First, my disclaimer.  I’m a big fan of nursing.  Big.  In fact, when Julianna went on a nursing strike at three days old, it was one of the worst days of my life.  Postpartum hormones combined with no sleep made it impossible for me to grasp that not nursing her didn’t mean that I was the worst mother in the entire world.  I believed so strongly that nursing my baby was not only what was best for her, but also that it was the most important thing in the world.  I distinctly remember thinking that we’d never be able to bond if I couldn’t nurse her, that I wouldn’t be able to have the same relationship with her if I wasn’t able to nurture her the way I did my other two children.  And nursing Julianna, in the beginning, was utter hell.  After the nursing strike, we ended up with nipple shields, which transitioned into thrush.  I ended up with “multiple fissures” on the nipples, and a kick ass staph infection to boot.  I WORKED at nursing this child.

And to add to that disclaimer – I nursed Sam until he was three and a half.  Longer, he was close to four before he finally stopped nursing.  I can do toddler nursing.  I just don’t want to, very much, not anymore.

Maybe it’s just a bad morning.  Julianna had a rough night’s sleep last night, and since we cosleep, that means that I had a rough night as well.  I’m working at transitioning Sammy into his own bed, and it works some of the time, but last night, he was in there as well, and he had a bad dream during the one two to three hour stretch that Jules did sleep.  So I’m tired, and headachy and not really in the mood.  But I know that after nursing Julianna all morning, from roughly four thirty until I finally got up out of bed around seven, when she started clawing at my shirt to nurse at seven thirty – I was really reluctant to do it.

I believe in nursing as long as the kid wants to nurse.  I believe that when you meet a need, then they can outgrow the need easily.  And I’ll be honest, there are definitely times when I’m grateful that I can still stop a crying fit in seconds, that putting her to sleep is so easy and I even still appreciate the bonding and closeness of knowing that only I can provide something that suits her so perfectly, and makes her feel so safe and loved and happy.

Weaning Sam was awful, it was part of Julianna’s pregnancy, which is still such a hard time for me to think back about.  I had a rough pregnancy to begin with, with the itching and the nausea, and there was a ton of really ugly family drama (my extended family, not my immediate one) going on then as well, but having a screaming three year old begging me to nurse on already sore breasts that were no longer producing milk definitely added another negative layer to that time in my life.

I dread weaning Julianna.  I know she’s not ready, and I suppose I’m not really ready yet either.  She’s still so little, and I’m not ready for her to be a big girl yet.  But I can see myself getting there, and I just hope and pray that her weaning is peaceful and easy, no tears, on either of our part 🙂

Marc brings all the kids home from school at quarter of three.  On Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Thursday, Jess has either Hebrew School or Brownies, but today is Friday, so they’re all home.  Plus Jordyn is here because my friend Sara had to work until three.  Jessie came in, hysterical, because she had left her book at school and was going to have no book to read all weekend.  Because I could easily relate to that, I drove her back to pick it up.

I got home, and Julianna was still sleeping.  Sam and Jordyn had opened their bags of Halloween candy and had spread out a blanket in front of the television, where they were watching “A Charlie Brown Halloween.”  Jessie made popcorn, I made coffee and we all talked and hung out for about an hour.  Sara came and picked up Jordyn, we talked about the weather reporting up to fifteen inches of snow (!!!) on Saturday night.  Julianna woke up and I began to think about making dinner.

I made homemade chicken nuggets, rice and broccoli.  I don’t much like cooking and kind of bailed in the middle and Marc finished up.  Julianna nursed three times during the afternoon, off and on.   The kids and I ate dinner, Marc went downstairs to work out, Jessie disappeared into my bedroom where she could watch the Disney Channel unmolested by little brothers and sisters.  Sam has stacked blocks, doll highchairs and pillows onto the couch, for reason that make sense only to him.  He’s now busily engaged with throwing plastic packages of diapers (we bought a new box of diapers yesterday and he opened the box and is using the two wrapped packages of diapers for toys) and then hurling himself onto them.  When questioned, he explained that he was practicing “Capture the Ghost,” a game that he either made up or learned in gym today.  Julianna has taken all of the cups out of the cabinet and spent fifteen minutes rearranging them to her specification.  It would appear as though she just tossed them, wily nily all over the kitchen, but she put a lot of time and effort into it.

