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”…..
My van has chipped paint on the outside, and everything else on the inside. I choose to think about it as an “anti-theft policy.”
When we return home to Israel, B”H in two more years, I made it very clear to the family that Abba will be driving a van. I, on the other hand, will be shopping for a motorscooter or motorcycle. Preferably one that has enough room to shlep home some groceries, but not much more. And it won’t have a floor to leave your pretzel crumbs or apple cores on. Along with shedding my galut, I hope to shed my suburban carpooling around.
Tell me Imas, will I be the first frum “old-lady” Ima showing up for motorcycle driving lessons in Israel?
I wrote a post a while ago about my plan to work from home with a little turning-two year old at home. A friend, www.tricolon.wordpress.com, and I decided to try working in the same place (my house) while our two babies ran around and played. The original ideas was to hire a mother’s helper to watch them, split the cost and get work done while saving money. Sounds great, right? The mother’s helper seemed to be a constant sign that we must be going out any minute now, and said children got much clingier. We got rid of the mother’s helper but kept on working.
Now that the school year is starting to wind down, I think I can declare the experiment a success!!!
We have both managed to get work done, and I think more than we would have gotten done working separately. It doesn’t hurt that tricolon occasionally changes my son’s diapers when I am on a deadline and stressed. It has cost me time in preparing lunch for two instead of one, but much less than it has cost me.
The challenge has been with the talking. If we work and don’t share, work gets done. I have often cut my friend off so I can force myself back to work. But the sharing is also urging to make the at home business work and to push ourselves.
What I wanted to write about was the unexpected benefit which has seemed to me to be the very best part of the arrangement. Our sons have bonded in such a tremendous way. Just was twins develop strong love long before they are verbal simply through closeness and time, these two boys have such love for each other that they manage to express even without being able to speak.
My son has such a special place in his heart for this boy and for his mommy. And the face of her one year old lights up the whole room when he sees my son. They hug, they share and they laugh.
We wanted them to be a distraction for each other so we could work. What they have turned into is an opportunity to develop empathy, love and compassion at a very young age in a way that just doesn’t happen with “Ima”.
The socialization benefits of preschool without all of the many problems of preschool and my hugs on hand when needed. Truly the best part of the experiment.
Today I was blessed to attend a fabulous class by Rabbi Aba Wagensberg of Israel. I went to a beautiful brunch (a spread of food prepared by others), learned beautiful Torah from a wonderful Rabbi, and had the honor of driving him to his next destination, with an uninterrupted 90 minutes to talk to him. (I am proud to count him as a client of my firm at the moment.)
After some adorable homemade cards, a breakfast I didn’t want and adorable hugs, I ran past the DISASTER of a kitchen filled with the supplies used to make the adorable homemade cards and the breakfast I didn’t want, and left. By myself. I spent the majority of the day not mothering, which was the best Mother’s day gift I could have asked for. Sorry if that makes me sound like a terrible Ima, but this year that is what I needed.
The topic of the class was “Coping with Pain and Suffering”. Rabbi Wagensberg reminded me that everything that we are given is precisely what we need in order to help us become the best person we can be.
But this is also true for everyone we are given; our spouses and our children are just the challenges Hashem knows that we need to learn and grow. While he was addressing the serious, hard sufferings of this world people must deal with, I was also reminded on Mother’s Day that my children are the most amazing gifts in more ways than one. They do teach me so much, and help me grow. Each one is an awesome responsibility and often a huge enigma. But gifts. Not only for all of the good and wonderful things they do, but for the acting up, acting out, and just plain stumping me that occurs on a regular basis.
Having “abandoned” them for almost the entire day, sure enough my re-entry was met with a sudden list of traumas, complaints, boo-boos and of course “we’re starving“…..
…. thank you, Hashem, for the Mother’s Day gifts……
While I am making shameless plugs, I am really amazed by Allie Brosh and her blog success. She is hysterically funny, and I just could never, ever do what she does. he blog is http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/, or Hyperbole and A Half. It isn’t Jewish, and it isn’t a mommy blog; in fact, it isn’t even appropriate some of the time. This interview with her is even better; I learned a lot about her, her humor and how she is the kind of multimedia blogging phenom that she is. (Two million hits a MONTH!)
I owe anyone who is kind enough to visit here a more significant post. Working on it.
