The annual freak out over Christmas vs. Hanukkah.  And again – I end up being frustrated that it’s so hard for Marc to feel okay about celebrating Christmas.  It’s unfair of me, I know that.   I totally know that.  Because as  he points out – he celebrates right along with me, and doesn’t show the kids that it’s an issue for him.  He’s doing everything right, but inside, I know it’s hard for him and I feel guilty and resentful because it’s hard for him.  I was reading over the past December entries on this blog (how lovely to have documentation of how I felt in years gone by) and yeah – we go thru this EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

It’s pretty lights and Santa Claus and candy canes for me.  It’s peace on earth, joy to the world and goodwill towards men.  It’s family and presents and fun.  And I think my kids deserve that.  I think I would be depriving them of something wonderful if I said that because we are Jewish, we don’t get to celebrate Christmas.  I think I would start to resent Judaism if it meant that I couldn’t be who I am – because I’m a girl who loves her some Christmas music.  I’m a big fan of holiday lights, I get giddy when it’s time to decorate the tree.  This doesn’t conflict with my Jewish identity.  But it does very much conflict with Marc’s, and that’s hard for me.  Hard for him, obviously – but hard for me because I’m making him do it.  Because I want him to convert to the Church of Melissa – which includes membership at a synagogue, celebration of all Jewish holidays, observation of Shabbat, a sneaking suspicion that fairies do exist, colored eggs and chocolate at Easter and yes, candy canes, Christmas carols and presents on 12/25.

Is “epically” a word?  I may have made it up, I do that periodically.  I mean, hugely stressed.  This move process is slowly driving me insane.  I wake up in the middle of the night, freaking out about boxes and where we’re going to go.  The place we really want may not be ready in time for us to move into it, and I’m beyond panicked about what we’ll do.  Which is why I’m awake and on my second cup of coffee.  Woke up with Julie around six thirty and nursed her back down, but then my mind started racing and hasn’t stopped.  I hate this.

In other news… Julianna Ruth is officially a walking girl!  I know I’ve announced this several times before, but mostly that was just hopefulness.  She’d walk a little – but now she’s walking all the time, all over the place.  Nineteen months old – so she’s a late walker, but happy to report that she’s officially a toddler now.  She’s a sick toddler, with a kick ass cough and just so sad about it.  She’s such an uncommonly cheerful kid – really, she’s the happiest little thing, so when she’s irritable, you know there’s something wrong.  She refuses to take any kind of medicine, vomited up the motrin we tried to give her yesterday so last night, we went out and got suppositories.  And she slept well for the first time in almost a week.  Poor baby – it’s just a winter cold, but she’s not happy.  Jessica also has the cough, and sounds terrible.  No fever for either of them, but the cough sounds really bad…

My family loves Thanksgiving – and we’ve got traditions that dovetail together to make the holiday something special for every one of us.   I grew up as the oldest of four children and the daughter of a single mother who has a serious aversion to touching raw poultry.  I was trained as the official turkey maker early.  I think I was ten when my grandfather finally got tired of coming over on Thanksgiving morning to take out the “yucky stuff” from inside the turkey and taught me how to prep the bird for the oven.  Ever since then, making Thanksgiving dinner has been something for my mother and I.  We always play Christmas carols and gossip.  She makes the stuffing and I prep and stuff the bird.  She flutters around the house, setting the table, getting out everything else and I peel ten pounds of potatoes.   It’s my favorite part of the whole holiday – once the whole family arrives, and chaos ensues – that’s not Thanksgiving to me.  Thanksgiving is my mother and I, in the kitchen, getting ready.
After Jessie was born, it was simple enough to roll her into the tradition. She and I just slept over at Grammy’s house in Clinton and she would play on the floor.  As she got bigger, I was able to incorporate her more and more.  Marc realized quickly that hanging with us in the kitchen was not his cup of tea so he would usually sleep at home, stop at his parents for breakfast and them come over later in the day, be there for the dinner and football game.  After Sammy was born, I just took both kids with me.  Sam was still nursing, so it made sense for him to stay with me.  But two years ago, I was pregnant and sick – and Sam was entering into a definite Daddy stage.  He was realizing that he was a boy and so was Daddy and he didn’t want to stay with the “girls” at my mother’s house.   So we started a new tradition.  On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Julianna, Jessica and I go to my mother’s house.   We get take out, my cousin Becky comes over with her daughter Abby (Julie flat out worships Abby) and her mother, my aunt Aimee.  My sister Mandi comes with my niece Bella and we hang out, chat, visit.  Then we get up at the crack of dawn, and have our Thanksgiving morning together.  Mom and Jessie make the stuffing and set the table, I still handle the turkey, Bella plays with Julie and watches the parade.  There’s coffee and pastries and parades and Christmas carols.  It’s lovely – and I look forward to it all year round.

