My life, in many ways, got easier once I had two kids in school.  Suddenly we’re all organized and with a majority of kids on the same schedule, life is just easier.  Bedtime is a breeze, no more battles to get Jess to sleep, Sam goes down by necessity earlier than she does.  No real freak outs in the morning – Sam is easy peasy to get out the door (and is even going into school by himself now) and Jess seems to somehow know that she doesn’t have a chance in hell in staying home, now that I have to get out there anyway to get Sam to school.  Not that she hasn’t thrown a few Hurricane Jess fits, but they aren’t as overwhelming, because we all seem to know that it’s just for form’s sake, she’s going regardless.  Plus Julianna is still taking a two to three hour nap in the middle of the day.  I’m finding myself with huge oceans of spare time.  It’s lovely.

I’ve very seriously considered going back to work.  Side effect of the aforementioned spare time.  But I’m not sure if I’d make enough to make it worthwhile, after paying for childcare for Julianna.  I’ve been out of work for five years now.  That’s going back entry-level, essentially.  Plus, Julianna isn’t even a year and a half yet.  I’d really rather stay home with her for at least another year, maybe two.  And at that point, I need to decide whether or not I want to go back to work, or have another baby.  At this point, I can come up with compelling reasons for both of these.  I’m leaning slightly towards no more babies and going back part time when Jules is four.   With Marc still home, it’s tempted to start looking for a job, because he’d be home with her, but between the two of us, he’s got a much higher earning potential.  And he could get a job at any point, which would mean that I’d have to quit, assuming that I could find a job.

Julianna took three steps a couple of days ago, and hasn’t attempted it again.  Which is still sort of amusing – like she’s saying “yeah, okay, I can walk, but I’m not gonna!”

All is delightful in my little world.  Miss Jessie and Sam danced off to Hebrew School happily enough.  There’s a famous quote by some rabbi that Marc quotes all the time, something about if you want a child to love Torah, give them candy.  Which is a good theory – and I’m happy to report that it works wonderfully well.  The Education Director dispenses Israeli bubble gum – and you’d think it was solid gold from the way my children react.  Sam literally didn’t hesitate, he got dressed and bopped out the door, throwing a kiss back at me.

School is going so much better for him – he’s MUCH better in the mornings, getting out of the van on his own.  He never seems delighted to go, but he doesn’t panic anymore either.  I’ve even gone into his classroom and been able to leave without him crying.  He still won’t sit on the carpet with the class, strangely enough, but his teacher has a little chair set up right next to the carpet and he’s happy as can be to sit there.

Jessie took Rebecca Rubin to Hebrew today.  She actually brought her to school yesterday too – I’m REALLY glad that we bought the doll for her.  She wanted it so desperately a couple of years ago, but they’re SO expensive.  We made her earn money, farming her out to grandparents and other family members to polish furniture or rake leaves, so that she’d pay for at least part of it.   It was partly that it was so expensive, but I’d like think even if we were independently wealthy, we still would have do it this way.  I wanted to make sure that she’d really appreciate her, and it definitely worked – she loves that doll.  But I was shocked the other day when I went into her classroom for lunch, because almost all of the little girls had brought in their American Girl dolls and many of them had more than one.  One kid had SIX.  And there were several girls that had four of them.  These dolls literally cost close to one hundred dollars.  That’s so much money – on a doll.  Granted, Jessica does truly cherish the doll, and she’s well made and pretty – but still.  I can’t imagine a parent actually spending that much money on dolls.  Six American Girl dolls, plus all the clothing, furniture, books, hair care accessories (because if you’re paying in excess of six hundred dollars on just the dolls, why not get all the other crap that goes along with it?).  We’re talking easily a month’s rent on just toys for one child.  Baffling… but also – really glad that my daughter has at least one doll so she can play with the other kids – and also glad that we were smart enough about it to make her really value the thing.

Speaking of valuing dolls – Julianna also adores Rebecca.  To be fair, she also adores the six other baby dolls that she has managed to steal from her older sister.  Jessie, at this point, can really only claim to have our beloved Poopado (her baby doll that she loved to death) and Rebecca as “her” dolls.  Because Julianna has taken over the rest of them, and screams unmercifully if Jess has the audacity to try and play with one.

