Abba, Are We There Yet?

March 29th, 2012

When my children were younger I felt like I was always playing catch-up, scrambling up the learning curve to meet their needs. Somewhere past toddlerhood I guess I started to feel competent. Surprise, surprise, each of the children followed a similar developmental pattern. Lots of things were predictable. The “terrible twos” weren’t really so terrible. It was nice.

The trouble is that while I started to gain confidence, let down my guard, and even blog about the joys of “phase II” parenting…. the older ones kept growing up, bringing with them a whole new set of complex needs and struggles – ones I didn’t get any proper training to handle.

I remember that almost two years ago I was on the phone with our Rav, second guessing (again) our family size decisions. He cautioned me that I was about to hit a “whole new level of intensity and needs” as my children entered their second decade.  As is so often true with advice, I couldn’t fully relate until it happened.

I know that “big kids, big problems” is a cliche, but I don’t know that this is always true. First, big kids let you sleep at night. Second, older children can often articulate what is going on. It’s a pleasure to receive more feedback than crying vs. not crying and I blunder through.

When I try to wrap my head around the fact that I am already dealing with boy-girl issues, I just can’t. They are just too young! Everyone around me also seems to react that they are “so young”. Then I remind myself of Jimmy M. in the 5th grade. Although oblivious to me and any of my thoughts and feelings, Jimmy caused a blowup with my father about the injustice of only being allowed to date Jewish boys.

It actually didn’t upset me too much that I was expected to date only Jews. It upset me that I was sent to public school in preppy-town, USA, with practically no Jewish population and then told I could only date Jewish boys. Perhaps this was a clever strategy on my father’s part, a means of putting off the inevitable.

But I doubt it. With hindsight, he probably made decisions about moving there when he was still in Phase I of parenting himself, and Phase II snuck up on him sooner than he had suspected as well.  I suppose he couldn’t wrap his head around having boy-girl issues when I was  in 5th grade any more than I can wrap my head around it now.  I bet he had  his first crush around that age himself.  He probably only remembered that as he stood there post-blowup thinking I was too young.

The thing is, we never really get to stop scrambling up the learning curve trying to meet their needs, do we? I am not sure that we would want to. If I ever master meeting their needs, won’t that mean that their lives have stagnated?  If they continue to grow and develop, this will mean an endless series of of new challenges, just like mine. Won’t that be a good thing?

I hope they will continue to grow, and I know that it means that I will have to as well. I also hope that they will continue to need me; seek my advice, solicit my support in the hard times, and welcome my applause in the good. My mother dropped her own life this last month and again last week to help me pack for our anticipated move. A significant evolution from fifth grade romance boundaries, it’s just a different, not lesser, call for help after all of these years.

And I know that they are glad I still call.

… I think all of this is what Hashem (God) wants me to understand of his relationship with me. He wants more than anything for us to continue to have challenges – always new, always harder – that are signs of our ongoing growth and development. Having to cry out to Hashem for help is a sign of both continued relationship and ongoing progress, just as in my relationships as both child and parent.  He really doesn’t want me to be “there yet” and to stop growing… and he really wouldn’t want me not to call.

The key difference is that Hashem doesn’t have to run up the learning curve. He, as the ultimate parent, has already arrived. As for me? I am not there yet, and since I hope for my children to keep being challenged and therefore challenging me, I am pretty sure I never will be.

 

 


 

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I am aware that not all of you reading this are at the potty training stage, but for our family is has been “that time again”. I have developed my own system, or maybe more accurately described as a tradition, based on what just seems to work for us.

Rule #1: Completely different approaches for boys than for girls. 

Different biology, different neurology, different potty training methods. (As well as different lots of other stuff. You already know I am a sexist.)

My daughters trained at 24 months and 17 months (!).  All of my boys trained after 3 years old. That wasn’t because of me, that was them. I know that every daughter out there is different, but my girls – and many of my friends’ daughters -wanted to train. They figured it out, were super motivated and then just did it. “I can be a big girl” seemed to be all it took, and then some help from mom on getting the panties or pull ups down fast enough. I know of more than one little girl that made the decision, announced to her mother “enough diapers” and that was that. In the case of my second daughter she watched her 3 1/2 year old brother trained and declared “I can do that.”  Then she went on to prove it.

Boys are a different story. “Why should I do all of that work when Ima can change me, take care of me… I get to lie down, it’s relaxing, I don’t have to stop playing to go; now why would I give that up? Ima even talks to me when she is changing me. It’s a sweet deal.”

