I know – it’s that she’s two, and two is when they start putting it all together.  I remember thinking this with both the older two.   But Julie really does seem to be uncommonly bright.  She’s memorized the Llama Llama Misses Mama and recites it as she flips thru books.  She’s got an unlimited vocabulary, with six and seven word sentences all the time.   She just started playing with her “cards.”  Sam’s recently gotten into Pokemon cards, and in a half hearted attempt to keep her from stealing them, I gave her his flashcards that I had bought a while ago.  The’re sight words, and alphabet cards, and SHE KNEW WHAT THEY WERE.  I realized that she could actually be quizzed and identify all of these things.  Am now convinced that she’s a genius.

In other news – we’re having a perfectly delightful summer.  Continuing our tradition of being the house everyone comes too, I’ve had kids here more often than not.  Friends of Jessie, friends of Sam, we try to shake it up and vary it, but my favorites are days when each kid has a buddy to cut down on the battles.  Tomorrow we’re off to the beach – and I already checked to make sure that there’s a lifeguard there ūüôā

I hesitate to blog about this, simply because my  mind is really avoiding going there, but the facts are that yesterday, we came within in minutes of Sam drowning.  We were at a lake in one of the surrounding towns (don’t know which one, because I wasn’t driving).  There was no lifeguard, but it was a quiet little pond.  There were two beaches, separated by a bridge.  I’m crap at estimating, but I’d guess fifty feet wide.  Maybe a hundred?  It wasn’t big.  And we were there with a bunch of other families, and there were lots of little kids running around.

Sam and his buddy Harrison had gone across the bridge (with permission) and were playing on the opposite side from where we were sitting.  I was watching them, and they were wading in the water, throwing mud at each other.  It was idyllic, all these kids running and playing.  I looked away for just a minute.  I was checking the girls or talking to someone, I don’t even remember, I just know that I had been watching and then I wasn’t.  In that period of time, Sam went too far in and lost his footing and started to flounder in the water.

Someone pulled him out, and I didn’t see him struggling in the water, I just saw her pull him out.  So I didn’t have that moment of realizing that he might die, I had the moment of realizing that he almost had.  And I’ll never be able to not know that now.  I’ve never come that close before and as I type, I’m crying all over again.  Because it happened so fast, and so without warning.  And in that moment, I could have lost him.  I could have lost him, and I can’t even wrap my mind around that.

I just know that I’ll never, never, never go swimming anywhere without a zillion lifeguards again.  I’ll never, never, never let myself relax when my kids are near water.  I’m going to do my best to not terrify them, Sam was okay, and eventually even asked if he could go back down and play in the water.  I don’t want to scar him and make him afraid – but I’ll never be not terrified of taking kids to the water again.

I’m posting this week on the hangout grid at www.yeahwrite.me – it’s a great place to discover new blogs.

I like this whole parenting thing. ¬†I do. ¬†I generally believe that my kids are cooler and cuter and just way more awesome than other kids, and am very, very happy that Marc and I are able to have me home full time with them. ¬†That being said, sometimes they infuriate me. ¬†I have moments when I’m ready to strangle someone and fantasize about an entire day and night where nobody, nobody touches me or wants anything from me. ¬†My kids bicker and fight and squabble. ¬†Jessie can be super sarcastic and mean to her brother, Sam has developed an odd love of just bugging the heck out of either sister, alternating so at least one of them is screaming at him almost all the time, and my adorable little Julianna, when she’s not achingly adorable and all, is undeniably controlling and firmly believes that screaming until she gets her way is the best way to handle conflict.

Last night, Jessie and Sam decided they wanted ice cream. ¬†I have a relatively firm no dessert after dinner rule (I’d rather give them ice cream for breakfast than load them up with sugar before bed) and when they bounced over to me and asked, I just pointed over at Marc wordlessly. ¬†It had been a challenging day, filled with temper tantrums and tears and arguing. ¬†I’d been home with kids all day, and quite honestly, felt as though it was his turn to deal with the inevitable arguing and whining that was guaranteed when we said no. ¬†Instead they both said “okay” (or in Julie’s case, “Otay”) and sauntered back into the living room. ¬†Are you kidding me? ¬†Just walking away when getting the expected no response? ¬†I KNOW for a fact that if I had responded when they asked me, I would have gotten a lot more pushback.

