There’s something magical about nighttime parenting.  Something elemental and bare bones about it, when it’s the middle of the night, and your child is sick.  When the bed is covered in vomit, and the baby is sobbing in confusion and misery and the only thing to do, the only thing to do is be the mom, in the best and most real sense.

It was two thirty in the morning, and Day Six (or is it Seven?) of one of my kids dealing with the stomach flu.  I’ve scrubbed down the car seat more times than I can count, washed so much laundry that I legitimately fear I’ll never catch up again.  I’ve got mixing bowls strategically placed all over the house, just in case the urge to throw up hits and they can’t get to the potty quick enough.  I’ve only actually been puked on a couple of times, and  have grown inordinately proud of my five year old’s ability to run for a bucket.  But my baby, my tiny little almost two year old – she doesn’t know to reach for a bucket, and while she’s incredibly verbal, she didn’t have the words to tell me before she threw up all over the bed.  All over me.  All over her.

After a few minutes when she sobbed and retched and I rubbed her back and tried hard to keep it from getting on the king size comforter (the one too big to wash in my machine), it was over.  I stripped us both, grabbing my husband’s t-shirt and some old sweats for me, and carrying her into the living room.  I riffled thru the clean laundry basket for new jammies for her, and settled down on the couch in the dark living room.  She was still whimpering, half asleep, horrified and confused.  I snuggled her down in a blanket and nursed her.  Grateful, because at two years old, she’s still nursing and I knew that it would calm her down and she’d be able to keep breastmilk down even if she couldn’t keep down the chicken and broccoli I’d fed her for dinner.

It was just the two of us.  The birds were starting to sing outside, and the room was dark enough so I couldn’t see the clutter of toys and books on the floor.  I was able to just be for a while.  To hold my baby girl when she was sick, when the only thing in the world that would make her world right was to be right here, in my arms, with her long eyelashes casting shadows on her cheek and her big, big eyes looking up at me.  That, right there, that moment, that’s what makes me grateful for the middle of the night puke-fests of parenting.  Sure, it’s messy and today, I can’t drink enough coffee to keep my eyes all the way open – but I know that last night is a night that I’ll remember when she’s five years old and tells me I’m the worst mother in the world, and when she’s nine and rolling her eyes at me when she thinks I’m not looking.  I’ll remember when it was just she and I, a dark night, with birds chirping and big, big eyes gazing up at me.

And the puking continues…

In other news – at least the weekend is here.  Not that I’ll be doing much of anything, since kids are puking, but it’s got to be almost over, right?

The thing is, about five minutes before and after puking, the kids are actually sick.  They moan, they sit still, they aren’t feeling good.  The rest of the time, they’re running around like lunatics, totally happy and completely not sick.  But I can’t go anywhere or do anything, can’t send them to school or go grocery shopping or go visit  my mother or go to the library – because technically, they’re sick.

So I’ll be grateful for the little things.  Like a lot of buckets, and kids who mostly hit the buckets when they puke.  For Jessie who only threw up that one time.  For not having to worry about dehydration and actual illness, because other than the puking, these are healthy, happy kids. For not coming down with it myself.

All these are good.

But if you’re looking for me, I’ll be home.  Here.  Emptying buckets and doing laundry.  Like I have been for six days now.

Julie puked up everything yesterday. I didn’t really make the connection until she threw up all over the couch last night, because apparently, I’m not all that quick – either that, or I’m so used to vomit, I just don’t pick up on any kind of pattern to it anymore. She threw up in the car on the way home from dropping off the kids in the morning, then threw up on the way home from picking up the girl. On the upside – her car seat is SUPER clean, having been scrubbed thoroughly twice in one day. Finishing up with a massive throwing up extravaganza all over the couch. She then woke up at midnight and threw up the remainder of the beans/hot dogs (yum). So I’m not feeding her anymore – she can hold down breastmilk, but solid food, not so much. Which is another plug for nursing, at least I know she won’t get dehydrated, because she can definitely hold that down. The obvious downside is that it’s not a lot of fun to nurse a two year old nonstop when it’s her only source of sustenance.

