My monster boy… you are my little love bug. The first boy on your dad’s side, the one to carry on the name. You are named for my grandfather and your daddy’s great grandfather – that’s a lot of history to give to one little boy, but you seem to equipped to handle it. From the very beginning, you have awed me with your passion and your drive. You seemed to have been born with separation anxiety, you knew exactly who I was and that my rightful place was holding you. You are my communicator, so stable and consistent, and always easy to console, once you feel as though you have expressed yourself. Your first word was “dis.” Not Mama, not Dada, but “this.” Looking back, I can see how well that suits you – because you have a such a strong sense of wanting to communicate with people. And “dis” allowed you to show us exactly what you were thinking or doing.

You are all rough and tumble boy, I can’t even count the number of black eyes, bumps, and bruises you’ve had. You learned to climb long before you could walk, and loved nothing more than “jumping.” I remember telling your dad that I wanted to get you a helmet and knee pads to go thru toddlerhood, because I was convinced you were trying to kill yourself. You’d pull yourself up, fall, and do it all over again. You were a colic-y little baby, with wretched reflux and there was more tears and crying during your babyhood (on both our parts) than there was in Jessica’s. You challenged my identity as a mother, you made me work harder, dig deeper to find what you needed. To be the mother you deserve.

You’re so much more than I expected. You’ve brought such joy into our lives. Not just mine, but your sisters, your dad, your grandparents. You are my heart, all sunshine smiles and clinging arms. You have a fascination with all things rescue related – super heros, fire trucks, army guys. You want so badly to be be big, to be able to do everything your sisters can do, to be able to be just like Daddy, but at the end of the day, you cuddle up in my arms like the toddler you still are. I love you, my Sammy Boy – I’m so incredibly blessed to be your mother.

Jessica Mary Carruth Cohen – I named you after my mother, because I could not imagine a better mother/daughter relationship than the one that she and I share. Then I had you – and you defined love to me in a way that it had never been defined before. You were my first child, my angel baby girl, and from the very beginning, you have fascinated me, amazed me, humbled me and made me feel so incredibly blessed and lucky to have you in my life. At six and a half, I can see the glimmers of the woman you’ll be, but always, always, I see that teeny, tiny little baby with huge eyes and the most beautiful face.
I remember once, when you were about six months old, and you were sitting on the floor and I had walked away from you. You started to whimper, and my aunt looked at me and said “Melissa, you are spoiling her.” I remember telling her that I hadn’t done anything – you were like that from the beginning. An innate sense of drama, emotional highs and lows. Life is huge for you – whatever is happening matters more than anything at that particular moment. You have joys and sorrows that affect you deeply, I worry sometimes that you make life harder for yourself than you have to. But the other side of that is that you have a capacity for happiness that far exceeds most people, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.
You are frilly and completely feminine, but with a lovely sense of doing it just because you like frills and prettiness, not about looking good for other people but because you want to look good for you. You love dressing up, but hate brushing your hair. Love pretty hair bows and beautiful dresses, but are just as happy in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. You love being outside, but are equally happy holed up in your bedroom, playing with your figurines or your baby dolls. You LOVE to read and to be read to, and fall asleep every night cuddled up against me.
You are an amazing big sister to Sam almost all the time. You are kind and sweet, but fight and argue and battle for control. You and Sam are best friends and worst enemies all at the same time. And while it makes me nuts when you fight, far more often, you make my heart melt by going out of your way to protect him, to teach him and to love him. His life is infinitely richer because you are in it.
I love you, baby girl. You make me happier than anything in the world, and I’m forever grateful that I get to be your mother.

Being a SAHM mom is odd at times, there’s no review process, you don’t get raises or good feedback from your boss. Most of the time, I’m just rushing from one crisis to the next, hoping that I’m not screwing the kids up in the process. I read a lot about parenting, about raising a boy or raising a girl, how to talk to them about sex, how to instill self-discipline, how to make spirituality a central tenant in their lives, how to feed them healthy food, how to encourage independence, how to instill a good work ethic, good manners, good morals, teach them about being kind and being smart, making intelligent choices, and please God, teach them to stop throwing their clothes on the floor when they take them off. How to brush your teeth, wash your hands, use the potty, sleep thru the night, how to apppropriately use sarcasm (which thankfully, they both seem to have an inate gift for).