I announced that I was taking a break – I was done with children for the day. ¬†For at least the next little while. ¬†Sure, they’re cute and I love them and stuff, but that was it. ¬†I took my book, headed into the bedroom, and shut the door. ¬†It was blissful and quiet and cool, for about three minutes. ¬†Because then Jessie came in and laid down next to me. ¬†Her stomach hurt. ¬†And since I don’t get a lot of cuddle time with my oldest girl, and she was at least pretending to be sick (because I know she wasn’t), I wrapped my arm around her and rubbed her back while continuing to read. ¬†About five minutes later, the younger two rolled in. ¬†Not doing anything in particular, just came into hang with me. ¬†No television, no toys, they just knew that’s where I was and that’s where they needed to be. ¬†Despite the fact that I was clearly in NO mood for parental duties, despite the fact that they have toy filled rooms, a television brimming over with recorded shows for them to watch and a kitchen full of snacks – they just wanted to hang with me.

And the odd thing was – they somehow understood that I was on break. ¬†I was reading. ¬†So they didn’t talk to me, they just chatted with each other, rolled around on the bed and in general, we spent the loveliest little half hour or so, just hanging out and being together. ¬†Before Sam started teasing Jessie and Jessie started snapping at Sam and Julie started screaming at everyone to let her watch another godforsaken episode of Doc McStuffins…. we were able to have this quiet little time when I was achingly aware of why I really do love this whole parenting thing. ¬†Because I get these awesome kids and sometimes, lots of times, their whole idea of happiness is to just be in the same room with me.

I’ve got a minivan.  Like most moms of five (and for the purposes of this blog post, I’ve got five – the odd thing about being a stepparent is that sometimes I’ve got five and sometimes I’ve got three).  So three kids sit in the way back and two in the middle.  We call it “Little Butt Cohens in the Back” because Jessie and Sam are both still relatively tiny enough and can fit on either side of Julianna’s big car seat comfortably.  That means that my three are the farthest away from me, with Julie in the middle spot and Jess and Sam on either side.  Then Lilli and Sarah sit in the middle spot.  It’s cramped and crowded, and because I’ve got a zillion kids, my car is constantly a mess, filled with books and snacks and sippie cups and sporting equipment and jackets and whatever else we manage to drag out to the van.

So I’m driving home last night from a cookout at my in-laws house.  Actually, and it’s important for this story, I wasn’t driving, but rather was in the passenger seat with a book in my lap.  Marc was driving along, and oddly enough, Marc is impervious to noise.  Just doesn’t bother him even a little bit.  If pointed out, he’ll just grin and say that they’re having fun.  Which they were.  Because all five kids were screaming.  I mean, full out, no holds barred screaming at the top of their lungs, for no real reason that I could decipher.  My stepdaughters were half heartedly bickering, not actually fighting but teasing each other to make the other one scream, and they were also half still playing a game that they had been playing at the cookout.  My three were screaming in the back but because they were farther away, I can’t tell exactly what they were yelling about.  From what I could tell (and believe me, I really didn’t explore this too much, as the volume was off-putting), they were pretending to be secret agents and holling into water bottles with code words and hysteria.

It was loud.  I mean, really, really loud.  We stopped to get air in my tire, and I saw the look on the woman walking back to her car.  She glanced over at my rocking mini-van, filled with screaming, delighted, LOUD children and had a look on her face that was possibly pity.  It’s probable that, not knowing that they weren’t screaming out of frustration, they were just screaming with the sheer joy of being together on a beautiful night, that I would have looked with pity at the spectacle.   Because from the outside, it looked unpleasant.  Poor, tired (because it had been a LONG weekend, and I was exhausted) mom, trapped in an old battered minivan with hordes of SCREAMING children.

I grew up as the oldest of four (or six, depending, have to love stepfamilies), and learned at an early age to just tune out noise as well.  As long as I’ve got a book in my lap, I can concentrate on that, and for the most part, the noise didn’t really bother me.   I knew that they weren’t angry or frustrated, I could pick out each individual voice, and even Julianna was back there screaming along happily.

