We had Julie’s official naming ceremony on Saturday. If she was a boy, we’d have had her bris (hands down, worst day of Sammy’s infancy for me) on the eighth day after she was born, but for a girl, it’s a little more relaxed on the timing. Marc had gone to the synagogue on the Shabbat after she was born for her first naming, but this one was the big one, with all the family and production and hoopla that goes along with it. She was an angel girl, as per usual, slept thru the whole thing so peacefully. She’s such a good baby.

Her Hebrew name is Il’yanna Rut Cohen. Il’yanna means “God has answered” and the rabbi made a special point of talking about the name that we chose for her and how incredibly wonderful it was to use it as her name, because she is such an incredible answer to our prayers for a child. It was a beautiful ceremony and very meaningful. At least that part of it was – as a convert to Judaism, the Hebrew portion of the service (and since we attend a Conservative temple, the Hebrew is a a big part of it) was mostly lost on me. And Sam is just wretched at services, he’s nowhere near old enough to sit thru a service. Temperment wise, it’s just not a good fit for him. At his age, Jess loved going to services, and would sit patiently on her daddy’s lap, listening and absorbing everything. Sam spent most of the time clinging to my leg and begging to go home. Which really isn’t an optimal situation for me to enjoy the spiritual meaning of the ceremony, mostly I was just embarassed.

Then we went down to my hometown, Maynard, and went to the cemetery. My grandmother and cousin are buried in Maynard, and I wanted to bring the kids down to see it. Sam, unfortunately, slept thru it, as did Julie (although in her case, it was nice that she slept thru it because I was able to really focus on Jessica). We talked about the stones, and the poety my grandfather had engraved on my grandmother’s stone, and made plans to come back and plant flowers.

After that, we crashed a cookout at our friend Tricia’s house. She hadn’t seen the kids in a long time, and had never seen Julie, and it was the nicest afternoon. The kids all played, we got to talk and chat, Julie played Pass the Baby, and was an angel girl throughout the whole thing. It’s a situation where the fact that she’s a nursing girl works out great, because I never go for very long without holding her because she nurses every hour or so 🙂

My last little baby girl is four weeks old yesterday, and hits her one month birthday tomorrow. Already, she’s grown so much, her cheeks are getting chubby, she’s smiling more and more, and she’s so gorgeous and amazing that I can’t stop admiring her. I’m a tiny bit wistful, it went by so incredibly fast, and she’s not a newborn anymore, now she’s a baby and I know that this stage will fly by too.

Julianna is still very calm, she’s a very easy baby, as long as you understand that her rightful place is in my arms. Or someone’s arms, at least. She way prefers to be held, but since I really prefer to hold her, it works out well for both of us 🙂 She’s got the same big, big eyes that Jessie and Sam have, and the same pointed little chin. She’s got a dimple in her left cheek and one in her chin. Her hair is still delightfully fluffy, she loves her bath. She gets offended if she’s in a dirty diaper, and demands a diaper change immediately. She’ll also cry if she needs to burp or be fed, but other than that, she’s a sunshiney happy baby. She’s getting so big, more and more of her clothes fit her these days, and I’m already thinking that she might be starting to outgrow some of the tinier outfits. Like those little bag type night-gowns? I’ve got a bunch of them, and loved them for night time, but then we had several really warm nights in a row and she’s been sleeping her in her onesie tucked up next to me, and I fear she might be too long for some of them now. She’s not as skinny scrawny as she was, she’s getting little fat rolls around her thighs, but her arms and legs are still stick skinny.