Marc and Sam have a whole other routine that they’ve developed.   After dropping us off, they go out for Chinese food, and then come home.  They snuggle up in our big bed, watch what we call “inappropriate television” (SpongeBob, I hate SpongeBob) and then play “Fight On the Bed.”   This year, Marc said that they wrestled off and on for a couple of hours, before poor Sammy finally just dropped off to sleep when my husband went out to the kitchen for a drink.  They get up late, hang out, eat a “man breakfast” and finally make it down to my mother’s house, just in time for dinner.

But after dinner… after dinner is when our whole family gets our time together.  We all pile in the van, and drive home from my mother’s house.  We fix leftovers and all pile on the couch to watch the Charlie Brown Thankgiving special.   I read somewhere that things are special only because we make them so – and we make Thanksgiving special every year, by starting traditions that the kids will remember.  I hope that thirty years from now, I’m still making Thanksgiving in the mornings with my daughters and granddaughters, and that my husband is still going out for Chinese with our son and grandsons.  And then we’ll all gather back together, eat too much turkey, gorge on desserts we’d never eat any other time of the year, and then cuddle up together and watch Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty learn that what the holiday is all about is being together.  Because it is.

I’ve done the toddler nursing thing before and am somewhat leery about it, only because weaning Sam was so difficult.  Julianna and I had so many nursing struggles in the beginning, there was definitely a part of me that didn’t expect to make it thru the first year of nursing, and so I’m slightly surprised that at almost nineteen months, she’s still very much a nursing toddler.

She’s sick today – which is notable because it is so rare.  She is, like Samilicious Boy was, a staggeringly healthy child.  Jessica was riddled with ear infections, and while there’s no way to know for sure, I believe that the fact that she was the one child who stopped nursing before she was nine months old contributed to why was my sickest toddler.  Anyway – so Julie has a yucky runny nose and feels like crap – which is why I feel so fortunate to be able to nurse her and make her feel better.  Not only is it comforting to her, I also don’t have to worry about her not eating or not drinking enough.  She’ll be fine, she’ll spend most of the day snuggled up to Mama and nursing, and by tomorrow, I fully expect she’ll be on the mend.

While I’m at it, I’m also grateful that I can spend all day snuggled up with my girl.  As a stay at home mom, sick kids are not a problem at all.

All about gratitude today, that’s me.  I’m also stressed to the max, freaking out because Marc’s at an interview, we still haven’t heard definitely about any of the apartments we’ve looked at and I’m surrounded by half packed boxes and kids who are on the edge.

Sam is actually not all that stressed yet.  I know from past experience, he’ll freak when we move.  Getting ready to move doesn’t bother him at all, but actually getting used to a new place is very hard for him.  Even those three days we were without power and staying with friends were hellish for him.  He likes to be at home, and not have to deal with any changes.

Jessica, on the other hand, is a complete wreck now.  She’s fine once we move – because she’s more like me.  It’s the anticipation of it, the stress that she’s picking up from me, that’s making her nuts.   She’s holding it together most of the time, but sometimes she just loses it over something so minor.  The past two Hebrew days (last Wednesday and again yesterday) she’s been absolutely hysterical about not wanting to go.  And she loves Hebrew.  But I know it’s the stress of the move.

I hate my landlord.  Just saying… the fact that I have to do this to my kids, put Jessie thru this now, and will have to put Sam thru it after the move, just absolutely enrages me.  This last minute move, with no warning, is so unbelievably wrong.  I wouldn’t have moved in the first place if I’d know it would only be for a year, and I certainly would have moved the hell out of here in August, if I’d known he was going to pull this in November.  So furious at him….

So I’m focusing on gratitude today.  Because a serene grateful Mommy is a lot better for everyone than an enraged, frustrated one.