I’m always wondering in the back of my head how I’m doing. Are my kids turning out okay? Are they going to be people you want to know, or people you talk about behind their backs? Will they be adults that are “good people” who are kind and smart and giving and funny – or will they be selfish, with a lazy work ethic and an attitude of entitlement? I do my best, but let’s face it, we’ve all known great parents who want to raise their kids right but end up… not doing that great of a job at it. It seems to me that there’s no way to tell, until it’s over, if you’re doing a good job of raising your kids or not. Like building a house, I’d imagine (not that I’ve ever built a house) – everything seems to be going okay, you really are working hard, but until it’s actually done, you don’t know how it’ll look. Or maybe bread – that’s a better example. You can put in all the ingredients, think you’ve kneaded it enough, let it rise high enough, but until you actually taste it, you have no real clue how it’ll turn out. I’ve made some crappy bread over the years…

The point of the post, before I got a little carried away, was that I actually got really good feedback from a total stranger the other day about Jessie and I can’t tell you how lovely it was to hear. Jess had gone to a birthday party for one of her school friends. There was a younger child there, about three or four, I’d guess, who was obviously younger than everyone else and didn’t know anyone at the party other than the birthday girl. I went to the party late (Marc had gone with Jessie, and I brought the other kids in at the end of the party), and the little girl’s mom made a point of telling me that Jessica had gone out of her way to make her daughter feel welcome and a part of things. She took the little girl under her wing, sat beside her on the train and during the little arts/crafts activity and the mom just wanted to let me know how kind and sweet and loving my daughter was. I felt so proud and relieved and happy – it was like getting a really good review and a raise 🙂

And I blame Marc entirely, although I should blame Sam, and by extension, myself. Sam likes keys, and I used to give him my house keys (I know, even typing it points out how stupid that was) and (can you see it coming?) he lost my keys. So Marc and I have one set between us, and Marc wanted to go to the gym last night. He didn’t get home until almost eleven and I had to wait up, with Samilicious (who stays awake to see his daddy), to let him in. Couldn’t nurse him to sleep, even though he was so tired, because Marc was going to be home momentarily and I had to go downstairs to let him in.

Thank goodness for coffee. That’s all I can say.

Marc and I signed up to be part of a Marriage Check Up study at Clark University – and every time we go in for a “check up,” the results are always overwhelmingly positive, we know each other inside and out, truly love each other, consider the other to be our best friend, etc. We work great as a team to head our family – but the thing that we are always told that we need to improve on is spending time alone together. With two, or four, busy active children, one full time job, time spent at the gym or working out, trying to carve out time when it’s just the two of us a real battle at times. For three years now, our version of a date is having just one child with us.

My new project is to make sure that at least twice a month, the two of us go out alone somewhere. It’s important not just for us, but also for the kids to see that part of a healthy adult relationship is making the time together a priority. I have sitters, my kids are easy to watch, well behaved, Sam’s certainly fine with me going off without him – there’s no reason in the world not to do it.

Last night – we went to the mall. I know, the mall. Kind of a goofy date, but Marc had pulled his hamstring, so we didn’t want to go paddleboating (which was a great idea I had stolen from my cousin) or a long walk… plus it was hot and humid and gross outside. We went to Bertucci’s for dinner, wandered around the mall for a bit, spent almost an hour in the bookstore, and then went shopping at Macy’s to spend a gift card Marc had for his birthday. It was lovely, we held hands, talked about all kinds of different stuff, he kissed me every now and again as we window shopped. I loved it.

It’s easy to lose sight of our relationship – to get caught up in our parenting roles, and to focus on what we have to do all the time. Marc and I catapulted into parenthood immediately when we first met (story for another time), so it’s not our default, to be just he and I, alone. But really, he’s my best friend. I find him fascinating, so brilliant and smart and easy to talk to – and it’s fabulous to be able to see him not just as the dad, not just as the guy I wish would bring out the trash, and could you please just change this diaper while I do the dishes – but to have him be mine. Just mine, and he loves me, loves me, loves me.

