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.

Purim

February 22nd, 2011

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

Enjoy:

Costumes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Candy Shop
Candy Shop costume

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

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

StarWarsCloneTrooper
Star Wars Clone Trooper

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

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

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

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

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

Of course none of those will do for anyone.

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

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

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

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.

Someone posted this great article on facebook:  “How to do your Pesach Cleaning Cheerfully in Less than One Day” by Rav Aviner. It is a great guide. I hope to read it every year as a reminder, which means sending it to myself.

… I don’t buy it that one can or even should get it done in one day, and I have already posted that I like the spring cleaning as well as the cleaning for Pesach.  As of today I have unloaded about 10-15 bags of stuff we just don’t want or need anymore. Feels great. Someone else has given me an entire wardrobe for the 4 yo for the coming two seasons. (Thanks, Ronit.)

But the article gives a good perspective, and is blessedly brief. Of course the kitchen is only mentioned in a few lines and we all know that that is where the real work lies. I also think the article is specifically relevant for those living in Israel more than in the US. But Pesach, as all chagim are truly designed to be celebrated in Eretz Yisrael after all. There certainly is truth in the article for the rest of us as well.

Slow and steady seems to be working for me this year, more so in the past, as I juggle the schedule of a work at home mom.

I try – and it is always a goal more than an achievement – to remain focused on the removal of spiritual chametz as I clean and organize and prepare my house. That is, to remove grudges, old patterns, and the “yeast in mitzvot” which was explained to me this Shabbat by the very wise Rabbi Aaron Gruman, means that which allows us to get “puffed up” without doing much of anything. The combination of arrogance and laziness.

Someone created a facebook group called “facebook is chametz”. If one goes by Rabbi Gruman’s understanding as it was explained to me, then facebook definitely qualifies. It certainly allows me to become a) self absorbed, and b) very lazy  - all at the same time. I am going to try and stay fb free for as long as I remain chametz free this year.

I have been making a lot of  LISTS. Lists are what I do when I have lots to accomplish and no energy with which to do so. The lists help me organize that which I have to do, even if I am just too tired to actually do it.

I hope you are all making good progress; perhaps you are too busy to be reading my blog. :  )

I also hope you will let me know what you think of the article.

Purim prep – post #1

February 20th, 2010

I attempted to make hamentashen with 6 children last night.

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

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

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

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

mini hamentash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 kids in aprons sewn by Savta

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