I know – it’s a crappy name for a project, but I’m still working on it.

At our last school conference, his teacher raved about how well he’s doing in school this year.  Smart, fun, interacting with everyone, totally socially acclimated.  But there was a pause, and I asked the question that had been weighing on my mind – will he be able to go to first grade next year, or is his comfort level completely dependent on having you as his teacher?  In other words, I know he’s awesome, I know he’s bright and funny and sweet and all around a great kid.  But I also know that he’s really afraid in new settings, and that if she’s not there, his beloved teacher that he’s had for two years now – he might regress completely.  And his teacher reluctantly agreed that it was a possibility.

So she suggested babysitters.  Playdates.  Leave him often with other adults, put him in new settings without Marc or I there and expand his confidence.

I blame myself.  Of course.   I know that I sheltered him a lot, I kept him with me when he really wanted to be, I didn’t force him to go to preschool, I didn’t force him to go to soccer camp.  I’ve cancelled playdates wily nily when he started sobbing at the prospect of going.

So I’m leaving him at my  mother’s house more and more.  He’s over at Joy’s house for a playdate today, and has big plans on going over to Nicky’s house tomorrow.   He’s ready for this – he’s eager to go and be a six year old boy, with friends and legos and ninjas and running and all kinds of BOY stuff.

And I think this is why, even though I blame myself, I also give myself credit.  Sam is who he is.  And he’s not a kid who was ready to trust anyone, really.  For a very long time.  He was a kid who was really scared, and didn’t feel safe out in the world alone.  As much as I wished it might have been different – I wish that only for his sake.  Because it was HARD to be him.   But he had a blast at my mom’s house last weekend, and his eyes lit up when I asked if he wanted to go play at Harrison’s house today.  And he’s been counting down the days to his playdate with Nicky.  He’s ready now.  I don’t think he could have been pushed or forced into this – he had to be ready on his own.   Like potty training, or learning to read, or sleeping thru the night.

Thanksgiving is my mother’s favorite holiday. But not mine. I like the prep work, but the actual holiday has never really appealed to me. None of the beauty of Christmas, or the quiet peace of Hanukkah. None of the candy and spring time excess of Easter, or the spiritual meaning attached to Passover. It’s okay. But not my favorite.

Sam was sick this year on Thanksgiving. We have a tradition in our family, girls and boys night is the night before. I always take my girls and sleep over at my mother’s house on Wednesday night. We stay up late, prepping stuff for the next day, and talking and gossiping. Marc takes Sam and they go out for Chinese together and then stay up late watching what I call “inappropriate tv.” We get up super early, and spend the morning eating and cooking and talking and Marc and Sam come down to my mother’s house and we all have the holiday together. 

But this year, Sam woke up and threw up all morning long, so he and Marc stayed home, and the girls and I had dinner with my parents and come home after. And because it isn’t Thanksgiving unless we’re all together, we’re having a redo today. The turkey is in the oven, the kids are coloring placemats for everyone (we’ve got some friends joining us) and I’ve got Christmas carols on in the kitchen. And I’m glad, because it gives me a golden opportunity to think about one comprehensive list of what I’m grateful for today. So – in no particular order – here’s a few of the many blessings I have to be grateful for this year…

– My husband. Marc and I will celebrate our eleven year anniversary in February, and I’m still so in love with him. He’s my best friend, my partner, and the one person who’s always, always on my side. He’s brilliant and kind and funny and endlessly, endlessly devoted to our family. But more than that, he’s just as goofy in love with me as I am with him, and that’s such a wonderful gift.

– My Jessica Mary. She’ll be ten in a few months, and my baby girl is growing up so much faster than I think she should. She was, and is, everything I always wanted in a daughter. All my hopes and dreams of being a mother paled in comparison to the reality, and she’s the reason for that. It’s better and more magical, more infuriating and harder than I ever dreamed. She’s simply awesome, and I’m blessed to be her mother.