Could it really be that easy? I’m a hard core attachment parent in a lot of ways with Sam. He’s still nursing at over three years old, he’s been sleeping in my bed since he was four days old… and I wondered if he’d ever move out voluntarily. He got Batman sheets for his birthday, and the other day, I put them on his bed, explained that this was where he’d be sleeping from now on – and that’s all it took. End of story. He sleeps in his bed now, no questions, that’s just where he goes. I expected tears, heartache… nope, he’s fine. He’s got his own bed and he’s good.

Last night, I met some friends for dinner, and left Marc home with the kids. I came home around nine thirty and he was trapped in the recliner with both kids draped over him, sound asleep. They were asleep, Marc was sweating and praying for me to come rescue him. I moved Jess into her bed, and was trying to figure out what to do with Sam, should I pick him up and then nurse him for a bit in the living room and then try to lay him down in his bed? Marc said to just go drop him into his bed, he’d be fine – lo and behold – HE WAS. I laid him down in his bed, changed his diaper, he never woke up, just rolled over, cuddled his quackie (little stuffed duck I’ve talked him into liking) and that was it.

When I left earlier last night, he waved me off with a smile… after almost three entire years of heart pounding hysteria on his part when I was more than a few feet away from him (I exaggerate for point of effect), he’s become what all the attachment parenting gurus promised me – a secure, confident kid who’s totally relaxed and independent, fine without me, happy sleeping alone in his own bed, etc. I really didn’t think it’d ever happen. But it did :-).

I never planned on having a boy. Now that I’m actually a parent, I know how ridiculous that sounds. It’s not like you can pick what kind of baby you get – and if you are lucky enough to be able to conceive and carry a healthy baby, the last thing you care about is whether it’s a boy or a girl. That being said, I was always planning on having girls, three, specifically, and their names were going to be Jessica Mary, Emily Amanda and Meghan Rebecca. It worked out with Jess, she was a girl, Marc didn’t fight me on the name (at least not very much) and I fully expected to go on and have two more bouncing baby girls.

Jess is very much like me. I worry sometimes that I say that too much, I don’t want her to feel stuck or like she has to be like me – but in many ways, she just is. We look alike, same brown eyes and brown curls, she’s skinny scrawny just like I was, she’s got tiny hands and feet, just like me, and her personality is very similiar to mine. She’s definitely her dad’s daughter in some ways (you can’t give either of them a list of tasks, they might complete the first one, but there’s no way they’ll move on without being distracted and forgetting what they were trying to get done). She’s quiet and introspective most of the time, but can get silly and goofy too. She’d rather hang out with people she knows than make new friends, she loves to read, make up stories and play with her baby dolls or figurines. She likes to cuddle and sing and is quirky and kind of odd, all at the same time.

But Sam… when he was born, I was just in shock. I was expecting my little Emily Amanda! And instead, I got this little boy, with huge grey eyes and had no idea what to do with him. Adding colic (which is oh-my-gosh disasterous) and reflux – the poor little boy just sobbed for the first several months of his life – when he wasn’t attached to my breast because he nursed like a madman (to the point where I had serious over-supply issues). I didn’t know what his personality was going to be like, he spent so much of his time just miserably unhappy. It was so hard… and for a long time, he was very much a Mommy’s boy. More than any other child I’d ever seen, Sam wanted, needed, to be with me. There was no question of me going back to work, having me disappear into the shower was enough to send him into hysterics.

As he’s grown older, I’m seeing more and more of Marc in him. He looks like Marc, so much more than me. He’s got my eyes, but that’s it. Other than that, it’s all Marc. He’s also got Marc’s personality in a lot of ways (other than a serious aversion to parties – Marc likes nothing more than 30 of his closest friends gathered together – and Sam hates that more than anything). But he loves all things BOY. Trucks, swords, army guys, super heros, fire trucks, Thundar the Barbarian videos on Youtube with Daddy – and lately, reruns of an old show called Emergency.