Sam was fine all day, blissful and rambunctious, and then woke up around one thirty or so, and threw up for an hour or so. Good times here at the Cohen household. As per usual, he’s bopping around the house, humming a football at Julie, trying to teach her to catch. Julie is doing her best, but the fact that she keeps closing her eyes when the ball comes at her hinders her, I’ll be honest. Although it’s is a little amusing to realize that she’s completely inherited my athletic ability.

I talked to my new best friend Chris, at the doctor’s office, and he said it’s okay to not bring them in to be seen. Especially because there’s NO other symptoms, no fever, they are not dehydrated and really, both the kids are bopping around the house, blissful, active and happy. Except for when they’re puking. It just sounds like a stomach bug that’ll work it’s way out. This is the oddest bug – because there are NO other symptoms, just occasional vomit.

My mommy instincts are reassured by the fact that all of my kids have this, to one degree or another. And it’s not debilitating at all – they aren’t feeling sick, aren’t dehydrated, etc. Just occasionally, they’ll projectile vomit. Irritating, but not that big a deal.

I also think it’s lovely that I haven’t caught it all. I think it’s only fair, given that I had to puke my way thru all three of their pregnancies – I don’t have to puke when they get the stomach bug. Not proof of a benevolent diety, exactly. Divine justice, maybe?

Okay – I admit it, it’s a lot of posting lately.  But I’m out of books, and with sick kids, I haven’t made it down to the library to get something to read, so I have to write instead 🙂

Sam is still throwing up, and Julie threw up for the first time this morning.  For those keeping track, Jessie threw up once, Sunday morning.  Sam threw up all night Saturday night, and then again on Monday morning.  Went to school on Tuesday and threw up twice yesterday afternoon.  The weird thing is that they’re fine at all other times.  Holding food down, playing, sleeping well, no fever.  Just occasionally vomiting.  BUT I feel reassured after talking to my mother and realizing that she had the same thing and it lasted for about a week. So we should be almost done.

In other news… we’ve got a big meeting coming up on Friday to discuss Samilicious Boy and his academic future.  Am just slightly terrified – because they (his teacher – who I LOVE) want him to repeat kindergarten and I don’t want him too.  I’m really struggling with this – I feel enormously guilty about the fact that he wasn’t emotionally/academically prepared for kindergarten, because really, who else can you blame?  I thought I was doing the right thing (which is kind of what bothers me the most – I really thought about it before I decided to pull him out of preschool, and I consciously didn’t push academics on him – I wanted him to be able to play and create and imagine stuff, figured he’d have all the time in the world to learn how to read and add).  And as guilty as I feel, I still think that I might have done the right  thing.

Sam just is.  He came into the world with separation anxiety, and I did my best.  Maybe I should have forced him earlier to learn how to be on his own, but I did my best.  Bottom line (can you tell I’m talking myself into this?), I did the best I could with the information I had at the time.  Not forcing him to be without me, not sending him to preschool when it made him anxious and stressed, giving him time to play and experiment and do what he wanted seemed like the best decision.  And he’s going to be fine – he’s a bright, brilliant, sensitive and kind kid, who’s going to learn and grow on his terms.  He might not be a rock star, academically, in kindergarten.  I think ALL the other kids have had at least an extra year of preschool that he missed- plus we had the whole housing fiasco in November/December.  If you factor in the first couple of months, he was just trying to figure out that he was safe without me there, and then he was slammed with is entire home life/stability getting ripped up – he didn’t really start learning until January.  But he’s made huge advancements in the past few months, and I think he’ll thrive in first grade.