– My Samuel Earl. My boy child, my sweetest little love, and my right arm. He’s the one who changed me, who stretched me and taught me and made me the mother I am today. He’s my heart, in a very real sense, and I’m forever in awe of him. He’s smart and sweet and so tender and vulnerable at times. Stubborn and determined and this little bundle of emotion and sweetness. Worships his dad, but adores me, and I’m blessed to have him for my son.

– My Julianna Ruth. My angel girl, my love bug. She’s just so funny and happy. She’s in love with the world, and delighted to be a part of it. She makes motherhood easy, and has from the very beginning. I was laughing as she was born, and it’s still the way I think of her. She just makes you smile. She’s cheerful and easy to please, unless you cross her, in which case, she’ll kill you. Or at least try hard to. She’s such a gift, such a perfect blessing.

– My stepdaughters, Lilli and Sarah. Being a stepmother isn’t an easily defined role, and it’s one that is different for each stepmother. But I think I’ve got it easier than most, because these girls are just a delight to me. And one thing that easy to define is the relationship between them and my three, and that is one of siblings. These two girls are their big sisters, best friends, mortal enemies and lifelong companions. My kids are blessed to have them in their life. And let’s face it, my husband makes pretty great kids – and his oldest two are great examples. Smart, funny, kind. I’m proud to have them in my family.

– Worcester isn’t my hometown. In fact, after living here for nine years, I still get lost more often than not, and think longingly of my little hometown of Maynard. But Worcester has a lot going for it, not the least of which is great schools, fabulous library, wonderful neighborhoods, Congregation Beth Israel, Charlotte Klein’s dance studio, Troop 54 Boy Scouts and the Girl Scout troops. My kids live in a peaceful, pretty world, filled with dedicated adults and really good friends. I’m grateful for that.

My turkey smells wonderful, and there are potatoes and squash waiting in the kitchen for me to peel and prep. My kids are happy, my husband is enjoying his first day off in long time (because Thursday doesn’t count, as he spent most of the day cleaning vomit). I’ve got a pile of new books to read, friends coming over this afternoon. I think I might do a Thanksgiving re-do every year. It might even turn into one of my favorite holidays too. 

I’ve got my faults, believe me.  I’m stubborn, I hold a grudge, I whine a lot.  I’m not always brimming over with patience, and I hate making my kids unhappy.  But I’m not really into… stuff.  I don’t care about clothes, I have little to no jewelry that I care about (I like my wedding ring, but even that, I don’t actually wear it all that often), I borrow all my books from the library and can’t remember the last time I actually enjoyed a shopping experience.

Which is why I’m perplexed that I’ve given birth to hoarders.

Jessie was first, obviously.  And I noticed the tendency early – she collects stuff.  Odd stuff.  Stuff that doesn’t look all that appealing to me, for example, rocks off the side of the road.  Little dustcatchers that have no particular significance to anything in her life – like a plaster nurse figurine she picked up at my stepfather’s father’s house after he passed away.  She got a dozen tiny little things, porcelain tea sets that make me crazy because I feel like they’re just aching to shatter all over the place.  Stuffed animals, oh Lord have mercy – the stuffed animals.  Every-freaking-where.

But Sam… my Sam is a sentimental hot mess.  And today, I broke his piggy bank.  It was glass (why, oh, why do people give him glass stuff???) and up on a high shelf.  I was putting something on the shelf, and the pig fell down and shattered.  Of course.  And the poor little guy… it broke his heart.  We had already had a rough morning, after my mother sent home boxes of fruit snacks (but I can’t blame her, I brought them into the house, I know it was my fault).  Fruit snacks are like crack to him – he simply can’t stop himself from eating all them.  One after another.  And they’re utter crap for his teeth, and really, there’s no good reason for any six year old to sit and inhale sixteen little packets of fruit snacks.  