We worked thru our nursing issues. It took a while, including that very bad Sunday – a day that I’ll never forget. The potential loss of the nursing relationship, and in my eyes, the suggestion that she might not get the mothering love that the other two got from me as a result, was devastating and it’s taken a while for me to relax into our relationship. I’m very happy to report that Julianna loves me just as much as the others did – she calms immediately when I pick her up, or even just the touch of my hand on her face if she’s crying in the car. She’s already sleeping thru the night, which shocked me. She’ll go for a good five or six hours, waking once but not actually nursing. She just seems to want to know that I’m there, and refuses to latch on, she just likes to have her back patted and she falls back asleep. She’ll then nurse every hour or so during the day, taking one or two longer naps, in the morning and late afternoon. I’m just starting to notice some oversupply or overactive let down during the day, she has to pull off sometimes to avoid choking and I get engorged a lot because she is such a frequent nurser. She squeaks in her sleep, and when she’s awake. Very vocal (although in this family, that’s not surprising). She’s my love bug, and I can’t imagine now what life was like without her.

She turned seven back in February and she’s still a little girl, but you can see glimmers of the woman she’ll be one day, and she’s going to be amazing :-). She’s gorgeous, with soft, silky baby fine brown curls and big brown eyes, and the most perfect little nose and mouth. She’s got four freckles that form a line from her ear down to her mouth.

Her favorite color is purple, her favorite food is ice cream. Any kind of ice cream, really. She’ll eat salad by the bowlful, likes all kinds of veggies. Still won’t eat sandwich bread, or grilled cheese or mac and cheese. Has reluctantly started eating pizza but only thin crust. She’s a little cuddle bug, still, her preferred place to sit is right beside me. She’s still a lover of baby dolls, arts and crafts, and stuffed animals. She’s started taking showers just recently, graduating from the bath. She loves being read to, and even though she can read on her own, will always choose Mommy or Daddy reading to her instead.

Jess is my drama queen, all the time. Even though she’s happy and doing well at school, she still needs to have the reward system in place to get her out the door without tears, and frequently, she’ll stage a temper tantrum when she gets home, just to decompress from holding it all in all day :-). She’ll exaggerate and pretend to make a story better, seems to have an innate sense of what makes for a good story and isn’t afraid to rearrange facts to make it more exciting or dramatic. She’s my little chatterbox, and frequently when someone says “guess what Jessie told me,” I hold my breath, just a little, because you never know what she might have said.

She’ll fight with her brother, just for the fun of hearing him yell, but can be so caring and protective of him. She adores her baby sister, and believes with her whole heart that if she’s home, there’s no good reason why Julie shouldn’t be in her arms. She’s a huge, huge help to me, literally. She’s an extra pair of arms to hold Julie, she’ll get drinks and even on one memorable occasion, got dinner for everyone one night (granted it was cold cut sandwiches and microwave hot dogs but still a huge help). She’s the classic oldest child, and I see so much of myself in her that sometimes it’s scary. I know that Julie is going to adore her, she’s literally going to be Julie’s second mother and I’m just a little scared of giving her too much responsibility. But mostly, I’m just happy for both of my girls, that they have each other. And Sam is so close to her, she’s his first example of how to be a big kid. And there’s nothing he likes more than writing in her diary and taking her stuff – because if it belongs to Jessie or if Jessie does it, it must be super cool.

She’s one of my favorite people in the whole world. Our relationship is so complicated and layered – she’s struggling to figure out who she is, separate from me, and sometimes she gets so angry at me, it’s alarming. I worry sometimes, because she seems to make her life so much harder than it has to be, I want for her to be able to relax a little, to not put so much pressure on herself about every little thing. But her intensity and passion is what makes her who she is, and as much as I wish that sometimes she’d be little easier with herself, I wouldn’t change a single tiny iota of who she is. She’s my angel girl, my first baby, and my little love bug. Jessica turned me into a mother, played a huge role in making me the woman I am today, and I thank God every single day for bringing her into my life.

I’ve got some family issues. As do most people, I imagine. And mine aren’t all that dramatic, after all, I’ve heard way worse. But my parents had a messy divorce and I was raised as the oldest child of a single mom with four kids – and for a long time, that was the most defining characteristic of mine. The biggest piece of my identity. And it seems odd and strange to be catapulted back into that role, when, in so many ways, I define myself so differently now. Haven’t I moved past this? Haven’t I already done this? I’ve got a husband, a marriage, THREE kids of my own – why am I still pondering my role as the oldest child of my parent’s?

