Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas 2013

I better hurry up and write about Christmas before it's the new year!

We had a lovely Christmas up in Maine.  The boys were incredibly excited to see their grandparents, see Santa Claus, and open presents.

Christmas Eve, we went to Eric's grandparents' house.  Santa usually makes an appearance there, and Asher kept running from the front door to the back door to the window to see if he was there yet.
Pepere and Asher
Memere and Benjamin
Charlotte by the tree. She was posing and looking adorable.
I was pretty sure that when Santa arrived, Asher would be frightened, panic, and refuse to talk to him.  Instead, he ran up and gave him a hug and was happy to sit on his lap.
Benjamin and Charlotte weren't as comfortable with Santa.  After Santa left, Asher tried to look out the window to see the reindeer.  I think all the adults loved watching him be so fascinated and excited about Santa.

The adults had a Yankee Swap, and Asher selected everyone's gift for them, carried gifts over, and exchanged gifts for everyone.  He also picked up all the wrapping paper.  It was adorable and helpful!

At home, we put on our Christmas pajamas, and I had to convince Asher to go to sleep.  He wanted to wait up all night to see Santa again!  Instead we left Santa a glass of milk and a brownie.
Christmas morning, we opened our stockings and ate a big breakfast.  Then it was 10 o'clock.  The boys started crying that they wanted to "go somewhere" and "what we gonna DO today?"  I told them there was nowhere to go and nothing to do, and that we were staying in all day.  This didn't go over well.  I dealt with it by taking out my library book and reading it, because I was going to relax, dammit!
Opening stockings

Our family. No cooperation from our children.

That night, their cousins came over for a big Christmas dinner and opening the rest of their presents.
the boys' big gift- a bounce house for our house!

Memere, Charlotte, and Benjamin

all the cousins
The boys loved seeing their cousins, and had a great time playing together.  They were sad to go, but also happy to get home again.  

Since Christmas, Charlotte got sick, Memere got bronchitis, and Eric's brother and our sister-in-law had their baby- a boy named Chandler, born on December 27.  Now Eric's parents have 8 grandchildren!  Unbelievable.  

I told the boys we're in detox now that we're home.  They asked what detox meant. I told them- only 1 dessert a day.  But they seem to be adjusting well, and their appetites (for non-dessert items) have returned.  They're sleeping well with less excitement in their lives!  

Christmas is fun- but exhausting.  Good thing I have a whole year to recuperate!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Charlotte Eve: ONE YEAR OLD

Dear Charlotte Eve,
Looking at your face tonight as I nursed you before bed- I cannot believe our first year together has passed.

I remember your whirlwind labor, and the doctor telling me, "Look down! There's your baby!"  You didn't look anything like I had expected.  I thought you'd be small, like your brothers, and bald, like your brothers.  I told everyone, "If she hadn't come out of me, I wouldn't believe that she's mine!"

You still don't look the way I imagined my daughter would- I thought I would have a curly-haired redhead with green eyes, and here you are, with your stick-straight brown hair and blue eyes!  And you're oh so much better than anything I could have dreamed of.

You have made our lives immeasurably richer.  I was anxious before you came that our family would change, and that your brothers wouldn't think I loved them anymore.  Instead I've watched your brothers love you and care for you in a way I couldn't have imagined they would.  Without you, our family didn't feel complete, and now that you're here, we are a family.

You've tried so hard to grow so fast this year.  From barely dropping an ounce as a newborn and weighing 11 lbs at 1 month old, to eating my sandwiches at 6 months old and walking before you were 10 months old, you always seemed to be a 3 year-old in a baby's body.

I always wanted a baby girl.  I always hoped we'd have a relationship like I have with my own mother.  And while we haven't really shopped together yet, or talked about life's ups and downs, I've felt we were connected from the start.  From the very first night of your life, when I leapt from the hospital bed in the middle of the night and bolted to the door to check on you in the nursery, only to find the nurse rolling your bassinet down the hallway for you to be fed, I have felt that you and I know each other well.

