If you are taking out time from your busy Pesach prep to read this, well, I am honored.

It seems that our family ends up with all kinds of interesting hospital visits around Pesach time. I don’t think it is a coincidence. Springtime + school vacation can equal broken legs, noses, bumps, scrapes, etc….. not to mention the fact that 6/8 of our children are Pesach babies! Thank G-d, so far this year all are healthy in our home this year, ptfu ptfu; so far, so good.

My son went for an MRI last night. This is not due to some recent malady, but rather a stubborn pitcher’s elbow that doesn’t seem to want to go away. The prescribed treatments so far haven’t seemed to work. He has been eager to have the MRI, and impatient with the process that is Israel’s socialized medicine. The MRI for him symbolizes our increasing attention and management of his problem, taking it seriously, and an intensified effort to get whatever treatment is going to help him make it “to the majors” in baseball someday.

baseballboys

 

 

 

 

 

There were two noteworthy aspects to the MRI. The first is that it was scheduled for 6.30 pm and happened closer to 11 pm. Not noteworthy at all, but sadly typical, right?  The administrator at the hospital in the MRI department called us four separate times, each to alert us of the delay and to tell us to come later (and later, and later) to spare our waiting around in the hospital.  A true Pesach miracle:  the hospital went out of their way to be sensitive to us and reduce our wait time!  What I love most about this is that the first time I told this kind man on the other line how busy we are getting ready for the holiday and how much I appreciated the heads up, so he took it upon himself to keep updating me. That Pesach informs hospital procedure is one of those little “only in Israel” moments that just never get old in this amazing country. 

My son was shocked to learn that the procedure wasn’t simple, and that the IV he had to have for it hurt. He wasn’t being treated, and he had been looking forward to getting more information about his injury and closer to recovery. So to find out it was going to be annoying and painful was a big shock. He was upset, uncomfortable and scared. I did what I could to reassure him, and now that it is over, he is relieved and smiling (although exhausted).

But I see in this a true Pesach lesson, and the MRI is going to be my “teachable moment” at the Seder this year.

Very often in life when Hashem gives us something wonderful and special, we have to experience a great deal of discomfort first. Childbirth is an example that naturally comes to mind for me. But it is true for many other times in life too. For some, an excrutiatingly difficult divorce is the necessary pain before finding the love of one’s life, and many years of marital bliss. I had to have a procedure on my toe this week (you don’t want the details, I promise), and it hurt so much to have it done that I put it off for at least a month. And after a month of suffering and one day of pain, everything feels great now. The process can be true for a move, getting a PhD, or losing weight.

To heal, we often go through a great deal of pain, and it has to get worse before it gets better. I don’t know if the reason is, as the Rabbis teach us, that we need difficult transitions to strengthen us enough to cope with a new reality. Or if it is a test and then a reward. Or, if it is simply the truism that change means coming out of ones “comfort zone”  - and doing that is almost always painful. It is probably all three.

Leaving Egypt was painful and difficult. We weren’t zapped and then just left. We had to learn mitzvot, follow commands, get out of our slave mentality, stand up to our former masters, pack up in a hurry and run away (I can’t even pack up my kids quickly to run to the corner store, never mind out into the desert) .. and then choose between what must have seemed like certain death by drowning or certain death by oncoming Egyptians.

vintage-cleaningLehavdil*, sometimes preparation for the Seder and the holiday is painful and difficult. I hope it isn’t for you! But Hashem is there in the pain, in the transitions. Our natural world is constructed that way to help us learn about our spiritual world. I think that leil haseder is about choosing to relive the pain and the transition of yetziat mitrayim in order to better appreciate the redemption and healing that followed. I think this is obvious to most, but I wonder if the MRI’s, toe procedures and childbirths in our lives can help us truly empathize and experience that process on an emotional level. 

Chag Kasher v’Sameach. May you have an uplifting and transformational Pesach. 

 

*Lehavdil is an expression that is hard to translate. My best effort is to say “Similarly, but of course not the same!”

