I’m a work in progress as a mom.  I was pretty good from the get go, I’ll admit it.  I’m the oldest of four (or six, depending on how you count step siblings) and I’ve got legions of cousins for whom I was the primo babysitter.  I’ve got ten nieces and nephews (nine of whom were born before I had Jessica).  I’m good with the basics.  I knew the mechanics.  But having one of my own, let alone three, is a whole different story. 

I worry that I spoil them too much, I also worry that I yell at them too much.  I worry that I give Jess too much responsibility, and then I worry that I baby her too much.  I worry that Sam gets away with murder and that Julianna will never settle into a normal nap routine.  I agonize over bribing Jess to do her homework while feeling secretly proud that I’ve figured out how to get it done without both of us dissolving into a sobbing mess. 

I think I’m good at this.  I think I’m a good mom.  I think I’m pretty good at trusting my instincts, balancing out what I know with what I feel, figuring out what they need versus what they want.  I struggle with paying attention to each one – making sure that each child feels loved and special and valued, while also teaching them that they aren’t the center of the universe and sometimes, lots of times, you have to consider others’ needs before your own. 

I’m feeling vaguely introspective tonight.  And tired – because Julianna has embraced teething with a vengence and has started waking up several times a night and fussing.  Adding in Jessie with a nightmare or two and I feel like I didn’t get any sleep at all last night. 

All in all, though, things are well with my little family.  We’re happy.  Dare I say, even peaceful.  Jess and Sam can still scream it out with a major battle, but in the end, they do like each other.  And they flat out worship Julie.  Nights for me are relaxing and calm.  And I’m never, never blind to the fact that it’s an incredible blessing.  My family is safe and warm, well fed, and healthy.  Tonight – I’m grateful for the opportunity to wonder if I’m doing it all right, because I know, deep down inside, that what Marc and I have created, this family, it’s so much better than I ever dreamed it could be. 

I’m not proud of it.  I know it’s not right.  I know I should do better.  I know I’m setting a crappy example for my children, and possibly giving my five month old a serious addiction as well.  But I flat out need the coffee, all the time, and accidentally didn’t finish my afternoon cup and can’t keep my eyes open now.  It’s not even nine o’clock and I’m exhausted. 

I start off the morning with a hot cup of coffee.  I don’t even really taste the first cup, but by the time I pour the second one, I’m awake enough to really, really enjoy it.  Not too smoking hot, but hot, light, with two sugars.  Sometimes, if it’s been a rough night or appears to be shaping up to a rough day, I’ll have three cups in the morning.  And then mid-afternoon, I brew another pot.  At least one cup, sometimes two.  My outer limit is three cups in the morning, two in the afternoon. 

All is delightful in my world today – Marc decided that he would devote himself to heavy housecleaning as opposed to reading economics blogs.  The problem, as he explained it to me, is that he needs to do something during the day, and is fine with interspercing housework with serious intellectual study.  As this means that I don’t have to do dishes, I’m all the way delighted.   We’re sort of in a holding pattern, waiting to get the unemployment straightened out, waiting to find out what courses he can take and get paid for, etc.  So for now, it’s just the Marc and Melissa show – and I really like it 🙂

Having a five month old really just is a blast.  Julianna is just such a joy – she’s sunshiney delighted most of the time, super easy to soothe if and when she does cry.  I’ve had no problems nursing for the past three months, we’re just starting solids – and so far, that’s just all the way fun as well.  I gave her rice cereal today for the first time, and she was literally cooing with joy in between spoonfuls.  She’s still a nursing queen, and I’m not looking to wean, but she really does like solid food, so I’m trying to give it to her consistently.  She loves, loves, loves just about everyone, with special attention for her parents and brother and sisters.  At five months, she’s mostly sleeping thru the night, sometimes waking once, sometimes twice to nurse and go right back out.  Napping is a bit more of a challenge, but that’s my fault.  Sam was (and is) such an incredibly easy kid to get to sleep – and I was able to just nurse him to sleep as an infant, and slip out of the chair and he’d nap for hours in the middle of the living room.  Julianna seems to require quiet and calm, so I have to nurse her down, and wait until she’s hard core asleep, and then gently lay her down in the bed and ease away quietly.  And even then, it’s got to be mostly quiet in the house to keep her asleep.  With a husband at home (an extremely loud husband – his normal speaking voice is just loud) and a rambunctious four year old, keeping the house quiet for naps is next to impossible…. She’s still pretty miserable in the car, but other than that – her life is pretty blissful. 

