I like summer.  Barring a few wretched hours on the first day of vacation, this is just lovely.  The kids are mostly all playing together happily.  I’ve generally got a few extra kids here – we’re the house where everyone congregates.  I’ve got ten year olds in Jessie’s room, watching Dance Moms and working on a menu for the J Cafe (that’s the name of the restaurant Jessie’s convinced she’ll be opening as an adult), six year olds in the living room, battling out with army guys and superhero figurines in the living room, and a toddler bopping around, getting in everyone’s way and insisting that she’s a part of it all.

Julie is still teething – and last night, we had a battle royale over taking motrin.  My other two kids were always delighted to take a little pain relief, in fact, Jessie used to love to just carry around an empty tylenol dropper when she was Julie’s age.   And Sammy never blinked about taking meds.  I always thought parents who couldn’t get their kids to take medicine were wimps.  Which is why one should not judge – because then I had Julianna.  She hates medicine, all kinds, all types.  Fortunately, she’s an uncommonly healthy kid and has only ever needed occasional pain relief for teething.  I don’t even think she’s ever had a bad cold, now that I’m thinking of it.  Which is another plug for extended breastfeeding.

She screamed and sobbed at the prospect of taking motrin last night, but I knew she needed it, and finally after trying for ten minutes to reason her into it (I recognize the futility of trying to rationally argue with a toddler, but still, I keep trying), I held her down and made her take it.  Slowly, so she didn’t throw it back up at me – but she eventually did get the whole teaspoon full down and slept much better as a result.  Win one for Mama.

It’s a rainy day today, which bodes well for my laissez-faire gardening experiment.   I’m baking and puttering today, my sister Karen is coming in from Hawaii, so we’ll be down there this weekend visiting her.  I’m also obsessively checking my email for some news on a house – with any luck, I’ll have some seriously good news to share soon.

Last night, Jessie and I had a fight.  Which is somewhat unusual, because we don’t generally do that.  Not that we never clash, but it’s not generally a “fight” exactly.  But last night, she was just flat out furious with me.  It’s not unusual for her to get mad at me, because that happens.  She’s ten.

So she had stormed off to her room, after I told her to think very carefully before she opened her mouth again to say something to her brother.  It was a hard night in general, Julie is cutting molars and was miserable, nursing forever (whereas that’s usually a very brief go to bed thing), so I was frustrated with that.  And Jessie was just exhausted and mean to everyone, not intentionally, I don’t think, but she was so tired from staying up so late and being outside running around all day.  Sam had been rambunctious and wild all day, and was the past the point of not listening to me, he was so wound up he wasn’t even aware that I was speaking to him.

By the time I got the other two to sleep and went to check on her, I was really hoping that she was just asleep.  She wasn’t.  She was up, fuming, and I suggested that she go to sleep.  She declined, not all that nicely, and then said “Are we done here?” in the snottiest tone possible.

I flicked off her television set, told her that yes, in fact, we were done.  And there was this moment, just a moment, when I realized that she didn’t particularly care if I was mad at her.

I’m the parent, she’s the child.  And there’s this element in our relationship, where I’m the one who makes the decisions, I’m the one who’s more in control.  I’m responsible for her.  It’s not two equals fighting on a level playing field.  Last night, for a minute, it was.  And it was such an odd sensation.  The day is going to come when we are equals, when she’s going to be furious at me, and not care if I’m disappointed or upset with her.  In a very real sense, I still consider myself responsible for her emotional state.  I think she still considers me responsible for it too.  We’re moving towards adulthood, I’m trying to teach her that she’s the one in charge of her mind, she’s the only one in charge of how she feels.  But last night, I realized that means that I can’t always fix everything with a hug.  Sometimes, she’s going to be furious with me, and not care about how I feel in regards to that.  Right now, my disapproval matters to her.  She might get mad at me, but she still wants to not be fighting with me, she wants me to be able to make it all go away.  But that’s not always going to be the case.