There’s a lot of research on what divorce does to a child. And a lot more speculation on how it affects them. And for me, I can’t say how I’d be different, had I grown up with my parents’ marriage intact. I know only that I made my peace with my childhood a long time ago. My dad tried his best, I think, but he was very young, by the time I had had my first child, my parents had had their fourth and were on their way to divorce court. And he wasn’t around much, when he was, it was complicated and sticky and hard. I felt like I was in the middle a lot, trying to make them both happy, trying to protect my younger brothers and sister, and not doing a really great job of any of it. I knew he loved me, but I also knew he wasn’t very good at it. Being a parent just seemed to come naturally to my mother, I always knew that I could lean on her. My dad? Sometimes I felt like I was more capable than he was, and I don’t mean that as insultingly as it sounds. Just that I was very aware of how to take care of my younger siblings, and felt as though I was really in charge, and I felt like he was doing his best, but really wasn’t very good at having four kids running around.

When he stopped calling, it wasn’t a huge loss, in a lot of ways. I had a fully functional parent, a large extended family that loved me, and honestly, it wasn’t like I had a lot of choice in the matter. He was gone, and the best thing I could do was be okay with that. Mourning the loss of a father who had just walked away seemed … at best, a fruitless sort of thing to do. He chose to leave, there’s no point in feeling bad about being left, better to just accept it and move on. So that’s what I did.

Only now… he’s back. Sort of. Not really, but a little bit. And I have no clue how to handle it. How to handle his extended family – people who, from my perspective, walked away from us a long time ago. People change, and people can really regret actions. And after all, if I’m thirty six, this all started thirty years ago. That’s a LONG freaking time ago.

I’m still struggling with balancing things. Balancing out my mother’s feelings, my desire to protect my baby sister, her desire to not be alone in this, balancing out how my father must feel, and how responsible I feel for the whole situation. Because that’s part of my own issue – I tend to feel responsible for every little thing. Like it’s my job to make it okay for everyone, to make my parents feel okay about this, to make my siblings not feel stuck, to somehow manage the situation so that everyone comes out of it okay. And I’m finding that I’m no better at it now than I was as a child. I can’t fix this – I can’t make it okay for everyone – and what’s more – it’s not really my job to do so. This is a choice that everyone involved has to take ownership for – to get involved again, to maintain my distance, to somehow navigate this tricky terrain.

And I guess that I have to make my way thru it – because hiding from it isn’t going to make it go away. But I’m much happier in my role now – as a wife and a mother, it’s a lot easier than being six, seven, eight, etc, and trying to work this all out. And there’s a big part of me that would rather pretend that none of this is happening and just focus on my husband, my kids, my life now.

Speaking of my life now – all three of my cherubs are asleep. And if I could finish all the damn laundry, I could go to sleep too – but Julie spit up all over her big sister’s dress that she was planning on wearing tomorrow and I promised it’d be clean for school so I’m still waiting for the wash to finish before I toss it over into the dryer.

Let’s see… Friday night, Marc went to the Mixed Martial Arts fights with a couple of his friends, and I stayed home and watched Grey’s Anatomy. I sat on our big comfy chair, with Sam asleep next to me, Jess passed out on the couch and Julianna nursing to sleep on my lap. It was so INTENSE. I was watching it solo, except for the sleeping kids and had to call my cousin Becky twice to get reassured that nobody I really liked died.

Saturday morning, we got up bright and early and Julie and I went to Rockport with my mother, sister, aunt and cousin. We wandered and had lunch and puttered. I got a gorgeous pram for Julie, one of this old fashioned princess baby carriages and she sleeps in it so beautifully. We stopped by Salem for a while, poked around the stores there too. The weather was beautiful and it was such a great day. Julie is still so tiny, so she didn’t have the loveliest of times, she didn’t like being in the car for that long. Plus her preferred nursing schedule is really to nurse for about fifteen or twenty minutes on one side, go to sleep, and do the whole thing again an hour later on the other side. Which isn’t a problem, because I’m at home with her, but when we’re out and about, it’s a tough schedule to keep going. But we managed, she slept so well in the sling, she loves being close to me.