And I also have to come to grips with my own tendency to elevate everything to a high drama situation (Jessie comes by it naturally).  He’s not handicapped, there’s no cognitive problem there – he’s just a little boy who loves his mama and loves his sister and would always rather be home.  This is not really a crisis, not really.  It’s just that any sort of indication that there’s a problem with my kids (i.e. a problem with my parenting) throws me for a loop.  I feel responsible and want to fix it and make it better.  But really, what I need to do is chill and realize that kids grow on their own timetable – and that’s okay.

So I’m chilling.  Relaxing, and being grateful for healthy (although vomiting periodically) HAPPY kids.

I think we all know that mornings are not my best time.  Left to my own devices, I’d sleep until nine or ten, and then not go to bed until after midnight.  But I have kids, and school in the mornings, and thus, I adapt.  Sadly, my children are just like me.  Mornings are rarely fun, and sometimes, they’re just miserable.

Today was one such morning.

Sam started crying before he opened his eyes about having to go to school.  Which just fed into all of my anxieties around sending him to school – is it really the best thing to do, should I keep him back, should I push him ahead, should I just give in and homeschool him instead?  I calmed him down, left him with a show in my room and then went to fall apart all over Marc.   I wasn’t fully awake, and already thrown into this existential crisis over what kind of life do I want this child to have and why was he so miserable and how can (or should I) fix it.

I powered thru, got him to school, then rushed home to get Julie up and dressed.  Today was the appreciation tea for the parent volunteers, and Jessie was reading her poem so I HAD to go.  But Julie didn’t wake  up any more pleasantly than her brother did, and it was a complete battle of wills to get her dressed and out the door.  Never a good feeling than when you have to hold down your child and force clothes on her, and given that I already felt like I was a complete failure as a mother because of Sam, I was fighting tears thru the whole thing.

Maybe I’m just hormonal.  I can’t possibly be as bad at this as it seems this morning.  After all, Jessie woke up happily enough.  Got her little self dressed with a minimum of stress, ate breakfast and was sunshiney delightful. And Sam did, in the end, go to school.  Dressed well, ate some breakfast.  Julie is happy NOW, although still wearing her pajama top and mismatched pants.

I just called and made an appointment to discuss Sam with his teacher.  Bottom line, I want him in first grade.  I don’t think he’ll do any better staying back, the benefits would be washed out by the disadvantages.  He’ll hate it, I’m sure, but he’ll hate repeating kindergarten too.  I go back and forth with a dizzying regularity on this issue, and it’s reaching the point where I need to put it to rest.  My desired outcome would be to push him ahead, put him with the same teacher Jessie had, give him some additional support at home and at school.  Worst case scenario, if first grade is an utter disaster, maybe we can just drop him back to kindergarten.  But I think he’ll do better if we don’t hold him back.  I feel like either we pull him out of school  entirely or we let him advance with the rest of his peer group.

I’m sure that I’ll change my mind again, but that’s where I’m leaning towards right now.

I hate this.

My kids are sick. Vomit everywhere, and it’s one of those situations that make me profoundly grateful to have a partner. Being raised by a single parent, I’m achingly aware of how hard it is to parent alone, and consistently surprised, even after nine years of raising children together, how very NICE it is to have a buddy. Someone to clean the puke when you’re cleaning the kids. Someone to disinfect the floor when you’re changing a sleepy, sobbing, sick girl. Someone to bring you coffee when the sick child is asleep on top of you. 

Marriage is made up of many things. There’s a sense of friendship, genuine camaraderie. My husband is really a fun guy to be around, his mind is fast and his sense of humor is infectious. There’s a shared intellectual bend to us – we both are geared more intellectually, we like to read and debate and think – we follow politics and argue religious theory for fun. There’s a sense of passion, a physical attraction that’s always there too. But I think the key to our marriage, what makes our marriage better than most, is that we’re on the same team. We have the same goals, we’re walking the same path. We live dramatically different lives, in so many ways. He’s out of the house five days a week, and I’m at home taking care of kids. We are incredibly different in other ways too – he’s much more structured, more organized and a lot goofier than I am. But he’s my best friend, and my partner, and after the past three days of being puked on, I’m incredibly aware of how blessed I am to have him, to be able to share this life, these kids (puke and all) with him. 