What a pleasure you have been this year- other than the fact that you gave up sleeping through the night around 4 months old.  You have an easygoing nature, and such a happy smile.  Meema always tells me you'll be trouble, because you smile at everyone you meet.  Just yesterday you ran through the rest stop in Massachusetts smiling and waving at every man you met.  Oh, boy.  You're fearless at trying new things, which has resulted in a few mishaps over the months (like the time you accepted a wheat thin from your brother and choked!).

I love your little smile and silly giggle.  I love that you love to see me every morning.  I love that you wave goodnight to your brothers and daddy every night.  I love your wide-legged walk, your big blue-gray eyes.  I love the way you suck your thumb and snuggle your Kitty Cat at night and at naps.  I love the way you scream for food when you're hungry, and hum with happiness when you eat. I love the way you pat me softly while you nurse. I love the way you take on the world- like it's here for your fun and pleasure.

I hope the years to come allow you to stay the way you are: wide-eyed with wonder and excitement, loving and lovable, curious and interested.  I have loved meeting you, and getting to know you this past year, and I'm excited to find out what the future holds.  You are my love, my kitty cat, my sweet petunia.

Many kisses and hugs,
Your Mommy
Happy 1st Birthday to my littlest angel

Sunday, December 15, 2013

time as a single mommy

Hurray! We are halfway through our time without Eric.  In some ways it's gotten easier, but the boys tell me everyday that they miss daddy.  Asher wants to make sure that even if daddy is gone, they're still buddies, and both boys want to be sure daddy is coming home again.  We count the days.
my adorable snack stealer

This has shown me that all single mommies are to be admired.  I know we are beyond blessed to have three healthy children and a beautiful home, but if you will allow me, I will now complain for a little. Here are some of the highlights of the difficulties:

On Thursday I had to get all 3 kids to school by 9, drive to New Jersey to work, then I worked for 8 hours and saw 9 clients in that time, drove home, and walked in as my parents were walking out (lucky for me, my mom picked the kids up from school and fed them dinner).  I had all 3 kids to bathe and get in bed, dishes to do, laundry to do... I sat down with some dinner at 8:30, just in time to go back to bed.

On Friday morning, before 8:30 am, I had a major poop blowout from Charlotte (she had pooped up to her neck!  Fortunately my dad was in the shower and I handed her in for a clean-up); Benjamin went to pee in the potty and missed, peeing all over his leg, pajamas, and sock; and Asher pooped in his diaper but I didn't know it and pulled his diaper off, dropping a turd on to Benjamin's backpack.  Asher then yelled, "Mommy! There's poop on Benjamin's backpack!" and Benjamin, who was in the next room started yelling, "There's poop on my backpack!?!?"  Oy.

In the midst of this, I have cooked pancakes twice and two good dinners.  Tonight was a little rough- Benjamin got a fever of 102, and Charlotte was irritable (please don't let her get sick, too!).  I ended up cooking dinner like this:
with Charlotte in the Ergo.  I was overwhelmed by their unhappiness and the fact that I felt helpless in helping them, and Asher walked into the kitchen and started pulling out plates and silverware.

He counted out dishes for himself and siblings and loaded them up in the toy shopping cart.  He wheeled the cart into the dining room and set the table.  It made my night- I felt my heart bursting with pride.  I might be overwhelmed at the moment, but I must be doing something right.

I made a great dinner, with creamed spinach, sweet potato fries, and homemade chicken nuggets.  The kids all devoured the spinach and I had to beg them to eat just a little chicken.

I also made 2 batches of brownies for the cookie exchange I went to this afternoon while all 3 kids napped and my mom babysat.
So we've had our moments- a lunch at Ikea where everyone was wonderful and the people around us complimented the boys on their behavior; a walk in the ice this morning;
and more special moments at breakfast time with Papa Nick.
2 1/2 days until Eric comes home.  It can't come fast enough!

Friday, December 13, 2013

snow day (belated)

We have had some snow.  It snowed Sunday, but by the time naps were over, it was dark.  Then it snowed Tuesday- school was canceled, I canceled all my clients, and we had our first snow day!

