It’s 8:30….

March 11th, 2015

It’s 8:30 and the house is quiet.clock

All of the little people in my house are tucked in bed, asleep, or on their way.

There is mess all around me, the whirlwind that was the past three hours, but I don’t mind. I can clean it up leisurely, at my pace, in quiet.

Quiet.

This reminds me of days past, when I had children ages 5, 4, 4, 2… and a newborn. I would live for 8:30, surviving getting through 5 pm, knowing that if I just stayed patient, dealt with it all, that eventually 8:30 would come.

And it would be quiet.

It’s different now; this 8:30 is just the calm before the second storm. A high schooler at a late night school program. Three boys playing baseball hours away. They will all come home at 10:30 and want food, attention and love. Adrenaline making it impossible to shuffle them off to bed at a reasonable hour. They may just tuck me in.

I miss the quiet solitude of 8:30. Most nights it is a hive of noise and activity until I finally say “enough”. They still go to bed before me, but just by minutes.

I know that there will be a time in the not-so-distant future when 8:30 will be quiet again.

Quiet.

Quiet with no storm to follow….

But I know I won’t find it nearly as blissful as I do now.

Related Reading:

Post-Partum….

December 1st, 2013

“This is your seventh baby? This one is going to just pop right out, you will see…”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard that over the past few months.

My youngest is 5 1/2 – which means it has been a while since I have been pregnant. I was younger, fitter, and while I had my hands much more full with a house full of little ones, I also had more energy.

This pregnancy was harder. Much harder…… but it was nothing compared to the labor/delivery.

None of my other deliveries were easy, but they were pretty straightforward. I have shared with just about any woman who will listen that I proudly delivered twins without an epidural or surgery at 40 weeks – and 6.5 and 8 pounds.

This labor was more than a day, on no sleep, with a “failure to progress”. I was spared a c-section, but at the price of tremendous amounts of strain on my body, the likes of which I have just never experienced.

… I don’t know if it is my age, the hormones, the difficult labor, the very full house or a grand combination of them all, but this time post-partum hit me BIG TIME.

I found myself just crying for what seemed like no good reason. I felt overwhelmed, and mostly I resented every single person that tried to check in with me, asked me what I was doing, expected me to be chipper, friendly, happy, open or affectionate. Including  my own children.

“Can’t they see I am trying to recover?”

“What is wrong with them? Why are they calling me? ”

“How can they possibly ask me for a hug.”

“Just stopped by? Seriously?”

More than anything else, my moodiness, touchiness and lack of ability to be a charming friend and hostess to others seemed to be met with consternation at best, horror at worst, rather than compassion. 

I am in week two now, and what an amazing difference a week makes! My milk is flowing, my child is occasionally sleeping for a whole couple of hours not in someone’s arms. I am no longer taking pain medication round the clock, feeling achy and weak the minute it starts to wear off. I can put on my own shoes. There is a rush of relief that the Shalom Zachor and the Brit are both over. The trauma of the birth doesn’t come to me in flashes like it did last week. Neither do the unexplained bouts of tears. I am able to smile when someone walks in the door, and you might, just might occasionally find me answering the telephone.

The help, advice and meals I have received have been just amazing.I think that religious Jews who have a community that takes turns at lifecycle events  being there for each other, are the luckiest people on earth. And I count myself as one of the most blessed because I live in Neve Daniel.  The love and support expressed from around the world has been so touching, so wonderful.

The most positive experience has been the communal celebration of this birth by our neighborhood, family and friends.

Why write such a negative post during this weekend of thanks??? Why bother writing this? Because I think that when we are truly happy for people we want to connect to them. To reach out and let them know. I also think that 9 times out of 10 a new mother, at least for that first week, needs exactly the opposite. Sometimes love means giving someone space.

I have always dropped off donated dinners to new moms with a note and a delivery person, and I have never thought to make a visit or a phone call in the first week. But I also doubt I have ever been sensitive enough to avoiding asking “how are you” for a week, or assuming that maybe a hug for the new mom is not in order at a bris. I never knew that difficult sleeping when your baby sleeps is a primary symptom of post-partum baby blues, but I have always known that lack of sleep makes everything else harder.

I have had many friends who suffered from post-partum depression, but I didn’t see  it – that is part of what I am describing, which is a desire to shut everyone out during such a dark time. I heard about it after the fact. Until now, I never understood why it was traumatic enough to cause some of them to think twice before having another child.

I haven’t enjoyed the experience, but I do hope it is going to make me a better friend, relative, neighbor and eventually mother to new moms. That I will have a newfound appreciation for that space.