My house, which was actually really clean around two thirty (because Julianna took a good nap and Marc was at the school helping with the Halloween party, so I had a lot of time alone), now looks like a bomb hit it. Actually several small bombs, because there are small pockets of cleanliness.  The kitchen is mostly clean, except for the aforementioned cups and bowls all over the floor and under the table.  And the dining room looks great.  The living room… well, lets just not mention the living room, okay??

I just send Marc into the school to volunteer with set up for the Bookfair tonight.  I had signed up originally and should be the one doing it, but I’ve been without my Julie girl a lot this week, and I miss her.  More to the point, I think she misses me.  And when she wakes up, she would have been heartbroken to discover that I was gone – so I stayed here.

With Sam, and with Jessie to a lesser extent, I was absolutely primary in their lives.  Sam liked nobody else, and Jessie was okay with other people, but really only thrilled to betsy with me.  But Julianna is so much more social and interactive.  Yesterday, my friend Sara came in and Julianna offered her a potato chip.  Which isn’t really earth shattering or anything – but it took Julie noticing that she was there, liking her, knowing that Sara likes a chip, and thinking to offer it.  All of which was new to me, because Sam, to this day, wouldn’t acknowledge that an adult had entered the room.  Jessie probably would have smiled at her, but been too shy to offer.  Whereas Julie was just confident that Sara would of course welcome the offer of a chip, they had shared chips in the past, and didn’t hesitate to be friendly.

I forget sometimes that she is still so little, and so needy.  She still needs her mama.  She is happier when I’m around.   Thank goodness that I’m able to stay home with her, I’d really hate leaving her every day….

I’ve been thinking a lot, of late, about the baggage we bring to motherhood.  About the lessons we learn about childhood and responsibility and growing up, and how that translates to the way we mother our own children.  I had, by many standards, an absolutely wonderful childhood.  I had a warm, loving relationship with my mother, a fabulous grandfather, a close knit group of aunts and uncles and cousins watching out for me.  I had a roof over my head, food on my table – and while we were never even close to wealthy, we were not so poor that I did without what I needed.

But there’s another perspective – and that’s the one that I struggle with sometimes.  My father had left early on in my childhood, and because I was the oldest, and so close to my mother, I definitely felt the lack of that additional parent.  I grew up early, and assumed a lot of responsibility.  I had a tremendously close relationship with my mother, and while it was (and is) wonderful on so many levels, I don’t necessarily want to give my own daughter that much responsibility.  It didn’t work for me, not entirely.  I have an unbelievably crappy relationship with some of my siblings now, and I think a big part of that can be traced back to our childhood.

So I’m conflicted – especially with Jessica.  I want for her to be protected from too much responsibility too soon, and I think I overdo it sometimes.  I also think that I don’t give her enough responsibility – and that she fights for control and respect more than she needs to – simply because there’s a part of me that wants to shield her from having to grow up too fast.  I’m realizing that a lot of our biggest battles boil down to power – who is going to be the one in charge of her life, and when I ease back a little, when I give her as much control as I can (within reason), her stress level is noticeably lower.

Last night – she didn’t want to go to bed.  Which is not unusual – she’s a lot like me and doesn’t fall asleep easily.  Sam is more like Marc and just announces he’s tired, lays down and sleeps.  Jessie has always required more – I need to ease her into sleep, and she fights it all the time.  As an infant, Jessie would cry before bed, and it broke my heart, she’d be sobbing in my arms, so tired and just refused to sleep.  So the bedtime battle wasn’t unusual, or even unexpected – but this time, instead of demanding that she go to sleep, I just gently explained that her body needed rest, and she needed to lay down and let her body relax.  She could read or listen to music or sleep, it was up to her.  And once I gave her that power, the fight went out of her immediately, she was asleep within minutes.

I don’t have any answers – and I’m pretty sure that I’m always going to be a little unsure if I’m giving her enough or too much responsibility.  But I do know that being aware of my own baggage, being aware of my own desire to protect her might be overwhelming her need to assert her own personality, being aware of that can only help me to make the decisions based on what’s best for her, at that moment.  I want to give her more room – so that she doesn’t have to fight quite so hard to get it from me.