She’s going to be an adult, and she’s going to have a very different relationship with me than the one she has now.   It was a preview of what’ll be like when she’s an adult, when hopefully, we’ll have a relationship similar to the one I have with my mother, more friends than mother/daughter.  With mutual respect and an awareness that we are different people with different thoughts and reactions.  I don’t always do what my mother wants me to do, I make choices that aren’t always the choices that she’d make in the same situation.  I still love her, I still admire her enormously, I still think she’s the bees knees.  But I’m my own person, living my life and that’s separate and distinct from her.  Right now, Jessie and I are still entwined to a huge degree.  Not as much as we were, of course, when she was tiny, but we’re not yet as separated as we will be some day.

It was a bittersweet moment, because I could suddenly see, for the first time, what it was like to have a child that you loved so much, and have that child be strong enough, adult enough, to be able to be truly separate and distinct from you.  In the end, she burst into tears and softened enough to let me sit beside her and rub her back while she drifted off to sleep.  We’re not there yet, thank goodness, she’s still my little girl, I can still fix everything by just loving her.  I know it won’t last forever, but I’m not ready to give it up yet.

I like the thought of homeschooling and will probably end up exploring it more seriously as the kids get older. But Flagg Street Elementary School, where both of my older two attend, and my youngest will start in 2015, is home for us right now and I couldn’t be happier.

Jessica Mary is entering fifth grade in September, and very much looking forward to it. She had a great year. It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, but she learned and grew and thrived. Fourth grade, for her, was about so much more than geography and long division and open response MCAS questions. This was the year that she really learned about friendships, about how they form, how they fall apart, and how they can reform so fast. She learned about standing up for herself, how to speak up when she needed to, and how to let things slide when that was the better choice. This was a good year.

My boy – my boy had a more complicated year. Mostly, what Sam needed to do was grow in confidence. He needed to learn that the world was safe without having me or his dad there. He needed to learn to trust and to relax in a setting that was new and sometimes very scary for him. And without Sue Gravel, his kindergarten teacher, I can’t imagine how he would have done it. She was endlessly patient with him, gently, firmly, compassionate and always, always on his side.

As a parent – I rarely know what I’m doing. Especially as they get older, I’m just guessing most of the time. Should I be more involved in homework, less involved in what’s going on during the day? Should I be shielding them more, protecting and interceding, or standing back, letting them fend for themselves and learn independence? I don’t know the answers, other than to be pretty certain that there are no right ones. At least, not answers that don’t change according to the child, the time, the situation. There are no constants, no absolutes and no easy answers.

What I do know is that I always, always felt like the staff and administration at Flagg Street School was on the same side I was. They wanted my kids to grow and thrive and succeed. And they had the experience and dedication to make sure it happened. Sue Gravel was an absolute lifesaver, over and over again. I’m thrilled he’s moving onto first grade, I’m proud and humbled that this little boy, the one they had to pry off of me, kicking and screaming, to get him to go to kindergarten in the first place, happily answers that he’s “excited and a tiny bit nervous” about going to first grade in the fall.

I sometimes question the theory that it takes a village to raise a child. Mostly, I think it takes dedicated parents. But if it does take a village, I’m awfully glad that my village includes teachers that go above and beyond teaching to really get to know a child, to know when he’s ready to be pushed, and when he needs a hug or some extra reassurance. I’m grateful that my village includes the teachers, staff and administration of Flagg Street School. And, I can’t stress this enough – Sue Gravel is absolutely amazing, and I’ll never forget her impact on my son.

Poor Jessie needed to have some tests run yesterday.  She’s had this knee pain that’s been getting progressively worse over the past three weeks, and the doctor wanted to rule out an infection.  I had gone to the doctor’s with all three kids, a big purse, a travel mug of coffee and a migraine.

We got into the exam room, and things were going well.  I pointed out that behind the exam table was a little spot, perfect for kids to hide in, and Sam and Julie quickly made up some sort of game involving rain and thunder and having to hide quickly for shelter.  The doctor came in, did an exam and talked to both of us, and then… Jessie realized that these tests that she was talking about involved blood work.