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.)
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 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 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.
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 his Pinewood 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.
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.
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………………..
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.
We had an interesting experience in our family this week, which turned into a learning experience for many of us, mostly me, of course.
My twins were very upset over what they perceived to be a gross injustice. It seems that while most of their class believed that they were invited to stay at an event for a certain amount of time (past their bedtime), two out of a very small class had parents that for whatever reason had a different understanding, and allowed their children to stay later.
My children would never have been allowed to stay any later than they did, invitation or no; we take bedtimes pretty seriously around here.
There was lots of drama and even angry tears, exacerbated by staying out late, of course. The umbrage had two sources: 1. The idea that there were two different sets of rules for kids in the class “isn’t fair”, and 2. The other children, they complained bitterly, will come to school and brag.
I decided to address the two issues separately. First of all, sometimes parents make exceptions for their kids. I can’t tell my children why other people do what they do or why. But I never spend a lot of time on the “it’s not fair” complaint. In a house of seven children what does come out fair? Not much. I remind them for the billionth time that Hashem wants us to appreciate what we have, that we are given what is best for us, not for someone else. And in this case? For them to feel that it isn’t fair that someone else got invited to stay out later than I would ever let them seems a bit theoretical. So life isn’t fair, kid. Done.
When my kids complained about the bragging, (which was still just being anticipated by tired, angry kids) something resonated with me. I really understood their anxiety.
I remember kids bragging in school, don’t you? I remember how much it bothered me. I remember feeling jealous and angry. I also remember my parents telling me that the kids who brag do so because they don’t have x or y and need to make themselves feel better. I remember thinking that once again my parents just didn’t get it, and that they couldn’t possibly see how much better that other kid’s life was than mine. Clearly if they heard what I did, and saw what I did, they would be jealous of that bragging kid too.
The mother cub in me opened my big (consistently big) mouth and let these two parents know that the other kids in the class were upset. I thought they might be able to give some anti-bragging pep-talks to their children. Not really my place, and I don’t think I made my point well. Regardless, it didn’t seem to help much later.
Before school, we had a talk about the ever-so-feared bragging. This always of course starts with the reminder that we can’t control what other people do, only how we handle it. Not something my 8 year olds ever seem to want to hear. Apparently, I am supposed to knock sense into everyone else’s children, or at least instruct their parents on proper child-rearing.
Some kids aren’t actually bragging. Sometimes, I explain, kids are genuinely happy about something they got or did, and they want to share the news with their friends. Their goal isn’t to make anyone jealous, and part of being a good friend is being able to be happy for someone else you care about when they receive or experience something good.
“Yeah Ima, we know. We aren’t talking about that. Kids do brag, they are mean and show off. ”
Sometimes that is true. The children who do that don’t feel superior to you. If they did, they wouldn’t have to brag, I say. They feel like they have to show that they are as good as you, as lucky as you… and they do that through bragging.
And what did my son say? “Ima, you just don’t get it! You don’t know how it feels…..” And that was when I got to explain to my kids that I know exactly how it feels. I realized in their surprised eyes that I don’t tell my children often enough that it was hard for me to be a kid too!
What was interesting was when I demonstrated to them that there are times that they may make other kids jealous of them without bragging, and for that other child, bragging may make them feel better.
For the child that sees you playing so nicely with your brothers – but he doesn’t have any brothers. Or the child who barely sees his father – and sees Abba choosing to spend so much time with you. Or the child who wishes her parents would observe more Judaism, and sees the traditions in your home. (Or maybe the opposite?) Or the child who struggles so much in school and watches you do so well with so little effort. Those kids will never come to you and tell you straight-out how lucky they think you are…. but they might say things to make themselves feel better that are hurtful to you.
And I know it stinks, because I do remember…. but you can choose to not let it bother you. If you knew how much that child hurt inside for some of the things you take for granted, then you wouldn’t feel jealous. You would feel happy for him or her that they also have something that they know you wish you could have.
The next thing that happened really surprised me: one of the twins looked at me as said “I know what you are saying is true, and it makes sense, it just doesn’t feel like it.”
So his head got it — isn’t that most of the challenge?
…………………………………. I had to wait until school was over to find out what happened:
“So, no one bragged, right?” (I was still holding out for my mama bear talk the night before having had some impact).