Jess is still doing great at school.  Second grade is a LOT harder than first, she’s got more homework, and is graded much more harshly.  But so far, she still seems to be happy and content.   We’re working on getting into a good schedule re: homework, and I’m not ashamed to say that I totally bribe her.  If she does her homework every night, without a fight, then on Saturday, I promised her a special trip, just she and I, down to the coffee shop down the street for hot cocoa. 

Still feel mostly okay about pulling Sam out of preschool.  He still gets to see Jordyn and Harrison a lot, and has started taking preschool Hebrew classes as well, on Saturdays, so he’s in a vaguely classroom setting as well.  Mostly, he’s just loving having his Daddy here.

Marc and I are still adjusting to him being home.  Long term, the plan is for him to go back to school starting in January, but for now, he’s just hanging at home with me.  And it’s, at times, a little tougher than I anticipated it would be.  Marc and I – we have such a strong marriage, legitimately, he’s my best friend and I love spending all this time with him – but the man has a hard core computer addiction and can lose himself for hours in front of it, reading economics blogs and playing some odd warcraft game while the laundry and dishes pile up around him.   It’s not that he thinks I should be doing the housework instead of him – I honestly believe that he just doesn’t see it.  Somehow.  But I get bitchy and cranky when I’m cleaning and nursing and refereeing and he’s lost in Paul Krugman’s latest post.  When he was working fifty hours a week, I did 95% of the housework and probably 75-80% of the day to day child rearing.  But now he’s home… and I’ll be honest – I freaking hate doing dishes.  So I have to work on communicating without nagging and he has to work on paying more attention to the world around him.  He’s happy to help out, he just doesn’t think to unless I remind him.  Constantly.   We’ll get it – and without question – I’d rather have him here than not, but it’s at times a bit challenging.  Plus – I miss my unlimited computer access, I used to just pop on to check facebook or send a quick e-mail or update the blog, and it’s rare now that I have the opportunity.  So if several days go by with no blog post… I’m still here, and will update as soon as I pry the computer away from him 🙂

I’ve got a lot to be profoundly grateful for in my life.  Three healthy, happy children, a husband who’s as attracted to me now as he was when we first met.  But sometimes… all this love is a little more than I can handle.  Does that make sense?  I know it’s just a side effect of nursing an infant and having a sick boy (sinus infection – he starts the antibiotics today), and having a daughter who’s adjusting to a LOT of time out in the world without Mommy (between school, Hebrew school and dance classes, Jess is gone the vast majority of her waking hours).   But sometimes… like last night, for example,  I feel just so overwhelmed sometimes – like everyone WANTS me desperately and I just want ten minutes alone. Alone, alone, alone.  With nobody touching me, nobody reaching up to be held, crying when I put her down, or begging for a drink,a snuggle, some attention. 

God, that sounds awful.  I know that. 

I have what I always dreamed of.  I had my kids late, by my standards.  Most people in my family had children very early, and I had just turned 29 when Jessica was born.  I wanted to be a mommy desperately – and feel incredibly ungrateful complaining about being loved too much now. 

So after a crying jag last night with my ever patient husband, we concluded that we had to institute a little “No Touch” time for me.  I literally never go out alone.  I always take someone with me, and mostly, I’m home with the kids and not going out anywhere.  But I’m going to make an effort, at least once a week, to leave the kids home with Marc and go out for coffee.  Alone.  Just to remember what’s it’s like to be Melissa. 

I made the decision this morning to pull him out entirely. Actually, I made the decision last week – but it took a while to get up the courage to actually declare it officially. I had to discuss it in exhaustive detail with Marc (more exhaustive on my part, because Marc takes the perfectly logical stance that if he’s miserable there, we pull him, but it would be good for him to try it for a few full weeks to see if it gets better first), and agonize and debate it with myself. Am I crippling him socially if I don’t send him? Am I condemning him to a lifetime of hiding behind my legs and refusing to talk to anyone? If I was a better mother, wouldn’t I have managed to raise a child like everyone else’s, one that waves goodbye bravely and heads off to preschool without a backwards glance?