We played with our neighbors Paden and Luca.  First we played at Paden's house, and then had lunch.
lunch with friends
After lunch, we all got in our snow clothes- or as close as we could get, considering that I played the odds this year and didn't buy any snow pants or boots for the boys.  Charlotte took a nap, and I took all 4 of the 3 year-old boys out to play.  We had a mini snowball fight, and then picked up sleds and went sledding.  I was a little afraid of giving someone else's kid a concussion or broken arm from going downhill, but the path was so worn that we didn't get much speed.
fun in the snow

Then we split up, and I took my boys home, and Paden's mom came and took home Paden and Luca. We rushed in the house, took off all of our wet clothes, and then I made hot chocolate for my guys.
Mr. Sweet Tooth
Asher and Charlotte napped, and I ran errands- if you can believe that after all the snow, by 2:30 it was clear and sunny and the roads were completely snow-free.  I probably should have gone to work... but instead I had a special day with my boys.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

We're back in our house, and it's almost done.  We need countertops, and a sink and dishwasher, but it's livable.  After almost a year in boxes, we've unpacked our nice china and all of our bowls and dishes.  Our dining room is beginning to more closely resemble a dining room more than a refugee camp with dishes and food crammed into every nook and cranny.  It feels good to walk into our house now, and that makes me happy.  Yesterday I bought the kids a new toy off of a yardsale group on Facebook, and when the lady came to deliver it she commented on how nice our house is... and I could believe she meant it!

We've had some trouble with the transition.  Benjamin has gone back to having accidents (poop) pretty much everyday.  Asher has been having tantrums.  For the past week, I've felt as though I want to tear my hair out every day that I have all 3 kids by myself.  It takes forever for us to get out the door to go anywhere, and then there are tantrums when it's time to leave wherever we went.  Eric is leaving the country for a week, and I am extremely nervous about how I will handle things when there's no spouse around to share the load!  I do not know how single parents do it- every parent needs a break.

We're nearing Charlotte's first birthday, and I just can't believe it.  The year has flown by, and she is such a person now, it is hard to imagine that one year ago we hadn't even met.  She is big, funny, and curious.  She has no idea that she's not even 1, and thinks she can do anything a 3 year-old can do.

Here are some photos from the past week or so:
Asher clearly enjoying being center stage at Shabbat at school

Benjamin, the very serious Pilgrim, at his school Thanksgiving Feast.  You know your kids go to a Jewish pre-school when they get bagels as part of their Thanksgiving meal.

A little bit of static while swinging outside

The silly monkey- she was trying on a hat and my timing was off.

Contemplating the Hanukkah blessings

Benjamin with a bag on his head.  Asher is in front of him, pretending to be scared, Charlotte is watching them like they're crazy.

Asher and his friend Maddie having some quality time together

Benjamin in his train conductor hat (so cute!) with their Hanukkah gift- a pirate ship!  I have since heard a lot of "Yo Ho Mateys Away!"
In general, we are all well- even on our most difficult days, I feel fortunate for all that we have.  I hear about, and work with, people who don't have food or are unable to buy gifts for their children in this holiday season.  We are so lucky to have more than we can eat, and all that we could ask for.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hanukkah 2013

It's not over yet- and I still have 2 big gifts to give the boys (and almost nothing for Charlotte!), but here are some photos of our holiday so far:
First night, with Meema
The second night of Hanukkah was also Thanksgiving.  Eric had the camera, but good pictures were hard to come by.
Second night, at Meema's
The third night was also Friday night.  We had Aunt Elana and her boyfriend Chris here, and Meema and Papa Nick.  It was our first big meal back in our house, and it really felt like home.
Aunt Elana with the candles and Meema with my pumpkin
Asher and Aunt Elana lighting candles
It was Chris's first Hanukkah- he seemed to enjoy the latkes and hopefully also our company. We liked having him here, and I hope it is his first Hanukkah of many.

Saturday night we were home, and it was just us.  Eric and I had a date night after the boys were in bed.