Marc took my Samilicious Boy shopping yesterday.  Marc loves quality time alone with a kid, any kid, so he’s always game to bribe them into going shopping with him by letting them pick out a treat at the grocery store.  And my son, God bless him, always, always wants those disgusting sticky fruit things.  Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Roll-ups, Fruit Gushers.  He LOVES them.  But the problem is that once they’re in the house, it’s all he can think about.  They went shopping last night, and he’s already had three sobbing temper tantrums because we refuse to let him eat the entire box.  Sam is oddly easy going about most things – but there are some things that just capture his little mind and he can’t be distracted or dissuaded.  I’m reminded of the art class debacle.  Having decided that art is bad, throwing a huge fit and screaming like he’s being tortured is the only reasonable response.  And knowing that there’s a big ole box of craptastic fruit treats in the cabinet is the only thing he can possibly think about.  There is no distracting him – and I can guarantee that until the box is gone, he’ll ask for one every ten or fifteen minutes until eventually, I’ll just scream – “EAT THEM ALL – DO IT NOW – AND I’M NEVER EVER BUYING THEM AGAIN!!!” and I’ll throw the box at him.  I’d like to pretend that I’ll stay all tough and firm – but in the end, he’ll win, because he’s way more stubborn than I am.   

Jess was home sick yesterday.  Actually sick, which is a rarity here.  Usually, she’s pretending to be sick to get out of doing stuff – or actually, I don’t think she’s consciously pretending – I think she doesn’t like going to school or Hebrew or dance (likes being there, just doesn’t like going), and tricks herself into feeling sick to get out of it.  But yesterday, she was actually sick.   Spent all day in bed.   And as much as I recognize that having a sick child is bad – I was happy that she was in bed and being sick.  She wasn’t just playing me, she really didn’t feel good and spent the whole day in bed.  I felt very good mother-ish, and even made her chicken soup and brought it to her on a tray.  It was a dream come true for her, a whole day spent alone with the Disney Channel.

Julianna is actually walking.  For real, this time.  I know I’ve been saying for a while that she’s on the verge of it, but she’s really doing it.  She isn’t walking for long stretches – it’s not like she’s walking from the living room down to the bedroom or anything.  But she’s on her feet more often than not – and she’s absolutely delighted with herself about it.

1.  On Wednesday (aka The Day Sam Lost His Mind Because of Art), after I dragged him out of the car, and passed him off to two teachers, who then dragged him into class, the school got Jessica out of class and had her come and soothe him.  As awful as that morning was – I was so happy that Sammy knew that his big sister would make him feel safe and that she was capable and ready to step into that role.  I have a whole bunch of issues, personally, around being the oldest of many children, but it was more gratifying than I would have imagined to see my daughter step up to the plate and calm her brother down when none of the adults around him could do it.

2.  Julianna is moving ever closer to being a walker.  She’s standing more and more, taking a step or two at a time.  It may have taken a lot longer than I expected it would, but she’s a glorious walking girl, and I’m very proud.

3.  And in keeping with the kudos to Jessie theme – we kept the kids home today.  It’s a Jewish holiday, Simchat Torah, and we went to the synagogue.  There are some holidays where it’s a no brainer to keep them home, like Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but Marc and I have traditionally gone the celebration at night and skipped the daytime services.  This year, I stayed home with Sam and Julianna, and Marc went with Sarah and Jessie, and then we all went today during the day.  (and by “all,”  I mean, the three kids, Marc and I – Lisa sent Lilli and Sarah to school).  Anyway… Jessie arranged with her teacher to hand in her homework a day late and even asked if she could take her spelling test on Monday as opposed to missing it altogether. VERY adult of my third grader…

4.  My sister is moving!  She’ll still be about twenty minutes away, but she’s getting a place with one of my favorite cousins.  I lived with my cousin for eight years, before Marc and I met, and have the best memories… I’m very happy for her.

Sam doesn’t like art.  There.  I’ve said it.  He doesn’t like coloring.  Can’t stand painting.  Just flat out hates art class.  It’s been an issue for a while, with frequent references to “I hope tomorrow isn’t art class…” as he drifts off to sleep.  I’ve been very tricky about it, specifically not finding out which day he has it (plausible deniability, we call that) so that I could always answer, “it’s probably not, don’t worry about it, now go to sleep…”  But in the end, he figured out that on Jessie’s library day, he also had art.  And today is Jessica’s library day.

After the first week of school, Sam has basically been blissful about going to school.  Not always delighted about it, but never crying or seriously objecting… but this morning, he started off saying he didn’t want to go.  He didn’t eat his breakfast, and kept repeating he didn’t want to go.  He didn’t like art, today was art day, and he wasn’t going.  I gave him a little extra attention, a hug and made sure that he was wearing his favorite hoody. Got him down into the van, we all drove to school and at the last minute, he flat out refused to leave the van.