He LOVES his Daddy, in a way entirely different from the way he feels about me. He needs me – he worships Marc. When he was little, watching Marc fix things would make him tremble with awe, if Marc offered to let him hold a tool, Sam would almost genuflect, you could hear him thinking the toddler equivalent of “I’m not worthy.” He runs to the door when Marc comes home, spends literally hours sitting on Marc, playing with him, discussing things, asking Marc questions. He talks to me too – but with Marc, he’s got this quality of wanting Marc to explain the world to him. Like Marc is the undisputed expert on all the things that Sam feels he needs to know, and he just sits and soaks it up all. It’s wonderful to watch.

Marc loves his girls. Not just my Jessie, but his daughters from his first marriage as well. He is a great father to daughters, willing to dress Barbies and babysit dolls and encouraging them to run faster and farther and try harder. But being the father of a son, being a father to this particular son brings him a certain joy that I think was missing in his life. And I’m glad that I was able to give that to Marc by having his son 🙂

And for the oddest of reasons… I’m not pregnant. As much as I’d like to be, I’m strangely relieved that I’m not. I’m certain it will happen, if not this month, then soon. And while intellectually, I am convinced that I don’t want to prevent a pregnancy, I’m already 35, Marc is 40, Lilli will be 11 by the time the baby comes… Jess and Sam are getting older as well. I KNOW I want another baby, emotionally, but I’m okay with knowing that I will be pregnant but am not there yet. If that makes any sense.

I tried to explain it to Marc this morning. I want another baby, absolutely, and am eagerly looking forward to another pregnancy and tiny baby feet, and wearing him/her in sling and breastfeeding a tiny little baby – I like the hospital stay, I like everything about a baby. Infancy is one of my favorite ages… and yet, I’m not disappointed to not be pregnant. I like the anticipation – I think it’ll be that much more exciting if it has a little more time to build. Being pregnant would be WONDERFUL – but also scary – there’s a lot in flux right now, Marc wants to look for another job, we need to be in a bigger space, we have no room here for a baby… plus there’s all the stress that just goes along with nine months of puking, freaking out about labor, worrying about how the kids are going to react, etc. I don’t want to wait any longer – but am perfectly okay with the fact that it didn’t happen this month.

Potty training is going great – if you don’t factor in Sam. Harrison and Jordyn are both doing really well. No accidents, spent all day except for naps, in underwear or “bare bottomed” yesterday and I’m looking forward to continuing the progress today. I bought Sam his own potty, and will wait until he wants to try it out. It’s hard not to pressure him, but I know that it’ll only be harder if I’m pushing him when he doesn’t want to do it.

Jess is enjoying her “relaxing” days. She’s so funny – she really thrives on just hanging out at home, reading, coloring, watching a little television. She loves camp too – but I’m really glad that we built in a little down time into her summer. I have great memories of summer as a kid, long lazy days with nothing but fun – nowhere to be, nothing to “have to” do. I’m very pleased that Marc and I are able to give this to her. As enriching as camp is, having a parent at home full time gives us the ability to keep her home as well.

Volunteering all over the place – that’s me. I volunteered to be on the Religious School committee and the Early Childhood Education committee at the synagogue, and I believe I’m also on the subcommittee to plan the Hanukkah party this year. I also joined the PTO group at Flagg Street, and am going to be working at the Ice Cream social in September.

Jessica Mary was a VERY early talker. Very bright, could understand when she was wet and needed a change, and I really thought that potty training her would be a breeze. It was not. I had postponed starting her, because I was still working part time when she was two, and then I was pregnant, and didn’t want to start her and have her regress. But after Sam was born, when he was about two months old, Jess was just about three and a half, we got her a potty and some pretty underwear and started. The first day went great. The second day went a little worse and by the third day, the poor kid was just accident after accident. And she was getting more and more upset… so I threw in the towel, and told her that she didn’t have to potty train anymore, put her in a diaper and resigned myself to changing diapers until she was in kidnergarten.

A couple of weeks or months later (it all blurs), I found some soggy underwear and a towel in the laundry. I asked her what was up, and she said off-handedly that she had had a tiny accident but cleaned it up herself. And from that point on, she didn’t wear diapers during the day. She had another accident or two, but was really reliably potty trained within a day. No pressure on my part, no effort on my part – when she was ready, she did it on her own. I put the underwear in her dresser so she could get it herself, and she handled it on her terms.

