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”…..
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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……
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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.
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... and how do I get this off, exactly?
I like the idea of hiding my housework from myself…. in theory.
In what has to be the all time highlight in my career as a mom, this morning I have managed to melt plastic all over my oven:
what I wasn't able to scoop out, soft, with a wooden spoon...
Someone in my community taught me this great secret she learned from our rebbetzin; if you can’t stand looking at the larger pots and pans that are dirty for all of Shabbat, hide them in the oven.
First of all, if you are lucky enough to have two dishwashers then you usually won’t have this problem. You can hide everything in there. We have one dishwasher, and it is dairy because we eat so much more dairy during the week.
Second, if you are going to use this little trick you have to either: make sure to wash your dirty dishes motzei Shabbat instead of relaxing, hanging out, or just being tired; or at least have to have the presence of mind to NOT TURN IT ON UNTIL YOU HAVE TAKEN THINGS BACK OUT.
Come to think of it, one probably should have the sechel (wisdom) not to put a plastic cutting board in the oven to store, ever, no matter how messy the kitchen is, or how much it bothers you.
I would love to tell you that this is the very first time I have preheated an oven and then realized I had left things in there. I wish it were the second time, or even the third. This is the first time I have ever been stupid enough to put a plastic object in there, never mind forget about it completely.
I think the holy and wise rebbetzin who uses this trick to hide her pots and pans is much older than me, gets a full night sleep, and has older children who help her DO the dishes motzei Shabbat instead of hiding them and leaving them there.
Now my house smells like melted, toxic plastic. I have no idea how I can safely burn the goo off without causing my home to become a toxic hazard too dangerous for my own children. I have no doubt it is going to be one of those lessons I have learned the hard way, with a lot of time, money and energy wasted.
Truly, mother of the year. : (
PS – if I figure out how to safely get rid of it all, I will write an update.
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