The dumpster was delivered today, and I’m already thrilled to betsy about it.  With three children, two stepchildren, two kids I babysat for five years for, and a plethora of nieces and nephews, I have a ridiculous number of toys.  Toys that nobody ever plays with, toys that nobody loves because they’re broken down, battered, abused and desperate for the sweet relief of a dumpster.

I’m not a hoarder, in fact, I adore throwing things away.  What I do have is a compulsive need to please and an inability to say no when something is offered to me.  As a result, I have a LOT of stuff that I don’t want or need and whatever isn’t in good enough condition to donate to the local Savers store is going in the dumpster.

That being said, I have two children who are hoarders.  Sam is worse than Jessie, in that he doesn’t ever like anything to be thrown away, but Jess has more than her fair share of crap that she’s collected and would never notice if it wasn’t there.  Which is why I’m delighted about Monday and Tuesday of this week.  I plan on just throwing stuff out.  All day long.  Both days.   The dumpster will be here for ten days, but I plan on getting rid of as much as I can on those two days.

After that, let the packing begin!  Yes, I still have NO idea where I’m going.  You’d think this would throw me off, but nope – I’m serenity personified.  I’m sure we’ll find a place.  We’re still waiting to hear about one apartment and we’re going to see three more today and one on Monday.  Surely one of these will work.  Tell me one of these will work…

I’m getting rid of all the stuff.  I am.  All the old baby clothes, limiting myself to one little bag for each child of baby clothes that I adored them in.  But I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of my pram, even though Julie rarely sits in it and she’s never going to use the lay down portion of it again.  I also can’t quite get myself to donate my slings and baby carriers.  We’re probably done.  Probably.  But I’m still hanging onto my very favorite baby stuff, just in case.

This is my new theory.  Not only will freaking out over my impending homelessness make me insane, it will adversely affect my children, who are super sensitive to my moods.  Not that I’m going to be homeless – I’m not, obviously.  Our landlord isn’t going to throw us out on the street if we can’t find a place in time, and even if he did, we’ve got enough people who we could stay with temporarily until we find another place.  Our requirements aren’t grand, but they are specific – deleaded, three bedroom, in this area, and in our budget.  The perfect place is out there, and we’ll find it.

In other news – we’re getting the dumpster delivered tomorrow.   I’m very much looking forward to getting rid of a LOT of stuff.  Broken toys, random little McDonalds toys, stuffed animals they never touched, crap…  We’ve got a lot of crap.  I don’t really know how, because we are exceptionally frugal and rarely actually buy anything new.  But both the older kids are complete packrats and save everything they’ve ever seen.  My problem is that I’ve only got Monday and Tuesday to be throwing stuff of theirs away – because after that, they’ll be home “helping” me go thru the playroom.

The kids are holding together well, I think.  They’re both aware that we are moving, and I keep presenting it as a wonderful new adventure.  Something fun and exciting, and I keep repeating that they don’t have to worry, Daddy and I will find the perfect place near their friends and they won’t have to change schools.  But I know it’s hard for them.  Jessie worries so much about everything, she’s a thoughtful kid, and somewhat of an anxious one – so I know that this is going to be an issue.  And Sammy is so attached to things – he really, really doesn’t like change.  What makes me so angry is remembering how hard it was for him to move here last year for him, how sad he was to leave our last place.  Somewhere deep inside, in a place that I’m trying to ignore, I’m absolutely enraged that I have to do this to him again.  I would never have moved in the first place if I’d know it was for a year.

Change of topic – because anger, like worrying, isn’t going to be beneficial here… Julianna is walking.  Not all the time, but a LOT more than she used to be.  She’s on her feet more often than not, and going for longer distances.  She’s so cute and excited with herself, I love the look of concentration and pride on her face as she toddles around.

So I’m continuing on in our quest to find housing before the end of the month.  It’s not going well, but I’m growing weary of focusing on that, so we’re going to ignore that for right now… and we were leaving an apartment and trekking back to the minivan with Julianna.  She was propped on my hip and I was walking up the street, past a garbage truck.  It was one of those cool ones, that picks up the recycling bin, tips it into the top of the truck and then slowly lowers it down.  And I just walked by.  Like it wasn’t even there.