All hell broke loose.  She started screaming, sobbing, shaking, begging me to please, please not make her do it.  I handed the poor six year old all my stuff, told him he had to be very grown up and help me with Julie, and then I tried to get thru to poor Jess.  She couldn’t even hear me, let alone get a grip on the hysteria.

I wrestled her out of the exam room, thru the lobby, out into the hall.  We made it to the elevator, me, screaming hot mess Jessie, poor Sam, lugging my huge bag and my coffee, and little confused, bewildered and slightly freaked out Julianna Ruth.  The elevator ride down took several years, and the screaming picked up in intensity as the doors opened.

Everyone in the lab looked at us.  Sam took Julie over to the corner so they could sit on the chairs (and presumably finish the game from upstairs, because they promptly climbed under the chairs).  I couldn’t hear anything over Jessie.  She was biting her knuckles so hard I was afraid she’d draw blood, and shaking and sobbing and begging.  Assuring me that she was FINE, she didn’t need to have any blood taken, her knee didn’t hurt AT ALL anymore.  It took three lab techs to draw her blood.   In addition to me, because I had her on my lap, with my arms and legs wrapped around her.  With poor Sam, lugging everything, and Julie, staring at us with huge terrified eyes.

When it was finally done, I started crying, just out of sheer relief.

God help this child if she actually does have an infection – because the treatment they mentioned was poking a needle into her knee and draining it.  I’m going to look into a tranquilizer for both of us if that happens.

I have many blog posts percolating and very little time to get them all out.  It’s the last week of school, and I feel like I need about four extra hands and hours in the day to accomplish everything.  But I’m still here, wading my thru the swamp of househunting and home inspections and missing electrical pipes and ancient radiant heat.  Sam’s got some administrative issues around transitioning to first grade, involving an adjustment counselor that appears to seriously not like him (Sam called him an idiot at one point, and I’m pretty sure he holds a grudge), and Jessie’s got a knee injury that’s taking up a lot of time.   We had a  really awesome Father’s Day weekend, involving a trip to the drive-in and Dairy Queen and then a lovely day spent visiting grandfathers and then wandering around the Clinton Dam.

We have found a house we like, but it’s a short sale, and has myriad potential problems.  Not enough to have us walk away, but enough make us pause and think.  Then the house that we LOVED, in the dream location came back on the market and now we’ll all befuddled and confused.  I hate house hunting.  I just keep clinging to the thought of Sammy and his little dog, and Jessie decorating her own room, and Julianna playing on her “playground” in the backyard.  We’ll get there, I just need to keep my eye on the prize, so to speak, and not lose my mind in the details and stress around finding a house.

Sam’s going to be fine.  I’m careful about what I share on line about my very private boy, but I will say that Mrs. Gravel from Flagg Street School is a goddess and I will never, ever be able to thank her enough for all that she does.  And Mrs. Brothers is also hugely supportive and welcoming for my boy, and doing all she can to ensure that he’s as successful as possible next year.

And my Jessie – oh my Jessie.  She’s got some sort of knee injury.  Sprained ligaments, but we don’t know when it happened.  Probably about two weeks ago, and it just got progressively worse. I brought her into the pediatrician’s on Father’s Day, and she’s on a brace, but she’s in a lot of pain.  It seems to be getting worse, and not better.  But how much of it is that she’s focusing on it now, and the brace is bugging her?  How much of it is actual pain and how much of it is just frustration and drama?  I don’t know… but I called the pediatrician again today and we’re going in for another check this afternoon.  My fear is that they’re going to put her on crutches, so that she’s completely not using the knee so that it’ll really heal, and if I thought she was miserable with a brace… I can’t even imagine the depths of misery she’ll reach with those.

The realtor just called and we can get in to see dream house this morning.  So we’re off.  Again.  For more house hunting.  This one is walking distance to Lilli and Sarah, which would be so ideal.  Especially as they get older, the easier we can make it for them to be able to come over and see us, the better.  So cross your fingers for us, okay?