None of my sons were in a rush to train. With my twins I was all charged up to try at three… and had to give up for a few more months.

#2 – There is NO peeing standing up. We always sit down. All of us. 

I like potty training. I don’t mind cleaning up pee from the pants, and the floor and occasionally a chair. But urine all over the bathroom? No thank you. They all learn sitting, and it encourages them to maintain the practice later in life. 7 males in my house; you can imagine my bathroom cleaning efforts as it is. No target practice, thank you. Always sitting.  I know some moms have used the target practice idea as a motivator, but I think one loses more than one gains.

#3 – Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda.

… Well, I am a PR consultant. I spend easily a month prepping for the big event. While still in diapers, we talk about the exciting time when we will go on vacation (see #4) and say bye bye to diapers. We create lots of “buzz.”

This is followed by an obnoxious repetition of horrid children’s videos singing bouncy tunes about potties, toilet paper, underwear and the joys of being dry. The songs are so catchy and are repeated so often that the older siblings are plagued with singing them around the house without even realizing it… thereby increasing the propaganda level for the young potty trainee.

Then our little trainee gets to watch the bouncy, repetitive videos while sitting on the potty. And sitting and sitting and sitting. Zombified by more television (video) than the trainee will ever watch at any other point in life while still living under my roof.

Of course success in the potty, (albeit passive while sitting in front of a video) is then met with the customary fanfare and hoopla, forced onto the rest of the children in the family who are order to participate. Someone did it for them, they can do it too….

This massive influx of adulation and attention in a family where attention is always in more demand than supply is like a sweet intoxicator, more powerful as a motivating force than any chocolate chip or M & M could prove to be. At least I think so, since we don’t do candy.

#4 – We potty train (the boys) while on vacation

What?!? Vacation? Around a potty? What a way to spend vacation, right?

Well, the lack of regular routine and structure, the customary increase in numbers of adults around and the being-away-from-the-neighbors-when-the-child-is-constantly-naked all seem to help.

This also makes it easier to force the siblings to engage in the fanfare and hoopla, since they are around as well.

As I said, this is what works for us. I don’t know if everyone wants to spend a family vacation this way, but I don’t get out much on vacations anyway. While it may restrict me slightly while away, it results in a whole lot more freedom when I get home!

Any guests that want to visit us at the beach simply have to love us enough to accomodate the  potty chair in the middle of the living room. And the naked child running around…. and the occasional obnoxious and catchy potty training tune unconsciously being sung by other family members at odd times.

#5 – Don’t tackle nights for quite a while after days. 

I know there are parents who try to train at night right after the day. Perhaps they have drier kids than I do. I just have to pick my battles. I wish I were past the stage of frequent wet beds, but I am not. Until I am, the youngest can stay in pull ups at night. Sorry kiddo; sometimes it has to be about me.

#6 – Don’t sweat the accidents. But don’t be afraid to throw away underwear either. 

I am proud to say that when I was training twin boys I simply cut off and threw away several pairs of pooped-in underwear. I was just not going to clean that up. I expect the accidents, and since they don’t ruffle me, they don’t cause my kids to panic. Having said that, if it’s a gross mess, I can afford to buy a few more pairs of little underwear. I can keep my cool, but when there’s poop involved, I have my limits.

___

I am about to send my youngest off to day camp in underwear. This is an exciting new phase. The thought of using up the case of diapers we have for nighttime and for long trips makes me 100% happy and not one bit sad to see it end.

Okay, so maybe I can say that since my 3 year old still sleeps in a crib and still wants to “cuddle in my nest” most days.  For now, he still needs my help more often than not.  He still wears footsy pajamas and wants to know if that shoe goes on that foot.

So no more diaper bag? Now that’s a vacation….

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Post-Pesach Wrap-up

April 28th, 2011

I remember last year at the end of Pesach A Mother in Israel asking on Facebook about the amount of leftovers in our fridges. I remember this  because I can’t forget feeling horrified by own my answer.  This year I had a lot of successes, including a lot less food leftover. I am not patting myself on the back, or at least not trying to. I am FINALLY getting up a Pesach learning curve, learning from my twelve-years-married mistakes.  The learning began by emailing myself notes at the end of the holiday the last couple of years. One of the first things I learned (the hard way) is that by next Pesach I won’t remember all of the things that at the end of this one I am sure I will.