Haveil Havalim #352

March 25th, 2012

Welcome to Haveil Havalim, the Jewish blog carnival!  Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week.  Next week’s edition will be hosted by Tripn’ Mommy at  Trip’n Up, to be included, please send your blog entry and link to  tripnmommy @ gmail . com.

I apologize for the delay in this getting up, due to technical difficulties. Of course it had to happen this week, but I am so pleased to be up and running again.

Opinions expressed in the posts linked below are those of the respective bloggers and not necessarily endorsed by me.

If you would like to join the Haveil Havalim facebook group, click here.

I wish all of you a redemptive and meaningful Passover holiday. L’Shana Habaa B’yerushalayim Habnuya! 

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I didn’t get a single submission about Yitta Halberstam’s controversial article on the shidduch crisis in The Jewish Press. So I just went ahead and am including some myself. Feel free to add on!

Pacific Jewish Center Rabbi writes How to Solve the Shidduch Crisis WITHOUT Advocating for a Bunch of Nose Jobs, and In The Pink weighs in with My Shidduch Experience and  More Beauty Reflections.

Esser Agaroth explains why he thinks we should not vote for Shmuley Boteach. I am very relieved that I don’t have to make a decision either way.

He also tell us  about The Machon Shilo Pre-Passover Conference that is taking place today, March 25th. I hope we will learn more after the fact, with a follow up post.

Batya muses in Shiloh How Would CSI, Bones, Cold Case or Harry Bosch Have Handled the John Demjanjuk-Ivan the Terrible Case? at Shiloh Musings.

Joel Katz over at Religion and State in Israel brings us his digest this week in Section 1 and Section 2, touching a lot of important material, including A.B. Yehoshua’s controversial statement.

Speaking of controversy, Michael at An Aspiring Mekubal writes about the passing of Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg on the same day as the children in Toulous in Measure for Measure. You may not agree with what he has to say, but it is definitely food for thought.

In the light of the hate-filled tragedy in Toulous, it is nice to read Susan Esther Barnes’ A Message of Hope from Israel at TCJewfolk.

… and unfortunately in more hate-filled news, there is a March on Jerusalem expected this week on March 30th(!) “an anti-Israel publicity stunt that aims to have a million people marching on Israel’s borders from all the surrounding countries.” Please get the facts from CiFWatch, and see what you can do to help!

Dr. Eyal Levin wrote about Israel’s defensive approach in Israel Hayom, and here is Batya’s response “Is The Best Defense, Self- Defense or Offense? Is Life Like Football? in Shiloh Musings.

At Tripn’ Up we hear about how special the Neve Daniel Community is in Lean on Me…. I can’t wait to find out for myself.

And inspired ima reminds us all how our inner child relives it all through our children’s experiences in Childhood Anxiety.

RonyPony gives a comprehensive commentary on Jewish Homeschooling in response to a Yated Neeman article on the topic, that unfortunately isn’t available on line. If you think homeschooling isn’t about you, but you are interested in Jewish education in the US and its lack of affordability and future, I recommend you read on.

Me-ander asks if Passover – Spring Cleaning is a Dirty Word? … I should be doing both right now, but this is of course more fun. : )

GOOD VIBES… 

Spring is coming, Pesach is coming, redemption is coming… time for some positivity, people! I love Pesach and refuse to bring the grumpy stressed ones bring me down, but I am happy to see a a little anticipation, too.

I love Jacob Richman’s Collection of 177 (!) Passover Videos, at Good News from Israel.  I have enjoyed and shared some of them already, and not just the one my daughter is in! (More on that later.)

Visit the beautiful Spring Edition JPix Jewish Photo Bloggers’ Blog Carnival over at  Ilana Davita.

And other wonderful photos of and commentary on the Jerusalem Marathon from the Real Streets of Jerusalem.

I saved my favorite for last: Networked Blogs writes about Mama Doni’s Passover tour and video, sponsored by Streit’s Matzo. I hope you watch the video (which is highlighted in Jacob Richman’s collection too); my daughter is in it! She and Mama Doni have become fast friends. Look for the young lady with a long brunette ponytail and spygear — in a skirt. Mama Doni – I hope Michal gets a chance to perform together with you in Israel one day!