Jessie hopped out, and rushed into school, and we pulled the van out of the drop off lane and parked it.  I unbuckled, and got out.  Sam, at this point, had unbuckled as well, and scrambled way into the back of the minivan and was huddled in a fetal position on the opposite side of Julianna’s huge car seat.  I’ve got the kindergarten aide out there with me, trying to coax him out, and I’m crawling into the van, hauling my five year old.  He’s screaming and yelling, the aide is still trying to convince him that it’s a GOOD idea to go, and I’m grimly trying to wrestle him out without hurting him.  I finally get him out of the van, and the school secretary rushes out to help haul him into school.  I ask if I should stay – because this is KILLING me to make him go – but I KNOW I have to go.  I know he’ll calm down faster if I leave, but…. then the poor little guy starts screaming “JESSIE – I WANT JESSIE!!!!” over and over again, and the teacher and secretary can’t understand him, so I holler to the other teacher who was coming to help “JESSIE COHEN – SHE’S IN THIRD GRADE, MRS. RING’S CLASS – GO GET JESSIE!”

I called when I got home, and Karen the secretary, assured me that he calmed down once I left and Jessica got there.  They were hugging each other and she said he was fine.  The school adjustment counselor was with him and it was okay.  I’m still a wreck.  I know he has to go to school.  I believe that.  I believe that if I gave into him, he’d learn that he doesn’t have to do what he doesn’t want to go, he’s got to go to school.  I know that.  Giving into him is not the right answer – but it’s so hard to force him to go when he really doesn’t want to.  And it begs the question – what is it about art that freaks him out???

My mother has a lovely habit of taking grandchildren out for special one on one time.  And Sam has steadfastly refused, from infancy, to go.  Ever.  And since quality fun, one on one time with Grammy is rarely achieved by dragging a kicking and screaming kid into the car, she’s never been able to do that with him.  She’s got twelve grandchildren, and the one kid who never got any alone time with her was Sam.

But now that he’s going to school – I suggested that she pick him early from school and take him out for lunch.  It officially marks his first ever going out alone with Grammy.  I’m ridiculously pleased by this – as is she.  Sam was pleased that he was going to get early dismissal and ice cream.

There’s something magical about watching my mother and my children interact.  I think because we are so close, my mother and I have always been each other’s best friend, I love watching her interact with my kids.  There’s an amazing physical resemblence between all of them.  I know that I look like her, and they look like me, so I’m the obvious link, but when I look at my daughters and my son with my mother, I just see that they have the same eyes and the same smile.

We had our first annual sukkah party this weekend.  Unfortunately, it was so cold that everyone pretty much ate at our dining room table, as opposed to outside in the sukkah.  What I like most about Sukkot, as a holiday, is that it’s really like you build a little Jewish clubhouse, decorate it up, and hang out in it for a week.  In theory, you’re supposed to be eating all of your meals in there, and even sleeping in there, if you’re so inclined.  We were not that inclined.  In fact, I think we’ve only managed one or two meals, but it’s mid-October in New England, and not precisely the best weather to be dining outside.  In fact, with the pouring rain and wind, one of our new ways of celebrating Sukkot is to watch out the window to see if the thing was actually going to blow away.  Thanks to some serious PVC glue, it’s stayed standing so far.  It was Marc’s first time building a sukkah, and it has been remarkably resilient.

In other news – Julianna is almost sort of walking.  Maybe.  If your definition is extremely generous.  She’s standing more and more without holding onto furniture, and occasionally taking a step or two.  Given that she’ll be a year and a half in two weeks, I’m just all the way thrilled.  She’s so cute, she’s all about being a “big” kid, she wants so badly to keep up with her older brother and sister.  God help us if we get just Sam some breakfast and not serve her the same thing.  Whatever we’re doing for one of them, be it brushing hair, or helping with shoes, etc – Julianna insists on being included.

We also had my stepdaughter Sarah spend the night on Saturday night.  Having done this stepparent thing for a while now, I’m becoming more and more aware of how it changes.  The relationships ebb and flow, sometimes they love being here, sometimes they hate it.  Sometimes one of them will decide she wants to be here all the time, sometimes they want to be together and sometimes separate.  Lately, we’ve had a lot of time with Sarah and it’s been lovely.  We still see Lilli, but the older she gets, the more she’s carving out her own identity, and part of that is breaking away from the little kid thing we have going on here at the house.  She still loves us, I know, but we don’t see her as often :-(.