I invited fewer people for Seders this year. I really didn’t want to, but my kids are at this particular stage where they needed the seders to be about them and their (long and many) questions and divrei Torah as much as possible.  (Amusingly predictable, they complained at one point at the lack of company.)  This allowed me to have the energy to invite more people for Shabbat and the final days, and to end Pesach less ‘burnt out’ than in years past.

I didn’t try a lot of new recipes. I didn’t make a lot of courses. I made lots, and lots (and lots) of mashed potatoes. I barely ate them. The kids were happy, no one complained about the repetition, and I wasn’t stuck with the remains of a fancy dish they didn’t like.

I didn’t buy mixes, pre-made food, or a lot of “substitute” stuff. We lived without Pesach mayo, mustard, pasta and cereal for one whole week, believe it or not.

I did try one thing new: I made delicious stuffed mushrooms with sauteed onions and celery, mushroom tips, spinach, pine nuts and matzo meal. I will wait until next Pesach to post the full recipe, but I will definitely be making these again. I didn’t even try to get my kids to enjoy them. We just gobbled them all up on our own.

I pushed myself to teach a shiur close to Pesach on “Coming to the Seder Elevated and not Exhausted.” I felt really stupidly ambitious for choosing such a topic – after the fact. As with every shiur I give, I learn more than anyone from it, and it pushed me to try and live up to that ideal a lot more this year. It also forced me to learn as much Torah beforehand on the topic as I could to prepare! This helped me plan ahead and strategize.  Not menu plan or strategize my shopping lists, but to think about the ways I wanted to maintain Shalom Bayit in the extremely stressful lead up to the holiday.

Rebbetzin Heller‘s practical tips through shiurim at Naaleh.com were a big help in this respect. I hope you check out her classes, especially if you are currently raising kids. After listening to her advice, I tried something new a couple of weeks before Pesach, and had each child make their own list of all of the responsibilities they felt they could commit to in preparation. This included a number of “Yechiel hours”, referring to the time the would put in watching my youngest. I explained (as R. Heller advised) that if everyone completed their own devised lists, they would get a family reward at the end.  Which they did. The family reward actually bought me a lot of prep time during chol hamoed as the novelty of it kept them busy.*  But the most effective aspect was their own recognition of their abilities and my ability to remind them that when I recruited them to help I was merely asking for something that was “on their list”.

It’s important to get it right at Pesach. Of course in order to fulfill the mitzvot of the holiday, but also because Pesach is the beginning of our journey to redemption, not its completion. Since I am once again pushing myself to teach, I am cognizant of our entrance immediately into the Omer and our need to keep climbing upward.

It feels a little like a treadmill, spiritually and physically (with a lot of laundry and dish washing and sweeping and lugging garbage….) .  I am NOT looking forward to cooking tomorrow!

But I left this Pesach feeling much better in years past. Less in this case is more, and that less has given me much more stamina for the rest of the climb.

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Purim

February 22nd, 2011

Last year I posted three Purim posts. One on hamentashen, one about costumes and the third an after-the-fact accounting as to why I had a rotten Purim. This is a reprint of #2. Please re-visit #’s 1 and 3 as well. The third one is my advice to myself on how not to screw it up this year!

Enjoy:

Costumes.

I am not very artistic. I have a long standing script with my mother that seems to keep repeating itself to no end:

“Mom, I did X.”
“Really? Don’t tell me you aren’t creative!”
“I never said I’m not creative, Mom, I am just not artistic.”
“Well, I think you are very creative.”
“Okay, Mom. Thanks, Mom.”

… Homemade purim costumes need both I think. I do okay with the creativity, and I can help my kids figure out how to use what we have around to become what they would like.

But I can’t design anything, sew anything, draw anything or make anything….

… and I see this year that as we have gotten closer to Purim they have changed their desires to meet with more realistic expectations from Ima.

15 yo – too cool for costumes, of course. I think he might come to Purim as a person with a text message addiction.  : )

10 yo – VERY artistic, and decided she could cover that area better than me a long time ago. She has decided that it would be very humorous and in the spirit of “naafochu” (turnabout, or doing things “opposite”) to dress up as a candy shop. We have a no candy ever policy for our kids. (Cookies and cake are allowed on special occasions, but no candy. That’s a story for a different blog post.)

Candy Shop
Candy Shop costume

8 yo #1 wanted to make a very elaborate costume to be a “joke box” that involved writing down a lot of jokes and being able to emit them at will… he has since changed his mind and in lieu of complicated has chosen evil; he is going as Haman.