But in the end – it just felt WRONG to make him go somewhere he didn’t want to be. He’s just four. That’s SO little – and it goes by so fast. Why rush this? On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, I drop Jess off at school at eight and don’t see her until six thirty. And it’s KILLING me to not see her. I miss her so much – and there’s no need to push Sam out the door before he’s ready. Give him another year at home – why not? It’s not going to hurt him, not really. He has socialization opportunities, he’s got four sisters. I’ve still got Harrison here two days a week, and Miss Jordyn comes to play all the time.

I think what it comes down to, for me, is that I trust Sam. I’ve learned that when he’s ready to move from one stage to another, if I step back and let him do it on his time table, he does it with no problems. If I push it (like potty training, or weaning), it’s an absolute disaster. So I’m going to hope that keeping him home this year, giving him a little more maturation time, will make kindergarten easier. I can teach him to write the alphabet and spell his name. He’s polite, knows his manners, is very articulate and well spoken. He’ll do fine in school, when he’s ready to go. He’s not ready right now.

Not that I’m actually saying that – because I’m pretty happy these days, but it’s Jessie’s new favorite phrase. Totally copying what I yell at Marc when I’m complaining about how messy the living room gets after Sam has been BUSY for a few hours.

My computer was riddled with viruses and I had no internet connection for a while. Which was sad and hard, and a little bit liberating too. But it’s back, and I missed blogging the most. There were so many moments when I thought about how I wanted to write about a particular situation and then had to remember that I couldn’t get on-line.

Much, much has been happening. Biggest news is that Marc is officially laid off, and I’m all sorts of stressed out about it. We’ve got the budget from hell for the next couple of weeks, until we start getting his unemployment checks, and even though I know six months from now, I’ll barely remember this little blip, right now, I’m worrying about money big time. We’ve painstakingly clawed our way up to borderline financial security, and having that threatened scares me. But it’s a temporary problem, and I know that. I also know that worrying about money never actually garners you more money – you are just as broke at the end of the worrying as you were when you started, and in my case, I usually end up with a killer stress migraine as well. So I’m trying hard to not lose control with the stress and the worrying – to remember that we’re all healthy, happy, and have food to eat and a roof over our head. Also a lot of potential – because Marc is brilliant and smart, and this was a deliberate choice – Marc’s company tried hard to keep him, offering him a different position, but he’d like to change careers (going into IT), and if we didn’t take the risk now, when we’d have the cushion of unemployment for a while, we’d probably never do it.

Jess is doing really well with everything, school, Hebrew School and dance. The only hitch is that suddenly she’s BUSY all the time. Monday thru Friday in school from eight until two thirty, Mondays and Wednesdays, she’s got Hebrew School from four to six, and dance class on Thursdays from four to six as well. Adding in this being the first year that she’s got actual homework each night – and it’s a recipe for disaster with my girl. Major crying jags both Wednesday and Thursday nights, and as she said tearfully to Marc “this is just no way to live, Daddy.” I’m adjusting her bedtime and trying hard to facilitate thing for her, but in the end, she’s just going to have to adjust. I don’t want to pull her from either activity – she really enjoys both, and she’s got to get homework done as well.

Sam is NOT adjusting anywhere near as well to preschool. In fact, I’ve had him home all this week. Bottom line – he flat out doesn’t like going. He’s got a bad cold, and was legitimately sick on Tuesday and Wednesday. But Monday had been a disaster when I dropped him off, he was sobbing hysterically and desperate to leave with me. He’s fine after I leave (I snuck back and peeked in the doorway after I left to make sure), but the process is hell on both of us. After talking to one of the teachers, I decided to keep him home for the rest of this week, and start going just three days a week. Hopefully it’ll get better. In the end, though, I can’t get behind dropping him off somewhere when he’s screaming and begging me to not leave him there. He’s four. He doesn’t NEED preschool. Sure, it’d be nice, but if he’s not ready, he’s not ready. I’ll force kindergarten on him, I’m not going to do it with preschool.

Julianna Ruth is just a joy. Seriously. She’s a hard-core HAPPY baby. Loves to be held, loves to rock, loves to hang with her big brother and big sisters. Smiles everytime she catches my eyes, adores her daddy. She’s just a blissful, happy, beautiful girl. I’m working on establishing a schedule for her, but haven’t gotten very far. She’s not great at napping during the day – or rather, she’s awesome about napping as long as I’m willing to sit and hold her thru it. Other than that, just sunshine and happiness all the time. We’re cautiously flirting with solids – she’s had some bananas a couple of times, but I’m not doing anything serious about it. She’s still little – and we’ve got all the time in the world to try solids.

Very busy, very stressed out… it’s Rosh Hashana yesterday and today, so I’ve been doing a lot of family stuff. Still dealing with the aftermath from losing my grandfather, and the family dramas that go along with that…

Status updates…

– Sam is doing okay at preschool. The second day was much better than the first, but he still seems to be noticably unenthusiastic about going. I’m still conflicted about it, part of me thinks that I should keep sending him, part of me wants to pull him and keep him home safe with me. Obviously, everyone I know keeps reassuring me that it’s wonderful he’s going, so I’d face serious family/friend disapproval if I pulled him – but as anyone who’s read this blog knows – I don’t like sending my kids to school period, and would homeschool in a heartbeat were it not for the nagging suspicion that it’s good for my kids to be out in the world, making friends, dealing with conflicts, and learning how to exist without me. I know for certain that I can teach him all that he needs to know academically at this point at home, but there’s value to him just learning to trust himself and other adults, to know that his whole world is more than my lap. You know what I mean?? So we’re going to keep trying and hope for the best, I guess.

– Jess is thriving in second grade. Seems to be totally happy there. She hates her gym teacher, really hates her music teacher, but loves her homeroom teacher and that’s what matters.

– Jewish holidays – so the kids haven’t been at school very much at all before this break. Sam only went two days, and while this is the second week for Jess, school started on a Wednesday for her, she went all three days, then hit Labor Day and then missed Thursday and Friday. Attending services with a four month old is kind of silly – even if you’ve got the best behaved baby in the entire world (which I do). So we stayed home today, Marc took Jess into the family service, but they should be home soon.

– Julie is AMAZING. Jess was a clingy baby, she didn’t go easily to others but there was a select few that she’s go to without a problem, and Sam was ultra-clingy, in that he didn’t even like to be in the same room as a stranger, let alone let someone other than his mother hold him. So I’m perplexed by Julianna’s willingness to coo and smile at everyone. She lets aunts hold her, grandparents, even the friend of a cousin, I looked around yesterday and some total stranger was holding her at Marc’s aunts family party. She’s relaxed, easy going, and happy. She absolutely knows that who her parents and siblings are, but appears to be delighted to hang with anyone. After Sam, to say I’m not used to this is a massive understatement. Is this what babies are supposed to do? She was super clingy with me last night, wouldn’t let me put her down, and I felt reassured. She’s napping a lot today, because she was up socializing all day yesterday.

– Very busy cleaning and trying to straighten everything out after hosting dinner here on Wednesday night. I was stressed out that day too – and just hummed stuff into my bedroom and shut the door, so now I’ve got to painstakingly sort thru everything, fold oceans of clean laundry and I just finally finished all the dishes.

– Apple picking on Sunday 🙂

Today – he’s went off to preschool, taking that first big, big step towards independence. And I’m a mess.

My girls love me, adore me, need me desperately – but Sam has always been on a different level. He came out of the womb with separation anxiety and it’s not really a big exaggeration when I say that for the first two years of his life, if he wasn’t with me, he was sobbing like his heart was broken. I joke with Marc that nobody loves me like Sammy loves me. Not with that same intensity, that same holy moly my life is complete now that you are here with me type of emotion. He nursed non-stop until he was almost four. All his life, he’s been my buddy, my shadow, and I’m a complete wreck now that he’s off at school without me.

I glued a smile on my face all morning, packed his bag, wrote him a little love note. I got him dressed and assured him that he’d LOVE preschool. He was going to have so many new friends, learn so many new things. It would be fun and exciting and he’d be so happy there. And it was just a short class, and Mommy would be right there to pick him up afterwards.

I dragged him out to the car, and lugged him over to where the other kids were lining up. And he didn’t start crying until it was time to go off with his teacher. His teacher wanted the moms and dads to say goodbye before they left go from the library to the classroom, but Sam wasn’t having any part of happily saying goodbye and going off with this stranger. So we decided that one parent would walk him to the classroom and say goodbye. Make the transition easier. In theory.

Thank goodness for Marc, because there’s NO WAY I could have done it. Sam sobbed thru the whole thing. As did I. I held it together, smile glued to my face, until he disappeared thru the doors – but then I cried the whole way home.

I hate preschool.

I’m conflicted. As per usual… my mother claims it’s the curse of being an Aquarian because we can see both sides of the argument, but I think I’m just indecisive :-). Arguments against starting are that she’s just over four months old, she’s my last little baby, and why am I rushing this? She’s doing fine on breastmilk, she’s huge for her age, compared to where Sam and Jess were at this age. I tend to err on the side of attachment parenting, I co-sleep, carry the kid everywhere, don’t do CIO, etc – and following along with that trend would be to delay solids. Plus I really, really like the baby stage -I love looking at her and knowing that I’m completely responsible for all that health and vibrancy.

But… she’s able to sit with support, holds her head up fine, has started waking up at night after sleeping thru for weeks. She’s more and more interested in food, and I think it’d be fun. I want to expose her to new tastes and new textures. She’s still nursing pretty much every hour during the day, sometimes an hour and a half, but she’s nursing a LOT. I’m not looking to replace nursing sessions, but she’s definitely added some lately, with the night waking and the lack of napping. I used to pump at least once a day, but I haven’t had a chance to for the past week or so, because she’s been nursing pretty much constantly. She’s putting everything in her mouth.

Not sure yet, but I think she’s ready. I can’t come up with any reasons, other than my own selfishness in not wanting her to grow up. I’m not ready for her to start, not that I think she’s not ready. And it’s not a do or die decision, it’s not like if I give her a spoonful of bananas then I can’t continue nursing. God knows, I can and have nursed well into toddlerhood – Sam was closer to four than three when he finally stopped. And I started him on solids right around four and a half months. He ate everything, and it never affected the amount of nursing. However… Miss Jessica started on solids and finished up nursing by the time she was eight months old. Ahhh – here’s where my hesitation is coming from (this is why I love writing, it helps me to figure out what I’m actually thinking). BUT – Jess was never a comfort nurser, she was a girl who loved her pacifier, and I think she just figured out that it was easier to eat solids then to nurse. Plus, I wasn’t as experienced a nurser back then, I didn’t know about continuing to offer, Jessie just seemed less and less interested, and I thought that I should respect that, and just switched her over to formula.

And what’s the alternative? Never give her solids in hopes that she’ll nurse forever? I want to nurse her until she’s at least a year, and honestly would be happy if she’d stop closer to two. Giving her real food is clearly a step on the weaning road, and I’m not sure I want to get on that road too early. But weaning Sam was really hard – on both of us – and I was way ready to stop before he was. I don’t want to nurse that long again either, at least not wishing that I wasn’t. You know what I mean? Maybe I’ll love nursing her when she’s three and a half. I just don’t want to hate it at the end.

I don’t know… I guess I’ll hold off for a while. See what happens. Until I can see definitely that one way is the right way – holding off until she’s at least six months or older, or starting her, just experimenting with it, then I’ll just exist in this odd state of being on the cusp of starting solids.

Sammy and I were cleaning, and I found a quarter on the floor and gave it to him. He came up to me about ten minutes later and asked if I wanted heads or trash, because he was going to flip the coin. “Trash?” I said “It’s not trash, honey, it’s tails. Heads or tails.” He looked at me like I was an idiot, and patiently explained that there was no tail on the coin, just a head on one side, and trash on the other. So I looked at the quarter, and it was the NH one, with the Old Man in the Mountain on it. And to the untrained, four year old eye, if you hold it sideways, it does look like a pile of trash.

I love the way the world looks to a four year old – it’s so completely different.