The odd thing was, it was kind of awesome.  I mean, I’ve got these five kids.  All healthy, all gorgeous, and all completely delighted to be with each other.  And who knows how many more times that’ll happen?  My oldest stepdaughter is thirteen, she’s not going to think it’s fun to scream with her younger siblings forever.  How many more summer nights do I have when I can cram my van full and drive around with five kids absolutely thrilled to be there?  They’re all growing up so fast, and it really does go by in a flash.  So what if they’re loud?  So what if the car is a mess, and the tire needs air, and I’m exhausted and still have to do baths for the grubby toddler and five year old?  This, right now, this moment was awesome.  And now that I think back, maybe it wasn’t pity on the woman’s face.  Maybe it was envy – because what I have is amazing.

(I’m linking up with http://yeahwrite.me/62-open-challenge/ this week – an awesome writer’s blog, really great for finding new blogs)

Father’s Day is traditionally hard for me.  For a whole host of reasons, but mainly because I didn’t grow up with a father.  Not really.  I had my grandfather, who was amazing and awesome, and he loved me and I loved him.  But he wasn’t my father.  And I had my stepdad, who’s also amazing and awesome, and he loved me and I loved him, but he wasn’t my father either.  I had a father and he left.  So having a day to celebrate his role was always confusing to me.  Some years, I’d throw myself into celebrating the “dad-like” men in my life, but it wasn’t the same.  Some years, I’d get a card and present for my mother, but that wasn’t right either.  And some years, I’d just chill out, it wasn’t a day I had to do anything in particular.  The only bonus to NOT having a dad around was that I didn’t have to worry about what to do on that day.  The only hitch was that it still kind of was a day when I knew that I should be doing something, and his absence was always that much more difficult on that day.

My father recently moved back into the area, and is tentatively trying to rebuild relationships.  It’s not going well.  It’s hard, at the age of 38 (on a side note, am I really 38?), to add “my father’s daughter” onto the labels I usually attach to myself.  I’m good with being my mother’s daughter, she and I have always been exceptionally close, and our relationship has grown up with me.  With us.  But my father has no experience with the me of now.  He’s missed my childhood, he missed my teen years.  He never saw my first apartment, never met any of my boyfriends.  He didn’t attend my high school graduation or help me decide between working full time or going to college.  He wasn’t at my wedding.  He wasn’t there when my first baby was born.  He wasn’t there at my son’s bris.  And I don’t think he’d remember my baby’s name without being prompted.   He doesn’t know who I am anymore, if he ever did.   I can’t be his daughter, how can I be his daughter when he’s missed everything about me?  And yet I am.  I know that.  I wish I could run away from that reality, I really do.  But I can’t.

But regardless of what’s happened in the past, he’s here now, and I’m perplexed.  Because I believe that when someone loves you, you have an obligation to be kind.  And he does love me.  On some level, and I don’t necessarily think he’s good at it, but he does.  And he wants to have a relationship, so I’m trying.  At least in theory.  But it’s hard.   I don’t know how to do this.  I’m not entirely certain I should be doing this, there’s a whole lot of conflicted emotions going on right now.  Be kind.  If there’s a life philosophy I live by, it’d be that one.  Be kind.  So I will try.  But being kind can be defined a whole bunch of different ways – am I being kind to him?  The father who walked away and is horribly, horribly sorry and wants nothing more than to make up for it?  Or should I be kind to my mother?  The mother who did so much for me, the one who sacrificed and suffered and raised four children on her own?  Is it kind to have her watch him build a relationship with me now?  Or should I be kind to me?  The child who grew up too fast, trying to be that second parent for siblings that didn’t understand any more than I did?  The woman who still has such a tangled messy relationships with those siblings, mainly because I wasn’t really a second parent, and failed in that role.  I don’t think they’ve forgiven me yet.  I’m not certain that I have either.  For well or ill, I tried hard for a long time to be that second parent, and I think I convinced a lot of people, including my siblings and myself that I was.  But I wasn’t, and in the end, chose to sacrifice them for my own life.  Chose to put myself before them, my children ahead of theirs, and our relationships have never recovered.   I’ve lost, for all intent and purpose, two brothers as a result of that choice.