Mothering is obviously different for each mother and differenter (is that even a word??) for each child of each specific mother.  My experiences mothering is different for each child.  And while my love for each child is quantitatively the same for each one, the level of intensity seems different.  The level of need of each child has been different.

It’s a hard topic to write about, because I’m very conscious of the kids, years from now, reading my blog and hollering something to the effect “holy moly, Mom really did love you best” and it’s not that at all.  It’s not that Sam loves me more than the girls do, and absolutely not that I love him more than the girls.  In fact, I can make compelling arguments that each one of them is my favorite child.

Simply that Sam, from the moment he was born, had a very intense attachment to me.  It was inconceivable that I return to work after he was born, not because I couldn’t leave him, but because he was so miserable without me that it would have been awful for him.  He was a colicy mess, with reflux and non-stop nursing.  I remember counting the number of times I nursed him one day, and hit 24 before mid-afternoon.  He spent months nursing, crying and sleeping.  That was his whole world.   Without me, it would have been just straight crying.

I’ve always been aware of his need for me.  Sam was a fragile child.  Not physically, but emotionally.  Socially. He was not comfortable when he wasn’t with me.  And I was always aware of that.  Always wanted to make things easier for him – so I nursed him way longer than I wanted to, and didn’t force him to go to preschool or parties without me.  I took him everywhere with me, and was always conscious of his needs. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t do that with Jessica or with Julie.  But for example, Jessica stopped nursing before she was a year old, and I worked off and on until after Sam was born.  She was okay.  She missed me, but was capable of detaching enough to play and have fun.  Sam wasn’t.  Julianna is still nursing at seventeen months, with no sign of stopping, but she’s also a complete Daddy’s girl.  Sam has never been able to be comforted by anyone other than me.

And now he’s a big boy.  I’ve seen him really grow, in the past two weeks.  He was ready to break out of his shell, literally.  He’s thriving.  He’s opening up to the world, in a way that’s amazing to me.  He’s talking to people, interacting with other adults.  I’m so, so proud of him.  I’m so happy that he’s learning that he’s safe and secure without me there.

I feel… free-er.  I feel… lighter.  I feel like I could go back to work, take up a new hobby.  I could do… all sorts of things.  It’s not that I’m not still a mom, it’s not that I’m not still a mom of a toddler (stubbornly refusing to toddle, but that’s another post…).  It’s not that Sam still doesn’t need and want me, but his needs are more managable now.   His whole world is bigger than me, and I feel… liberated.

We went to my  mother’s house last night.  For no real reason, I wanted to show off the new van, and thought I’d nag Mandi into cutting my hair (because I was ready to take the scissors to it myself, and I knew she’d hate that) and Samilicious Boy was … just freaking awesome.

Sam has been somewhat challenging for me at times, because he’s always been so incredibly introverted.  He just flat out didn’t like people.  He didn’t like talking to them, didn’t like associating with them.  He liked to be at home, with me, or with Marc, and that was it.  We’d go to someone’s house and eventually (usually after an hour or so), he’d relax a little and start playing, but more often than not, he’d refuse to talk to adults.

But last night – it was like he was a different kid.  No, it was like he was the kid he is at home when it’s just us.  Very talkative and sweet and funny.  It was such a lovely feeling, it was like he was finally breaking out of his shell and everyone else got to see this great, awesome little boy.  I was so happy.

School is going so much better.  I had a long talk with the principal, and we’ve changed a couple of things.  Number one – I don’t drop off anymore.  Or rather, I still totally drop off, but the principal comes and gets him out of the car and Jessie walks him into school.  The principal is out there every morning anyway, and we time it so we get there just before the bell rings so she’s available to help get him away from the car.  And major, major kudos to Miss Jessica – because she holds his hand and walks him to his class each morning.  I LOVE this.  It really, really makes me so happy to see her being so responsible and caring, and to see how much he loves and trusts her.  We also instituted a “token” system – where he gets a token for going in without crying, a token for sitting with the group and listening, etc.

It’s odd, because other than the drop off, he’s perfect.  He’s well behaved, his teacher told me the other day that he was just such a sweet, sweet boy.  He’s interacting and participating and playing with the other kids – he just freaking hates leaving me.