8 yo #2 wanted to make a “Star Wars Clone” costume from scratch.

StarWarsCloneTrooper
Star Wars Clone Trooper

He suggested that I could make him the mask myself, or of course buy him one with my limitless funds at a store…. he has switched to going as a doctor.

The 6 yo. stuck to elaborate and complicated. He has to paint it himself. He is going as a confetti box. His idea. He says people won’t get it and will ask him what he is, at which point he can throw confetti at them as he explains. Pretty clever  6 yo right? Those are the ones they say to watch out for. By the way, don’t tell anyone who lives near me the secret or you will spoil all of his fun.

My 4 yo, who is a cross between Junie B. Jones and Olivia, said she wanted to be “a pit”. No, I don’t know what that means. She had to come up with a queen costume for a pre-purim activity at school, and I convinced her to just stick with that for Purim, too. It only worked because I promised to let her wear lots of Ima’s makeup.

The 1 yo will be a lion. All of the rest, except for dss (dear stepson) wore it. It is frayed and the zipper is completely broken. I am quite certain that I would have been horrified at the thought of my first little one doing such a thing. Now I am thrilled when he gets raspberry hamentashen filling all over his front I won’t have to worry so much. After he completes this rite of passage I think we finally get to throw the darn thing out.

I have a huge chest FULL of premade, prefab, store bought costumes. A LOT. I mean it. Wolverine, Superman, Spiderman, Spongebob, Snow White, Pirate, Soldier (x2), ballerina, Harry Potter robes, wands AND broomsticks (3 each!), The Incredible Hulk, Power Ranger,  Batman, Clown wig, kimono, ninja, and those are the ones I can name off the top of my head.

Of course none of those will do for anyone.

It isn’t about authenticity; it is about two things, I think: 1. The never-ending contest for Ima’s time and attention. The more elaborate the costume, the more time I have to stop everything else and devote to it, right? 2. As the clever 6 yo recently said about hisPinewood Derby car (it’s a boy scout thing; also for another post.) “The fun is in the making it.”

And knowing that is why I bother trying to make a confetti box, or putting my makeup on a 4 yo, or helping a 10 yo go to the store just to buy fabric to make a candy shop, running around town begging for used medical supplies for my dr., and revamping a gold satin robe for Haman. As for my little lion, he will jump into the competition soon enough, and broken zipper and all, I am happy for him to wait!

P.S. – Yes, you are all welcome to come to NJ and shop for Purim costumes in my playroom.

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Last week, Marjorie Ingall wrote an article in the online Jewish magazine Tablet that made me quite upset. I wanted to scream from the rooftops via this blog. While I expressed my opinion quite unequivocally there in the comments section, I deferred writing about it myself.

First of all, I have never seen anything good come from writing out of anger and actually hitting “send”  or “publish”.  Second, I was angry enough that I definitely did not want to respond to the article by sending it lots of extra traffic. Note that I haven’t yet put in the link. You can look at it since I have no doubt made you curious, but I am going to add the link at the end of this piece, because I would rather first get my say.

The title of the article is “Blogorrhea: Why I Don’t Read Mommyblogs”. Had she written about why she personally doesn’t choose to read mommyblogs, I do not think I would have gotten upset.  However, she wrote that someone else included her in the category somewhere as a mommyblogger and this “horrified” her. The article is primarily explaining her horror, dumping on mommyblogs all along the way.

I found this to be off-putting and I felt angry because of the tone of intellectual superiority, which always pushes my buttons. “I am so much better than you”, regardless of the reasoning – or even the veracity of the statement – will always upset me. The fact that a professional would choose to write an article about why she is superior to mommybloggers as a “real writer” does not seem to be a great topic with which to demonstrate her own point.

Having said that, so what?  Why write a post about it? Why not choose to think she is an annoying and bad writer and no longer read her stuff, right?

The reason is I think that she chose to make her point by choosing the highest common denominator of her self-defined category and comparing it to the lowest common denominator of mommybloggers in order to demonstrate said superiority. I think she mentioned a tiny number of exceptions to her own rules about mommybloggers, presenting them as the only few gems in a vast sea of trash, and because I think she is dead wrong.