Sunday – we puttered around the house all morning, doing laundry and cleaning. With three kids, the house is in shambles pretty much non-stop. Constant vigilance, that’s what’s required to keep a house clean with small children and quite honestly, I don’t practice it. I clean in a mad flurry and then take several hours off from cleaning. Which means that my next cleaning flurry is busy, busy, busy because the house is destroyed from the several hours that I went to the park, or read a book or nursed or cooked or did whatever it is that I do all day. I’ve got some major laundry issues right now, one of my pet peeves is dirty laundry (also dirty dishes bug me). So I wash, wash, wash, but folding and putting it all away is a task that I frequently decide can wait. As a result, my entire dining room is awash with clean clothes…

Went to dinner last night with Marc’s extended family – and Julie was SO good. She played “pass the baby” and was a little angel girl the whole time. When we got to the restaurant, I sat in the car and nursed her for a while, changed her and popped her into the sling. She slept thru dinner, and then woke up just in time to see everyone. It was so sweet – my kids were the only little ones there, so there was a lot of attention and baby cooing going on. I love that they’ve got such a big extended family that dotes on them.

Sam will almost always wear clothes now – although he does LOVE being naked, and will frequently claim that his little penis needs fresh air :-). But when he does get dressed, he almost always puts his underwear and shirts on backwards. I point it out to him every time, and each time, he calmly explains that it’s “backwards day.” And then tries to convince me to go along with it and put my clothes on backwards as well. I almost never do 🙂 I’ve given up on trying to get him to change, and just accepted that there’s probably a bunch of people in Worcester who honestly believe I’m an idiot because my three year old is frequently walking around with his shoes on the wrong feet (because he likes it that way) and his shirts on backwards.

Last night, we were trying to get ready to go out shopping (got a new cordless phone with two handsets, so I can actually answer the phone now if you call when I’m nursing the girl) and I told him to go put on his shoes. He said he wanted to wear his spiderman shoes, his sneakers. I lobbied for his sandals or crocs because they’re easier to put on, but he was adamant that he wanted the sneaks. So I told him to go pick out socks. I’ve fallen way behind on matching socks (not that it’s ever really a high priority for me) and have just resigned myself to keeping them all in a box and having the kids pick thru to find a pair when they need them. Sam went to the box, picked out a Buzz Lightyear sock and a blue Barbie sock belonging to Jessica. He came back into the living room where I was nursing Julie and started putting them on. I suggested that maybe he get TWO Buzz socks, why not wear matching socks once in a while, right? But then he explained that he wanted to “switch it up” and wear two different ones. He further explained that because his sister was wearing flip flops, all of her socks were sad, but “Super Sammy” was going to fix it and wear one of hers to alleviate their grief over not being utilized. I was impressed not only with his mastery of language (he literally said “switch it up”), but also with his empathy for the neglected socks and his impression of himself as Super Sammy, fixer of hurt sock feelings. Feel as though I’m doing a nice job raising him 🙂

Jess has started packing her own lunch to go to school. Sadly, with only a few weeks left of school, I have FINALLY realized that she’s more than capable of doing it herself, and more importantly, likes doing it and will eat the food if she puts it in there. Not that she packs anything differently than I do, but for some reason, she’ll eat it if she does it. So now every night, she packs her own lunch. Saves me a ton of time and aggravation, all I have to do it scrawl a note to her telling her to have a sunshiney day and that I love her. This morning, I was trapped on the chair, nursing, and didn’t even do that, Marc did. She’s not as fond of his notes, his handwriting is hard for her to read :-). She’s getting so big, all of a sudden, her legs are suddenly super long and she’s so much taller.

In other news… have some family stuff percolating, but I need to think more about it before I can blog about it, I’m not sure yet how I feel… I’m going out tomorrow to Rockport and Salem with my sister and mother, bestest cousin and her mother and of course, the baby girl child. Very much looking forward to it – I’m bringing my sling, but with five adoring women there, don’t expect to be able to put Julie into it, she’ll spend the day being passed back and forth 🙂 And have to state again – THANK GOODNESS that she’s nursing so well, it’s simple and painfree and so easy now.