Tonight we went to a friend's house for a Hanukkah party.  Or friend and neighbor, Hila, made latkes and they were delicious!  I am not sure how many Eric ate, but I definitely saw him eat at least 4.  Hila paid me a huge compliment and told me that I am her only American friend who knows how to cook a good meal.  I am so flattered!
all our menorahs
We're having a little bit of trouble with gratitude this year.  Asher seems to think he is entitled to presents each night, despite my having told him that he's not, and then is not grateful for the things he does get.  My sister gave him a cowboy hat from Texas, which he rejected because it wasn't wrapped, so I took it away from him.  He later asked for it, said he liked it, and thanked her for it, but I wasn't pleased.

Tonight, after the Hanukkah party, I told the boys I had a present for them, but it wasn't wrapped (I had some books I had chosen for "book night.").  I went upstairs to get them, and came down with them hidden behind my back.  What looks of excitement and expectation!  Then I handed them over, and their faces fell.  Both boys told me that a present is TOYS and not books.

Where does this come from?  Neither Eric nor I are entitled in this way.  We always express gratitude for things, and I often comment on things that are nice and not a "right"- someone giving us a sample at Costco, holding the door open, saying hello.  I have always had an appreciation for all these small things.

I'm also not sure how to change this.  I have always hoped to lead by example, but that doesn't seem to be working.  I have corrected both boys every time they demand a gift or don't say thank you for something they have been given.  Is this just their age?  It just makes me unhappy, when I know how carefully others have chosen gifts for them.

He is also obsessed with Christmas, much to my embarrassment.  Apparently at school last week, our friend was in their class talking to the kids about her job, and she had the kids talking about their feelings.  Asher said he felt happy when he sees Santa Claus!  I am mortified- it is a Jewish pre-school and the teachers know we are raising the kids Jewish.  On top of that- what? Asher hasn't seen "Santa" since 2011, and he wouldn't even sit on his lap.  I hope that this is a passing phase, perhaps related to the holiday season.  Otherwise... oy.

And I'll end with this beautiful girl:

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

I am so tired, I think I'll finish this tomorrow- but wanted to think tonight about some of the things I'm thankful for.

Most of all- family.  Not just my loving husband and 3 wonderful children, but of course my parents, who put us all up for three months at their house with minimal complaint, and who are always generous with their time and love.  Even if we don't get to see them as much, Eric's parents are also a big part of our lives, and we are lucky to have a memere and pepere who so adore their grandchildren. We're also fortunate to be so close to my aunt Jane and uncle Ed, who love my kids (almost) as much as their own grandchildren.  And I'm glad that my sister is mostly living in this country, and sees a lot of us- and that the kids love her, too.
Asher and his planet Earth

I am thankful that both Eric and I are employed, and that we like our jobs and do work that we find meaningful and fulfilling.  I love where I work and the people I work with, and appreciate everyday the fact that I was able to purse a doctorate and a career that I plan to enjoy for many years.

I am thankful for our health.  Despite runny noses from September through April and a stomach bug here and there, we are all extremely healthy and well.
Benjamin and his globe
I've also been thinking about how thankful I am for all of our friends.  We have developed a great group of friends, who have been supportive and helpful through this year.  When we moved into our new house, they helped us move.  They brought us dinners, gave us hand-me-down clothes, babysat during funerals and brought food to shivas.  It makes such a difference in our lives to have this kind of support and social interaction.  I love watching our kids grow up together, and the boys look forward to seeing and playing with their friends.
half of our Thanksgiving table
our table from the other direction
Beautiful Charlotte with my cousin Susannah
her holiday dress
I'm also thankful everyday for the little things that we take for granted that I know aren't a given- a roof over our heads in a warm house with a comfortable bed; more food than we can eat and the money to pay for it; clean running water; a safe and friendly neighborhood; good schools with interested teachers.

Everyday I'm thankful for a multitude of things.  I feel lucky everyday- how did I end up with such a wonderful life?  We aren't rich, we don't travel the world or even get to take many date nights, but it's a good life, filled with love, family and friends.  We approach everything with excitement and interest, and that makes our life bigger and better.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Charlotte: 11 months old

watching Papa Nick leave

I really can't believe that one month from now, my baby girl turns ONE.  How did this year go by so fast?  How did my last baby get so big?

Height and Weight:
I think Charlotte's about 24 lbs now, which is more than her brothers weighed at 15 months.