Having my father here is ripping a lot of scabs off of wounds that I would prefer to leave alone.  Should I give myself a break?  I don’t want to deal with battling divorced parents, I don’t want to deal with siblings who have expectations I can’t meet anymore.   I like being who I am now – I’m a wife, a mother, a cousin, a friend.  A sister for my sibling who does still talk to me, a stepsister for my stepsisters (who have no expectations that I’m going to do or be anything other than just me), a daughter to my mother, and a stepdaughter to my stepdad.  I don’t want to be cast in this role, the one of the oldest child trying to make everyone happy.  I did this before, as a child.  I don’t need to relive this part of my life.  And yet… he’s here.  Wanting so much more than I can give, and bringing up painful memories of what things used to be like.

I don’t know what to do, and honestly, having a whole day devoted to celebrating fatherhood seems monstrously excessive, when I think about it.

Here’s a copy of the article that Marc wrote for the local on-line paper that I blog with.  I think it’s freaking fabulous – I wish he’d write more often ūüôā

Ways for a Good Father to be a Great Dad

Some of the things that make a man a good father are just the basics: work hard to suport your children, make sure they get to school on time, make sure they go to the doctor and get their vaccinations.  But how do you take it up a notch?  What are the things that help a man tranform from being a father into being a Dad?  My expertise comes entirely from having five children of my own, Lilli is thirteen, Sarah will be eleven at the end of the summer, Jessie is nine, Sam will be six next month and Julianna just turned two.  I thought about some of the lessons I have learned over the years, and written a few of them down here.

1.  Don’t be afraid to be silly.  Make up silly songs.  Use MILDLY inappropriate language.  Act like a clown.  They will laugh, they will love it, and you will love it too.  For example my 2 year old daughter Julie and I have something we call the “Bum-Bum Dance”.  I made up lyrics to a Bum-Bum Song we sing while doing the Bum-Bum Dance.  To see her doing it, she is extremely cute.  But for the other kids to see Daddy get up and sing and dance with her – well, that is about the funniest thing they have ever seen.

2.  Wrestle!  I don’t know why, but my kids have always loved a lot of horseplay with me.  And I give it to them.  For some reason, they all have always felt much more comfortable playing rough with me than they ever would with my wife, and vice versa.  Obviously, you have to be aware of the age and comparative fragility of who you are rough-housing with.  But at one time, this was a real salvation for me.  When my nine-year-old daughter jessica was only 2, we really didn’t have much of a relationship.  I was working a lot, she was home with my wife, and our relationship wasn’t where I felt it needed to be.  My solution?  A new game called “Fight on the Bed”.  We would pose and posture at each other in exagerated imitation of a Bruce Lee movie, then she would scream “DO YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME?” at me, and attack with a bed pillow.  Chaos would ensue.  Today all the kids love to participate, but “Fight on the Bed” will still forever be something I made up especially for Jessie and for our relationship together.  It was the first thing we did together that was just us.

3.  Quantity Time IS Quality Time.  Don’t kid yourself.  Your children need you.  And to “be there” for them, you have to physically “BE THERE”.  And yes, of course there are challenges.  You have to work to earn a living.  Maybe you face the challenge of having children from a previous marriage who don’t live with you full time.  Those obtacles are very real.  But the consequences for your children and yourself of you not doing what you have to do to overcome those obstacles – those are very real, too. And not every minute you spend with your kids has to be ‘doing” something.  Its OK to have a lazy weekend afternoon where the kids play outside in the yard and you sit on the porch keeping an eye on them.  I have taken my kids to a lot of parks, zoos, and science museums.  But we have also spent a lot of time just playing, hanging around, relaxing, and having simple fun.

4.  Be involved.  This is different from spending time with your children.  It means spending time with the people who ALSO spend time with your children.  Go to teachers’ night at school, and get to know the teachers.  Get involved with their sports, their religious school.  Volunteer for the Boy Scout troup.  Help coach the softball team.  Their hobbies are your hobbies now.  Get to know their friends.  And get to know their friends’ parents.

5.  Keep Mom happy.  Sometimes this means your wife.  Sometimes it means your ex-wife.  And sometimes you are lucky enough to have one of each!  Whatever situation you find yourself in, try very hard to maintain peace with the Mom.  Often that will mean setting aside what you want or feel is right.  So be it.