If you ever give birth and I seem aloof during your first week, please don’t be offended, I will just be giving you your space, whether you need it or not. My guess is that if you are a brand new mom, you will be FAR too busy to notice, no matter how you are feeling.

yehudanoam

 

One last note: our beautiful new baby’s name is Yehuda Chaim, and I will post our thoughts and words on the baby and his name just as soon as this little newborn will grant me the time. In the meantime, wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and Chanukah!!! 

 

Related Reading:

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.

Related Reading:

Last lap?

October 3rd, 2010

For me, one of the clearest “punishments” for choosing to live outside of the land of Israel is the three-day yom tov.  Here in the diaspora, September has been a string of holidays chained together by a few work/shop/cooking days.  My guess is that with the holidays coming at the same time as back-to-school and the non-chag days being on Fridays, it didn’t feel that much different in Israel, but no doubt my readers will clarify this for me. (I hope.)

I went into Shabbat morning telling at least a couple of community members that I felt like I was running the “last lap in a very long marathon.”  A month of cleaning, shopping, cooking, serving, cleaning, serving, cleaning, serving…. laundry…. lather, rinse, repeat. The last day had finally arrived.

I was glad that I made it to shul to hear the Rabbi speak, because he really turned the whole day around for me. I am sure he chose his topic the same way he always does; by listening to whatever has been going on inside my head the past few days. I keep asking him to stop eavesdropping on my thoughts when he chooses his sermon topics, but it doesn’t appear to have stopped the habit.

The Rabbi spoke about parashat Bereishit, yes, but he spoke about how in this parsha, in the beginning, is the clearest, starkest way that man can emulate G-d. We rest on the seventh day because G-d did. Period. Wanna be like G-d? Keep Shabbat.

He went on to remind us that yes, it is keeping the Shabbat, but moreso it is being “in the Shabbat” that makes us like G-d. That when we truly dwell in the mindframe and Shechina*-consciousness of Shabbat, then we are emulating G0dliness in the purest form.

He reminded me in that one moment that it wasn’t the “last lap” of anything. The holidays ended the day before. It wasn’t the Shemini Atzeret moment, the Sukkot moment, the Simchat Torah moment, or even a last moment of any of them. It was “mamash the holy Shabbos.” The only thing that made the day the “last lap” was that it was one more day to dwell in G-d’s presence and to stay close before going back to months of normalcy… a normalcy that includes less time and focus on accessing that closesness to Hashem.

I went home determined to be in Shabbat, and to savor the holiness rather than watch the clock for my return to…. everything else. It really changed my Shabbat, and I enjoyed it so thoroughly. I even had a house full of unexpected “stoppers by” and relaxed and enjoyed it. (Despite having nothing left in the house to serve them.)

I felt the sadness as Shabbat left us that I am told people holier than I feel every week. I suddenly remembered a dear friend (and tzadika), DE, telling me one year of the depressing let-down she feels every year at the end of Sukkot. I was very surprised; the only feeling I had ever  registered was relief. At the time I  couldn’t relate to her feeling at all because I didn’t have that kind of relationship with G-d.

I think I was able to connect to Hashem in Tishrei this year more than ever before. My grand theory on this is that since my children are getting a little older I was able to sleep more hours this year than ever since getting married.  I feel very strongly about the relationships between sleep &  religion, sleep & happiness and  sleep & health … but that is a blog post for another time.

But whatever it was, the davening, the sleeping, choosing to have fewer guests (!) or just the wake-up call from our wise Rabbi, I felt like this last day wasn’t a drag, and wasn’t a last lap…. it was a gift.

*The majestic presence or manifestation of God which has descended to “dwell” among humankind, traditionally referred to as the aspect of Hashem that comes down into the Holy Temple and/or comes closer to the Jewish People on Shabbat.

Related Reading:

This i s day four of our annual family vacation. After feeling like I have been running up a steep hill for the first three days, I am finally hitting my stride, reaching that  “aahhh, I am on vacation” feeling.

Believe me, it won’t last for the duration. It will come and go like the tides of the bay on Cape Cod that I am gazing at as I write from an adirondack chair on our rental front lawn. I am close enough to the ocean to see the fishing pole of my neighbor out on his boat, but close enough to the house to enjoy the benefits of the wi fi, and check on lunch for the expected onslaught of hungry children.