Clothing size:
Charlotte's still in size 12 months or 12-18 month clothing.  I have found myself shopping more for her- I think to myself, "oh, baby clothes are so inexpensive!" and then I remember that she'll wear the clothes for a maximum of 3 months, so I'm really not getting all that much value for my dollar.  But she looks so cute in everything!

Charlotte can raise her arms up and say "Da!" for ta-da.  She signs "more" not just for more, but really for eat.  I've tried to teach her "eat," but she's not using it.  She's babbling a fair amount, but still only says her version of "kitty" as a word.  She's clapped a few times, too.  She's also starting to understand some of what we say and respond to it.  She can babble "ma," "da," "ya," "ta."

Charlotte now has 4 teeth in, and at least 1 more on its way.  She's been great about teething, thank goodness!

She thinks she's the same age as her brothers and will try to do anything that they're doing.  She lacks some of their fine motor skills and coordination though!
Helping make Papa Nick's mocha

helping taste Papa Nick's mocha

Outings and Adventures:
Still no big trips.  I guess we slow down in the winter!  We did go with Meema to the aquarium on Monday; other than that, we haven't done much new.  Charlotte had her first Halloween, and her first day of school- I started her one day a week at the JCC with her brothers.  So far, it seems they are taking great care of her, and she does well there.

Charlotte is taking 1 nap a day right now- I feel like a terrible mommy because we were always home at 9 am and 1 pm for the boys' naps, but poor Charlotte gets dragged around wherever they need to go.  She is taking 1 good nap a day most days, and then about 11-12 hours at night.  She's STILL not sleeping through the night.  Most nights she wakes up only once, but last night it was 3 times.  I'm so tired when that happens!  Her bedtime is 7:30 pm, and she usually wakes up around 7 am.

Charlotte eats 3 meals a day and some snacks, as well as nursing about 4 times a day.  She often nurses for shorter periods of time.  She drinks water from a sippy, and the one day she is at school she gets 2% milk, but doesn't drink much of it.

Favorite food:
She is already getting more picky!  She used to like bananas and now won't touch them.  She will eat, without fail, scrambled eggs, blueberries, strawberries, and yogurt.  She likes Cheerios, string cheese (cut up small), most vegetables, and even liked spicy Indian butter chicken.  I need to feed her a more varied diet, so that she doesn't end up like her brothers- picky and bland eaters.

Favorite person:
Again, it is hard to tell.  She expresses real and genuine pleasure at pretty much all family members- her daddy and of course her big brothers, as well as Meema and Papa Nick.  She has started having stranger anxiety, and doesn't like to be left with people who she doesn't know.  The boys never really had this, so it is all new to me!

Her favorite not-person is her Kitty Cat.  She sleeps with him every night and every nap, and has taken to carrying him around the house as her buddy.  She sucks her thumb and rubs his tail or legs to soothe herself.  She is really too cute with him.

Charlotte has become such a fun and important part of our family and our lives.  I can't believe that 1 year ago, she wasn't even here yet.  I also can't believe what great work Eric and I did in making this little lady.

She has just started doing what Eric calls her "happy feet," a kind of dance where she moves her feet up and down in happiness or excitement.  Ridiculously cute.  She also has started blowing on her food to cool it off, even if it isn't hot food (an imitation of me).  I love how much the boys love her, too- they are always asking after her, trying to take care of her and share with her.

We are hoping to move home this weekend, and I'm eager to live in our house the way we want to live.  I can't wait to really settle into our home.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

oedipus schmoedipus

Back before we had kids, Eric read (and enjoyed) the Book of Jewish Humor.  In it, there is a joke where a Jewish mommy takes her son to a psychologist to find out what is wrong with him.  The doctor tells her that her son has an Oedipal complex.  The mom says, "Oedipus, shmoedipus, as long as he loves his mother!"  As a Jewish mommy myself, this is funny because it's true- whatever else happens, as long as my boys still love me, everything is ok.

We might be a little bit in the Oedipal stage- perhaps combined with the anal stage- with Asher and his potty training.  We haven't been pushing him, but he shows no interest in going.  He loves sweets, and I have told him that if he pees and poops on the potty, he'll get candy- but that isn't motivation enough.