So, while far, far, far fewer people will see this than her article in Tablet magazine, this is why I do read mommyblogs:

There is without a doubt a great number of mommyblogs that are personal diaries stored on-line. While I am sure that they are posted for good reasons, almost none of them ever get my attention. There are a lot of other mommyblogs, however, that confront issues very differently than parenting magazines and personalize them for me in a way that helps me reflect, learn and improve.

There are incredibly talented writers who chose different priorities than a writing career – in many cases their mommyhood – that channel that talent into sharing about issues that matter very deeply to me and inspire me to be a better mother and a better writer.

Many women cope through sharing, and I am one of them. I have found community in the world of blogging in a way that I never could in the real world. There are women whose lives or interests intersect with mine in different ways, with whom I have connected in a way that has changed me forever. While “article writers” may choose to feel that they are “real writers”, they are also distancing themselves from their audience, and are talking at the reader.  Many mommybloggers are engaged in a powerful cyberdiscussion that flows through many different blogs and cumulatively has an impact on the participants. In my case, that impact has been profound.

I think that there is a very long list of extraordinary, talented, articulate women out there who are passionate about raising children the best way they can. Some are passionate about other things I also love, such as Judaism, Israel, music or the increase of one’s knowledge. They are teaching me and inspiring me and helping me do a better job, exposing me to ideas, challenging my assumptions, inspiring me with photos, poetry, reflections and even sometimes sentimental stories or gripes. They are talking and listening, and the conversations are a part of my growth.

I feel sorry for anyone who isn’t proud to have the title of mommyblogger… she must not know most of you out there that have become my latest heroes. You know who you are.

*As mentioned above, here is a link to the article written by Marjorie Ingall.

Addendum: I wanted to add this link from TrueSlant, with a different take on the issue.

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Health Nuts

June 15th, 2010

My husband and I try to keep our house as healthy as possible. This is true in terms of my stellar housecleaning (not!) as well as the food that is allowed in the house.  We don’t buy chips or cookies for the kids. We reserve dessert for Shabbat and simchas. No sugar cereals. This includes “healthy” cereals, like Life, that actually have a lot of grams of sugar. Absolutely no candy, and no juice.

Many people address these choices with a great deal of scorn. We are “mean parents”, we are creating hoarders with food issues,  and of course our children will take twice as much junk as other kids whenever we aren’t around, didn’t you know?

First of all, let me just say that my kids do have juice and dessert when they are in other places, and yes, they sometimes sneak stuff (and think that we actually don’t know), and that a few times every summer we simply have to go get ice cream because it is just too hot and Ima feels like it. So there are exceptions.  They also still come out waaaaaaay ahead in terms of junk consumption, despite the sneaking. And not only do they not have food issues, they are learning the AMAZING skill of taking “just one”, and they recently declared that when allowed a “normal” sized piece of birthday cake that it was just too much icing and they couldn’t eat it.

I find it terribly amusing just how opinionated other people are about this particular issue. Most of the time when parents really feel the need to probe this issue with me, they eventually tell me it is because they are not really happy with the amount of sugar and junk their own kids eat, but they just don’t feel there is any way they could buck the system.  They want to believe no one can do it, therefore our existence is problematic. I get that.

Bucking “the system” isn’t always a lot of fun. I don’t know that I would stand up to the irrational and ridiculous social pressure to load my kids’ bodies with sugar if my husband and I were not such a united front on the matter. He couldn’t care less what anyone thinks, pretty much all of the time, so this doesn’t seem to be an issue for him at all. He is even happy to be the bad cop, saying no more consistently and without any defensiveness than I could ever manage.

The “why” we do this is on the one hand simple and obvious – it’s healthy – and on the other hand a lengthy explanation.

I tell my children that our body is like the front lawn of our neshama, our soul.  Now why would anyone want to fill their front lawn with garbage and junk? I also explain that we have a mitzvah to guide all of our actions by serving Hashem, and that sugar slows us down, makes us more prone to illness, and makes less room in our bodies for the food and drink that do help us serve Hashem. Which, by the way is true.

I don’t tell them that without developing a taste for all things oily, salty and sweet early on, that they are learning how to actually taste food, try a wider range of things, not become “picky eaters” and to have a ground work of healthy habits that I hope will prevent the weight struggles and food issues from which I suffer.

I do tell them that the restrictions are out of our love for them, their bodies, and our love for Hashem. We want to show we appreciate the wonderful, nourishing foods that He created, and that we don’t take our miraculous bodies for granted.

