Jessica – 11 years old

– A constitutional lawyer, because the Constitution is “cool”

– A judge,  because she likes to be in charge

– A balloon designer, because she’s got plans on a TLC mini-series

– A preschool teacher

– She wants to start an on-line bakery, move to a food truck, and then finally a “bricks and mortar” store.  It’ll be called “The J Cafe” and sell baked goods based on recipes I stole from google.  The building where it’ll be housed will also have a bookstore and a dance studio.

– Some sort of executive, see explanation for “judge”

– Writer and babysitter

– She also plans on having four children, two daughters, (if I’m remembering the names right), Ellisandra Melissa and Megan Coriel, and two boys, I think they’re going to be named Jackson and the other one might be Matthew.

Sam – 8 years old

– soldier

– rickshaw driver

Can you guess which one I’m more in favor of?

– Sam also plans on having children, and after some thought, came up with Isabelle and Matt for names.  Jessie is most irritated that he’s planning on “stealing” her name.


Julianna – 4 years old

– She just wants to be me.  Or possibly a princess.  And she’s only going to have one baby girl and name her Jewel.


I’m not a particularly earthy-crunchy sort of parent.  My kids had pringle potato chips for lunch, yesterday, just as an example.  I yell, I do time-outs, I make my kids go to school when they really don’t want to, and I never did the cloth diaper thing.  Meant to, but never actually did.

But I did nurse my babies.  I never planned on nursing a toddler (or even, gasp, a four year old) but I did.  And now that it’s over, I don’t regret a thing.

With Jessie, she self-weaned at eight or nine months, and we transitioned pretty easily to formula for a few months, and then onto cow’s milk.  There wasn’t a lot of heartache over it, for either of us.  Jessie was always a no-nonsense nurser, she did it because that’s where the food was, and once she realized that she could get nutrition in the form of applesauce and pears and sweet potato and diluted juice, she was all over that.  She slowly dropped one feeding at a time, nurses less and less, and then one day we were done.   She was a HUGE fan of the pacifier, and didn’t give that up until she was at least four.  Maybe five.

Sam was VERY different.  He just was.  He was diagnosed with severe separation anxiety when he was five, but really, he came out of the womb with a strong sense that the world was dangerous and the only safe place was in my arms.  Preferably nursing.  He latched on right after birth and nursed all.the.damn.time.  He ate solids without a problem, but still loved nursing.  My two closest friends were also nursing their toddlers, so I didn’t really think much of it.  He wasn’t ready at a year, or eighteen months.  Or two, or two and a half (now my friend’s babies were gradually stopping)… I didn’t see an end in sight.  He was so anxious and so scared, I couldn’t imagine not letting him nurse.  It wasn’t about nutrition, it was comfort.  It was how he fell asleep, it was how he calmed down when he’d freak out.

When I got pregnant with Julianna, he was still nursing.  Not a lot, but he did.   He used to follow me around the house carrying a book, knowing if I was reading, I’d be more likely to nurse him because I’d be sitting.  It was a long, hard weaning – and there were a lot of tears on both sides.  Because nursing while pregnant HURTS, and for Sam, he wasn’t ready to stop and having to confused the hell out of him.   We accomplished it, finally, when I was about six months pregnant.

On Julie’s third day (also known as the Worst Day Ever), Julie went on a nursing strike.  I had left the hospital the day after she was born (it was a ridiculously easy delivery, four hours of labor with an epidural and she was out after the second push), and the visiting nurse came to our house the following day.  Jules had dropped down to below seven pounds, losing close to a pound from her birth weight.  She was jaundiced, but it wasn’t too bad.  Yet.  The nurse told me that she’d be okay, but my job for the next 24 hours was to nurse.  Nurse, nurse, nurse – we’d flush the jaundice out, and have her gain back some of the weight she’d lost.  Julie was my third baby, and after Sam, I was ridiculously overconfident.   I could nurse her, of course I could.  Then she stopped.

After six or seven hours of trying desperately to get her to latch on, Marc finally convinced me to give her a bottle.  I was devastated (post-partum hormones are no joke).  I was convinced that she’d never really bond to me.  How would she ever know I was her mother if I could be replaced with a bottle?  I literally cried  She got formula for close to a week, with me pumping (and not producing enough), before her weight got back up to where it should be, and the pediatrician told me that it was okay to make her nurse.  Discontinue the bottle.  I ended up using nipple shields (God bless whoever invented those) to trick her into nursing, and quickly developed thrush.  Which turned into a staph infection… and three or four different doctors couldn’t tell me what was wrong.   But I was GOING TO NURSE this child.  Dammit.  Eventually I ended up trying the ointment that Marc used for athlete’s foot, and that finally got rid of the thrush for good.   By the time she was six or seven months old, nursing was easy and seamless.