I apologize profusely if something has been omitted; please let me know and I will modify.

Happy cleaning everyone! 

 

 

 

 

Please visit next week as I host the Haveil Havalim Blog Carnival (and “celebrate” turning 40!).

This week I want to leave you with my FAVORITE Pesach recipe… so you can join me in hording the ingredients that run out at the store.

As much as Purim is not my favorite time of year... Pesach is. I love freshening up the house, the arrival of spring, the intensity and seder (order) of the holiday.

When I start to think about Pesach, I start to think about granola. Pesach granola. I love to make it, I love to serve it, and I especially love to eat it.

My recipe is based on the one from “Stove Tops Personal Chef Service” in NJ.  Several years ago I was asked to speak about Pesach at a local Hadassah meeting, and this was the gem I walked away with.

It is easy to make, yummy to eat and with yogurt is a million times better than pesach cereal for breakfast.

You can substitute or omit  ingredients. I recommend mixing it right in the pan you bake it in. My hope is I am giving you enough time to buy the ingredients.

PESACH GRANOLA

Ingredients:
4 c. matzo farfal, or broken up pieces of matzo
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. dried raisins/cranberries
1 1/2 c. sweetened, shredded coconut (the stores run out of this one.) 
2 tsps cinnamon
2/3 c. veg. oil
1 c. honey
2 tsps Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the matzo, almonds, fruit, coconut and cinnamon together in a large bowl ( I do it in an aluminum pan I am baking in). Pour the oil and honey over the mixture. Stir until the mixture is thoroughly coated. Add the Kosher salt and toss.

Spray pan with non-stick spray ( usually don’t do this step.) Pour mixture onto the sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the granola and cool on the sheet pan. Stir occasionally as it cools. Store the granola in an airtight container.

Variations: you can add chocolate chips when cool, add more dried fruit, change or add more nuts. 

I try to make a variety of batches, but we always run out. I don’t like Pesach cakes, candies or cookies, so this becomes my treat for the week.

If you make it, PLEASE post a comment. Happy Pesach prepping! 

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.

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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….

I am a workaholic. Although I am NOT a prolific blogger,  it is because I have committed myself to too much work this year. The math didn’t add up in September when the madness started, and it doesn’t add up now. So my blog suffers, and I just do the best I can and deal with the deficit the best I can. But I love being busy. I choose it.  I like having a lot of work, because I love my work.  I love my work more than I love a lot of aspects of parenting, and waaaaay more than I love housework.  But I care about my parenting, and my housework, and my career and I know when I am not doing my best at any of them.

I took some time this week to “go for coffee”. Wow, I used to do that a lot. Living in Israel, especially single and dating, going for coffee was the norm. Nowadays I don’t seem to go anywhere except for the grocery store and work.  Since I work at the same place I drop off my kids for school and from home, that means basically I just go to the grocery store.

So, justifying this outing as a good work contact – which it is – I took the afternoon and drove off.

On the way home I was so happy to be walking into the mad chaos that is my reality at 4:00 pm. I realized as cliche as it might be that “me time” isn’t just some phrase to justify strolls in the mall for those with too much leisure time.  We take a Shabbat break from our week, a Shmitta break from our livelihood – but what about a break from our lives?  I  feel weak when insisting on such a thing. Do you think that Rivka and Leah got up and told the Avot that they were taking off for Eilat with their girlfriends because the kids were just driving them nuts?

I realized that whether or not it makes me “softer” than generations gone by really isn’t the point. I do my job(s) better when I escape them a bit. I am better at who I am when I don’t have to be who I am for a little while.  Not taking that time, regardless of whether others do or should  is the best way I can take care of everyone else that is counting on me.

So who wants to join me for a few days in Eilat? Or Vegas? Or just “for coffee”?

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.

I want to apologize first for not posting this in time for it to be relevant in Israel. I seem to be customarily behind in everything again this year.

