wing rerun. All the lights were off, and he just had the light from the television and was so happy and content, it was beautiful to watch. Around ten o’clock, I was too tired to sit up with him and told him it was time for bed. I was in the bathroom and he walked by and poked his head in the door. Said to me “Mama, I go check da doors” and toddled past into the kitchen. He tried to get open the door (I had already locked it) and then diligently checked the front door as well. Marc wasn’t here to do it, and apparently Sam has been watching and paying attention to what Daddy does. And when Daddy’s not here, he just stepped up to the plate. I was so proud and so… wistful, I guess. He’s getting so big, so fast, turning into this little boy, and he’s a heartbeat away from becoming a big boy, and then a pre-teen, then a teenager and then out on his own. I could see it all at once, last night, and got a little teary-eyed, in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, at how amazing he is.

In other news… Jess has a wicked cough and was up most of the night with a slight fever and just coughing and coughing. I’m all perplexed about cough and cold meds, need to call the pediatrician and see if they have a recommendation on what to give her to help her sleep. I gave her motrin last night to help with the fever, and it seemed to help with the cough as well. She’s happy this morning, has only coughed once or twice since waking up – so it’s obviously not that bad. But I’d like to be able to give her something to help her sleep without waking up and coughing. I’ve read that honey will do the trick, but she doesn’t like taste of it.

This was the theme of my summers growing up (I hated being shoved outside, and quickly learned that offering to do the dishes or help out vacuuming would get me out of it – which is how I ended up doing the vast majority of kid chores in my household – the other three ran as fast as they could :-). I live on a dead end street, with a lot of little kids on it – and find that I really just flat out love sending my kids out to play. I don’t send Sam out, obviously, unless it’s a super nice day, the windows are open and my stepdaughters are here with him, but Jess goes outside most days and I love it. I love that she’s out there playing with kids I know vaguely, making up worlds and imagining games that belong entirely to her and not me.

I know that sounds terrible. All of my little attachment parenting voices in my head are screaming that I should be more actively involved, I should know what she’s doing and where she’s doing it. But I know she’s safe, I know she’s happy, and I know that all of it is happening to her – not to me. I believe that my job, as her parent, is to guide her to independence, to be able to be safe and secure and competent without me shielding her or protecting her all the time. And this – just saying “go play outside” and making it her responsibility to come up with a game to entertain herself, is so rewarding. She comes in all grubby from making mud cakes and she’s got tons of new friends (some of whom, I don’t think actually speak English) and she’s so happy. I’m so thrilled about how much she’s enjoying the summer so far. Two days into it 🙂

I love summer vacation. I mean, who doesn’t, right? And it’s just as much fun when it’s your kids having the break. We all slept a little later this morning, and I really do like having Jess home. I totally should have homeschooled, because I bet we both would have loved it. She’s signed up for a couple of weeks of JCC summer camp, and in two weeks, we’re going up to Maine for a couple of days with my family. But for the most part, we’re going to have a long, lazy, relaxing summer vacation and I’m thrilled to betsy about it.

Last night, the girls came over for an End of School party. I made cupcakes, and we had turkey burgers, green beans, baked beans and pickles for dinner and it was delightful. Today, I’ve got Glennys, Jessie, Sam and Jordyn here, and again, all is well. I wish it was sunshiney nice outside, but have grown somewhat used to the rain. No longer remember what it’s like to trek outside to the park.

I have thirty three books checked out of the library, do you think that’s excessive? Two are not books but movies, and at least eight or nine of the books are children’s books, but still, that leaves over twenty books that I’m slowly working my way thru. I’ve checked out several books on Judaism, since the conversion is OMG on Monday. I’m nervous about it, but mostly just eager to have it over and done with.

My goals for this summer are to get Jessie really independently reading. I’d like to see her able to pick up a paperback and curl up with it to read. I’d really like to get Sam over and done with nursing, and plan on really trying hard on that, once we get done with camping. The poor kid hates camping, and I’m not going to try and get him to sleep thru the night without nursing while we’re sleeping outside, mainly because I think my sister (who’s campsite we’ll be staying on) will kill me. And finally… I’d like to get pregnant. I’m not on any birth control now, relying on luck and infrequency to postpone getting pregnant until after Becky – but by the fall, I’d like to start at least actively trying.