It’s odd – my sister and I have next to nothing in common.  If we weren’t biologically related, we’d probably have never met, let alone hung out together.  She’s five years younger, a million times cooler and completely different from me.  She’s got a bigger temper, but I can hold a grudge way longer.  She’s got a tendency to seem tough, but she’s actually way more of a softie than I am.  I’m more likely to be thought of as the nice one, the one who’s more responsible – but push comes to shove, Mandi is much more likely to rush to your aid.   I was always the one that everyone thought of as being just like my mother, but the older we get, the more I realize that she channels my mom way more than I do.   She’s always late (maybe we do have some things in common), she wouldn’t read a book for pleasure if you paid her.  She drinks and smokes and parties like a rock star- whereas I’ve never smoked and get buzzed off of one drink, and avoid parties if at all possible.  She’s the one belting out songs I don’t know at karaoke parties, bringing the beer and turning the music up.  In short, my sister just is cool and awesome and I’m consistently charmed by her.

Despite our differences (or maybe because of them) she’s one of my favorite people.  She’s the link to my childhood, she was my first baby.  She’s the one I snuggled at night in my bed, the one who shared a room with me from the time I was six until I was eighteen.  I’ve called her “Witch” since she was a kid, and have long forgotten the book that I got it from.  But for me, a witch is someone magical and powerful and awesome – and when I call her Witch, at least 95% of the time, that’s how I mean it.  She’s someone I’m utterly comfortable with, she’s the one person in the world who always, always tries with my kids.  She’s their Auntie, and while at times I’m sure she terrifies them (similiar to the way that I was always just slightly scared of my aunt Cathy), she’s been consistently loving and attentive to them.

And tonight, she cut my hair and gave me highlights.   I would never have spent the amount of time and attention on my own hair that she did, but it looks freaking awesome.

I’m somewhat of a laissez-faire sort of mother.   If it doesn’t hurt anyone or anything, I’m probably going to let it slide, at least for a while.  This is somewhat challenging for my beloved husband, who’s a little more… particular than I am.  Case in point is the toilet paper.  At some point in every child’s life, they discover how much freaking fun it is to unroll a roll of toilet paper.  This stage doesn’t last long, and I sort of accept it like I do spitting up.  I don’t enjoy it – but it’s a normal stage they go thru, and the best you can do is just soldier thru and hope it ends soon.  Marc hates it – he keeps trying to take the toilet paper and put it up where she can’t reach it, on top of the toilet, the sink… in a variety of places and it inevitably ends up getting knocked into the potty, dramatic sigh.  I just roll it back up and resign myself to wrinkled toilet paper.

Right now – Julianna loves plastic dishes.  Cups, plates, bowls, sippie cups – you name it, she adores it.  I’ve got a cabinet where I specifically keep stuff the kids can’t break.  As luck would have it, it’s perfectly positioned for her to go thru it.  She also has a thing about hiding stuff, which is somewhat frustrating, as it takes me a while to realize that I don’t ever seem to have any clean bowls, and then hunt them down and find them in the bottom drawer of the stove, along with a set of keys and Jessie’s necklace.

But I digress… she’s also really, really into unloading the dishwasher.  To be fair, she’s also more than willing to load, but she’s even worse than I am at stacking things neatly (and I’m terrible at it, just ask Marc :-).  But I let her unload the dishwasher all the time.  It makes her so happy, she gravely takes each plastic item out and stacks them up in some sort of system that makes sense to her.  And it entertains her for at least twenty minutes.  Twenty whole minutes when I can vacuum or fold laundry, or even pee by myself.  It’s well worth it.  At least that what I tell Marc when he comes home and is perplexed as to why ALL of the plastic-ware is strewn gleefully all over the kitchen floor 🙂

