Friday, October 16, 2009

Why We Do This

I love driving Declan, Ronan, Aaron and Gretchen to school. They always have such entertaining conversations.

Take yesterday, for example. The four kids started talking about how they would all be neighbors when they're grown. "I'll go to your house, then to Ronan's house," Gretchen said.

"Then mine?" Aaron said.

"Then yours," Gretchen said. "Then Declan will come to mine."

Somehow, this evolved into a discussion on defense: "I'm going to have two guns, one for me and one for Gretchen," Declan announced. This isn't Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, I thought, imagining this little band of armed relatives: This is Waco!

"What about me?" Aaron asked.

"If the monster comes to your house, we'll come and shoot him," Declan said, confidently. "And if the monster comes to Ronan's house, then we'll go there."

Of course, then the conversation shifted to something even more unsavory, namely, how they would cut up the monster into little pieces and then eat him. Then they would drink his blood. And then they would eat his poop ("Ewwwwwww!" Keri and I shrieked, in unison). So I'll just focus instead on how happy it made me to imagine all the kids grown, and so close it won't matter whether or not they're really neighbors, because they'll still talk to each other all the time, and spend their holidays and vacations together. And none of them will ever feel alone in the world, because they never will be.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

God in your Sippy Cup

We were sitting around the breakfast table yesterday, when the conversation, as it often does, drifted towards the metaphysical: is God everywhere?

All the kids knew, from their years at Jewish pre-school, followed by (for Erika and Hilary so far) Sunday School, that God is, in fact, everywhere.

Is God in the kitchen? Yes, He must be in the kitchen.
Is God at the table? Yes, He must be at the table.
Honestly, I was only half-following this conversation, so I don't know which of the kids then shrieked: "God's in your sippy cup!"

And it occurred to me, not for the first time, that Jewish pre-school is kind of like a cult. The kids come in Godless heathens, and graduate true believers.

I'll never forget one day, when Erika was about three, and she and Hilary, who was one, were playing with a toy kitchen. Erika laid out quite a spread for her sister, but just as Hilary reached to pick up a plastic treat, Erika cried out, "Wait! We have to say the blessing first!"

Of course, we as parents have chosen to enroll our children in this preschool specifically for the brainwashing, I mean religious education, they are receiving there. And it is important to me that my kids understand their culture, and the history and traditions which have shaped their parents, and their grandparents, and their ancestors before that.

But then the kids come home singing about how tight they want to hug their Torahs, and I have to admit, it seems a bit extreme to me.

The God part, that's hard. I'm not really sure what I believe about God at this point in my life, but the kids are always trying to pin me down: Does God make babies? Does God make cities? Does God love mean guys?

And my personal favorite: Do you love God?

The kids are pretty easy to distract now, but I assume that won't always be the case. Still, I suppose that the older and more persistent they get, the better they'll be able to appreciate that God is complicated, and personal, and that each of the 12 people in our family will probably have a different relationship, or lack thereof, with that most abstract of abstractions. And no matter what conclusion each of them arrives at, it's all okay.

Except for dancing around with the Torahs. At some point, I'm really going to have to put a stop to that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Goodbye, Aunt Rose

I want to live, and die, like Aunt Rose.

Great Aunt Rose died last week at the age of 91, after having been married for 71 years. She was put under general anesthesia for gall bladder surgery and sadly, never woke up.

Or maybe not so sadly.

It's never happy news when someone you love dies, but considering that we all must, this seems to me like a good way to go. She didn't suffer. She didn't have dementia or linger through a debilitating illness. She lived on her own until the very end, depending on no one but herself. She went to sleep and never woke up, and I can only hope my own end is as peaceful and painless.

Aunt Rose lost her sweetheart 16 months ago, and she seemed a bit lost and lonely ever since. She spoke often of Uncle Bob, always on the verge of tears, always with a longing I wished I could satisfy. She woke up to his voice in the middle of the night and often saw him walking through the retirement home they had shared for 30 years. But this didn't make her happy, it made her sad. And I think more than anything she wanted to be with him.

And now she is. And that's nothing to be sad about.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bad Dreams

Molly has been having bad dreams.

I don't know this for certain, of course, since so far the extent of her vocabulary is, "meh," which can mean all sorts of things (cat! dog! Declan! fire hydrant!), but not, as far as I can tell, "Mommy, I just had a really bad dream."

But there are signs. The most obvious? The scream in the middle of the night. Yes, I have been blessed with a super baby, and can count on one hand the number of times she has woken up in the middle of the night since passing the three month mark. Seriously. And 95 percent of those times, she woke up because she had pooped, which, I can only imagine, makes her not so comfortable. As soon as she's changed, she's reaching for her crib and snuggles herself right back to sleep.

That's right, she snuggles herself. Which brings me to the second sign that she must be having bad dreams: she wants to snuggle. With her parents.

This may not sound so odd to you, but consider Molly's bedtime/naptime routine: Change diaper (hers). Kiss on cheek. Place in crib. Leave the room.

This isn't my choice, mind you. We tried for months to sit with her on a glider and read stories, or rock her gently until she was close to sleep. But it was always a struggle. She wanted to hold the book herself. The amount of time she would allow us to hold her grew shorter and shorter. Eventually, she began to cry out if we walked to the glider rather than the crib.

"For Pete's sake," I imagined her thinking. "Can I please just go to sleep?"

So we let her. We lay her down in her crib, where she wriggled herself into the mattress (I guess she was allowed to snuggle herself), stuck her thumb in her mouth, and closed her eyes. That was it. She didn't even open them when we opened the door to leave.

So when Molly woke up crying, and actually wanted to be held, we knew something was up. We rocked her for a few minutes until she calmed down, then lay her gently back in her crib. She was asleep again instantly, the dream quickly forgotten.

Of course it makes me sad to think of my poor Molly suffering through nightmares. But I can't help but savor these brief moments, when my fiercely independent daughter is cuddled up against me, happy to be safe in my arms. And it warms me to know that even though she now shuns my assistance in any endeavor (with a resounding, "meh!"), it's still me she calls out to in the middle of the night, my heart she snuggles up against as she falls blissfully back to sleep.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We're Still Here! And Still Cute!

I wish I had a good reason for our appalling lack of posting--We were busy prepping Molly for her upcoming appearance on Toddlers and Tiaras! Ronan poured maple syrup inside my hard drive! Declan finally eloped with one of his many girlfriends!--but alas, I've no such excuse.

The start of the new year is always hectic, even though you always expect otherwise. I was literally counting down the days until school started, thinking that once the kids were back to their regular schedule, so too would I be back to a regular schedule of writing and working. As it turns out, back to school time is as hectic for the 'rents as it is for the kids.

Of course, that's always the case; as much as I often long for things to get "back to normal," the truth is that there isn't really any normal. Not for us, with our combined eight kids under the age of 11. And not for you, I'm sure, no matter what your household looks like. Besides, what fun is normal, anyway?

So, in response to our fan (Hi Gail!) and family, we are in fact, all just fine, and will soon be back to posting regularly and entertainingly about our brood. Until then, here's a photo of my breathtakingly adorable children on Rosh Hashanah.

Still here. Still cute.