I just cut thirty tiny hearts with a cookie cutter out of Jessie’s peanut butter sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch at school. And while it made sense before I started it, mid-way thru, I started to wonder if perhaps I was one of those scary moms who’s obsessive about her children’s happiness. But what I can say??? She doesn’t like crust, and the cookie cutter is really little, and I know she’ll be amused tomorrow when she opens her lunch.

My dad was not a dad, in any sort of good sense. He just wasn’t. But today, I celebrate three different men. In order of how they came into my life…

My grandfather. I’m the second grandchild of twenty one. And from the very beginning, the best and most important man in my world was my grandfather. Everything I learned about how a man should be, I learned from him. He was brilliant, capable, strong, loving and always made me feel as though I was perfect. He taught me to love nature, and reading and family, astronomy, playing chess. He called me chicken, which is what I call my own children. I was the oldest child of a single mom, and my mother struggled with money and time, there was never enough of either. My grandfather always made a point to take me places, he brought me to every museum in New England (and there are thousands – did you know that there is actually a museum just for canoes??), he brought me mountain climbing and star gazing.

My stepdad. Paul met my mother when I was fourteen, and has loved my mother thru so much more than any stepparent should have had to go thru. I had two younger brothers and a younger sister – and he has been constant and stable and loving and never once made us feel as though he’d rather have just had my mother. Guiding four children thru adolescence is no easy feat, and doing it with kids that you are biologically related to is probably close to impossible. But he did it. But that’s not all I’m grateful to him for – he’s been the most amazing grandfather to our children. My mother and Paul have 13 grandchildren, and from the very beginning, they all worshipped Dzidzi. He teaches them to build and hammer and demolish stuff (he’s constantly fixing something). He takes them camping and to sporting events, picks them up at school, and is just always, always there.

And last, but certainly not least – my amazing husband. Who loves his kids so much more than anyone I’ve ever met. Who’s happiest when all four of them are running around, climbing all over them. Who spends HOURS every night he’s home with a curious almost three year old, answering his questions, acting out elaborate plotlines from Batman, and reading story after story. Who struggled to connect with a tiny two year old princess who loved Mommy more than anything – and finally figured out that whacking her with a pillow and letting her slam him back could be the foundation of a beautiful relationship. He’s never not willing to change a diaper, get a drink, dress a barbie, build an uzi out of legos, console a crabby pre-teen girl, or cuddle a miserable eight year old. There are many, many reasons that I love my husband – but one of the first and most important has always been the way he fathers his children.

I’m incredibly lucky – I may have struck out on the surface with it comes to Father’s Day – but I have three of most incredible men who have taught me so much about what being a father is really all about.

Sam will be three in a matter of weeks (amazing to me, my baby is going to be THREE) and he’s shown NO indication that he wants to stop nursing. And I’m perplexed and unsure as to how to proceed. I want very much to stop nursing. I’m really ready to move on – I’d like to get pregnant in the next couple of months, I’d like to have my body be just mine for a little bit. But he just really loves it.

When he was born, he was such a little disaster, cried and cried and cried all the time. He was in the ER at least four times before he was four months old, because I couldn’t figure out why he was crying. After a diagnosis of colic and reflux, and the associated meds for the reflux, it got better, but he was still really just miserable for the first six or seven months. And literally, the only thing that made him calm was nursing. And the ceiling fan – he LOVED that ceiling fan. But he learned very early that nursing made him feel better and his preferred place has always been at my breast. He didn’t nap for more than ten or fifteen minutes unless I was sitting in a rocking chair and nursing him thru it. I could get him to sleep for three or four hours, as long as I sat still and held him. He hated the carriage, putting him in the car – I literally felt as though I was abusing him by taking him anywhere in the car, he’d just scream and scream. I’m not exaggerating, I don’t think. It really was that bad.