One of the hardest parts of this decision? Trying to explain to my children why other G-d fearing, well-meaning, caring good parents are happy to “litter all over the front lawn” and give their kids a green light to eat whatever they choose!  I of course explain that their are different approaches, etc., but in the mind of a four year if we restrict their junk consumption because we love them, then what does that say about those other parents? What does it say about the teachers in school who tell them to go ahead and eat the candy – Ima and Abba aren’t looking.

Confronting this battle within my kids’ school is another article in and of itself.  I am proud to say that on a local level, progress has been made….. very small amounts of progress over a very long amount of time. We aren’t the only ones:  Soveya is an organization trying to change the thinking about food in yeshivas and the frum world in general, “one pound at a time”.

So. how did I get started on this topic today? Homeshuling’s  Amy Meltzer posted an article about juice for kids.

I never really thought cutting out juice was necessary. I only gave pure juice (as opposed to cocktail or sugar drinks) to the kids, and I diluted it, but juice is healthy, right? And then five years ago, just when I thought the pediatrician would tell me that our food policies were too strict even for him, he said “don’t ever kids your kids juice.”

What?

He explained that kids crave fruit sugar, and that fruit is GREAT for kids. They will get the sweetness they crave, but that the fruit itself has important fiber and vitamins that they won’t get if they have the juice. He also explained that kids who drink juice drink a LOT less water than kids who don’t. This is true from my experience. So, armed with the powerful phrase “The Dr. said”, I stopped giving the kids juice, cold -turkey, years ago.

Now I buy a LOT of fruit. People gawk in the store and give me looks that clearly show they are sure I work at the zoo. One day I am going to print up a shirt for myself that says:

T-shirt graphic

[ I hope you like my first drawing. You can see why I don’t make them. I am no Allie Brosh, nor do I aspire to be. But I really do want a T-shirt that says that, if anyone is thinking ahead to my birthday. ]

…Getting back to my point, I do buy a lot of fruit, but I am spared the endless dilution of juice and the lugging of large jugs. (I lug large bags of fruit instead.)

The juice article that was posted:  http://www.inhabitots.com/2010/06/11/85-of-kids-drinks-snacks-could-contain-high-levels-of-lead/ explains that many, many brands of juice for kids may actually be toxic.  Kudos to Dr. Shah for sparing us. Do you think maybe this will hold back the ridicule from the scornful throngs?

On a last note, food policies are like religious observance; anyone to the right of one is “extreme” and anyone to the left is “too liberal”. So we are by no means considered hard-core in healthy eating circles. After all, we still have white flour, white sugar and even – gasp! – hydrogenated oils – in our home. Everyone has to find the balance that works for them. What we do works for us. I never try to suggest it would work for everyone. I am amazed when the same people who campaign on my children’s behalf for lollipops and other forms of food dye ask me with astonishment how I get my kids to eat nicely, or how I get them to sit still.   If you tell me I am doing great with the cutting down sugar but am far from feeding them healthily, you may be right.

…. But at least it turns out I am sparing them lots of lead in juice. Who knew?

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Cast Off….

April 13th, 2010
Toddler's cast sawed in two

The two halves of the removed cast

My two year old broke his leg a little less than a month ago. It was traumatic (mostly for me) and painful (for both of us) and I didn’t blog about it at the time because I was not really interested in explaining how it happened. I am still not. (Sorry.)

In fact, not satisfying people’s curiosity about the circumstances was something completely new for me, and I was rather proud of myself! I have never been one of those people that could just leave people hanging without the story they so want to hear. This time I had good reasons, which I explained were why he “just fell”, and moved on.  Some people really didn’t like that. But it was liberating for me, and yet one more sign that this is really the year I have gotten older.

When the little guy got his cast he was so cautious, and just sat and whimpered until we came over to carry him from place to place. After a couple of days he was scooching on his tush. Then crawling with the cast. By the beginning of week three he was climbing on and off the furniture, dancing, running, jumping – even on beds – and moving so fast and so well that I couldn’t get a diaper on him.

Today he sauntered into the orthopedic surgeon’s office with such cast-finesse that the experienced surgeon was shocked.

They decided they had to take it off to get the x-ray they wanted in order to check his progress. Off it came. I sat with the baby in my lap, cradling him in my arms. He immediately recognized “Luke” (who was just amazing, by the way) and started screaming. This was the horrible man who had put him in the thing! Now, this same person was coming towards him with a small electric circular saw. Can you imagine the scene?

Of course the little guy couldn’t understand the freedom he was getting. He couldn’t understand the kindness being done to him. He was just scared and upset.