I am preparing for Shabbos and cleaning for Pesach at the same time, which is actually convenient and productive. But it leads me to try and find a balance between getting ready for Pesach while still really making Shabbos Kodesh

We spend weeks focused on the preparation for Pesach, whether it is shopping, cleaning or simply swapping recipes. At the same time, we need to remember that Shabbat is here and it has its own holy essence that we cannot skip (pass?) over because we are so focused on what lies ahead.

As Rabbi Tatz writes in “Living Inspired“: “There are many ideas in Shabbos, but perhaps the most basic is that it represents an end-point, the tachlis of a process. The week is a period of working, building; Shabbos is the cessation of that building, which brings home the significance and sense of achievement that building has generated. It is not simply rest, inactivity. It is the celebration of the work which has been completed. Whenever the Torah mentions Shabbos it first mentions six days of work – the idea is that Shabboss occurs only after,because of, the work.”

Shabbat is not just a rest stop in the many-step process of Pesach preparation. It is an end in and of itself to the intense work most of us have been doing this week.

I hope that you can try and be in the moment this Shabbat and celebrate its own holiness and essence. I hope you can impart that to your kids. I hope you can feel even just a little sadness as Shabbat departs Saturday night, and not just relief that you can  get back to what needs to be done before Monday night. I am mostly hoping this for myself, as I know it is going to be a challenge.

My plan is to light the candles and do my best to shut the “to do” list out of my brain completely. While I know we can use the time to learn about and discuss Pesach, I plan to davka spend time with the children on this week’s parsha and on Shabbos itself.

I am not saying we need to divorce ourselves from the time of year. We don’t call this Shabbat HaGadol for nothing.  Interestingly, there are a lot of different opinions as to why it has this name. I am pretty sure it isn’t because of the “gadol” menu and elaborate set -up this particular Shabbat!

The Shibolei Haleket writes about the custom for a lengthy sermon to the kahal this week: “The customary lengthy Shabbat HaGadol speech makes the Shabbat feel long, drawn out, and ‘gadol’.”  Do we want it to feel drawn out to force ourselves to stay in the moment, or does it feel drawn out because we want to get to Pesach?

And if we need to feel that anxiousness, then let it be for our redemption from exile and slavery and NOT anxiousness to get on with the cooking and cleaning!

May you have a focused and meaningful Shabbat Shalom…..

A little dab of SAHM…

February 25th, 2011

Everything in balance, right?

I spent a decade as a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM). I did it for ideological reasons, believing it was the best choice for my family for that time. NOT because it is my nature. I hate going the park.* I don’t like pushing swings. I detest housework, and the satisfaction I get from a gleaming, dust-free house is in no way increased by doing it myself.

As many of my readers know (“many” might mean three of you), I have transitioned over the last couple of years from SAHM to part-time WAHM mom to full time WAH and out-of-the-home mom. And I love it. I find the balancing act a constant challenge. I never have enough time. There are a lot of things I still haven’t gotten right, and I am always backed up on laundry.

At the same time, I love what I do. I am finding tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment from my work, and I believe my children benefit a great deal from my happiness. When I had 5 kids ages under the age of 6 (!), being home was the right move. Now I am enjoying the transition to this new phase of a house of “big kids”.  ( I hope I feel as happy about phasing into a house full of teenagers. But that is for another time.)

Yet there are of course times that I miss doing with my youngest two what I did with my older guys. It is inevitable. I have heard it said many times that the fate of a working mom is to feel guilty while at work over everything she isn’t doing with her family, and to feel guilty while with her family about all of the work she isn’t getting done at the office. I am trying to avoid this cliche.

Last Monday was President’s Day, which is “Family Fun Day” at the State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ.  My husband had arranged for three tickets to “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. It was a puppet show of actually three Eric Carle stories put on by  the very talented Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. It was beautiful,  a “shush free” performance, and very, very slow. It is just the kind of thing that would have driven me completely nuts back in my SAHM days.  Crowded manuevering, packing food ahead, and trying to navigate the bathroom.  It all used to make me grumble and groan.

Now? This was time off. This was time to savor my little guys while they are still somewhat little. The soon-t0-be three year old sat on my lap oohing, aahing and exclaiming “airplane” when the little cloud turned into one. My five year old, who can read and write and is starting to shed the little girl inside, nestled into my arm. It was an hour of bliss. It was worth the parking, the potty visits, the wrestling with jackets, and arranging it so everyone  could see.