“No, Ima you are wrong! There was a LOT of bragging. And one of the kids kept saying what a GREAT time they had after we left!”
“So, nu? How did you handle it? ”
“It really didn’t bother us so much. ”
“Did our talk help”
“Yeah, it did. I told (this child) I was happy for them.”
That’s when it hit me. I could have spared them the big talk and told them that if you tell a braggart that you are happy for them, there really isn’t anywhere to go with the bragging, is there? I could have just given them a strategy.
But I think the conversation was an important one, hence this blog post. And it meant more to me than them. Because until this incident I really hadn’t remembered how much the bragging had bothered me. And I hadn’t remembered what my parents said, or that they were right, in the end (again!). I hadn’t looked back at my own painful memories of other kids’ behavior looking through the prism of adult comprehension of broken families and financial struggles and all of the many other issues that children hide away while at school.
I hope they remain better able to withstand bragging. As third graders, I would venture to say that they are far from out of the woods on this issue. I also hope that I become more sensitive to bragging without meaning to. To being tzanua, modest, in my blessings.
And I have to remember to tell my children much more often that sometimes I found being a kid really tough too…….
I am trying something new this year. I am now what I like to call a “work at home” mom. I am working as a PR consulant part time, from home. I also am home full time with my 1 1/2 year old son.
while the other six are in school during the day, that only gives me until 3:30 to work until basically 9 pm, when bedtime is over.
(I also carve out time for teaching early childhood Jewish music classes and some Torah learning.)
I have remained a “stay at home” mom for almost the entirety of the preschoolers-rearing stage — a long ten years. I am glad that I did, and it has always been because I felt it what was best for my kids. I even kept everyone home for a year, with 3 preschoolers and a baby having “Gan Ima” all day every day. (The horror others had that I was “homeschooling” my children who were all too young to technically be in school is for another post.)
But being home with my kids full time was always a struggle for me. I don’t enjoy going to the playground for hours. I don’t like fingerpaint. I don’t enjoy sitting on the floor with one cute little child and playing trains. Certainly not as much as I liked working. I LOVED working. I enjoyed my career. When I gave it up, it was never forever and it was never really completely. I found fulfillment in event planning or article writing within my Jewish community instead of for an employer. I joined the shul board, founded a Jewish girl scout troop… lots of activities to keep me busy and engaged at certain elements of my career.
Two years I began working again outside of volunteering. Very, very part time, and all from home. At first pregnant, with a sitter for my toddler. Then, with a little baby around. It wasn’t so complicated. He loved to nurse and sleep, and those things made it easy for me to squeeze in work. And parts of my brain started to buzz with activity again.
Now I have developed a business and a client base. (I happen to love the clients I have now.) My little one is a lot less little, and I find myself doing a challenging juggling act I never really attempted when my other children were this young.
A friend who has her children in the same school was laid off this year, and is having a go at consulting, and also at trying to be a “work at home” mom. Her little one is younger than mine, and still a tad easier. (He will catch up soon enough, I have no doubt)
“G” & and I are trying an experiment; we are going to try to work in the same house 2 – 3 days a week while the little ones play, sleep, whine, make messes, etc. The idea is to have a mother’s helper here with us, share the expense, be with our children, while successfully earning money.
When my now ten year old was 18 months I would have never made it past the guilt to such a plan. I needed to be spending my days at mommy and me, music classes, gymnastics for toddlers, and water babies — which very pregnant with twins was quite a picture, believe me.
Now, I am a different woman, ten years older with a lot more experience and confidence. Those classes were fun, but she didn’t need them. What she needed, and what my little one needs now is a happy, healthy, focused, centered mommy who can give her little one(s) attention and love with a whole heart and mind. She didn’t really like those classes any more than she liked the park. It was “Ima time” no matter how you sliced it, made it fancy, added programming, or spent a lot of money on it.
I am hoping that I can find the perfect balance for this child and for me – his Ima – at this stage. The experiment with his friend, my friend, a sitter and two laptops all in one house is a new one, and you will have to follow me in seeing if it works.
But I can tell you that I nurse him to sleep while writing letters and articles. I take a break between skype calls and emails to nuzzle his neck and tickle him like crazy and even to play with trains a little…. and so far, it is the most fun I have had being home.
Now if I can just find a way to get the 20 weekly loads of laundry done in the mix……….