The x-ray showed a miraculously and completely healed leg bone, and they left the cast off. As he sat there with a completely healthy leg, he refused to step on it or use it in any way, never mind walk. Of course he has to readjust, and I wouldn’t push him. He will get back to being a crazy monkey, eventually, just like he did with the cast on.

By this evening he hesitantly stood and limped along using both legs, declaring “yay feet!”.

But I had a real revelation today about our human nature as I sat holding my terrified little baby getting freed from his bondage.

There are so many times that we cling for dear life to whatever it is that has most recently become familiar. Even if it is itchy and “weighs us down”, it is what we know. And since it is what we know that is how we want to move, run, dance – even if life could be lighter, easier, faster and smoother, we resist the adjustment process itself. We are just like Hashem’s scared little 2 year old, having no idea that this scary circular saw coming at us is really truly “l’tova“, for the good.

I am happy this moment came during the counting of the Omer. This is our personal and national ascent in spiritual heights to become the person we need to be in order to personally receive the Torah on Shavuot. I know that at least for me, this will definitely have to involve casting off some shackles of my own, and learning to walk again.

Yay feet!”

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Purim – #3

March 2nd, 2010

The kids really enjoyed Purim. The costumes went really well. My 4 yo decided that poofy dresses like Queen Esthers wear hamper one’s lifestyle. So she changed into a ballerina outfit for most of Purim. You can do a lot more bouncing off of walls and everything else in ballet clothes…

Unlike years past, we kept Purim pretty simple. Familiar, close to home, and simple. The kids volunteered (which means I volunteered them) to deliver a large number of mishloach manot on behalf of our shul. My husband took them. He didn’t enjoy it very much. Delivering anything with 7 kids isn’t ideal. But the kids thought it was fun.

I, on the other hand, had a pretty rotten Purim.

I have had time to think about what was wrong. First of all, my number one rule of life as a parent played a major part.

IT IS ALL ABOUT THE SLEEP.

I got up early with the kids the day before Purim. Wisely, although not necessarily willingly, everyone in my household took a late nap. Except me. The next morning (Purim morning) I got up early with the kids again. Therein lies 90% of what went wrong with my Purim. I should have insisted on being the non-tired one, and slept in. Hindsight is so great.

The other factor in my less-than-ideal Purim was also my own doing.

A few weeks ago I intiated a conversation with my family at the Shabbat table.  I told them that every year I make a big seudah, a big production for the whole neighborhood, because I really like it. (That’s not the only reason, but that’s a story for another day.) This year, I told them, I wanted to hear what they wanted to do for Purim.

…. So they got what they said they wanted; simple plans, simple food. Socializing, but elsewhere and in doses.

When I felt at the end of the day that I had taken care of everyone else while no one had taken care of me, I was exactly right.

It was just that I had forgotten that the person who was in charge of taking care of me is the same one who spending all of Purim taking care of them.

Maybe, just maybe next year will be the year I get the balance right. I know it will be the year I go into Purim with enough sleep.

Ima2seven as a happy happy clown on Purim

Me, the happy Purim clown.

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Purim prep – post #1

February 20th, 2010

I attempted to make hamentashen with 6 children last night.

Dear stepson is 15 and interested in lots of things; baking with 6 little kids not being one of them.

My 22 month old wasn’t really baking, more like “interfering”, but he definitely felt part of the process, and wore an apron sewn by Safta just like everybody else. My ten year old patiently showed him how to “pinch pinch” and then had the restraint to let him try while she sat on her hands, so to speak. There are many times a day that I am struck at how much better a mom she will be than I am. Thank G-d.

We used Homeshuling’s  “Best Hamenstaschen Ever” recipe, which is my new favorite. If it isn’t the best ever, it is the best I have ever used.

Interestingly (at least to me) her daughter and mine both came up with the “mini hamentashen” version… I would argue there is a direct connection to Polly Pockets. Hmmmm………………..

mini hamentash

So my lesson-learned-the hard-way of the day:

We made two batches. With the first, everyone took turns doing everything. We went in turns measuring and pouring the ingredients, and then took turns rolling the dough, cutting circles, filling, pinching, etc. Sounds great, right?

That was not really a lot of fun. No one was happy with their lot, and they all spent a lot of time “critiquing” their fellow chefs. While trying to manage them all at once, the baby somehow managed to spill popcorn kernels all over the floor.