Okay, I admit it.  I don’t like forts.  I don’t like building them, and I don’t like it when they get built.  I like to think I’m a cool mom, but forts are my downfall.

I let them build them.  Because that’s what one does when you have six kids here on a rainy Thursday afternoon.  Even worse, I made them MOVE the fort after I realized that they had transformed my living room into a blanket covered disaster.  They then transitioned the entire thing over to the dining room, and spent the better part of an hour setting up this giant THING.  Using blankets and brooms, hair clips and then trying to tape it up.  I stopped Jessie before she broke out the duct tape.

And the entire time they were doing it, all I could think was about what a pain in neck it was, because, as it inevitably does, it deteriorated into a small battle because one girl wanted to play one way, and someone else wanted to play it a different way, and then Julie started to panic and cry because she thought she was trapped forever inside it and couldn’t figure out how to get out.

But it also made me think about childhood and working together and long afternoons with no homework and your siblings and best friends around.  So even though I hate it, and I’m still cleaning up the mess, long after the kids have all either gone home or lost interest and gone home – I’m still glad that they’re young enough to it.

I just got back from Sam’s end of the year celebration, and I cried thru most of it.  His little class, filled with his best friends, the boys that have formed such a big part of his identity, the girls who fluttered around him when he cried because he missed me, this little group of kids that are his peers and his buddies and his best friends, and they’re all up there, singing away together.   Sam’s grown up so much this year, and even though we did this exact same event last year (down to the same part in the same play) he seems so much more confident now.  He fits in so much better.  He’s in there with kids his own age, he’s not the littlest boy, afraid and in over his head.  He’s a great big almost seven year old boy, and I’m more proud of him than I can express.

I cry thru most events like this.  Jessie’s dance recital does the same thing to me.  I don’t know if it’s just that it’s concrete proof that the kids are not just mine, but individuals with their own identities and friends and projects.  It’s kind of a quintessential thing, performing for parents, it’s something I did when I was a kid, it’s something I used to go watch my cousins and nieces and nephews do the same thing.  And now, watching my own kids up there, and knowing what it took to get them there – the tears and the nerves and the anxiety and the struggles, I just end up sobbing thru every performance.

In other news – I still hate house hunting.  I want to find a place, that we love and that we can afford (which are not precisely matching up yet), and be able to move this summer.  The problem is that I keep falling in love with short sales, which can take FOREVER.  I don’t want to move in FOREVER.  I want to move in August.  September at the latest.   Which is a completely attainable goal, as long as we find the right place.

It’s estimated that nearly half of all Jewish marriages are ones in which one member of the couple is not Jewish.  While this raises all sorts of questions about the future survival of the Jewish people, what interested me most is the questions that were more personal in nature.  What does a marriage between people of different backgrounds look like?  If the decision is made to raise your children in one faith, or one tradition, who compromises what?  Can Judaism expand to include traditions of a different culture?  Is is possible to convert to what is certainly a religion, but also a tribe, and an ethnicity?  What does that conversion look like, and how does the family that results from it self-identify?  Becoming Jewish – How to Raise a Jewish Family When One of You Didn’t Start Out That Way explores those questions and offers some much needed guidance on what happens after the conversion,  and what raising a family with someone of a dramatically different culture and tradition is really like.

I started writing this book because when I started on my conversion journey, I couldn’t find answers to the questions that concerned me the most.  Not only about my spiritual journey, but also about how that would impact our children, and their identity as Jews but as as members of my own decidedly non-Jewish family.  If you are either Jewish, or not, how could they be a part of both traditions?  This is my story, and how we figured it out – but I’d love to incorporate stories of how others did it as well.

If you’d like to be a part of the project, please contact me at Melissa.Cohen0214@yahoo.com.  I’d love to talk more with you about it.