After fighting so hard to get her to nurse, combined with how difficult it had been to wean Sam… I didn’t push weaning with Julie.  And somewhere along the lines… she got big.  She did everything early.  She potty trained at two, was fully verbal by eighteen months, gave up the afternoon nap by the time she was two and a half or so.  Nursing seemed like the last step – and because everything else came early, I was in no rush.  She separated easily and happily, but loved snuggling and nursing with me.  I switched to the don’t-offer-don’t-refuse method when she was about a year and a half, and then went with the don’t-offer-refuse-as-often-as-possible by the time she was two.  But for the most part, it was a non-issue.   She rarely nursed in public, she was happy to go without it during the day, but always nursed before going to bed.  She wasn’t waking up to nurse, and whenever possible, I’d distract her with something else if she asked to nurse.  But I didn’t insist on weaning for a very long time.

I didn’t really have to insist all that much.  She was ready to stop.  Mostly.  With Sam, the last nursing session to go was the one right before bed, and he started falling asleep with Marc.  I was so pregnant, I’d go to bed when Jessie did, and Sam and Marc would sit up and hang out.  Watch Discovery Channel documentaries and that’s how he stopped.   Julie didn’t do that.  She liked hanging with Marc, but she’d always want to come and have me put her to sleep.  There was a couple of rough nights, one in particular when she cried for about fifteen minutes before finally, tearfully, drifting off to sleep.   Several times, she’s complained that it’s not fair, she didn’t get to decide to stop, I made the decision on my own. We list the names of her friends who don’t nurse (which is all of them), and then we talk about how none of them nurse anymore (and I wonder how much I’m instilling that whole need for peer approval into her).

She hasn’t nursed in almost a week and a half.  And I’m celebrating that for the first time in nine years (if I’m doing the math right, I got pregnant with Sam in October of 2005), I’m not pregnant or nursing.

I never planned on nursing so long.  I wanted to nurse Sam until he was a year old, mainly because I wanted to avoid having to buy formula again.  With Julie – I just wanted to be able to nurse her.  By the time she came along, so much of how I parented a baby, and a toddler was nursing.   I couldn’t imagine NOT nursing her, but I certainly didn’t anticipate that she’d ever nurse as long as her brother did, let alone a full year longer.  I’m grateful for this time in my life, and also grateful that it’s over.  Because nine years is a REALLY long time, and I’m happy to have my body all the way back.


Rosh Hashana starts tonight, and I’m still not ready. I mean, I’m literally not ready, in that my house is still messy, the apple cake is in the oven (and smells awesome) but the dishes aren’t done and my laundry is still piled up on the dining room table. I used to fold it in the laundry room, but there was so much clean laundry, I thought if I pulled all the clean laundry baskets into the dining room and forced myself to fold them, it would work. It didn’t, obviously, as I’m blogging and baking and indulging in self-imposed guilt trips instead.

One of the things I love about Judaism is the holidays, and Rosh Hashana is one of my favorites. As Jessie explained last night, it’s the one time of the year it’s totally appropriate to eat food covered in frosted flakes (noodle kugel, it tastes a lot better than it sounds…). And this New Year is particularly timely for me, as we’ve really started a whole new stage of life in our family. We’re officially a “big kid” family, no nursing, no diapers, nobody wakes up in the middle of the night, everyone can dress themselves and buckle themselves in the car. Julie is going to preschool and loving it, Sam is rocking second grade like there’s no tomorrow, and Jessie is so absolutely loving middle school. Marc was recently promoted and super busy all the time, and I’m now one of those moms who lives in the car, driving children and husbands hither and yon.

The New Year, and the days between this and Yom Kippur is a time of reflection and thought. Pondering the past year, thinking about what you’d like do differently, apologizing for what you missed or messed up on in the past year. It’s especially meaningful for me right now, because so much in my life has changed. I’m at the synagogue most afternoons, between bat mitzvah studying for my daughter, Hebrew school for my oldest two, and the opening of the gift shop at the Beth Israel (open Monday and Wednesdays from 4-6, if you’re interested…). I’m forced to be much more specific about what I do – choosing what I do with my free time very deliberately, because there isn’t a lot of it. Writing has been one of those things that’s getting shamefully neglected (along with the aforementioned laundry). While I’m thinking about the past year, I’m also thinking a lot about what I want to make sure gets included in this upcoming year.