Now he’s this sunshiney little bundle of boyhood, happy and content, drinks from a cup, eats everything he can – but still loves his “oobies.” He can easily go all day without nursing – if we’re out and about, and there’s lots going on, it’s the last thing he wants. For a good time, he’d much rather play with Daddy, or build with his blocks, or race his fire trucks around the living room, kick a soccer ball around the yard. But at night, and to take a nap, or if he falls or gets hurt, or any number of other reasons – he wants me and only me and he wants to nurse. He doesn’t want to cuddle, he doesn’t want to just sit on my lap – he wants to nurse.

I’m good at nursing – I’ve done it for almost four years, if you combine the time I spent nursing Jess with the time spent with Sam. I can tell you how to get a kid latched on, I can tell you how to treat bleeding nipples, mastitis, thrush, we’ve done it all. And I LOVE it – I’m a total breastfeeding snob. I think it’s the only way to feed babies. I silently judge moms who choose not to nurse, or even choose to wean early. As much as I love it, and as much as I value the past three years that I’ve been able to do this for Sam – I’m ready to move onto the next step.

Here’s hoping Sam gets to that point as well 🙂

Help me out here, because I’m honestly a bit baffled. My husband is literally a genius, his IQ is off the chart. He also graced with a lot of common sense and has a been a parent for over ten years. So why can’t he figure out how to put the kids to bed by himself?

Let me back up… Marc and I decided that each week, one of us would take a night off (this is in addition to the two, sometimes three nights that Marc goes to the gym). We’d alternate, one week he’d play D&D; with his friends and one night I’d go do something – whether it was a movie or a solitary trip to the library. Just be… not here. That way I won’t resent so much that Marc is gone, and he’d get to put the kids to bed by himself twice a month. Not that he doesn’t assist and help out on the nights that we are both here, but twice a month, he’s supposed to do it solo.

And in defense of Marc, let me state for the record that he’d have a totally different bedtime routine if he was in charge of it. But since the vast majority of the time is me doing it solo, then I do it the way I want to. I like to cuddle my kids to sleep. They’re only little for such a short time, and it’s my favorite time of the day. I like to read, sometimes sing, but mostly just snuggle them until they drift off. Marc would rather put them to bed, in their own beds, kiss and hug them good night and then let them fall asleep on their own.

The routine is this – at seven thirty (or thereabouts, it’s not etched in stone), I start the process. Jammies, brush teeth, pee it out, two stories, they both pick one out, then lights out and I put on CNN. I used to do the bedtime routine in Jessie’s bed, but then Sam came along… and he wasn’t the kind of kid that I could put down to attend to his sister, and once he got too big to snuggle in Jessie’s bed, we moved it to a big love seat in the living room. And Jess usually falls asleep almost immediately. Then I lug her into her bed, and drop Sam into his – sometimes just leaving him in the chair sleeping until I go to bed. It might not work for every family – but it works for mine.

I’ve actually gone out the past two Tuesday nights, both time returning just after nine o’clock, to find my children up and rocking and rolling, thrilled to betsy and so overtired that they inevitably crash within fifteen minutes of my arrival home, and are screaming miserable messes the next day. My kids actually function surprisingly well when they’re hungry (on numerous occasions, I forget to throw food at them) but lack of sleep makes them absolutely insane. Both of them rachet up the whining, the crying, the unreasonable-ness, and it’s such a wicked pain to try and deal with them the next day. I end up mad and yelling at everyone, Marc, Jess, and Sam, because it’s so infuriating to have them not be able to just handle this when I’m not here.

Marc appears to be fine with this whole scenario. He has a great night with the kids, they love spending the alone time with him, and everyone is sunshine and lollipops until I come home and have to morph into the mean parent, who insists on bedtime and lights out and GO TO SLEEP. But bedtime isn’t a rule I made up to make myself feel powerful – it’s a basic part of parenthood. You feed them, you dress them nicely, and you make sure they get enough sleep. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel trapped into a hostile unfriendly spouse and parent role, insisting on a regular bedtime, especially on a school night, and I resent it.