6.  Be the “fun” house.  Be the house your kids want to bring their friends to.  Accept and embrace the chaos.  Keep fun snacks in the cabinet, and make sure there is enough for everyone.  Let the kids set up to fingerpaint.  Give them Playdough,  Give them buckets, access to an outside water faucet, and orders to use dirt and sidwalk chalk to make rainbow-mudpies.  Let them use the rainbow-mudpies to face paint.  Let them use the rainbow-mudpies to face-paint YOU.  Let them take pictures of you with rainbow-mudpie-facepaint on.  Tell their friends’ parents they can drop them off any time, and mean it.  There is no better way to meet their friends and friends’ parents.  There is no better way to keep an eye on your kids.

7.  Foster their relationships with each other.  You are their father.  They are all your children, all brothers and sisters.  Work hard at making them understand that.  And use bribery!  It works wonders.  Tell your kids that you are going to be watching, and every time you catch them doing something nice for each other, you are going to put a quarter in a cup.  When they do something mean, take a quarter out.  Every day, make sure they all see how much money is in the cup.  Make sure they understand that when there is enough money in the cup, you are going to take all of them out for ice cream.

8.  Do the things you loved to do as a child, and do them with your own children.  What did you really like when you were a kid?  Hardy Boys Mysteries?  Boy Scouts?  Baseball?  Whatever it is, tell your kids all about it, and how much fun you had.  And tell them how much it would mean to you if they would do it with you.  And so what if you have girls?  There’s a law against girls playing baseball?  One of the great pleasures of parenting is getting to enjoy all of the things you loved so much as a kid all over again, FOR THE FIRST TIME, because you can enjoy them through the eyes of your children.

9.  Family dinner is important because you MAKE it important.  So look – nobody says you have to do it like this.  But my wife and I are Jewish, and what has worked for us is to follow the ancient jewish tradition of having a special ritual family dinner on Friday night to welcome in the Sabbath.  Part of that tradition is that i take each of my children aside for a special blessing.  If you ask the average American teenager when was the last time your father took you aside, placed his hands on your head, and asked God to bless you and watch over you, and then kissed you and told you he loved you, they would look at you like you were eating raw bugs.  Because yes, it sounds a little corny and old fashioned.  But if you asked my kids, they would say “Duh!  Like, almost every Fiday night.”  And there is value in that.  Your children will learn a lesson about what is important from what YOU decide is important.  If you set that time aside every week, whether its Friday night or Sunday afternoon, and turn off YOUR favorite TV show because it is time for something special together as a family, they will learn from your actions that the family has value, and they have value because they are a part of that family.

10.  Give yourself a break. I knew precisely NONE of this when I was 25.  I learned pretty much ALL of these important lessons by screwing up, and trying hard to learn from my mistakes.

11.  Hug your kids.  Tell them you love them, and that you are proud of them.  Tell them all the time.  There is no such thing as a bad time, and no such thing as too much.

I signed Sam up for swimming lessons at the pool down the street.  Because it’s a state pool, they offer free swimming lessons for kids, but you have to sign up at the crack of dawn and they really don’t publicize it.  But I got up at five thirty and stood in line for two hours to sign him up, and now he’s good to go every morning for a half hour, starting the week after school gets out.

It’s odd, because this is the first “activity” that he’s had any interest whatsoever.  He was horrified at the prospect of going to actual summer camp at the JCC (where EVERY other little kid goes) and apathetic about baseball or street hockey or gymnastics.  Any other option – he was either violently opposed to or possibly neutral towards it, but never actually excited and looking forward to it.  But swimming lessons – he can’t wait.  
And my boy – my beloved baby boy, who thinks the sun rises and sets on his Mama – the one who only gave up nursing after I literally ran out of milk and had been begging for months for him to stop, the one who ran after me, heartbroken, when I tried to leave him at kindergarten, the one who falls asleep every night snuggled as close as he can – that boy popped out into the dining room last night and asked if Daddy could please take him on the first day of swimming lessons.  
Wow.  Just… wow.  I mean, kudos, right?  This is GREAT, on just about every level.  He trusts his Daddy, he loves his Daddy and that’s exactly as it should be.  But I had this little moment of “wow – he’d rather have Marc than me there.”  I mean, he’s almost six.  He’s preferred Marc for all kinds of things for a long time – but there were certain things that we just my domain.  And when he was nervous and scared and trying a new thing – that was always my territory.  I didn’t really claim it, exactly, but it’s always been his default position, clinging to me, that I felt pushed aside and confused.  Really?  You want DADDY there for the first day?  Not Mama?  
It sounds selfish, and I don’t think it is.  After this little blip of confusion, there was this rush of satisfaction – yes, this is what I want.  I want for him to feel as nurtured and safe with his Daddy as he does with me.  And selfishly, yes – I want to chill out at home and drink my coffee and relax, while Marc treks out the door before the morning is really awake and goes to swimming lessons.  So overall, it’s a great thing, and I’m happy about it – but it was a pretty major milestone last night.