It’s first thing in the morning, and the birds and I are the only ones up. I like mornings like this, when the whole day is stretching out in front of me, and it appears as though I’ve got all the time in the world to get everything done. So much of the time, lately, I feel overwhelmed and rushed, pressured and stressed and BUSY. And even though today promises to be just as jam packed with activities – I’ve got shop for a birthday present for a party later this afternoon, hit two birthday parties between noon and three thirty, and then I think I volunteered to work at the Day of Play at Elm Park after that. Somewhere in there, I have to make 24 cupcakes for Sammy’s end of the year celebration tomorrow, and bathe all three kids, feed them, and shove them into bed early enough to make up for letting them stay up late last night with us watching Big Bang Theory reruns.

But for right now, things are calm. The laundry is running, the dishwasher is ready to go, I’ve got a hot cup of coffee and Julie is just starting to stir.

Summer is beckoning, I can feel it waiting for us. Long, quiet mornings, when everyone can sleep as late as they want and there’s no rush, rush, rush in the mornings. Barefoot days, when the kids live in bathing suits, sundresses and shorts. Days when I can wander to the park with the kids, up to visit my aunt in NH, cousin in Marlboro, or my parents down in Clinton. Playdates and trips to the pool, camping and popsicles, playing in the sprinkler and waiting for the ice cream truck. Nights spent watching the stars, fires at my parent’s house, roasting marshmallows and then bundling tired kids into the car for the ride home. I love summer.

My baby isn’t a baby anymore and my Jessie is still a little girl. Sam is going to be seven, which still blows my mind. I don’t have very many summers like this left. Next year, they’ll be eleven, eight and four. How much longer will Jessica be willing to have me direct her activities? How much longer do I have before Julie starts clamoring to go to summer camp?

So I’m relishing this morning, I’m sipping my coffee a little slower, and trying hard to pay attention to what’s going on around me. Because I know all too well how fast it goes, and how much I’ll miss it when it’s over.

I’m better.  Julie ended up crying herself to sleep (because really, sometimes you just have to let them go.  I don’t advocate CIO for infants or babies, or really, for toddler you can actually console, but that girl had reached the point where she was lying on the floor sobbing and yelling for me to go away – so I left her there for ten minutes, and finished cleaning the living room, then scooped her up against her will, laid her down, nursed her for two minutes and she was out like a light), and I was able to get dinner made.

Arlen came to get Jordyn and we had dinner, lit the Shabbat candles and it was… peaceful.  Relaxed.  Serene even. And now the house is in shambles, yet again, but all three of my kids are snuggled up together.  Jessica is reading to the other two, and everyone is happy.

These are the moments when I think I’m doing it right.  A nice counter balance to earlier. In the end, it always does calm down.  The insanity peaks and then… they chill.  Marc called, he’ll be home closer to nine thirty than ten thirty, which means that Julie, at least, will still be awake when he gets home.

The realtor emailed me, we’ve got a few more houses to go see tomorrow, and one of them might be perfect.  I’m trying to remind myself that there’s no pressure or time limit.  I’d like to be settled before the fall, but that’s four or five months away.  We’ve got time.  There’s no rush.    And really, the longer it takes, the more time I have before I have to pack.

So, for tonight, I’ll finish cleaning up.  Again.  And I’ll listen to Jessie reading to her little brother and sister, and then I’ll put them all into jammies, get teeth brushed, books read, and bodies down to bed.  And I’ll crawl into bed, and listen to Julie tell Marc about her day, and try very hard to remember how very lucky I am.  How much I’ll miss this, one day, when they’re all grown up and out of the house.  When my house is clean, and I’m not doing a load of laundry every day and running the dishwasher on a nearly constant basis.   Because it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the monotony and the minutiae of all that goes along with raising kids.  But the challenge is to be able to look past the crumbs on the floor and the endless requests for more food, more drinks, more of everything.  More time, more attention.

It won’t last forever – which is both excellent and heartbreaking.  I should try harder to remember that when it’s so overwhelming that I get lost.