So he cried, and sobbed and then Jessie hurt his feelings by calling him a jerk.  So he came into his bedroom, where I was misguidedly trying to put away all his clean laundry.  I got him thru it, patted his back and consoled him – and distracted him by having him help make the bed.  Once his bed was pretty and made, he got out a little stack of books to read – and was so content – and then BOOM, the piggy bank broke.

It’s almost bad enough to make me whip out a package of fruit snacks to make him feel better.  But I was tough, and he soldiered thru, but sobbed like someone had died.

I’m relatively laid back about most of mothering. There are some things I’m pretty adamant on, I don’t let them watch certain television shows (SpongeBob, I’m talking about you), I insist on teeth brushing and that you at least wave the brush in the general direction of your hair. But I don’t insist on ponytails every day for the girls, and I pretty much let them pick out what they want to wear. Which is why you’ll see my toddler constantly wearing her straw sun hat. In November. 

It’s easy to fall into stereotypes about girls and boys sometimes, especially when I’m just coming off of a long, involved debate over what to wear with my oldest daughter, and I just tossed some clothes at my son and he put them on happily. But the truth is that it’s more age oriented for him. When he was a toddler, he had a rainbow sun hat her wore everywhere, and frequently would insist on double underwear or double shirts. But now, he’s my easiest kid, as long as it’s comfy, he doesn’t much care what it looks like. My daughters have always been super picky about clothes. And I’ll never forget when, at four, my precious angel girl looked at me and said coldly “Just because you like jeans and ponytails, Mama, doesn’t mean that I do.” 

So today, Jessie went to school in a pair of jeans and sneakers (she wore them because she’s got a field trip involving a lot of outside walking today – she wears sneakers only reluctantly on gym days and flat out hates jeans) and two shirts layered. The shirt dilemma was a battle this morning, turtlenecks didn’t look right and wouldn’t fold down on her neck, and she doesn’t have anything to wear (in her eyes, I think she’s got far too many outfits). She was near tears trying to get dressed, and I was doing my best to bite my tongue and point out the sixteen different perfectly viable tops she could have chosen. Sam didn’t blink at the clothes I threw his way, other than to be thrilled that they were warm from the dryer. And my Julianna got up late and staggered out the bedroom in her cute little footie jammies from last night. With her outfit from yesterday put on top of it, because she was so distraught at taking it off before bed. It was just easier to convince her to put on warm jammies underneath and then put back on her leggings and pink tshirt for bed. And of course, the hat. Because no outfit, even purple fleece jammies with red and pink leggings and tshirt over it, is complete without the straw hat. With the fuchsia flower.

Pick your battles – that’s my theory. So if you see my daughter, know that a lot of thought and effort went into her outfit, on her part, and know that my son is probably not wearing matching socks. And yeah, I know that the straw hat isn’t that warm, and that it’s getting a little bedraggled from constant wear, but it’s better than the batman skull hat all summer, so I’m not complaining 🙂

Marc’s job has killer hours these days.  There’s flexibility, which is much needed, as we’re still down to just his car and we have three kids who need to be toted hither and yon, but there’s also a LOT of late nights.  We still managed to eek out a little time together, mornings, sometimes.  And sometimes mid-afternoon, he can hang for a bit, but he’s not here, mostly, at night.  I miss my husband, and my kids miss their dad.  But we’re adjusting to the new normal, which is most nights, just the four of us rocking around the house.  I make dinner a lot earlier, and usually manage to get everything cleaned up before bed.  Julie has, for the most part, given up her nap, so she’s generally down for the night around seven thirty or so, Sam conks out around eight or eight fifteen, and I try to get Jessie to sleep for nine.

Things are good these days.  Jessie seems to have finally adjusted to the world of fourth grade.  It was a rough, really rough, beginning.  With lots of tears and frustration on everyone’s part, but she brought home a stellar report card today.  All As and Bs, with the exception of a high C for math.  But she got As for math effort and conduct, so I’m still beaming.  Hebrew School has gotten a lot better for her as well.  I don’t know that it got better, because it was never bad, but she seems to have gotten used to it, and is now happy about going again.