L’Shana Tovah U’Metukah – A Happy and Sweet New Year to all who celebrate. And those who don’t as well – because who couldn’t use a little extra sweetness these days?

We all have them, right?  Tell me we all have those days – when we just screw up magnificently.  Everything seems to go wrong, and the kids are wretched, and you start to have that feeling that maybe you are really, really  messing up this whole parenting thing, and your kids are growing up to be disrespectful, snarky, rude and it’s pretty much your fault for not teaching them right from the beginning.

Today was such a day.

Sam has had some pretty severe and intense anxiety in the past.  And for the most part, it’s behind him.  He’s tackled pretty much every hurdle, he’s a dream to drop off at school, and genuinely loves going.  Has a thousand friends and bops around the playground like he’s the mayor, greeting everyone.  Even religious school, which up until last Wednesday was OUT OF THE QUESTION.  No way in hell was he going to go, and any attempt to get him there inevitably resulted in tears and rage (on pretty much everyone’s part).  But it’s a new year, and on the first day earlier this week, he ran up to the classroom with no hesitation.  It was glorious – and I naively assumed that all that anxiety crap was over and done with, and henceforth, my parenting life would be blissful.

So when he refused to go this morning – I didn’t react well.  Too much baggage, I can only surmise that I did a weird PTSD thing, because the anxiety-ridden temper tantrums had been so challenging, the idea that we were reverting back to them was horrifying.  So instead of being a relaxed, calm mom –  I reacted exactly they way you should not react – which was to get furious at him, banish him to his room, and then start yelling at Jessie.  I didn’t actually start yelling at Jessie, I just warned her not to start complaining because I was already furious.  Oddly enough, this did nothing to ensure her compliance – it just made her tense, hypersensitive and stressed.  Which yada yada yada… ended up with both of us crying.  Did I mention that Sam was still sobbing in his room?

We trudged through religious school, leaving early so that I could get Marc to work.  This had the added bonus of allowing Jessie to miss the dreaded combo service that she hates during the last hour of school.  I came home, dropped off some kids, picked up Marc and brought him to work.  I tried to compensate for the unbelievably crappy morning with ice cream (which, I know, doesn’t really scream out “GREAT MOTHERING”, but that’s where I was…)

I came home, to find the house in shambles, and three kids bopping around, content in the filth.  This did nothing to improve my mood.  I asked nicely, several times, for each kid to pick a room and start picking up – and when that elicited no response, I reverted back to hollering at them.

I don’t mind yelling.  I come from a long line of loud, dramatic women, and we all yell.  I do mind yelling when it’s ALL I do.  When asking in a nice voice results in nothing, and demanding in a slightly less nice voice gets a vague attempt but no real effort in completing the assigned task.  I hate that yelling works.  I hate that it took my yelling to get the living room picked up and for the younger two to stop trying to kill each other.

Eventually, we all retreated to our own rooms, and things calmed down.  I took a quiet minute with each of the kids, and talked about what happened earlier, and why I yelled, and why on earth didn’t they just do what I asked the first damn time I asked.  I didn’t get any satisfactory responses – because there really aren’t any good ways to say “I just didn’t feel like picking up my shoes and not screaming at my sister.”  But I made lunch, and I baked a cake.  I even relented enough let Sammy have a friend over, and we’ll all go to a playdate at the playground in a few minutes and try and end the day on a good note.

Some days, Shabbat Shalom is more of a goal than actuality.

My poor Julie has had a tough week. She’s at the mercy of everyone else’s schedule these days, and stuck in the car for hours on end.  Picking up kids all over Worcester, eating lunch in the car because we don’t have time to go home.  I try to make it fun – but it still sucks to be Julie sometimes.  It just does.  She’s not old enough to participate in any of these activities, but between religious school, bat mitzvah studying, playdates, dance class, and driving Daddy back and forth to work, she’s been logging a LOT of time just hanging in the backseat.