I am not sure that I will ever find that perfect balance. If I will ever get each plate spinning in the air at the right speed at the right time. If I can ever know what to trade off for what.

But I do know that a little dab of SAHM goes a long, long way right now.

*Added note: I couldn’t find a single picture, with an extensive google search, of a woman at the playground or park with her kids, bored out of her mind. The moms in the photos were all ecstatically happy. Every single one. So, either it is just me, or we clearly don’t want to get caught.

It Could Always Be Worse

January 27th, 2011

Our family owns this wonderful PJ Library book “It Could Always be Worse”, and old Yiddish folktale retold here by Margot Zemach.

I believe that most Yiddish folk tales are charming and fun, but this one hit particularly close to home this week.

I assume most of you have probably heard the story; a man goes to his shtetl’s Rabbi for help with  his cramped house/family/life, and the Rabbi tells him to move the cow into his shack…etc.

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I have one son in particular who has an extreme love of animals. Let’s call him Dr. Dolittle for now. A dead squirrel on the road leaves him devastated. He is of course a vegetarian, and he once asked a zookeeper with full earnestness what would be required for us to take one of the giraffes home with us. As you can imagine, the appeals for a pet are therefore emotional and frequent.

This is the same child who made a successfully angelic  and manipulative appeal for a scholastic book order, so you can imagine how it pulls on my heartstrings.  Despite all of that, we aren’t getting a pet. It just isn’t going to happen. One day feeling quite worn down, I actually took Dr. Dolittle to the pet store so we could slowly rule out with good reasons why every animal there is inappropriate. Anything with a lot of poop to clean up is out of the question.( Seven children is enough poop. I say so.)  Fish would die quickly and then he would cry. Birds living in cages goes against all of his animal sensitivities, etc. I actually considered a snake.  As we went over to their cases he saw the terrarium filled with the cute (?) little mice right as he asked me what the snake eats. Dr. Dolittle burst into tears and that was the end of any and all snake conversations, thank G-d.

So I walk around with pet-depriving guilt, knowing that this child would have several pets if he had parents that had chosen to have a smaller family. This guilt must be why I had such an open mind when our dear friends told us they were leaving for five days to Disney and asked if we by any chance would want to take their dog in to live with us for the week.

I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give my son a taste of having his own pet, let him enjoy having an animal for the week.  And of course, see how much work it is and realize on his own that I was right all along, thereby ending the pet discussions,  at least for a few years. I  asked my husband to make the decision along with a family vote, and it seemed like a decent idea to him too.

One month later, in came Dog.

Not an picture of actual Dog, just a similar one. Dog is even cuter.

Dog is very cute and sweet.  A cute, sweet dog that is used to its own house and environment, its own people and rules.

The week began with the marking of territory – all over the house. I looked up the top two behaviors for dogs feeling separation anxiety, and it turns out they are urination and violence.  We  clearly had a healthy, normal dog feeling lots of anxiety on our hands. Love and patience was required, right?

I also realized for the first time this week why I never really used baby gates much (my kids learned to climb stairs at really young ages.) We chose to gate off the upstairs, containing the chaos and eliminating whines from children wanting the dog in their beds. When you have seven children and the laundry is in the basement, you spend a lot of time up and down stairs. With the gate up, I felt like an olympic hurdler.  I don’t know how you pet owners do it. You must give up and let the dog go in the bedrooms pretty darn quick.

Then came the snowstorm. That is, the first one. Walking a dog at 11:00 at night in the freezing cold so that my kids can enjoy having a pet temporarily is one thing. Doing it in fresh snow is another.

At this point I began to realize that when I had a dog many – MANY – years ago, I think I actually managed to never walk that dog once.  I have a newfound appreciation for the dog’s co-owner  and for getting away with that! The dog went to Canada after only a few months, and I never saw her again. I am sure she never  missed me for an instant. She is still there, now an extremely old dog, having been raised and cared for by the woman who truly loves and appreciates the dog.