My parents live on Cape Cod year-round, and we make one extended and difficult trek up for a glorious couple of weeks every summer. Not only do we enjoy a vacation I cannot afford, but they are here to help, visit with, and spoil us. Over the years, they have learned progressively to find a balance between family time and enough space for themselves to truly enjoy the disruption that comes with the arrival of our large family. (Translation: they don’t want us around every minute. It stresses them out beyond belief.)

The packing to get my family satisfactorily situated in a rental home for two weeks is a tremendous undertaking. Unfortunately, it is also one of the areas in which I do not seem to successfully delegate. This year I packed the majority of our suitcases before Shabbat and drove on Sunday morning. This definitely improved things.

My husband and I drove up separately. This meant I only had to travel with three kids in the car, (an amazing experience I don’t remember ever having,) but it also meant driving five and a half hours straight by myself.

When we arrived it was too early to move into the rental. I needed to pacify and settle the kids, unpack a limited number of things, and try my best to prepare for the second wave once DH arrived. I wanted to collapse, but of course the baby my two year old woke up at five am disoriented and confused.

I moved everything into the rental house the next morning with two HUGE vanful trips (one trip with items I had packed, one with items that were at my parents’ house).  I unpacked and assigned bedrooms,  fed kids and bought supplies. Then I kashered part of the house, assessed what else I needed from my mother’s kosher kitchen, found switches and towels, then did more moving and shopping.

All of this was done with tremendous sleep deprivation and constant – CONSTANT – complaining from my kids. I just couldn’t figure out what was going on that my kids were bickering, fighting and whining the entire time. They are on a beach vacation! There are televisions in the rooms (!). There is an ocean view out of lots of windows, and Saba and Safta give kids ice cream unlike their mean parents. I was the one doing almost all of the work.  What could there possibly be to complain about?

Of course I knew in the back of my head that their moods are always dependent on mine. This is the principle of motherhood which blind-sighted me the most, and with which I have the most trouble.  It is hard enough for me to remain positive instead of cranky without the added pressure that my tone is the one that sets it for the rest of the house. I hate that. I wish someone else could have that job, and infuse me with a positivity that gets me out of my funk, instead of the other way around all of the time.

So, today, I stopped chugging. I stopped packing, loading, unpacking, rushing, huffing and puffing. I watched a movie with DH last night that I had really wanted to see, which included a good cry and laugh. I sat out in an adirondack chair, enjoying the view and starting this post. (It will have taken me the whole day in spurts by the time I am done.)  I will enjoy the beach and the visit of a friend.

Magically, miraculously, the complaining, whining and bickering has stopped, at least for now. The “aaaahhh” is a collective one.

My blessed pre-teen said today “is a perfect example of pure happiness.”

In the midst of the chugging, I really couldn’t remember why I do this to myself every year. In the same way that I forget the pain of the getting here AND the going home from year to year, apparently I forget the bliss of an entire family going “aaaahhhh”…..

Related Reading:

Time?!?!

June 8th, 2010

I have really been struggling with blogging lately. I just cannot seem to find the time to write, and the ideas and pieces I want to complete are accumulating just like the clutter in the house.  In my very first post I expressed my concern with this problem. Perhaps this is why there are so few blogs by women with large families. Duh!

What I am realizing however, is that it isn’t really a lack of hours in the day. I am awake, I am at the computer, and yet the pieces are not written. It isn’t writers bloc. It’s exhaustion. I am staying awake, relishing my quiet hours, too tired to go to bed, and too tired to do anything of substance.  I spend a great deal of time awake but not functionally so, and it is truly a waste.

If I can just get myself to the point of fewer hours awake but more hours of “quality, functioning Ima” awake, I think I can finally post the posts that I want to.  As well as finally tackle the laundry, the checks, the piles, the mess of cards in the corner, the thank you notes, the……….

I’m going to bed.

Related Reading:

Two rolled up sleeping bagsWe were invited to be guests in someone else’s home this past Shabbat. That’s right, 8 out of the 9 of us picked up and moved in with another family for Shabbat. This very brave, gracious family has twelve – yes twelve – children.  Don’t worry; only ten of them were home.

We don’t go away very often, especially for Shabbat. We rarely go out for Shabbat meals locally in our own community. It is truly a lot of work, and usually easier to stay home. Not only is it invariably someone’s bed or nap time during a meal, but my picky eaters will usually come home from a meal telling me they are starving, so I have to make food anyway.

This last week was an intense work week for me, and my thinking was that with 10 children home (ages 22-3) there would be mess, chaos, noise and lots of food without my having to worry that it was all caused by my family. I also brought sleeping bags and pillows for my kids. The thought of anyone having to do double the amount of laundry I do just makes me woozy.

