Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why I Love Being a Mom

So Noah.....the little devil that he has become, made me melt this week. He has launched himself full-throttle into the terrible two's, and has started back-talking me almost as much as his older sister. But this week, that sweet, angelic boy looked at me, gave me a hug, and said, "Mommy, you're my best friend."

Totally and completely in love with that little man.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The IKEA Bookshelf.....a Meataphor for My Life

So here is a little something to make you laugh, and pretty much sums up my life right now in a nutshell. A few weeks back we made a family trip to IKEA to get some organizational things. Mainly I wanted to find a bookshelf for inside the closet in our playroom. The closet has built-in shelves on one side, but I was to have some more so I can keep anything with small and/or lots of pieces generally out of the way. I measured the space I had, twice, and brought the measurements with me to the store. We found a cheap wooden shelving system that looked like it would work, I checked the shelf measurements, and wrote down where to go to pick up all the necessary parts. We check out, load everything into the car, and go home. The next night we go to put it together and discover that we are missing something. A 4 dollar metal cross-brace for the back of the bookshelf, without which the whole thing collapses. It must have fallen out of the cart somewhere between check-out and the loading area. So I was pissed off that we couldn't get the closet organized because that motivation doesn't come along very often for me.

So the following week I have a sitter for the afternoon and I decide to go back to IKEA to get this brace-thing, and run all my other errands in the Plymouth Meeting big-box store haven. Reminder: through all of this I am about 7 months pregnant, and start getting uncomfortable and having Braxton-Hicks contractions after walking for a while. I get to IKEA, find my way to the cross-braces, get what I need, and check-out. The shortest and cheapest trip I have ever had to that store. I finish running my errands and go home. That night Alex and I again try to put this bookshelf together. We get ready to screw in the brace, and is the wrong size. Yes, I managed to buy the wrong one, and so, yet again, I am foiled in my attempt to organize. This time, I had a long day and was exhausted, and I start to cry. Alex is laughing. I refuse to go back to IKEA again, and he says he will take care of it.

So on Presidents' Day I send him off to get this freakin' piece of metal that has managed to frustrate me to no end. He arrives home with it, and assures me that it is the correct size. So last night we finally get around to putting this thing together......AGAIN. We get the shelves all set up, and the cross-brace installed and, miraculously, we have a completed bookshelf!! Yeah!!! I can FINALLY get this thing in the closet and get the rest of the toys and games put away. I clear out the floor and we go to move it into place, and IT WON'T FIT!!!!!!!! Yes, you read that correctly, it would not fit. Now mind you, I did measure everything in the closet and the shelf width to make sure it would fit. However, when the whole thing is assembled, it is 2 inches wider than the shelf length. Alex is laughing, and I am fuming, cursing IKEA and all things Swedish. I felt like I should've been on a hidden camera show. So now we have a new set of shelves in out garage, and my playroom closet is still in need of some new storage solution.

What have I learned from this? Not sure yet, except that I am definitely not meant to organize that closet. And I think IKEA might be the most evil store in the world.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Hate Feeding My Kids

Just a moment to rant.

I love to cook. I have for as long as I can remember. When I have time to really plan and prepare a wonderful meal for my family and friends, there is nothing I would rather do. It relaxes me, gives me time to think, and is just enjoyable. I think part of it is knowing that I am nourishing people I love with something I made. Some people don't get it, and think I am crazy when I want to cook for crowds of people, but it is honestly one of my favorite things to do.

So why do I hate cooking for my kids??? I shouldn't say that. I don't hate cooking for them, but I do hate sitting down to eat with them most days. My kids are good eaters, for the most part. Sure, they each have certain things they don't like, but for the most part, they eat very well. In fact, my son is often threatened with no more fruit in order to get him to eat a grilled cheese! But the mealtime process has become an abomination in our house.