Sam adjusted to school pretty quickly after the first week or so, but Hebrew school was a much tougher battle to fight.  But he’s going now, and sitting thru class without me there, and I couldn’t be prouder.  He’s probably never going to be a kid who thrives on extra curricular activities, his default favorite place is always going to be at home, but he’s getting more and more used to it.  It broadens his world, exposes him to a brighter and bigger environment, so even though it’s super hard to force him to do STUFF, I have to keep trying.  Slowly, and patiently, but keep trying.

Julie is growing ever bigger, and ever more verbal.  She’s learning so much every day, counting and singing and using the potty and not napping really at all anymore.  Massively opinionated, she’s an odd combination of both the older kids, with a dash of just Julie thrown in.  She’s dramatic and emotional like her sister, prone to screaming when things don’t go her way, but staggeringly easy to please most of the time like her brother.  She’s still my hat girl, only she’s moved away from the Batman skull cap to a straw sunhat with a giant fuchsia flower on it. She calls it her cowgirl hat, and occasionally will toss it up in the air and holler “Yee Haw!”  Wears it everywhere.  Literally.  Every-freaking-where.  Library, shopping, the synagogue.  She takes it off reluctantly to sleep and usually dons it before she comes out of the bedroom in the morning.  She’s got chronic hat head.

As for me, I’m thinking.  I’m thinking and wondering and hoping.  As the kids get older, I’m starting to feel… something.   Free-er, more available for stuff.  More available for me.  So much of the past ten years (I’m really aware of the fact that Jessie’s next birthday in February will mark a full decade of parenting for me) have been devoted to intense, hands on mothering.  Now that Julie is two and a half, potty trained and not napping, I’m starting to wonder what I’ll do with myself.  I’m sort of putting myself out of a job, in a sense.  Not that I’m not still their mother, but for a very long time, there wasn’t really time for me to do much else.  Not and still mother the way I wanted to.  I had stumbled into an admin career pre-kids, and was pretty good at it, but I don’t really anticipate going back to a regular 9-5 job.  I don’t want Julie in full time care, and I don’t want Sam and Jessie in full time after school care.  So I’m thinking about work from home, and I’m thinking about writing.  Still just at the thinking stage, but wondering about what I could do, articles?  Columns?  A book?  I don’t know, and mostly, it’s all just dreams now.  But it’s out there, on the horizon…

In no particular order – here’s a list of some of what I’ve figured out after what I just realized is almost a decade of parenting.  Some of these lessons I have to relearn over and over again..

– Pacifiers work.  Really, really well – but around a year old, it’s better to limit it to just before bed, in the car, and after a temper tantrum.

– Potty training is just messy.  There’s going to be naked toddlers, urine everywhere and a lot of mopping and carpet/upholstery cleaning in your future.

– I read somewhere that you shouldn’t count how many times you nurse your child, or how many times you kiss them.  Do it as needed.

– Pay attention to a child’s diet over a week, not over a day.

– As much as you can, encourage your child to play ALONE.  Or with other kids.  But don’t appoint yourself the cruise director, in charge of their entertainment.  

– Put your kids first.   Because nobody else is going to consider their best interests in making plans or decisions, and they deserve that.  It doesn’t always have to be the deciding factor, but always consider them before making decisions.

– It might take a village, but more than that, it takes dedicated, devoted and thoughtful parents.  Pay attention to their world, and make intelligent determinations about the childhood you want them to have.

– Don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve screwed up.  Nobody, NOBODY, knows what they’re doing.  We’re all winging it, and we all make mistakes.  Own it and fix it when you do.

– Don’t be afraid to have your child hate you.  Because they will.  And that’s okay.  It’s temporary, and they’ll thank you for it.  Really.   Kids like structure and rules and knowing what comes next.  They also like knowing that they can count on you to make the rules.