We had a fabulous, fabulous time. Two things struck me: 1. There was far more unanimous happiness and joy than there ever is at any “family outing”, which usually take more money and a lot more effort. 2. Being a host is good for a person, but so is being a guest.

We spent our Shabbat away in Lakewood, NJ, a black hat (or haredi) community, if not THE haredi community in the US. (Forgive me, Monsey).  The community as a whole observes Judaism in a lot of subtle little ways that are sharply different from our family.

One great thing about coming outside of our home, our neighborhood, our comfort zone, was to have a different role. In this case, mine was blissfully passive! Another was to get a new perspective. We didn’t just glimpse a different Judaism, we discussed it. We asked, we compared. We got a taste of something else.

When I was younger and single I encountered so many different Jews with different views on Torah and halacha. I saw and experienced such a wonderful range of minhagim (family traditions) and opinions. Then I settled down, had a family, and wanted to build a wonderful consistency for them. The break from that consistency was wonderful, and allowed us to understand a piece of Klal Yisrael just a little better.

Another wonderful thing about being a guest is seeing different styles in parenting. It is obviously clearer during a 26 hour visit than a two hour one. It is wonderful to digest what one can learn from others and to break the routine to the point where things aren’t happening by rote so that maybe you can “see” them.

There are some who claim that communities like Lakewood are insular, judgmental, close-minded, etc. Perhaps I am not looking for such negativity so I am not finding it. But I must say that the warmth and kindness from everyone I met was just amazing.  It is obvious to anyone there that I am an outsider who does things differently. I was greeted much more warmly than I have been in some other places. (As I always have been whenever in Lakewood.) By being there, I could ask questions, as so many people ask me, about why things are done the way they are. And as with so many other things in the Torah, the answers are often simple and beautiful, just with a perspective I didn’t previously have.

The informal and extensive hospitality is one of the many things I miss about Israel. I was recently told that travelling to another’s home routinely means bringing one’s own linens.  I bet that helps a lot.

I also enjoy being a host(ess) for many of the same reasons. I love hearing a different person’s story, their point of view, their Jewish journey. (I think this particular part I owe to many meals at Alan and Bonnie Cohen’s home opposite the Old City of Jerusalem. One of the many things I owe them…) I like the new “flavors” that different people bring to our meals. It isn’t always easy to be the host, especially if you feel compelled to make a certain kind of impression. (Of course I have never felt that way.) It is often easier to keep things routine, just family; simple. I have never been known for preferring easier for its own sake.

It isn’t always easy to invite a whole family into your home, especially overnight. Nor is it ever easy, I think, to travel somewhere with six of your own. But the experience was so very worth it, and I feel invigorated not only by the rest of letting someone else “make shabbos”, but by the fresh perspective and the watching and listening.

….. I will just have to hope that someone else, at some point in time, is crazy enough to once again invite all of us to be guests.

Related Reading:

Bedtime issues

April 15th, 2010

The worst bedtime issues in my house are not those of any of the children. They are entirely my own.

I like control. I like feeling in control, I like being in control. And being a parent, I have found, is one long road of giving up all control. It starts when your body doesn’t feel like your own anymore, and your eating, sleeping and peeing are all controlled by the little being growing inside of you. It ends, well, I doubt it ever ends.

After I  have helped with homework, fed them, bathed them, read to them, cajoled them, brushed teeth, had the heart-to-heart conversations that always seem to need to happen only 5 minutes AFTER they are supposed to be asleep, cleaned up from the homework, dinner, baths, cajoling and everything else, I sit down… and it is quiet. It is bliss.

It is my time. I get to decide what I am going to do (or not). I can eat what I want, and I can work using my full concentration and whatever brain cells still have energy to function. I can even blog about still being awake.

What my husband wants is another story. He has waited for the kids to get homework done, dinner, baths… I think you have seen the list.  So he has waited a long time to talk to me, spend time with me, or just to go to sleep at the same time. He also wants a wife that is well rested and has gotten enough sleep to do it all again the next day without needing him to take over.

But I don’t want to go to bed at a time that is convenient for someone else. And I don’t want to go to sleep just to do the right thing and get enough sleep, any more than the kids do who need the aforementioned cajoling. (As I write this it sounds like such a rebellious, childish sentiment.)

I want to control this precious time, and use it as I see fit. I would like to think that if I had more control over other aspects of my life than bedtime wouldn’t become a “power struggle” for me. However, I accepted a very long time ago (or at least I thought I had) that I don’t really have any control over anything. It is an illusion. Hashem controls it all, and I have to do the best I can in each situation I am given.  I also thought that raising a non-custodial stepchild who also happens to be a teenager had stripped me of any remaining control issues. Clearly not.