There was a time in my life that would have phased me, too.

Second batch: I made the dough, told them to deal with that; they had to let me do that part. I then rolled 5 approximately even balls of dough, and let them each choose one to make into hamentashen from start to finish, one at a time, in ascending age order.

I believe that such plans aren’t necessary when you are baking with two. But baking with six (five, really), well, it made a huge difference.  Everyone had their chance, without interference, to do it “their way”. They each had the same number of hamentashen come out of their “batch” (6) and peace and order (relative of course) was restored.

In my own defense, batch number two probably wouldn’t have gone as smoothly as it did without the “tutorial” of batch number one that we did together. Still, next year we will bake together — separately.

5 kids in aprons sewn by Savta

5 of the 6 all in aprons sewn by their Safta.

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Day trip (with six kids.)

February 15th, 2010

I read that NYC’s “Gazillion Bubble Show” was coming to NJ’s State Theater in New Brunswick for a special “Family Fun Day” for President’s Day. The theater had a whole day of activities and shows planned, some reasonably priced and some free.

I have taken a true hiatus from day trips with my kids. The whining in the car, the whining when we leave, the inability to please so many people with any one activity, the money… the list of reasons goes on.  Child #7 was definitely the tipping point. But I have been feeling ready to jump back in. I thought that everyone except for dear stepson, who is a teenager, would enjoy. I thought it was a real find to grab a group rate price of $10 when NYC tix go for $40-60.  With that performance combined with the other free activities, it made for an unusually reasonable day, not too far away, and I have been thinking that maybe my kids are (or is it I who is?) ready.

True to my usual way of doing things, I had to turn it into a production. I wanted to get the group rate. A group is 10 people, and we were seven, so I didn’t think it would take much. Once I found out, however, that the tix were selling out really fast and I was already making plans, why not include some more? I also arranged to order kosher food from the town next door and have it delivered to the theater between shows! Of course food for six adults, two babies, two toddlers and eight kids isn’t really very simple, is it?

The day was NOT a complete success. Almost no one liked the bubble show. It was too young for the kids old enough to sit still, and too long for the kids young enough to appreciate  it. It is also really hard to see bubbles and appreciate them from far away. Duh. As you can imagine on a holiday day, with a bunch of activities that were free or inexpensive, it was CROWDED. I expected that. Doesn’t make it any more fun to deal with, though.

The day was also NOT a complete failure. This is some of  what I learned:

  • Pep talks – good ones – before going anywhere really do make a big difference.
  • Kids making a mess and eating in the car on the way to somewhere that is a long experience is worth it and a good idea.
  • If I am going to take my kids somewhere without another adult in my party, but with friends, then I need to speak with my friends ahead of time about the eventuality that they will end up helping me in one way or another. My friends were 100% okay with this  – this time. But I didn’t talk about it ahead of time, and I should have. I was lucky they were so cool, but I forget so easily how it just inevitably ends up that I have to be in at least two places at once.
  • Labeled bracelets, especially for the younger ones, with my number on them. My wise friend brought some and had extras. Thank G-d we didn’t need them, but they are great for peace of mind.
  • I will never buy nosebleed tickets to a performance with little ones again. It was just too much of an issue. They felt they could be noisy because they were so far from the performance, and they didn’t engage well. Not worth it. No matter what. This had never occurred to me before, and I am glad I will know better for next time.  I hope at least one person reads this and gets to learn this before doing it.
  • Always bring a notebook so kids can “journal” or take notes. In the case of one child, that turned the whole day around. This is often really successful.
  • Kids – my kids, anyway – bond when they have a family outing, whether it is an outing they enjoy or not. The experience bonds them; even if it is sometimes against me!
  • Bring something (small) to read, do, or daven from. Even if I am sure I will never have a chance to use it.
  • Nothing, but nothing, pleases everyone of all ages as well as the zoo.
  • My boys have outgrown outings that aren’t sports, active or “guy stuff”. They just aren’t interested. Next time I will let them go sledding into a creek with their Abba like the last time, and take the girls somewhere with me quiet and sedentary…. maybe only one of my girls.

The ten year old gave the day a 6.5 – that’s pretty good. She is very visual, and liked the bubbles better than the rest. My four year-old told me that the best parts of the day were hugging Elmo, and my reading her bedtime story. I think that just about sums it up. The next time I am thinking of taking them on a day trip, alone, I am going to reread this post.

Especially the part about the bedtime story.

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