– Always reassure your kids that you are on their side, that you want for them to succeed and be happy -and that you love them more than they’ll ever know.   As obvious as it seems – they still need to hear it.  Over and over again.

– You can make a meal more popular by naming it – we eat Jessie’s favorite shepherd’s pie, and Sammy Boy’s tacos a lot.

– Let your kids see you and your husband fight, not often, but show them that it’s okay to get mad, to talk it out, and then to compromise and make up.  And make sure they see you loving each other more than they see you mad at each other.

– Pay attention, but not so much attention that you know, all the time, exactly what they’re doing.  If the kids are playing happily in their bedroom, stay away.  

– Go ahead and just accept that your house is going to be just a little bit of a disaster.  For years.  Stay on top of laundry, dishes and the floors, and just accept the clutter and mess.  Towers will get built and not put away, army guys and princesses will battle it out and you’ll learn to hate Polly Pockets and tiny little lego guys with a passion.

– Periodically, throw away (or donate) a bagful of toys.  They won’t notice, and it’ll feel great.

– Every now and again, you have to leave them.  You have to walk out the door so that they know you’ll always come back.  You have to let them form attachments and bonds with other people, even when they hate every single second of it.  It’s a very fine line, balancing out meeting their needs and their wants, and even harder when they are completely opposite.  But learning that they are okay without you there is so critical.

– Be strong when everyone else tells you that you’re wrong.  If you know, absolutely, that this (whatever this is) is the right path for your child, know that you know your child better than anyone else.  Everyone else can have an opinion, but not everyone else has the knowledge base that you do about your child.  Consider the advice, but don’t be afraid to disregard it if it flies in the face of what you know is right.

– Remember to hug each one, individually, every day.  Believe me, you can overlook this accidentally if you aren’t paying attention, especially as they get older.  Take a minute, each day, and really connect on a one on one basis with each child.

– Every now and again, go ahead and have ice cream for dinner.

– Make traditions.  Just go ahead and make them up – because really, that’s all a tradition is.  The traditional ones are great, Shabbat dinner, or Passover Seders, and Rosh Hashana apple picking, but special hookey days from school on their birthdays – or watching The Looney Tunes Show or Scooby Doo all snuggled up together, or the night every year that you put on jammies and drive them around looking at Christmas lights until they fall asleep.  Those are the traditions that they’ll pass down to their kids.

– Remind them that they are stuck with each other.  That we are a family, and there’s a connection there that’s unbreakable.  They don’t have to like each other all the time, but they do have to know that when the chips are down, their siblings are going to be there.

Jewish men, as a rule, are circumcised by a mohel.  It’s a special position, generally filled by urologists or other doctors, and they not only perform the operation but also conduct the service.  When Sam was born, Marc was adamant that he be circumcised.  Everyone has their own baggage, and I’m far from exempt from that.  I grew up without a dad, I was dead certain that I wanted my children to have an active, involved and dedicated father.  I didn’t want them to have just one parent, so it was vital to me to respect Marc as a parent.  Sam was his son as much as he was mine, and it was that absolute for him.  Sam would be circumcised.  So I agreed.