Now I do all the things those parenting magazines and books say to do. I sit down and eat with my kids, model good manners and table etiquette, and carry on conversations with them about things they have been doing. But for some reason, it always melts down into a mess of screaming, yelling, blowing raspberries, table banging, nonsense talking, and using our plates and bowls for hats. And I have absolutely no idea how to get it to stop. It happens at breakfast, lunch and dinner, regardless of amount of sleep or how healthy they are. I have tried sending them to the naughty spot (over and over and over again), setting timers, taking away their food, and anything else I can think of, but nothing seems to sink in. Many mornings one or all of us is in tears trying to get through breakfast and get out the doors. This afternoon I took away Georgia's lunch and sent her upstairs for her rest, because I couldn't take it any longer. I am getting to the point where I just can not stand the thought of sitting down for another meal with my kids.

Now of course Georgia is a perfect manner-using angel for snack-time at school, but when her brother is around she manages to forget that she knows how to behave and becomes a 2 year-old all over again. My other dilemma is that since she knows how she should be behaving, and Noah is still learning manners and testing our limits, how do I discipline? Do I punish her, and not him? Do they get the same discipline, even though they have very different capabilities to understand why they are being punished? How do I show her that it is so much better to act like a big girl and show her brother how he is supposed to behave, when acting like a 2 year old is clearly more fun? I tell Alex all the time that I would gladly pay to have someone else come in and sit with my kids while they eat, and that it would take away half of my daily stress about parenting. I know there are people out there who will potty-train, sleep-train, and teach my children Chinese. But is there anyone out there who will come in and teach my kids how to behave like freakin' human beings?

Please.....give me some hope and advice to get us back on track. Of course, in about 2 years we will be back here again, when this next little boy is screwing up our table manners all over again!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So Alex is going to Virginia today to have some follow-up interviews at the company I had mentioned before. They are talking to him about some different positions than what he originally was looking at, but they actually sound like a better opportunity and he is excited about it. And it would still mean that we would have to move eventually, but we might have 12-18 months to do so. So that is a big relief for me. I am not sure what I want to happen right now. Of course I want him to have a job, and if he loves it, then all the better. But I am also torn on the moving front. I think I can be excited since I can put the move out of my head for a while and focus on the immediate future. So keep your fingers crossed, and wish him luck. I will keep you all posted on what we find out.....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I just need to share this picture. Here is the background. Since she has stopped napping about 6 months ago, Georgia has "rest time" in her room every afternoon. For the most part, she plays quietly and reads to herself during this time, and we both get some much-needed down time. She is also obsessed right now with ballerinas, fairies, and dressing up in all sorts of concoctions. I fear what her teachers would think of me if I actually let her go to school in some of the creations she puts on in the morning. But yesterday, 15 minutes before she was supposed to come down I hear little footsteps on the stairs. Before I could muster the straight face to send her back up, I busted out laughing. Laughed so hard I had tears running down my face. This was the Georgia that greeted me, in all her glory, and so proud of herself. God, she makes me laugh.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I have been thinking a lot about religion the past few months. I think it is because a few of the novels I have recently read have dealt with questioning institutional religion, atheism, and the various contradictions that occur in many religious doctrines. I have been mainly mulling everything over as it affects me personally, but also the world as a whole. How can one not think about it with so many heinous things going on right now that are done in the name of God or Allah or Jesus or any other supreme being? However, the purpose of this post is not to get political, but rather to think about what I have dealt within my own religious life, as well as what I have yet to figure out.

Here are the nitty gritty details of my background. I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. My family went to Church every weekend, I went to CCD classes, and was baptized, had communion, and confirmed in the Catholic Church. I went to a Catholic high school, although it was more for the academic and social benefits of the school than the religious affiliation. I also attended Georgetown University, a Catholic (albeit Jesuit) college. So it would seem that I would be pretty settled in my religious beliefs and values. But right now, I really don't know what I would call myself.