If I had been holding an eighteen month old Samilicious Boy, I know I would have stopped, gazed in wonder at the truck.  Probably chatted with the garbage guy and really made an event out of it.  Because I did it with him. But because I had Julianna (girl) instead of baby Sam (boy) with me, I didn’t even notice it until we were past it.

I did realize before I popped her back into her car seat, and stopped and went back.  I pointed it out to her and told her how cool it was, and she appreared to be dutifully impressed.  But I was HORRIFIED at the fact that I didn’t even blink when we walked by the first time.  It didn’t even occur to me to show it to her, because she’s a girl.  Horrified.

I have some excuses that my mind keeps trying to get me to accept.  Like, I’m tired, and Julie’s not feeling great anyway so I was just thinking that I wanted to get back home.  Like, maybe it’s Julie’s fault, because Sam would have grabbed me and MADE me look at it.  But I know that the excuses are just that – bottom line, they’re just paltry excuses and I’m obviously a secret sexist who believes that girls don’t like trucks.

I didn’t know this about myself.  I was a card carrying member of the National Organization for Women in high school.  I still proudly call myself a feminist.  I read feminist biographies with Jessie.  I don’t consciously believe that Julianna shouldn’t love her a garbage truck.  But actions speak louder than words, and I can’t deny the reality.

So when we got home, and there was a bucket truck outside, with guys working on tree removal, I dragged her out there to see it.  And she wanted to go back inside.   Sam and I spent ages sitting on the stairs watching guys working on construction things when he was little.  He LOVED it.  Julie was mildly interested.  Mildly.  Is it her or me?   Do I send her a message that she’s not supposed to like big loud trucks that do stuff, or do I pick up on her lack of interest and respond accordingly?  One thing I’ve always been aware of is how very feminine both of my girls are and how masculine Sam is.  Jessie and Julie both seem to gravitate to baby dolls and frills and pink, and Sam has always been fascinated by army guys, superheros and tools.  I never thought that I had an opinion either way – I’d love a little tomboy as much as I love my little princessy girls and I’d probably feel more comfortable dealing with a boy who wasn’t quite so fascinating with violence and bad guys.

I’m still not sure, if it’s Julie or me.  If I’m subconsciously steering my children into strict gender roles or just rolling with what they like.  I’m pretty feminine.  I like pink, and babies, and crocheting and I love me some ribbons on just about everything.  And Marc is very traditionally masculine, spending most of his leisure time doing hard core boxing and mixed martial arts.  So maybe they’re just modelling what they see us doing.  Or maybe Jessie and Julie genuinely love baby dolls and Sam genuinely loves superheros.

But either way, I dug Sam’s old trash truck out from the box of toys I’m getting rid of and put it upstairs next to the baby cradle where Julie keeps her baby dolls.  Just in case…

I’ve got, by most standards, a big family.   My husband and I have our own three children, my oldest daughter is eight, my son is five and our baby girl is a year and a half.  We’ve also got my husband’s daughters from his first marriage, they’re twelve and ten.  That’s five children.  That’s a lot.  It’s a mini-van full, it’s a table full, in fact, it’s two tables at lot of restaurants.  It’s no exaggeration to say that we bring the party to pretty much any party we go to, because when you’ve got five kids, anytime you go anywhere, you’re bringing chaos and fun and excitement.   My life is busy and there are absolutely times when I’d love the opportunity to be cloned so that each of my kids could get 100% of my attention.

My last pregnancy was really hard, non stop nausea and horrible, horrible itchy dry skin.  Braxton Hicks contractions all the time.  I don’t really like being pregnant, honestly.  I love feeling the baby move, and I like the clothes (I think maternity tops are cute, I know it’s weird), but the rest of it?  The peeing all the time, the heartburn – it’s not fun.

So why did I go misty at the Ecotarium yesterday, when I saw a mom wearing her newborn baby?  The sight of those little leggies and that sweet little baby head snuggled up against her chest made me go all gooey inside.   I freely admit that I adore babies.  I flat out love them.  And I know, I know, they keep getting bigger, and as they get bigger, they get more complicated and more challenging.   I’ve got an eight year old just starting to deal with peer pressure, a five year old who’s not at all happy about kindergarten, a toddler who’s already embracing her independence and two stepdaughters that are rapidly approaching adolescence.