So today, I really tried to make it better.  I left her at home when I went out to meet my mother, even though I’ve been trying to keep the house quiet and kid-free as much as possible so that poor Marc can study.  But she looked so content, all cuddled up on the couch, watching Handy Mandy (I know that’s not the actual name, but my sister’s name is Mandy, and that’s what we call it – I gave up correcting my kids about ten years ago…) and eating her toast.  Then, when I got home, I made a game out of getting dressed, as opposed to just telling her to hurry up and PLEASE put on the shirt.  We enthusiastically packed lunch for both of us to eat in the car.

And then – BRAINSTORM – I took her out for a picnic.  We went a little bit out of our way, and found a park with picnic tables and sat and ate our turkey sandwiches together. It was just the two of us, and I was really aware, the whole time, that she’s my last little baby.  I don’t have a lot of time left, when it’s just she and I alone.  Next year, she’ll be in school full time.  We talked about what she wants to be when she grows up (she can’t decide between being like Kelly in Handy Mandy, or being just like me), and she told me about her dream last night (it involved mermaids).  We talked about why the leaves would be changing, and what our favorite holidays are.

(Julianna and I on my birthday earlier this year)

Then, it was back in the car for another afternoon of picking up kids all over the place.   I parked at Jessie’s school (after picking up Sam and Jordyn at the elementary school) and let the kids run around for an hour or so, before loading them back in the car to go get my stepdaughters.

It’s been a really long day.  I don’t feel good, my allergies have migrated into a wretched cold that I really don’t have time to indulge.   Jessie hit Sam with a stick, Sam shoved said stick into his pants (and then renamed it “crotch stick”).  Julie has taken to screaming when people interrupt her (and they interrupt her a lot, she talks very slowly sometimes).  My stepdaughters are here for dinner, and one is hiding in the bedroom with sniffles and a headache, and the other one has adopted a Swedish (??) accent for the spa experience that the other four kids are currently running in the living room.   And I’m sitting here, drinking my “afternoon” cup of coffee, even though it’s seven thirty.

If you’re looking for me over the weekend, I’ll be the one curled up in my jammies, reading.  Except for tomorrow morning, when I’ll be the smiling one at the JCC for the PJ Library event in the morning, or in the afternoon, when I’ll be at the playground for Meet the Rabbi activity.  Or Sunday night, when I’ll be at my in-laws for dinner.  But other than those three events, I’ll be curled up in my jammies.  Or doing laundry.   Probably doing laundry, let’s be honest, but I’m going to wish it was just me and jammies.

I’m still here, my poor little blog.  I don’t mean to be so incredibly neglectful, it’s just that my life has suddenly gotten ridiculously busy.

Everything changes, in life.  I mean, it changes in everyone’s life, but when you have children, the stages and milestones come so quickly.  As soon as you get used to being up every couple of hours, they start sleeping longer and longer.  As soon as you adjust to having a tiny baby, they start sitting up and then crawling and then walking – and the whole thing is this constant process of adjusting.

There was a time, not that long ago, when I was at home.  An AT HOME mom.  I scheduled my day around naptime, and literally days would go by and I’d have no compelling reason to get in the car for anything.  We’ve been a one car family for most of our marriage, and up until recently, I would have Marc take the car because it was just easier that way.

It’s not like that anymore.

My days now are a blur of running, running, running.  Yesterday (and this is a pretty typical day for me), I got up early, dropped Sam off at school, Jessie off at the bus stop and Julie off at preschool.  Before dropping Julie off, we stopped at the store and bought bagels for snack after school.  Then I went to a meeting with the finance VP at the synagogue, dashed home and picked up Marc.  We voted (primary day in MA) and then picked Julie up at preschool.  Jules and I dropped Marc at work and then went shopping to pick up snacks for the religious school at Sam’s Club.

I had an hour and a half to kill, so we came home, I swept, vacuumed, loaded the dishwasher and had lunch with Julie.  Then we trooped back to the car and picked up Samilicious Boy and then headed across town to pick up Jessica.  There’s a twenty minute window between parking the car and Jessie getting out, and Sam has discovered a tree fort under a bunch of bushes (a bush fort?) so he stayed in there with a couple of other kids.  Once we had Jessie, I drove back over to the synagogue, settled everyone into the library for homework.  Jessie had her study session with the cantor and the boys finished up their homework. We headed outside to wait, Harrison got picked up, Jessie came out.  We shot down to the grocery store (second time, or third, if you count Sam’s Club) and got frozen pizzas for dinner and I dropped them off at David and Aviva’s.  I bopped down to Know Your School Night at Sam’s school, got out late, and had just enough time to pick up Marc before heading back to pick up the kids and finally made it home around nine.