Staying up as long as I want, enjoying the peace and quiet, using my time only mildly wisely and eating things I won’t let the rest of my family have is the closest I am going to come to a “room of one’s own”  for now. And it feels  self-indulgent and “selfish”… blissfully so.

Related Reading:

I seem to have hit a selfish phase lately. I think it has been brought on, like most things, by a combination of factors.  I am not saying it like it’s a bad thing, it just is.

Pesach was a  long two weeks of break from school, with my husband spending a lot of the time home.

I turned 38, which I already blogged about, but feels, well, older, for some reason.

I got sick, and it took a while to feel better.

And my youngest child turned two.

For some reason I have yet to understand, something happens to me in my subconscious when my littlest ones turn 2. It is as if an alarm goes off in my body that screams “enough!”. I give a lot of time and attention to my kids, not as much as some, but a lot. I nursed a lot of my kids until 2 or close to it. And after two years (not even including pregnancy) of giving up so many of  my own needs and desires,  I get restless. I think the restlessness is good. It helps me allow my children to become more independent and grow.

So, with all of these reasons brewing, I have taken half of a day off for a massage and manicure / pedicure. I have taken naps when I feel like it, including at 7 pm. I have planned an overnight trip, on the weekend, without my family, just to spend time with friends. (I can’t wait!)

I am sure that many of you cannot see what the big deal is. “Me time” is an important given for many. But it hasn’t always been easy for me. My guess is that moms of a large number of kids are a self-selecting group for whom this is often true.

I know the old idea that I am taking care of my family by taking care of me. It doesn’t go down that way with the troops in my house. Especially since taking care of me lately means getting away from them. :  )

I have mentioned before that this year I am feeling older – and wiser. I think the selfishness is part of that unfolding wisdom.

It isn’t that I haven’t done things for myself before. The selfish phases do come.

More often then not, when I have a child that has recently turned two.

Related Reading:

The VERY sick Sick day.

March 12th, 2010

If my life had a theme it would be the old Yiddish expression “man plans, G-d laughs”.  When I wrote my last blog post I was quite sure at an early hour how the day would go.  I had been there before, and confidently typed out my plans for the day….

… I hadn’t counted on catching the stomach bug my 4 yo had just finished dealing with. Soon after publishing my blog post and immediately after eating a small meal, I knew that the day wouldn’t go as planned.

By late afternoon I had summoned my husband to work from home. By early evening… you don’t want any details of what went on early evening.

I lost all of that day and the next day, too. Turns out the recovery from such stomach bugs can be worse than the bug itself, as your muscles all try to recover from working backwards.

I cancelled my dss’s time to be with us that day in an effort to spare him similar agony. I almost never, ever cancel his time with us. I don’t like the message it sends. Luckily, at 15, he voluntarily opted to come the next day instead. Readers, please remind me of that when I am not having a great stepmom day.

I am now two days behind in both work and Shabbat preparations, and needless to say my Pesach prep will have to happen next week.  That is what I get for so confidently declaring how my day would go.

While I was sick, I thought to myself that this was actually worse than labor. At least with labor while my insides are turning inside out I know there is something wonderful coming out of it.

The following day, while I lay there feeling like my guts had been run over a few times, losing patience with my recovery time, I became flooded with gratitude for my problems. My husband was able to work from home. My illness wasn’t going to be a long term one, didn’t require a hospital stay, or lots of chesed from my community (little bits, for which I am also grateful.)

There are a number of people in my community going through some tough stuff health-wise right now, and the day I fell ill I had also read this heartbreaking article about a woman trying to have a baby.

It occurred to me that when their children whine that they “want their Ima back” after one day of being sick, those Imas can’t really give them what they want and need, and how difficult and sad that must be.

I thought about this because most of my children came to me while I lay in bed, one by one, and told me that they “really, really, really didn’t want me to be sick.”Because my incapacitation was causing them to suffer. While I appreciate being valued and needed as the Ima in the family, I am looking forward to their maturing to the point where they can realize that Imas need compassion and sympathy too.

Of course then I realized that while I give my children compassion and sympathy, I really didn’t when the little one was actually sick!

The night the 4yo was up sick I lay in bed incredibly grateful that my husband was taking care of it all. Next time, now that I have lived through it I think I will drag my tired self up to make sure I give some soothing words and some hugs in the middle of the night.

I will still let my husband clean it all up.

Related Reading: