It’s finally here, the first official blizzard of 2010.  And I just shipped Marc, Jess and Sam outside to shovel, shove snow down Marc’s pants and build a snowman.  Julianna and I are happily warm, hanging in the living room.  I’ve got a turkey pot pie bubbling in the oven, Jules is playing with Sam’s blocks and Toy Story 2 is still on the television.

In the end, I had a really nice Christmas.  Although I think next year, we’ll do it differently.  Again.  I missed going to my mother’s house.  And since it didn’t work out the way that I hoped it would for her, I don’t think there’s much to be gained by staying home.  Next year, my plan is to make a big fantastic special breakfast, and then we’ll head down to Mom’s after lunch. 

Jessica got a CD player for her bedroom, as well as a bunch of CD’s.  And her life is now completely changed, as she’s suddenly a tweener, playing her music as loud as she can and wailing along with Taylor Swift about how life is when you’re fifteen.  It’s so bizzare to me, and really inspired me to reflect on the differences between mothering all of my children.

They range in age from almost eight years old to almost eight months old.  And the skills and techniques needed for one are completely different from the ones needed for the other.  And the third requires a whole other set.  Jess is becoming her own person – forming her own identity and personality and relationships independent of me.  She’s forming ideas about the kind of life she’s going to lead, really developing into her own.  Sam is still little in so many ways, but on the brink of so much more.  And Julianna… she’s in the throes of separation anxiety, almost doing everything, talking, walking, etc. 

In many ways – Sam’s the easiest for me right now.  His needs are easy to meet, he’s potty trained, sleeps on his own, feeds himself – but is still little.  He doesn’t want (or really seem to need) much more than just having Marc and I around.  He’s all love and emotion, but it’s simple stuff.  He’s becoming more aware of subleties, like if I’m irritated he’ll ask why, and he’s gaining more control over his temper tantrums.  He’s maturing, but still little.

Julianna is still a baby, and just requires so much more.  She’s eating solids and sipping water and juice, but breastfeeding still makes up at least 80% of her diet.  And it’s probably higher than that – she’s into feeding herself now, and still hasn’t completely mastered actually keeping the food in her mouth.  Marc says that while it’s not a waste of time or effort to feed her, it is a total waste of food, because almost all of it ends up piled up in her lap, under her chin and on the floor.  She’s says “Mama” now and she’s got the prettiest smile, her whole face just lights up when she sees me. 

That’s pretty much where my mind is these days.  I’ve got a sinus infection, but so far, it seems to be going away when I take a Claritin D.  The sudafed in the medication makes me all floaty and weird, but it’s not an unpleasant feeling.  Just a little disorienting.  Anyway – I’ve been floating off and on for about three days now (when I’m not floating, I’m bitchy and in pain), and I’m starting to really enjoy it. 

Plans are moving forward for my super cool Christmas celebration.  I’m doing my own thing this year for Christmas, seeing my mom and step dad on Christmas Eve instead of during the day on Christmas.  There are a couple of different reasons, it’ll make things easier all around for everyone if I’m notably absent on Christmas Day, and I also like the thought of starting my own traditions and having my own holiday celebration.  It’s a nice way to make Marc feel more a part of Christmas, if it’s something we do together as opposed to something that we do with just my side of the family.  So he’s got big plans to make some sort of alcoholic beverage, glogg, and I’ve got a 20lb turkey screaming out my name.  We’ve got friends coming over too, and I’m really excited about it.

We keep Christmas relatively low-key, gift wise.  The kids get so much stuff from Hanukkah that, to a certain extent, it’s just logical not to overload them with stuff.  Plus, I’m a big proponent of the less is more theory when it comes to kids gifts (not that you would know that from looking at my downstairs playroom – but in my defense, we’ve got big extended families and I’ve got a total inability to say no to hand me down toys).  So we got each kid a nice gift, and I’ll stuff their stockings with stuff and that’ll be that. 

In other news… let’s see.  Miss Jess danced off to school delightedly this morning – granted, it was entirely because she was toting sixty plus sugar cookies for the cookie decorating party today.  If every day could be cookie decorating day, her life would be a lot more fun.  At least in the short term.  Sam is boucing around the house, and Julianna is having a little peach yogurt with Daddy.  She’s eating solids about three times a day now.  And I can’t believe that she’s almost eight months. 

Marc and I have big plans for an official date in January.  It occurs to me that this is our first real date since last January.  That’s not good.  But honestly, Marc and I spend a lot of time together, and we really do like each other an awful lot, beyond being in love.  We may not get a lot of alone time, but I still feel like we’re as happy as we’ve ever been – and we operate with a pretty high threshold of contentment :-).  Not everyone has what we have, and I never lose sight of that.  We work hard at staying connected, maintaining our relationship, independent of being co-parents, and so far, I’d have to say that we’re wicked good at it.

It’s just awesome.  I love snuggling with that little girl at the crack of dawn.  I nursed her early this morning, around six-ish, and she’s still out cold.  I’m awake and alone right now – Jess off to school, Marc getting bloodwork done and running errands, Sam and Julie still sleeping, which is so unbelievably rare, I don’t know quite what to do with myself.  Shower?  Dishes?  Vacuum?  Vege out with coffee and GMA?  Can’t decide, so I figured I’d blog instead. 

I went thru old blog posts last night, and was amused to see that last December, I was pretty much doing exactly what I’m doing right now.  Which is really kind of cool, I like the continuity of it.  I like that every year, we struggle over celebrating Jewish or pagan traditions and how to blend it, because every year we get just a little bit better about it.  I like that I struggled with how to get the kids to bed, how Marc does it differently than I do, and coming to grips with the fact that neither of us is right or wrong, both methods are valid.  I especially love looking back and remembering my pregnancy, and how much better it is now with Julie as a roly poly seven and a half month old.  Jessie is so much more grown up, Sam is too.  Everything is changing in exactly the best ways, but staying the same in all the ways that matter :-).

I’m working on positivity this morning.  Is that a word?  I was a little grumpy this morning, the house is cold, and I’m not at my best at the crack of dawn anyway.  It seemed as though everyone was going out of their way to make my life complicated and unpleasant (which isn’t true, I know it’s irrational). So I made the conscious decision to turn it around.  I’m all sunshine and joy this morning now.  The second cup of coffee may have factored into this.   If you can, think positive thoughts my way today – I fear it may be an uphill battle to maintain this cheer. 

My husband is kind of scary about heat.  Not scary, that’s not the right word.  But he’s one of those people, you know the type, the ones that like to keep the heat as low as possible.  Like, just above the degree that it would have to be for you be able to see your breath.  He runs hot, as a rule, so I don’t think he gets cold the way normal (i.e. me) people do.  I’m walking around, all bundled up in layers and just so shivering cold, when I wandered by the thermostat and realized that it’s set at sixty degrees.  Sixty.  No wonder I’m freezing.

We’ve been together for almost nine years, and I’m just realizing this because this is the first place we’ve lived where we really controlled the heat.  We lived in Maynard with Becky for the first year and a half, then with his parents for a year or two.  Then we lived in an apartment that was so well heated by the apartment upstairs, when they’d turn up the heat, our apartment got warm because the heat ran thru the pipes.  Then our apartment on Wall Street had one of those super old fashioned heaters that never really worked that well.  Our last apartment just had radiators controlled by the apartment downstairs, so we didn’t have any say in it. 

This house is wonderful, I adore it.  But it’s got porcelain tiles thru the kitchen and living room, and hard wood floors throughout the rest of the house.  And it’s icy freaking cold all the livelong day.  At night, it’s not too bad, since we’re under the covers and mostly snuggled up together.  But I can totally see the need for me to invest in a bunch of rugs and sweatshirts to get thru the rest of the winter. 

Julianna has a touch of croup.  A touch, because she hasn’t coughed since this morning, but she woke up with that barking cough.  Jess and Sam never had it, but I recognized it right away because my nephews had it all the time when they were tiny.  She’s asleep on Marc right now, so sweet.  Sam and Harrison have been tearing thru the house for the past four and a half hours, I’m so happy they’re getting along so well.

I watched an episode of  “Lie to Me” the other day.  Granted, I’m way behind on it, so the show probably originally aired a month ago, but there was one particular line that I’ve been thinking about ever since.  The plot of the show was basically that there was this woman who had somehow been sucked into this New Age-y, create your own reality, visualize the reality you want and you can make it sort of cult.  Which isn’t really that relevant to what I’m saying – but there was this one scene where a woman was defending the thought process behind it, how it was a matter of changing your life to accept only the positive, the highest good. 

It was all sort of familiar to me, not that I have a lot of experience with cults, but the whole New Age spiritual belief system is something that I’m pretty fluent with.  I converted to Judaism after a long process of moving from Catholicism to Wicca to general paganism to a cobbled together sort of spirituality that I had made up that was sort of a combo of everything that actually correlated really nicely with Judaism.  I’m getting off track here, obviously, but the point I was making was that there was a time in my life when I believed whole heartedly with all of that.  That changing your life was essential, that in order to achieve your highest self, you had to undergo this spiritual transformation, that you had to recognize the unhealthy ties and cords connecting you to disfunctional relationships and be able to move beyond that into a higher, more evolved self.

But I realized that I don’t believe that any more.  I don’t want to change my life.  I don’t want anything more than what I have right now.  This marriage, these children, this life.  My only wish, my only hope is just for more of this.  Time to watch my kids grow, time to raise this family, time to spend with Marc, just… this.  I want exactly what I have.  Right here, right now.  I don’t want to exist in stasis, I want to move on, I want Jessie to get bigger, for Sam to start school, for Julie to start crawling.  I want to move on – but move on with all of this.  I love my life.  I love my family, my husband, my daughters, my son, my stepdaughters.  My friends, my extended family (those who are still talking to me, at least).  I love this.  Right here, right now, this is exactly what I always wanted.  And if I’m very lucky, I’ll get to have this for the rest of my life. 

Jessica’s first real word was Dada.  She said Mama first, but she used it more as a general expression of need.  She said it when she was hungry or wet or bored.  I remember one memorable occasion, driving home on Rte. 117, with her in the backseat, whimpering “Mama, mama, mama” over and over again – she really didn’t like the car.  It was what she said when she wanted attention.  But the first real word that she said, knowing what it meant, was Dada.  She was in her seat up on the kitchen table and Marc walked out of the bathroom into the kitchen and she looked at him and said “Dada.” 

Sam’s first word, really, was “Dis.”  I’m sure he said Mama too – but his first real word was dis.  He said it for anything.  He’d point at something, say “dis” and know that he was communicating effectively.  It’s Marc’s fault – he used to walk around the house with Sam in his arms and say “THIS, Sammy, THIS is a (fill in the appropriate word, door, table, sister, etc).”  Dis, plus nodding his head yes or no, was really all Sam did for a while, prompting me to go to the pediatrician and ask why my son was developmentally delayed.  He wasn’t.  He was just a man of few words, and dis plus head nods were more than enough to get what he needed to get communicated.  Now, of course, he’s a little chatterbox, but back then, it was just dis.

Julianna isn’t talking yet.  Not really.  She says AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA a lot, and has recently started with LAAAAAAA and BAAAAAAAAAAA, just to shake it up a bit.  But really, when I look back, I’m going to think that her first real word is a cough.  She learned how to do it back in September, back when Sam got his cold, and still does it several times a day.  She does it on purpose, and never actually because she’s got a cough.  She just thinks it’s a fun thing that we do.  For a while there, most of September and October, it seemed as though all of us had a cough – except for Julianna (thank you breastfeeding).  So I suppose it’s normal that she’d think it was a word, and a way to communicate.  Every time she coughs, I tell her she’s not sick and she grins at me.  It’s what she does know when she wants to get me to look at her, both Jess and Sam also laugh at her. 

She’s scooting on her butt, still won’t crawl, but she’s moving her little tushy to get where she needs to go.  She’s so freaking cute, so social and sunshiney happy all the time.  She’s got a little toy radio and last night, we were playing it for her and she was bouncing and dancing to the music. 

Sure, sometimes it’s aggravating.  Sometimes I think about the dishes I could be doing, the laundry I could be folding, the dinner I could be making.   Julie is an angel baby – she’s social and happy, and still a pretty good sleeper at night – but she’s a crappy napper.  Unless she’s being held.  She’ll snuggle down and just sleep for hours as long as one of us is willing to sit still and hold her. 

The other night, I had so much to do.  I had spent most of the week at the hospital with my cousin and her gorgeous baby, so my house was crying out for attention.  The laundry was washed and dried, but there were oceans of it waiting to be folded, toys were scattered all over the place, the dishwasher had to be emptied, and I was starving (because I had fed the kids dinner and cleaned while they ate).  I put the two older ones to bed, and had Julie snoozing in our bed.  I eased away, slowly, so slowly, holding my breath – and she started fussing.  Then she started wailing and I just sighed and picked her up.  She laid her head down, patted my back gratefully and went right back to sleep. 

I came into the kitchen, got myself dinner, zapped it, poured a glass of milk, and settled down on the couch to watch television and eat.  All one handed (I kick ass at getting stuff done with a baby in my arms).  And she was so sweet and snuggly – and I realized that I’m not all that frustrated at holding her while she sleeps.  Because, really, how many more babies are going to sleep on me?  How many more times will I have a tiny little one who’s whole idea of happiness is just being with me?  I’ve learned that they grow so fast.  So freaking fast, and she’s my little girl.  My tiny baby girl, and in the same way that I love it when Jess staggers into my bed in the middle of the night, or Sammy curls up with me first thing in the morning, I love her little head on my shoulder and baby hand patting my back.  They won’t always be this little – and I don’t regret a single second of holding my older two.  I don’t regret holding Jessie so much that she didn’t actively walk until she was eighteen months old.  I don’t regret nursing Sam as long as I did.  I won’t regret holding Julianna thru her naps either.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that when she’s an active, roly poly four year old who won’t nap anymore, I’ll look back on the hours that I spent just snuggling her and miss them. 

Becky had her baby on Tuesday afternoon – so beautiful, Abigail Bridgett.  She was 10lbs, 3 oz, 23.5 inches long.  And so freaking gorgeous, with squishy cheeks, huge eyes and I’m already so in love with her.  I’ve had a sneaky suspicion that she and Julianna had plans before either of them were conceived, and thus, have been referring to her as Julie’s best friend for months now.  There’s something magical about watching Becky with her daughter, I’ve waited so long for her to hold her baby in her arms, and I’m incredibly grateful to be able to see it now.

Becky and I have been thru so much together, and even though we’re first cousins, I really think of her as my big sister.  She’s been the one constant in my life, she’s my family, my best friend, my girl.  She’s (to quote Meredith) my person.  She’s my reality check, the one I count on.  I’m so over the top thrilled about her baby, and love that she and Greg are so happy.

Ahhh – December.  The annual month where Marc and I ponder and discuss and analyze for hours, trying ot balance out his Jewish family traditions with my hodge podge Christian/Pagan traditions.  The one guaranteed date night – we combine shopping with dinner and generally, we end up bringing at least our youngest one (whichever one happens to be the youngest) with us.  Hanukkah is early this year, starting on 12/1, so we had to jump into celebrating way before I was really in the mood.  So far, so good though.  We had the first night last night and had a bunch of people over to celebrate with us.  I like having people over – and this house seems to be designed for entertaining.  We’ve got the big dining room table, big open kitchen/living room combo.  I’ve got at least five menorahs currently going – and there’s one more hiding somewhere in my boxes of holiday decorations.  I’m thinking that we’ll get the tree next week sometime.  I have to get a Baby’s First Christmas ornament for Julianna. 

Christmas this year is a bit puzzling for me.  I’ve got a messy, messy extended family and navigating the holidays is always challenging.  I think this year, I’m going to go to the big family Christmas party, and then see my mother on Christmas Eve with the kids before going out for Chinese food with our friends.  Then on Christmas Day, I think I’m just going to stay home.  I’m going to make a big turkey dinner, I’ve invited over some friends for dinner and I’m really kind of looking forward to it.  It’ll make the holidays easier for my mother too – but it’ll also be nice to host my own Christmas dinner.   I’m still on the fence though, because not going down to my mother’s house kind of freaks me out, so I might head down there that night.  I don’t know if I’m ready to be all the way grown up – I still kind of want to go to my mom’s house for Christmas. 

In other news… Julianna is sitting up, and according to my friend Sara, almost sort of crawled today.  In keeping with tradition, I didn’t see it :-(.  She’s getting so big so fast.  She’s outgrown EVERYTHING.  She’s in 12-18 month clothes now, and I’m still surprised by it.  We got Sam a big tool set last night, and he’s spent most of the day building imaginary spaceships with it.  Jess got the camera she’s been begging for – and she’s so happy about it.  I’m just hoping she doesn’t drop it and break it the first week.