(I’m linked up with http://yeahwrite.me/61-open-challenge/ this week)

It’s first thing in the morning and nobody is awake except for me and the birds. Julianna is sleeping again, she’s been waking at five or five thirty and nursing for a bit, and then drifting back off for another hour (sometimes longer). We’ve got big plans today – my cousin and I are taking our toddlers into the Children’s Museum in Boston. Becky and I grew up together, lived together for most of our twenties and I’m enormously happy about the fact that her daughter and mine are a mere seven months apart.  Julianna has worshiped Abby from the beginning, and I’m so looking forward to spending the day with just us.   I’m pondering if I need a carriage, Julie hates it, so I think I’ll just stick with the sling, if she desperately wants to be carried, and I might just skip that too.  She’s a running girl, and I can always throw her up on my hip or shoulders if she needs to be carried.  She’ll be my only one today.  

There’s something glorious about having a day with just one of your children.  I’m equally thrilled with whichever one it happens to be, and am planning on “dates” with the older ones as well.  I want to take Jessie to Starlight – the roller skating rink down the street, and am trying to decide what would be the most fun for Sam.  Maybe hiking.  He likes being outside in the woods.  

Marc will be home with the other two, plus his daughters from his first marriage. There’s so many fun things going on in Worcester today, between the Day of Play at Elm Park (our old stomping ground), Father’s Fest at Institute Park, and of course, we’ve also got the Ecotarium membership. He’s not sure what he’ll be doing with them, and there’s a good chance that the day will involve Jessie’s radio, a really long extension cord, and CD’s being blasted out into the front yard so that she can dance. Because that’s how my nine year old rolls these days.

It’s the end of the school year, and I feel like I’m running, running everywhere. After school activities have mostly ended for the year, and my days are a flurry of concerts, field days and plays. My mother is recovering from surgery as well, so I’ve spent a couple of days down at her house. My house is mostly in shambles, I can just about stay on top of the dishes and the laundry, if you don’t count folding and putting it away. I don’t like to think of housework as such a major part of my day, but several days in a row where I’m out of the house, and it looks like a pack of rabid animals partied HARD in my house. Yesterday, I declared a Day At Home (well, except for the nine year old’s concert at school, but that was less than an hour), and cleaned like a mad woman. All the laundry is actually in dressers. Staggering… 

We have decided to repeat kindergarten for my Sammy.  For a whole host of reasons, but one of the biggies was that he hadn’t gone to preschool and spent most of the first couple of months figuring out how to be without me. I thought preschool wasn’t necessary, he was a relatively social kids, we had friends his age over all the time, but the part he was missing was functioning without me there. He’s just not ready for the rough and tumble world of first grade. It’s been a really hard decision, but in the end, I know it’s the right one. He’s a summer baby too, so he’s on the young side to begin with. He’s delighted about the prospect of another year with his beloved teacher, so in the end, we’re good. And I’m realizing that this really is going to be such a gift – I get another year with him. That’s an extra year that he’ll be at home, an extra year that he’ll be at this stage, academically and socially.   When my friends are shipping their kids off to college, I’ll get another year with him at home.  By then, I might be ready to send him off into the world, but right now, an extra year sounds like heaven.

My nine year old is delighted by everything these days. She’s just growing up so fast, and I sometimes have to stop and just absorb the wonder that is Jessica. She’s brilliant and bold and smart and funny. She’s taken to lugging notebooks everywhere with her, writing chapters in novels that she’s crafting and spends hours after school these days dancing on my front lawn. She’s still a little girl sometimes, snuggling up to me before bed, but more and more these days, I see this girl who’s so much older than I think she should be.