I remember shortly before my confirmation in 8th grade, I told my parents that I did not want to be confirmed as a Catholic. They were upset and asked me to explain to them why I felt that way, but basically there was no choice in the matter. Even at that point, I was not sure that I really believed what the Church preached. I had issues with the fact that the priests I frequently cam into contact with were not the most pleasant individuals, but they taught us to treat everyone as we would want to be treated. I also felt that women should be able to be priests, priests should be able to get married, and that the Catholic Church's view on divorce needed to change. But I went on and completed the confirmation process, and went to mass every week. In high school, we had religious courses, but they were taught mainly as Biblical history classes. We memorized books of the bible, the apostles, and details of the stories we think we are so familiar with. Junior and senior year I took "ministry" classes, which focused on volunteerism, helping others, and looking at personal spiritual growth. These classes were probably the starting point for my career in Social Work, now that I look back on it.

In college, religion fell to the wayside, as it does for many people. But I was friends with people of all different faiths and Christian denominations, and we would talk about religion a lot. I loved learning about the different beliefs and teachings of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and different Christian faiths. Even at a Catholic college, all religions were accepted and practiced on campus. In fact, one of the largest and most active student organizations on campus was the MSA, the Muslim Student Association.

But I really began to question my own religion when I began dating my future husband. Alex is Jewish. And between the two of us, religion was not really an issue until we started to discuss how we would want to get married, and how we each wanted to raise our children. After we graduated from college, we moved in together, and we would travel to each others' families for the various holidays that we celebrated. This was not a big deal for me. I grew up in a very diverse area, and most of my elementary school and neighborhood friends were Jewish. I actually asked my parents when I was going to "turn Jewish" because I thought that was what everyone was! So we celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas together. And there were countless numbers of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs come middle school. I had even learned about Passover in my own CCD classes. So I enjoyed going to Temple on the High Holidays, and participating in a Passover Seder with my future in-laws. Alex would come to Christmas Eve and Easter mass, and have the traditional Italian dinners that followed. Neither of us was particularly enthused about religion, but liked the various traditions that we had in our families, the bringing together of people that holidays provided.

But when we started to plan our wedding we really had to look at ourselves and our convictions very closely. I had wanted to have a Priest and a Rabbi officiate at our wedding. I had many books about interfaith marriage which provided examples of this being possible. I had websites and phones numbers to find out where to start the process. And since there would be a representative from both of our faiths, everyone should be happy right? WRONG!! We had family members refusing to come if one or the other was there. In the end, it was a non-issue. When we did sit down with a priest to see if this was something that could happen, we both decided that there was no way we were going to pursue it. The priest was willing to officiate at the ceremony with a Rabbi, provided we signed a document stating our intentions of raising our children in the Catholic faith. Rabbis that I talked to were willing to co-officiate with a priest provided we sign a statement that we would raise our children in the Jewish faith. So, we would be lying to one of them, which both of the would know, and presumably be okay with. But this was the only way they would work together? Great! Let's start out a young couple's marriage by have them LIE TO A PRIEST AND A RABBI!!!! Moving on.....

We ended up have an interfaith minister officiate at our wedding. He was a theology professor who was a former Catholic priest and left the priesthood to marry a Jewish woman. Needless to say, he was very understanding of our situation and the need to respectfully integrate both of our faiths into one cohesive ceremony. In the end, we had a wedding ceremony that was totally and uniquely ours. We really had to think about everything we put into the ceremony, from the music to readings to which blessings (if any) would be included. It incorporated some of the most meaningful parts of both the Jewish and Christian wedding ceremonies, and I think we honored our families while clearly laying out a new road for the two of us moving forward as a family.

While planning our wedding we had also decided that our children would be raised in the Jewish faith. I was never a gung-ho Catholic, and my family was supportive of us practicing any faith that we believed in. It was much more important to Alex's family that our children carry on the Jewish faith, and since I enjoyed many of the traditions and practices of Judaism, I was happy to oblige. So our daughter has had a baby-naming ceremony, and our son had a traditional bris when he was born, but that has pretty much been where things have stopped. I would like our family to join a Temple so that our children can start to get involved in their religious life. And it would be nice to have some help in teaching them about the various Jewish holidays and traditions that we celebrate. But that responsibility is in Alex's hands, and that is all I will say about that for now.