Between Dog acting like, well, a dog outside of its own environment, and the snow we started becoming very aware of the insanity of the whole idea to begin with. This wasn’t an instance where I had convinced my husband of a crazy scheme or vice versa (as if that ever happens…) This had made sense to both me and my husband, for some reason.

And then the virus arrived. A nasty virus/flu that slowly got to every single family member. (Stepson was spared, having not been around that weekend. He is sadly but wisely staying away until quarantine ends.)

I was able to  nurse the kids and the husband and manage the dog… for about half a day. When even Dr. Dolittle  got too sick to walk the dog, then I knew we were really in trouble.

My husband dragged himself out of bed late in the evening on day three to try and finally eat something. I had run up and down the stairs all day – perfecting my olympic hurdling – dealing with whines of “Ima” and all sorts of lovely fluids – including the dog’s – to the point of complete exhaustion. I plopped down on the opposite couch, unable to move. Dog  jumped up onto my husband and with lots of “gusto” tried to get my husband’s dinner.  When that didn’t work, we received a lot of understandable, but extremely unpleasant, barking. That was it. We cried uncle.

Dog is now at a Pet Grooming Service where he has been in the past, awaiting his family’s’ return. We just didn’t make it.

__

So this morning when the second snowstorm in one week arrived, along with our third snow day in ten days, and I spent the day trying to keep my job(s), tend to a houseful of sick children and a sick husband and contend with the inevitable cancellation of the cleaning lady due to snow, my suddenly expansive house felt magically manageable.

Perhaps the next time you are feeling overwhelmed by your life you should take the advice of the old Rabbi in the shtetl from that story, and offer to move your neighbor’s dog into your house.

Neglect

October 30th, 2010

I have neglected this blog for a very long time. I am doubtful that there are any of you left still checking in, my once-faithful readers.

I agreed to take on more work this fall. I love the work, but my new timetable does not leave me any time for blogging. It doesn’t leave me any time for dishes, laundry, cleaning… or even sanity, either. I am working on correcting that, and I will keep you posted. Forgive the pun. In the meantime, this blog is just part of this long neglected list.

I am able to post now because I decided to neglect a portion of my family and take off for Massachusetts this weekend.  Driving all day Friday meant neglecting my work for the most part as well.  I am in Cape Cod,  by my parents with two of  my children. The men are all at home alone, no doubt playing endless amounts of baseball, eating raw meat and leaving socks all over the house.

I am attending – and co-presenting at – LimmudBoston, a conference on Jewish education.  This is to pursue a love of mine that is a cause I believe in deeply, but is not directly related to my family or my career. I am working with two other fantastic women on the creation of an Early Childhood Jewish Music curriculum. I will have to write a separate post to fully explain, but the gist is that little children can learn about music, and can do so with Jewish music.

I got up here after a week of insane intensity; of non-stop running. My children spent the week letting me know I was neglecting them, running to meetings, charity events and appointments all week.  I was supposed to drive to the conference this evening… and I neglected to do so, writing this post instead.

Something happened on Friday when I finally stopped. Just simply stopped. Having someone else make and serve the Shabbat food, not running after my kids all weekend, curling up with a book, I just  slowed down. I guess I couldn’t rev back up this evening enough to drive 90 minutes in the dark and I put it off until tomorrow.

The conference is an indulgence, albeit an important one. I believe this curriculum needs to be created, and that eventually someone with money will be convinced as well, and that it will happen. Sitting with so few responsibilities feels medicinal, but indulgent as well.

Since starting to work full-time, I cannot say that I have yet struck the appropriate balance between all of my activities, responsibilities and self-maintenance, but I know that this weekend is a very long overdue correction of major neglect… of the latter.

I was all set to publish this (brief) post, and was blessedly interrupted by a small child urine emergency, involving a quick change of bedding as well as comfort and kisses very late at night. So, I no longer need to worry about any guilt at all over a) being here (to deal with it) instead of in Boston at the conference, or b) neglecting my parenting * other responsibilities  so I can sit and blog…. at least until the next time.