Asher can't seem to articulate to us what the problem might be.  At first he said he was scared because the toilet was too deep, but he still won't sit on a little kid potty, either.  And he's watched Benjamin use all kinds of potties without any problem.

Tonight I told Benjamin that he was my baby.  (As I type this, I realize that it's crazy that I call my almost 4 year old sons "babies," and heaven only knows what psychological damage I am inflicting by doing this.)  Asher quickly said, "He's not your baby.  He wears underwear."  So I think maybe that is our answer- that Asher doesn't want to get out of diapers because he wants to stay my baby.  I've told him over and over that he'll always be my baby- as evidenced by the fact that he is STILL my baby after I gave birth to another baby.

Now I have to figure out a way to get him to use the potty while letting him know that he is absolutely still my baby.  I think we are taking away his diapers after we're back in our house (hopefully 1 week from today), so we will see what happens. I refuse to have power plays or tears or hysterics or UTIs, I just can't handle that, so I don't know how far I'll go.  Wish me luck with my little Oedipus!

cute things my kids said (or did)

a perk to living at Meema and Papa Nick's- story time on a weekday

I'm making sure that I take time to appreciate all the wonderful things my kids say or do these days.  I spend way too much time getting caught up in anxiety over things that I can't control, so I try to balance it with taking moments to appreciate all the special things in my life.  I love the way the kids are right now- I wish I could just freeze time.

Tonight I made 5.5 lbs of brisket- half of which is for our neighbors, who just had their 2nd baby last night.  Congratulations to them!  We were sitting down and eating the other half, and Asher asked me, "Who learned you how to cook?"  I said, "Meema did."  And he said, "yeah, and now you cook really really good!"  I told him that was one of the best compliments I've ever gotten.

At bedtime I was giving Asher some snuggles, and he told me he needed some more kisses.  I love being asked for snuggles and kisses.  I love giving kisses; I love the smell of their hair and skin and the feeling of their warm little bodies curled into mine.  I'm so glad they still love getting them.

Benjamin is very affectionate toward Charlotte, too.  He always gives her hugs and kisses.  Tonight the boys were hugging/wrestling, and then they had to go and include Charlotte.  It was very thoughtful, but she maybe wasn't as big a fan as they were.

In the mornings, we all pile into Eric's and my bed for snuggles.  One morning the boys came in, and Charlotte was already there.  Rather than run in and give me hugs, they both rushed in and hugged her, and she squealed with delight to see them.  It just makes me happy to have my children love each other so much.

Charlotte is also seeking out hugs now.  She loves to snuggle animals- the cats, stuffed animals, maybe a pillow.  She is giving hugs and comes to us for comfort.  She's so independent that I only realized how little she needed me before after she started looking for me!

Last night we had dinner at our friends' house, and the kids just had a great time.  They ripped all the cushions off the couch and jumped on them, they got musical instruments and had an impromptu parade.  Our friends' older daughter told us she was having the best time ever- or second only to the time her cousins came to visit.  It's such a pleasure to watch my children have fun the way I remember having fun as a child.
cute until they fought over it

Ok- so I wrote that first part on Sunday.  Now it's Thursday.  Tuesday morning at 3:30, Asher woke up vomiting, which he continued to do every 45 minutes til 7:30 am.  His top concerns were:
-If I'm sick, I can't go to school and see my friends.
-I don't want the kitty to come near me because I don't want him to get the tummy bug.

Today he was helping around the house, and I thanked him.  He said, "I like doing things to help people who need help!"  That's my boy!

Benjamin got sick on Wednesday night, and stayed home from school today.  He was pretty much better around breakfast time, but he seemed lethargic and I thought he could use a day of rest.  He and Daddy ended up having a great day together, which was really special.  Benjamin is very clever- he has a way of figuring out how things are working and doing it by himself.  I think my dad is pleased he has an engineer's mind.  He and my dad play a game where my dad is the "crane" and lifts Benjamin up and moves him around according to Benjamin's orders.  The other night they were taking out trash, and Benjamin asked my dad to lift him up, move him over, and move him down... into the recycling bin!  Fortunately my dad stopped following orders before Benjamin was in the trash.