Personally I am feeling a little lost in the faith department these days. While I am happy to raise my children in the Jewish faith, and participate in all the religious celebrations of both of our families, I frequently find myself wondering exactly what I believe. While I have not officially converted to another faith, I would not call myself a Catholic.....definitely not in the eyes of the Catholic Church, anyway. I think I could get back there, if not for the terrible experiences I have had with them. A while back I was asked to be a Godparent for my cousin's son, a responsibility I was honored to have. But when I went to obtain the necessary paperwork from my local parish, I had a rude awakening. Apparently, I was a heathen in the eyes of the Church. I had to fill out this form and join the local Church before they would write a letter saying I was a Catholic "in good standing." And the form only asked about whether I was baptized, had communion, and was confirmed, all of which I had completed. Easy peasy....or so I thought.

The real problem came on the registration form for the Church. Since my husband did not get married by a Priest in a Church, I was not considered married in their eyes. Fine. The secretary explained that this was a problem they could "get past simply by having us say our vows with a priest in the chapel." Okay, so if this was so simple, don't you think we would have done that in the first place? This led to a bit of a tiff between us which escalated into a battle when she discovered that my kids were not baptized and would be raised Jewish. She told me I would not have agreed to this if I was a "good Catholic." I went ballistic.....crying and yelling about how this was not exactly the Christian practice of loving and accepting one another. Mind you, she was consulting the Monsenior (I have no idea how that is spelled) in the room next door through out our conversation. At one point she told me that maybe if I started coming to mass and handing in my (donation) envelopes, that maybe my request would be reconsidered!!! Complete and utter outrage overtook me, and after having a few more words, I stormed out with tears streaming down my face, vowing I would never join another Catholic Church. But I felt terrible for my cousin, and wanted to be there for her son. So I tried to go through my parents' parish, where I was last a member. I was told basically the same thing. However, when I asked about how my father, who has been divorced, was able to obtain this same letter of "good standing" to be a Godfather, I was met with total silence. Eventually it came out that his good standing had to do with the amount of money he has donated over the years, not the fact that he has not been to that Church in at least 3 years. So basically being a "good Catholic" has been boiled down to whether you financially support the richest religious institution in the world....not whether you actually live by the moral guidelines that you were taught about in all those CCD classes growing up. I have a hard time believing that if Jesus or God were around today, He/She would approve of such teachings and behavior.

Add to these experiences the fact that I am a very liberal person. VERY liberal. I believe in gay marriage, a woman's right to choice, birth control, tolerance and understanding of those that are different from you, taxes that support community programs, universal healthcare, and generally taking care of one another. I don't know how to reconcile this with the Catholic Church's (and many other faiths') stance on many of these issues. And while I don't feel welcome in the Church I grew up in, I don't know that I feel pulled toward any one faith enough to officially convert. So what am I? Where do I belong? I haven't been that bothered by these feelings until recently, thinking about raising my children with some sort of religious education. If they want to reject it later on, as I have, so be it. But I feel that I need to plant some sort of seeds of faith in them now, or they may never find it later on.

Sorry for the rambling, stream-of-consciousness spewing of feelings. I have been muling all this over and just needed to get it out of my head. Maybe get some feedback from people out there if you have dealt with something similar.

So for now I celebrate holidays, and take away the joy and togetherness that they provide. I love the feeling I get when I watch the Christmas tree at night, in the silence that comes after the kids are in bed. It is a feeling of peace, love, and family. But I also love watching my kids light the menorah and say the Hebrew prayers during Hanukkah, knowing that they are feeling that same sort of excitement and togetherness. Together, we are creating a new religious path for our family. One that will certainly have bumps along the way, but will hopefully take us on the most amazing journey that will be uniquely ours. And I hope that I can live a life that shows my children that the most important thing is not to follow a stringent set of rules set down by a group of men however many years ago, but to treat one another with kindness, respect, and love, even if we disagree on a lot of things.