The boys in my family had all be circumcised, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the idea (although it was always done in the hospital).  That being said, it’s one thing to blithely agree to something and then realize how incredibly hard it’s going to be.  Like daycare – of course, my kids would go to day care and I’d work full time, right up until I actually HAD a child and the thought of leaving them for eight to nine hours a day was devastating.  It was the same situation with the circumcision.  Yeah, sure, we can do that, right up until I’ve got this tiny little boy – AND YOU WANT TO CUT OFF HIS LITTLE PENIS?!?!  And if I was struggling with the concept, explaining it to my non-Jewish family was even harder.  The whole idea of having a party where we’d cut off the tip of his penis and then have bagels was beyond their comprehension.
But cut it off we did.  I reminded myself over and over again that this was Marc’s child as much as mine.  That I had to respect Marc’s traditions and his right to make decisions for our child if I truly wanted him to be an equal parent with me.  
First let me back up.  Sam was a challenging baby.  To this day, six years later, I know of no other child who was as miserable as my Sammy was for the first several months.  Colic and reflux were a part of it, but part of it was just who Sam was, he doesn’t like change – and the whole concept of starting his life here just made him furious.  He cried all the livelong day, unless he was nursing.   Or in the swing – he loved his swing.  But mostly he cried and nursed.  I actually kept track one day, and had nursed him thirty separate times between six o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon.  He only slept when I held him, and only stopped crying when he nursed.  He flipped out if anyone other than me tried to hold him, screamed unmercifully if people looked at him for too long, and being the center of attention made him nuts.  
So I was a wreck on the day he was going to be circumcised.  To put it mildly.  I was an experienced mom, he was my second baby, and I’d had literally decades of childcare behind me – but I was worn out, sleep deprived and out of mind with confusion and frustration and this overwhelming love for this boy child.  Voluntarily hurting him (and that’s the only way I could see this) was so hard.  So incredibly hard. My mother, sister, stepfather and cousin had all come early to our house.   We lived in a second floor apartment, and it was literally the hottest day of the summer so far that year.   We had no air conditioner, and the apartment was wall to wall people.  I couldn’t stop crying.  Sam couldn’t stop crying (because the mohel didn’t want me to nurse for the two hours before the ceremony).  I remember one of Marc’s aunts walking around holding him, and trying to convince him to use the pacifier.  
My mother took me into Jessie’s bedroom, and all of Marc’s female relatives assured me that I shouldn’t be there, the mothers never watch.  But I couldn’t NOT be there.  This was my child.  This was my baby, and if I was going to allow this to happen to him, I couldn’t let him do it without me there to support him.  So I sat in the room just off of the dining room, where everyone had gathered.  My father in law held Sam, and my poor confused stepfather gave him little bits of a sweet wine and it was over super fast.  They handed him back to me immediately, and he stopped crying the instant I touched him.  He nursed gratefully and went immediately back to sleep.  
The man who performed the circumcision passed away the other day, and I’m mourning him today.  Not that I knew him well, I had never met him before and only saw him a few times since then.  But he was there, on one of the most challenging and painful and ultimately rewarding days of my life.  You know how sometimes you bond to your baby the first time you meet them, and sometimes it takes a bit? I loved Sam from the beginning, but on the day that he was circumcised, I knew absolutely and without question that I was his mother and he was my son, and that when he hurt, I felt it more than I could have imagined.  It was the beginnings of a relationship that, to this day, continues to shock and amaze me, to teach me and stretch me and astound me.  Rest in Peace, Stuart Jaffee, and thank you for your part in my son’s life.
That being said – when we found out that Julianna was a girl, the first thing I thought in the ultrasound room was thank God we don’t have to have her circumcised.

Why wouldn’t you? I read an article yesterday on kveller.com about a mom who was stunned and happy that her five year old wanted to come and vote with her. She wrote four or five paragraphs on it, how she’s not sure that she’s ready to talk to him about issues, and she and her husband are always careful to not talk about politics in front of him. I was baffled… I’ve been hauling my kids into the voting booth since they were born. On more than one occasion, I’ve taken other people’s kids into the voting booth with me. Because why wouldn’t you? 

I’ve always discussed politics with my kids. Age appropriate, and I’m not a hugely confrontational person anyway – so I tend to present at least a nominally balanced viewpoint, but I make it clear which way I vote, why I vote that way, and what the opposing arguments are. I also really encourage them to make up their own minds – to have opinions. They might not be able to vote, but they are certainly capable of deciding where they stand on certain issues. 