My kids don’t throw up.  As a rule.  They just don’t.  Colds, sure.  Allergies like you wouldn’t believe, the two older ones cough and sneeze their way thru the spring and fall.  But throwing up (with the exception of vomit from excessive coughing and post-nasal drip in the middle of the night) is so rare.   Which is why I’m just not used to this – maybe it it happened more often, I wouldn’t feel like I’d been run over with a truck.

Poor Sammy starting complaining of an upset stomach yesterday.  I thought it was just stress, it was the end of April vacation, maybe  there was some anxiety around going back to school.  Plus Glennys was leaving too – that always messes him up.  But no, he really was sick, and starting seriously throwing up around dinner time.  And kept puking, including one notable time when he missed his little bucket he’d been carrying around with him and projectile vomited all over me.  He threw up every couple of hours last night – and I don’t think  I really slept at all.   Every time I’d start to doze off, he’d start Jessie woke up around four thirty or five, and threw up all over herself and the bathroom.  Thank goodness for Marc, because at that point, I was so incredibly exhausted that I couldn’t face it.  I took care of Jessie and Marc bleached the bathroom.

Sam seems much better this morning.  He’s been up for an hour and a half, and is, thus far, keeping down ginger ale.  He’s bopping around, playing with Julie and seems to be much better.  Jessica Mary is still sleeping, and I’m in no rush to wake her.  Julianna, thank goodness, seems to be fine.  She’s still nursing, and I’m so grateful for that.  Because I know that she either won’t get sick at all, or if she does, it’ll be so much less intense because I can keep her hydrated so much easier.  She’s more likely to be able to tolerate breastmilk than anything else.

Friday was Earth Day at the Ecotarium, and I loved it.   I brought my three, plus two extra on the theory that if you’re going to the Eco, you should always bring extras.  We bought our first membership to the Ecotarium nine years ago, and it’s completely, completely worth it.  With a large family, by the time we’ve gone twice, the membership has more than paid for itself.   Plus you get in free at a bunch of other museums, like the Childrens Museum and the Science Museum in Boston.

We had just a lovely, lovely day there.  The kids had a blast, playing on the playground, checking out the new games exhibit, and hanging out up in the Mt. Washington exhibit on the first floor.  The Hurricane Tube was a huge hit.  I had packed a picnic lunch, and found a quiet spot in the cafeteria to eat with everyone.  After everyone was done, I nursed Julianna to sleep and laid her in the carriage (which she had refused to ride in while awake) and then was able to just wheel her around following the kids.  We went on the loop trail around the  pond, when I discovered that it’s definitely NOT carriage friendly.   So then I was left with a dilemma – we were about a third of the way around, and I had a ten year old, two nine year olds and a five year old.  Should I make them all come back with me, because I can’t supervise them or do I trust that they’ll trek around the pond and be fine?  I weighed the options, and erred on the side of letting them go.  I was babysitting at ten, and I would be within shouting distance the whole time.

They emerged on the other side, delighted and proud of themselves.  And we timed it perfectly, because Julie woke up just as they came up the path.  We went back inside, wandered around a little more and then headed home.

All in all, an awesome day at the Eco.  The weather was ideal, the kids were perfectly behaved, and Julianna got a great nap.  It was the perfect ending to a really, really great April vacation.

We spent the whole week busy, busy, busy – and yet I’m having a hard time articulating what we did.  There were baths given, meals cooked, naps taken and playgrounds visited.  We saw cousins and aunts and grandmothers, and mostly spent the entire week outside.