Julianna, my love bug baby girl, is getting awfully big as well. Still a steadfast nurser, I don’t see her weaning anytime soon. She’s learning everything so fast, knows all of her colors, can count up to ten (if you don’t notice that she misses every number between three and nine), and sings like you wouldn’t believe. She’s a stubborn little autocrat sometimes, firmly convinced that she’s the boss of everyone. Being the youngest of five, she’s also a serious entertainer, and will perform on command to amuse her siblings. I wonder about what she’ll be like at five, or nine. So much of who they are is right there from the very beginning. Jessie had the drama and the pathos, Sam had the passion and pure devotion. I wonder what aspect of Julianna will follow her thru her life. 

Julianna is sitting on a potty.  We’ve been toying with this idea for a while, even though I KNOW that it’s probably too early.   Both Jessie and Sam potty trained when they were about three and a half, and they did it on their own in a day or two.  I know it’s possible to get them to do it earlier, but it always seemed to me that it was more about the parents wanting it and if you wait until the child is ready, it’s so much easier.  So why did I get a potty for my just barely two year old daughter??  I don’t know.  Rationally, I know it’s a waste of time, but still…

She’s dry when she wakes up in the morning, and has started telling me when she poops.  So why not, right?  Even if I don’t push it at all, but just have the potty here, around, hanging out if she wants it for a while.  She seemed interested in the thought of having her own potty – until we actually got it.  Then she insisted that she didn’t want her own potty.  So, in a flash of brilliant parenting, I told her that it wasn’t hers – it was G’s (she still called Jessie “G”).  And as a little sister, there’s nothing she likes more than taking stuff from her sister.  Now I just have to convince nine year old to pretend that the little purple and pink toddler potty belongs to her ūüôā

I like birthdays. Not just because you get cake, but also because I think it’s a beautiful idea to take an entire day and just celebrate the fact that someone exists. I never dread my own birthday – even though my next one will be the dreaded thirty nine. It’s a whole day to just be happy to be alive – or to celebrate that someone else is alive. Today is my husband’s birthday – and if there was ever anyone who truly deserved a whole day just be celebrated, it would be him.

It’s not just that he’s my husband and my best friend. It’s not just that he’s unfailingly kind and considerate and sweet. It’s not just that he’s staggeringly brilliant in ways that continue to amaze me. It’s not just that he’s the father to five amazing, wonderful children. It’s all of those things. He’s just awesome, in really, every way you could imagine.

When I was a little girl, and I used to think about my Prince Charming (because yeah, I totally bought into that whole myth), he was tall and smart and kind. And I’m happy to report that he’s literally the kindest and smartest man I’ve ever met. Also 6’3, which is pretty cool too.

We all come into marriage and parenthood with a certain amount of baggage. I’m no exception – and one of the many things Marc has taught me is how incredibly important a dad is. I didn’t know, until I saw my own children with him, how much I missed out on. How much my siblings missed out on. I didn’t know, until I had my own children, how incredibly hard it was for my own mother to do this on her own. Because I can’t imagine parenting without Marc. He’s the yin to my yang. He’s my balance. They need both of us.  I think he makes me a better mom and I like to think I make him a better dad.  Our relationship is more than just being parents together – but being co-captains of this ship – of raising our family together, it makes me achingly aware of how lucky I am to have him by  my side.

There’s an element of wonder, when it comes to raising children. There’s a lot of wonder, now that I think about it, but the one I’m focusing on is watching your children mirror your spouse. Jessie is a lot like me, temperment-wise (Marc says she is me with no impulse control) but she’s got the oddest little quirks from her dad. She’s much, much more organized than I. Very specific about arranging things, she likes them a certain way and derives enormous pleasure from that. That – she gets my from my husband. Samilicious Boy is much more like his dad, with the same level of intensity about certain things, a love of all things physical and a sweetness and purity to his love and devotion. And Julianna Chocolate Chip – she’s got this goofiness that I can trace directly back to her dad.

I’m grateful today for my marriage – for finding my Prince Charming and such an incredibly awesome dad for my children. Happy birthday Marc – I love you more than you’ll know.