So we’re all voting together this afternoon. I asked if the kids wanted to this morning, and Sam enthusiastically yelled “YES.” Jessie said yes as well, although qualified it as saying that she didn’t really have much choice in the matter, because we had to take her with us. I told her that technically, we could vote while she was at school and not take her, but that yeah, even if she didn’t want to go, we’d make her. Because you vote. In our family – we vote. I don’t care how she votes, I just care that she does. 

Is it indoctrination? Maybe. But I think we all indoctrinate our children to one extent or another. And I’m careful about how I do it. Especially as it relates to religion and politics. I don’t get to make their decisions, I don’t get to decide how or when they worship or vote when they are adults, but I do get to teach them that it matters. That spirituality and political viewpoints are important, and worthy of thoughtful consideration. In the end, that’s why I make them go to religious school, and that’s why I drag them into voting booths. I think it’s my job as their parent to show them these things, to expose them to a spiritual path that will encourage them to think and learn and make up their own mind, and to know that every November, their little butts belong in a voting booth – because they matter. In the end, it’s not about indoctrination, it’s about empowerment. 

I haven’t blogged in a bit, mainly because this post (which I obviously really needed to write, for myself) is kind of angry and kind of hostile – and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there on a public forum.  That being said, I find that, after writing it, I feel a LOT better about everything.  Back to cheery parenting posts tomorrow.  Maybe even later on this afternoon.

It’s more than just politics.  It’s also about religious evolution and emotional evolution and the way life changes and you grow.  When I was eighteen, I was a volunteer on Bill Clinton’s campaign, a card carrying member of the National Abortion Rights Activist League and a self described witch.  When I was twenty eight, I miscarried twins.  That, more than anything, changed my mind on abortion.  I had three children between the time I was twenty nine and thirty six.  And they were Jewish kids.  Did I convert to Judaism because of the kids?  Maybe.  Did I change my mind on abortion because of the kids?  Absolutely.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that maybe those pro-life people weren’t wrong.  They knew that the pregnancy that resulted in miscarriages at ten and eleven weeks was more than just a vague collection of cells. Maybe those pro-life people might have a point.  After losing my babies, I couldn’t accept that abortion was just another choice.  Those were babies.  They were my babies.  When they died, it was a loss that I continue to grieve.  If I had chosen to end that pregnancy, how could I pretend that it wasn’t ending a life?  Abortion isn’t nothing.  Should it be safe and legal?  Probably – because inevitably, people are going to get pregnant and not be able to carry the baby to term.  But should it be considered just another choice?  Is it nothing?  I don’t think so.  I don’t have all the answers.  But I do know that it’s a lot more complicated than I had thought.  I know that because I’m a woman.  I know that because I’ve had those pregnancies.  I resent the hell out of being told that I need to deny what I know as a woman because I’m a woman, i.e. I need to vote Democrat to preserve abortion rights.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that organized religion was more than just suppression of independent thought, that it was about a community and a people and a way to explain the universe.  Somewhere along the line, I started really liking having religion in my life.  I liked having religion in my kids’ lives.  Not just having God, but having religion.  Rules, tradition, guidelines that were shared by a community.  Being a witch seemed… insufficient to me.   I wanted Shabbat dinner.  I wanted Passover Seders and a religious tradition that would teach them that they have a unique and personal relationship with the Divine, and also that they have responsibilities to make the world a better place because of it.  This means that Saturdays – I’m going to be unavailable.  It’s Shabbat for me.  I don’t ask you to go to synagogue with me, but please understand that this is important to me.  It’s important for my kids.

Somewhere along that line, I started voting Republican.   It might have happened when I met Marc – because prior to that, everyone I knew just voted Democratic without thinking.  Everyone who was good and right was obviously a liberal.  But Marc wasn’t evil, he was the smartest man I’d ever met.  If he saw some good in opposing viewpoints, then perhaps it was worth a look.   I don’t ask you to vote the same way that I do.  I just ask that you stop demanding that only good and rational people vote your way.