Even with all the challenges, there’s an incredible beauty to raising children.  Watching the children grow and learn and develop.  Seeing glimmers of the incredible women that my stepdaughters will be, watching my first baby girl grow into this big, big girl, my son (who still looks so tiny to me as he walks into kindergarten) forming his first real friendships with kids that aren’t my friends’ children, and my baby, my baby girl toddling around the house, singing and mooing and growling – every single developmental stage is represented here and I love every minute of it.

There’s a part of me that feels like maybe, just maybe, there might be another baby in my future.  My husband would be delighted to just keep going, a la Michelle Duggar.   He’s not adamant about wanting more children, just absolutely open to the idea.   I don’t know.  We’re getting older, at thirty seven, it probably won’t be as easy to get pregnant as it was, and there’s a part of me that’s superstitious about it.  I’ve been so blessed with healthy children.  Should I tempt fate once again?  Should I just be grateful for what I have – when so many people I know wanted to have more and couldn’t?  I haven’t made any decision yet, and probably won’t for a while.  I like the three to four year age difference between children.  Right now, I’m way too busy to contemplate another pregnancy.   But I do.  Contemplate. A lot.

I don’t know if it’s actual depression.  Because it feels more like I’m just in a bad mood all the time.  And it’s all because of the move.  I still haven’t found a place to live, and I feel the clock ticking down to December 1 all the time.  I need a three bedroom, deleaded apartment in the West side of Worcester.  Add to that that our primary breadwinner is still collecting unemployment and we were completely unprepared to come up with first/last/security (because we were promised that we would be fine here thru the school year) and it’s all I can think about.  On paper, we don’t look like good prospective tenants – and that makes me angry, because we ARE.  We pay our rent, we’re nice people, we’re friendly.  I’m just mad.  When I’m not mad, I’m stressed and panicking.  I hate this time.

But on the upside, we are all still healthy and happy, relatively speaking.  There are apartments out there, and once I move, I’ll have a lovely landlord that I can depend on, and life will be blissful once again.  And Marc’s got a second interview set up for next week, and there’s a lot of potential there.  I’m not panicking financially, or I wouldn’t be, if I wasn’t looking at moving in less than three weeks.  But I digress.  Which is what I’m saying – I keep digressing back to anger and frustration…

Brief kid update –

Jessica Mary is thriving.  Just absolutely thriving.  Doing very well in school, seems happy socially.  She loves her teacher, and I’d say that third grade is probably her easiest year so far in terms of her adjustment.   She’s got her school conference on Tuesday, and I’m looking forward to getting a more in depth perspective.

Sam is also doing well – other than the freak out over school pictures and a recurring problem with entering the art room.  As it stands now, I’m the official art helper, which seems to help.  He still looks heartbreakingly little to me every morning as he trudges off to school, with that giant backpack that he insists on carrying, but I have to reluctantly admit that he’s growing up.

Fortunately, I’ve still got my Julianna.  Who is still not really walking.  She can – but won’t.  She walks on her knees.  She’s also talking more and more, she can say animal noises and several other words – and has also perfected the art of making the kids laugh on purpose.  She performs for them, and it’s so sweet.  They just flat out adore her, she’s such a lucky baby…

And Marc – thank God for Marc.  I’m achingly aware of how lucky I am.  I can’t imagine how I’d do this without him….

My Glennys is back from NH.  She moved up there earlier this summer, and my kids have been bereft and miserable without her.   I honestly can’t tell you which one is happier, Jessie, Sam,or Julie.  Glennys is Jessie’s best friend, and she’s so missing her, but Sam worships Glennys with a love that’s so pure and overwhelming.  He literally wants to be right beside her, holding her hand all the time.  Even Julianna, who didn’t entirely remember her, is thrilled to betsy to have another buddy here.  As for Marc and I – Glennys really is my fourth child.  Or sixth.  Depending on how you count kids (ahh – the joy of stepmotherhood….)

In other news – we’re still homeless.  We’ve only been looking for a week, but it feels like forever.  I’ve been to see four places so far, and two of them were… okay.  Not great, but okay.  One was wonderful, but out of our price range and so I’m afraid to hope, and one was just awful.  My stress level is constantly high and it’s literally my last thought before I go to sleep and first when I wake up.  And because Julianna is still waking occasionally, I also get to freak out in the middle of the night as well.