Fast forward about three years… and I’ve got a small boy who I think should be potty trained. Sam does not. He cares not even a little bit about being in a wet diaper, can sit in a messy one for as long as I’ll let him, in fact, frequently has to be convinced to come and get changed. He’s a lot more stubborn than Jessie is, and I know that I need to back off and let him do this when he’s ready. I can push him, but all it’s going to do is stress both of us out.

I babysit for a couple of other toddlers, so I’m potty training them :-). They have both used the potty at home, and one of them is reliably potty trained at preschool, but not here. I’ve got my potties set up, one for each of them, and have cookies for bribes all set up – and I’m hoping that if I can get those two reliably potty trained here, then maybe Sam will be more inclined to do it as well. Here’s hoping, anyway 🙂

(a repost from last July – with a couple of additions)

Reasons I love my husband (In no particular order)

– He always stops if there’s a car on the side of the road… flat tire needs to be changed, car accident, people pulling over for a rest, doesn’t matter, he stops to make sure that everyone is okay. Even when we’re running late, and have a carful of children, and I’d much rather just keep going, he stops to make sure everyone is okay.

– He thinks football is a panacea. Doesn’t matter what the problem is, if he could just get the game on, he’s sure that it would make everything all better. This innocent faith is at times infuriating, but mostly, I’m impressed at the sincerity and purity of his love for the game.- He cleans the bathroom.

– He’s really tall – not that this is something he has any control over, but I really like it 🙂

– He calls me his beautiful wife. All the time. I don’t think he calls me by name all that often, mostly it’s “my beautiful wife.”

– He might not remember to do the dishes, and will never pick up a toy if he can step over it, but he does all the gross, yucky chores around the house without ever once hinting that I should do it. Whether it’s scrubbing out the bathroom, cleaning out the vacuum cleaner filter, shoveling snow, or cleaning up the vomit, he does it without question, humming a little tune to himself the entire time.

– He kills all the bugs. If a hornet or bee somehow gets in the house while he’s at work, he’ll stay on the phone and laugh at me while encouraging me to be brave and not hang up until I’ve sprayed the bug dead. He takes care of dead mice and sets the ant traps.

– He tells Jessica long, involved stories at bedtime. He’s developed rituals and routines that she’ll remember and hopefully, repeat with her own kids.

– He thinks my hair is prettiest when it’s down, wild and out of control. He tells Jessie that she’s beautiful when her hair is down. He loves us best when we’re most ourselves.

– He wants me to be happy. That’s all, and whatever it takes, that’s his overall goal. If that means giving up his D&D; game so I can go off for the day, or going out in the rain to get me ice cream, he’ll do it. He’ll actually want to do it, because he wants my happiness.

– He’ll sit and play with Sam for as long as Sam wants to play. Throwing the ball, playing ‘run, run, jump’, throwing him up in the air, he’ll do it. He’ll read stories to him, and talk about trucks and guys and whatever else my little two year old wants to discuss, for as long as Sam can handle it.

– He’s unfailingly honest. No matter what. I might not want to hear it, but I know that there’s no game playing, he’s telling me exactly what he means.

– He thinks. He doesn’t know who he’s voting for, and is willing to discuss and debate and analyze with me until we figure it out. He’s always reading something – and is always happy to read books that I recommend to him.

– I can announce that we’re having a thousand people over for the weekend, and he’d be thrilled. I never have to say the phrase “Marc won’t let me.” It’s not something that would ever occur to him.

– He loves and respects and trusts me as much as I do him. He’s on my side before anyone else it. He’s my first call, the one I most want to be with and talk to.

– He lets me fight for him. When we are arguing, and he isn’t saying what I want, he’ll let me talk for him and then say “you said exactly what I mean.” And mean it. Because the end goal is the two of us together and happy, and if I have to explain what I want to hear, he wants me to say it, because that’s how the fight gets resolved quickest and happiest.

– His hands. Just…. his hands. He’s got great hands 🙂