Feeling a bit pensive this morning…

All is well here, kids are all healthy (although not for long, if I keep forgetting to give Jessica her antibiotic – just realized that she didn’t get it this morning). Julie’s thrush is all cleared up, and nursing is virtually problem free these days. Sam is still sleeping (ironically, I’ve got one child who likes to start the day at five a.m., and one that’ll sleep until 10:30 on a good day), Jess had a rough morning because all of her clothes (all of them) looked “stupid” with sneakers and she has to wear sneakers for gym and she hates gym and her life is horrible. Sobbing hysterically on her bed, it was ugly. She did pull it together with a minimum of lecturing on my part, and left for school on time with a teary hug and tremulous smile, but she was clearly unhappy about it.

But the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming. It can’t be too awful… I’m going to give Julie a bath this morning – I like to make Marc do all the baths (I hate bathing children, don’t know why, all other parenting chores are kind of fun for me, but bathing is the worst) but he’s been slacking and my girl is grubby. She’s not, really, but a bath is still a good idea. Then I’m going to take Harrison and Sam out and about, probably to the park and then to the store.

Jessie’s dance recital is coming up soon. We had dance class for her yesterday and the mom’s were allowed in the watch them dance (which doesn’t happen all that often). And I got all misty, as I always do. She’s been dancing since she was two, and every single time I watch her dance with her class, my eyes well up. There’s something about it – she’s so beautiful and so exactly what I always wanted in a daughter. I think it’s the combination of seeing her so independent, doing something so separate from me in a class full of other girls her age, and the thought that if I could have known, in my mid-twenties, that one day, I’d have this gorgeous girl for my very own child… I wish I could somehow send a picture back to myself, to let my younger self see how rich my life would be. If that makes sense..

Baby girl peeping – have to go 🙂

And why it means so much to me 🙂

Julie is WONDERFUL at night. Really. I’ve been really lucky, all three of my kids have always been really good at night. I co-sleep (these days with everyone, it seems – Jessie keeps ending up in bed with me) and I’m sure that’s why – once Julie mastered nursing in the side-lying position, my nights got so much better and easier. Most nights, I nurse her around ten thirty or so, and she’s good until three-ish, and then back to sleep until around five.

This morning, for some reason, I could NOT wake up. I got up at five, started coffee, nursed her, changed her, cooed at her a bit. Choked down one cup and then Marc got up. He got me a second cup of coffee, which I drank, and then took the girl child. I dozed until she started to fuss, and then nursed her again. Then fell back asleep on the chair in the living room until just before Jess had to leave for school. Usually, I’m BUSY in the mornings. I pack her lunch, supervise breakfast, sometimes I do the dinner dishes, I generally throw in a load of laundry, etc. This morning – nope, nothing. I slept. Jess picked out her own outfit, got her little self dressed, Marc made her breakfast, she packed her own lunch. Julie and I slept in the chair in the living room. I finally hauled myself up, poured yet another cup of coffee (seriously, Julie is going to be SO addicted) and was able to write a quick note for Jessie’s lunch (thanking her for doing everything this morning and letting me sleep) and kiss her goodbye before she left.

I think I’m just still operating at a sleep deficet from the first week or so with Julie. And any time it can, my body will snatch the opportunity to catch up.

In other news – I think the thrush has cleared up. I ended up going back to the shield on my left breast for a day or so, just because it hurt too badly to nurse on it. And it gave the nipple a chance to heal, because now nursing is virtually pain free. Thank goodness. It was a rough start to breastfeeding, but I’m really optimistic that we’re over the worst of it 🙂

It’s the Jewish holiday where Moses received the Torah. And the wheat festival, apparently. But the main reason why we make a big deal about it is because it’s also when the Book of Ruth is read.