And somewhere along the line, I realized that the world isn’t black and white.  It’s not good versus evil most of the time, it’s just people doing the best they can with the circumstances we have.  And people don’t always rise to the occasion, sometimes terrible things happen, and people aren’t strong enough to handle it.  You don’t always get back what you put out, and you can’t always make things better by willing it to be so.  Life is hard, sometimes.  Life is complicated, most of the time.   But if you can find people you love, people who respect your choices and welcome your input, if you can find a spiritual home where you feel valued and satisfied, then you’re doing okay.  I don’t think anyone has to agree with me, and I don’t think that if you are a witch or Christian or pro-choice or a lifelong Democrat, I don’t think I need to convince you to see it my way.  I accept that everyone is different.  I love that everyone is different. I think that these things are too personal, too private to try and convince others to feel the same way.

I just know that I’ve made my choices.  They aren’t always the choices I’d have thought that I’d be making, but they are the choices that have led me to here.  The lessons I’ve learned, they might not be your lessons.  But that doesn’t make them any less valid.

Here’s hoping for a quick resolution to the election and an end to the negative ads and misery on facebook and everywhere else on-line.   And thank goodness for tonight, our pre-election taco party, and for a fun night tomorrow night watching the returns come in.

I’ve got major writer’s block (aka everyone I know is in a bad mood and I think I’ve absorbed all of it, because although there’s nothing for me to be cranky about, I am) so am reposting an old blog post.  I was going to look back a year, but last November was, arguably, one of the worst months of my life, so I went back two years.  Everything I wrote is still true – only more so.

That’s really why I blog.  I do it because about twenty years ago, my mother found a journal that her mom had wrote in about her kids and was so incredibly moved by it.  Knowing how her mother felt about she and her siblings when they were kids was amazing for her, and I remember thinking that when I had kids, that’s what I was going to do.  Only I wasn’t going to do one little journal – I was going to write and write and write.  Plus I like writing.  A lot.  It’s my therapy, my way of making sense of what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.  And even though I’ve had some problems with this blog, I’m not going to stop.  I flat out love this blog, I love looking back three years ago and seeing where I was, and how I was thinking about things.  I love that other people read it, I’ve found connections and relationships and major support (hello, JoEllen 🙂 when I needed it.  But at the heart of it, I blog for me, for my kids and for Marc.  

Jessica Mary – you are my angel girl, my first little love.  You were my baby – and I wanted to have a little girl just like you for the longest time.  You are brilliant and kind, funny and sweet.  Maternal and loving and emotional and dramatic, and so beautiful it still takes my breath away.  We have an intense relationship, there’s nobody who can make me crazier than you, nobody who can bring me to tears faster.  I love you more than you’ll ever know – and I’m so proud of you.

Samuel Earl – you are my baby boy, my love bug boy and the child I never planned on.  Not that you weren’t a planned pregnancy, I just never thought I’d have a boy.  And from the very beginning – you just swept me away with your love and devotion.  I can’t imagine how I ever started a morning without my Sammy-love.  You’re stubborn, loving, sweeter than honey and everything that I never knew I needed so desperately in my life.  I love you more than you’ll ever know – and I’m so proud of you.

Julianna Ruth – you have been such a joy, right from the very instant you were conceived.  I knew, right away with you – I started throwing up immediately.  My pregnancy with you was torturous, and you have been such an amazing addition to my life, I’d even consider doing it again.  You are all sunshine and happiness, big beautiful eyes and a smile that lights up the room.  I can’t remember my life before you were in my arms – and thank God for you everyday.  I love you more than you’ll ever know – and I’m so proud of you.  

And Marc – I wouldn’t have any of this without you.  Not my brilliant girl, my lovebug boy, or my sunshiney baby.  I wouldn’t have this beautiful home, this loving family -I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without you by my side.  I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve you – to be loved as passionately, as sweetly – you know me inside and out and have never, ever made me feel anything other than completely cherished.  I love you more than you’ll ever know – and I’m so proud of you and the family we’ve built together.