In other news – everyone is still thriving.  Jessie is loving her new school, Sam adjusted to second grade like he’d never even thought of hating school, and Julianna literally cheered when I pulled into the preschool parking lot yesterday.  This is why I kept sending them to school, because I hoped that this day would come.  I wanted them to love going, to be excited about learning, to have friends and peer companionship and laughter and silliness.  And all of that is happening now.

Marc is working full time and still studying for his exams – before taking his new job, he has to get accreditation for a bunch of different types of insurance.  Things are crazy and hectic and always dancing ever-closer to super stressful, but we’re trying to stay focused and connected.  My calendar is always within arms reach, it seems, and I check it constantly to make sure I’m not missing anything.  I miss stuff anyway… because I also seemed to have stepped up dramatically the volunteer commitments this year.  It’s a lot easier to say yes than it is to say no, and I have to really be careful about being deliberate about my choices.  Not only making them deliberately, but then owning and being happy about the decisions made.

I’m busy now, crazy insane busy, but that’s just where we are.  I’ve got three growing kids, a husband who’s working essentially two jobs and this is what our lives look like right now.  And it’s kind of awesome – yes, it’s super busy and chaotic, and I’m a little bit worried about what it’ll feel like when I’ve (we’ve) been maintaining this schedule over the long-term, but for now – I’m just focusing on enjoying this stage.  Because one thing is for certain, it won’t last forever.  The day will come, not that far from now, when Jessie will be driving and Julie will be in school full time and Sam will be taller than I am – and I’ll miss the days when I loaded them in the car every morning and set out for a day of adventure.

I’m tired.  Already.  School has been in session for a week now, and I’m worn out.

I start the mornings at around six-ish every morning.  Jessie is almost always up, and she’s showering and puttering around.  I wake Sam up around quarter of seven.  I try to get the lunches packed the night before (and almost always fail at this).  I (to paraphrase Dolly) stumble out of bed, into the kitchen and flick on the coffee.  Then I start more laundry, there’s always some hanging out ready to wash, transfer and fold.  I usually do that until coffee is ready and then finish (or start…) the lunches.   The kids are pretty structured for lunches this year, which makes it easy.  Sam always wants a peanut butter and fluff sandwich with the crusts cut off, a bag of chips, two drinks, and a dessert.  Jessie always takes roast beef on a cut baguette, chips, apple, bottle of water and dessert.  Julie is more flexible – and she likes to pack it herself.

I leave the house around quarter of eight, and bring Sam to school.  Then I loop around and drop Jessie off at the bus stop.  Julie doesn’t go to school every day (she’s at preschool twice a week) but she can’t be dropped off until nine.  I almost always have to go to the grocery store anyway, so we make a thing out of it and head to Price Chopper.

The afternoons are kind of haphazard.   I do pick up at one school at eleven thirty, another one at two thirty, and one at three ten.  Next week, I’ll start picking up one of Sammy’s buddies at a fourth school at three forty.  Then the afternoons will be a blur of dance class, religious school, boy scouts, bat mitzvah studying, running the gift shop and trying to get dinner on the table before eight o’clock.

Did I mention that Marc is working full time (in retail, at the moment) and we have one car?

I know this sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not.  There isn’t anything I’d like to give up, after all, and I’m really happy about how well all of them are doing at school.  I’ve got three busy and content kids, with volunteer commitments that I, well, volunteered to do.  I’ve got a husband who’s working a zillions hours, with studying and going to the gym (which is so necessary for him), and he’s not around anywhere near as much as I’d like.

I think what I’m trying to do is make sure that this stage of my life (which is so different from being home with little kids, when the days revolved around naptime) is still FUN.  That I don’t get lost in the running around and constantly trying to catch up with what I didn’t get to the day before.  Staying on top of the housework, the writing, the blog, and making sure that quality one-on-one time with each kid (and husband) doesn’t get reduced to one more thing on the list to get done.

I’m grateful this year for the time of the Jewish holidays.  I love Rosh Hashanah every year (it’s one of my favorite holidays) but this year, I’m really thinking that it’s time for a reset.  A time to settle in, and recognize the new stage in my life, and make conscious and deliberate choices about how I think about my life.  It’s not just about running around like a chicken with my head cut off, it’s about being able to manage all the different pieces of my life, and still smile while I’m doing it.

Because these three are watching everything I do – and the last thing I want is their memories of their childhood to be of me, frantically running late and swearing under my breath about it.