Sam had a tick in his ear.  It had been there overnight, and I just thought it was a little cut.  Today, I tried to touch it and LITTLE LEGS CAME OUT.  I was horrified, obviously, and it was one of those moments when you wish like hell that someone else was here to handle but have to reluctantly admit to yourself that you are the mama and you have to handle it.  Bugs.  I hate bugs.  But I was the grown up, and finally just had to hold him down, kicking and screaming and scrape it out of his ear.  I got the whole thing, and flushed it.  Then Marc came home (a little late in the game, but he was working) and treated it with hydrogen peroxide and then some antibiotic ointment.

Jessie and Sam both have killer allergies, Jessie more so than Sam, but they’ve both been coughing and sneezing non-stop.  I gave them both some zyrtek this morning, and they are SO much better.  Jessie actually came home after our trip to the park and curled up in bed and slept for three hours.  I don’t  know if it was the allergy meds themselves, or just that she finally could breathe enough to sleep.

Julianna Ruth has LOVED having everyone home for the week.  It’s her favorite, and she’s been so cute.  I mean, she’s cute anyway – but now that she’s talking, it’s just awesome.  She’s got this little head of curls, and big, big eyes.  And she’s just delighted by everything.  Unless she’s not.  There’s no middle ground with this kid – she’s either passionately thrilled or bitterly upset.  She’d oddly stubborn about clothes, still hates a bath and loves her daddy.

Not that we’re interfaith, technically.  I did convert to Judaism – we’re all of the same faith.  BUT – and it’s a big but, in my opinion, we are different.  Marc is very devout, especially around keeping kosher for Passover.  And I am not.  At best, I really enjoy the seders (when I can actually participate, which is rare, because I always seem to have a fussy child demanding attention), and I’d be great if we were just incorporating a lot more matzoh into everyone’s diet) but following rules is hard for me.  Especially when the rules don’t make sense to me.

I’m not a rule breaker by nature.  I’m not a rebel in most regards, but I don’t like doing something just because. And having to keep kosher for Passover isn’t something I’d ever choose to do on my own.  Marc does, but I don’t mind that.  Marc’s an adult, and I respect his spiritual beliefs.  As I know he respects mine.  The hard part comes with the kids.

There are certainly ways in which my childhood differs dramatically from that of my children.  And some of those ways are wonderful – I love that my kids have two loving committed parents.  And they have a much stronger religious identity than I did at that age.  I was always sort of spiritually inclined, but we were haphazardly Catholic, with a lot of pagan, new age stuff mixed in.  I belonged to the Church of Melissa – and it worked for me.  My mother is very spiritual, but I always felt as though my spiritual beliefs were mine – they were self-directed.  She encouraged me to ask questions, to think and read and make up my own mind. My kids are growing up Jewish – and that’s completely, completely different.

For some, converting to Judaism is like coming home.  It’s a framework for belief, it’s a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.  For me, it was different.  I already had a belief system, I had already kind of figured out for myself how I thought the universe worked, and I’m good with it.  Judaism is a good fit for me, the belief in one deity, the immediate connection to the Divine, the obligation to make the world a better place, the sense of wanting to elevate common, every day things to a sacred level.  I love Judaism – but I don’t follow all of the 613 commandments.  I don’t even think I’m supposed to – I think that blind adherence to the rules is not admirable.

So what do I do with two (and soon to be three) kids who want to keep kosher for Passover?  How do I honor that, and not cry with sadness and frustration because they are growing up with this vastly different way of looking at things?  How do I not feel alienated and different from my children, and how do I reconcile that in such a way that I can give them what they want and need from me – which is approval and respect and admiration for their own fiercely held beliefs, even when I don’t agree with them?

I do it – and I think I do it well.  I say the right things, and because I’m with them all the time, it’s really me doing it.   Marc approved hugely of it, and is thrilled that his kids want to do this, and thinks it’s vital that we support them – but it’s me doing all the meal prep and planning, and packing lunches and dealing with snack requests.  And this was a LONG Passover week for me.  Because Jessie is getting older and more definite about things, and Sam is old enough now to understand and want to do it too.

I’ll keep doing it, because they need that.  They need my support and approval – but I’m profoundly grateful that Passover is over.