This will come as no surprise to most of you, but I really, really don’t like mornings.  And now that Sam is going to school, I have a special dislike of them.  Because he’s going to school, and he’s SO GOOD about it.  After years of Jessie being angry that she’s got to go, Sam’s sadness in the mornings is so much harder to take.  I know that it’s just that Sam is what’s now, and Jessie is mostly (with the notable exception of this morning) so much better now, it seems like his is worse.  But Sam cries pretty much every morning, sadly, with resignation, and goes in every day, and Julie screams and sobs when I get out of the car to bring him in.  Marc drops us off, and I haul Sam’s poor butt into school and throw a kiss Jessie’s way as she charges off to the third grade area.
I’m the first to admit that I’m a wussy mom in a lot of respects – notably, I don’t like leaving my kids crying.  For the most part – if they really don’t want to go somewhere, I don’t make them.  If they’ve been invited for a playdate and start crying at the drop-off, I’ll take them home with me or stick around and hang out with the mom.  If I’ve lined up a sitter, and they start crying hard at the prospect of being left behind, if it’s possible, I’ll take them with me.  I don’t leave them crying.  Now suddenly, I do that every morning with Sam.  I make Julie scream every morning.  And I hate it with every fiber of my being.

It’s like I have to remain sunshiney delighted all the time to maintain Jessie’s enthusiasm and try to bolster Sam’s up, and deep down inside, I really just want to sob along with him, let Jessie sleep in, and keep everyone home with me forever.

The upside is that Jessie is pretty happy most mornings to go, and Sam always says he had a wonderful day.  Jessica is obviously thriving, she loves third grade, and Sam is always coming home happy and content.  I know that this is what’s best – Sam is learning and growing so much, and Jessie really, really seems to be doing great this year.  So I know that’s it’s good that they go – but mornings continue to be the worst part of my day.
In other news – we’re officially on the hunt for a van.  We’re actually looking at conversion vans instead of a minivan, because they’re cheaper.  And in some cases, nicer.  One ad claims that if we buy his van, it’ll be just like driving in our living room.  Our volvo has performed admirably for the last several years, but it’s over fifteen years old, and it’s tired.  We’ve outgrown it – the older three won’t sit in the way back anymore, and we need to replace the tires, the power steering hose and probably the pump.  So we’re car searching.  Actually, Marc’s car searching, as this is somewhat outside of my comfort zone.  I don’t know cars at all, and don’t really care what we end up with, as long as it’ll drive well and be pretty.
Busy, busy weekend here, Annie and Glenny were down, which was delightful, and Jordyn, Sarah and Joshua (Virginia’s kids) were here all day on Sunday.  Am putting the house back together slowly… plus Mike Wilder gave me a lawnmower, so that’s on my list to do to (the backyard, I already did the front).   I’m finding that I really enjoy mowing the lawn – it’s the one chore that I do where the results LAST for a while.  Vacuuming used to be fun, because you could enjoy the results, but with three kids, I could vacuum three times a day and still have a rug covered with blocks and cracker crumbs.  Laundry used to be fun – but now I’m never actually caught up, I’ve always got a load or two to wash, a load or two to fold and oceans to put away.  But mowing the lawn – that lasts for at least a week or two 🙂

I know Sam’s been monopolizing my blogging world lately – and I’m happy to report that today was the best day so far.  No tears at all until we got into the classroom, and even then he was just a little misty, and his teacher immediately sat down and started engaging him in conversation.  He was so brave… he said “Goodbye Mama” just like a big boy.  Granted, he was talking in that sad, sad little voice, and it broke my heart just a little that he was being so grown up and big about it…

In other news – Jessie is loving third grade.  Really.  She didn’t like second grade, and I’m very happy that this year, she seems to have really clicked with her teacher and feels a lot more secure at school.  She’s been bopping off happily enough to school and doing homework with a minimum of nagging.

Just to go back to Sam for a minute :-), we’ve also really succeeded in adapting their sleep schedule.  Sam has always been such a solid sleeper, a good 11-12 hours every night, and now that he’s getting up earlier, he goes to bed easily and early – which means that Jessie is going to bed easier as well.  She’s even getting to stay up later than he does, which delights her.

Julianna isn’t walking yet – and I’m beginning to wonder if she’ll just crawl her way into kindergarten.  She’s missing the kids during the day, but overall, seems to be adjusting to being the only one at home very well.  She’s teething again – and the poor kid is just miserable with it.  Runny nose and much sadness – but in between times, she’s still so delightful and happy.  She’s just a happy kid.  Very into board books and blocks and baby dolls (I don’t intentionally limit her to B toys, it just works out that way).