Last night, Marc made a fabulous dinner, chicken and cheese (so not kosher) calzone with ice cream for dessert. He told the kids the story of Moses and why we celebrate the holiday and then we read those beautiful quotes from the Book of Ruth to each other. We had wine (well, Marc had wine, I really don’t like wine) and Marc serenaded me with “I love you just the way you are” from Billy Joel. It was beautiful and I got all misty. Marc and I danced, and the kids came and snuggled their way into our embrace and it was just one of those moments when your heart is so full and you can’t believe how incredibly rich and blessed you are.

“Do not ask me to leave you, or to turn back from following you:
For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you live, I will live;
Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried,
For nothing but death will ever part us.”

It’s wonderful – really. I love having three children, I love each one individually, and together. My Angel Girl Jess, with all her empathy and passion, my Samilicious, with all his little boy rough and tumble and sweet little Sammy Snuggles, and my Julie, my tiny, adorable, squeeky little baby love. Separately, they are each amazing, but together? It’s like my life is filled with these amazing blessings, and I still can’t quite believe how lucky I am to have these three children. But holy moly, is it hard sometimes.

Julie had a rough day yesterday – she’s started spitting up. And fussing. Sam’s infancy was difficult, because he had colic and reflux and my memory of it is him crying constantly, unless he was nursing. And yesterday – I was really stressing about my poor baby girl, because she was nursing constantly, spitting up and fussy – thinking in the back of my mind that we might be starting down that path with her. Every time I put her down, she’d cry, and I wasn’t able to do much more than just take care of her. Which is a problem, when you’ve got other children who also deserve time and attention. Poor Samilicious went to bed grubby, without brushing his teeth, because I just didn’t have the time or ability to put him in the tub or supervise teeth. Thank goodness he’s potty trained, because he went on his own, but slept in his shorts that he’d been wearing all day. And then he cried himself to sleep next to me because I was nursing the baby and couldn’t soothe him effectively. I did slightly better with Jessica, because I was able to read Harry Potter to her while Julie slept on my lap, and direct her to put on jammies and brush her teeth and she could do that on her own.

I know this is just a particularly challenging time – and it’ll pass fast. Too fast, because I’m going to miss this time – when I had my last little baby who needed me 24/7. But last night, I just felt so overwhelmed, I had burned dinner because I forgot I was cooking, Sam had eaten half a banana and scattered the rest of it all over the living room, opened two containers of yogurt and eaten half of each, Jessie needed a bath and her hair washed and there wasn’t anything I could do about any of it. My breast was so engorged (I had started using the nipple shield on the really painful breast because I had reached the point where I just couldn’t force myself to nurse her, the pain was excrutiating – but that meant that she wasn’t fully emptying the breast), I couldn’t pick Julie up and hold her without it hurting.

I just tried to meet the most immediate needs, which were feeding my baby, making sure Sam had shoes on before he went outside with the neighbor and in my spare time, slogging thru Harry Potter. I feel extra guilty about Harry – because Jessie LOVES being read to, and I used to be able to snuggle up to her and read and discuss it. And ever since Julie was born, she’s lucky if she gets half a chapter every other day. And last night, I was stuck in the rocking chair, with Julie asleep on my lap and wasn’t even able to snuggle my big girl.

The guilt is at time overwhelming. I feel like I’m on the ball handling everything very rarely, and mostly feel like I’m playing catch up, and no matter what I do, someone is getting the shaft. Julie might fuss more than I want, Sam might miss out on a warm bath and some snuggles, and Jess might never learn who wins the Triwizard Tournament. I’m worry that I’m not the mother that any of them really need, because I’m spread so thin. Then I remind myself of how much they love each other, how Julie calms down instantly when Jessie coos at her during diaper changes, how Sam talks about his big sister Jessie when she’s not here, and how Sammy likes to give Julie “little pats” to make her happy. It really is amazing and wonderful to see your children together, and know that you’ve created these bonds, or that you’ve started the seeds for your kids to build these bonds. Sibling relationships are endlessly complicated, I know that from personal experience, but I can only hope that my children love each other and trust each other – and that in the end, all the work, the guilt, and the stress will result in relationships with each other that bring them all joy and comfort and fun.