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.

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Cast Off….

April 13th, 2010
Toddler's cast sawed in two

The two halves of the removed cast

My two year old broke his leg a little less than a month ago. It was traumatic (mostly for me) and painful (for both of us) and I didn’t blog about it at the time because I was not really interested in explaining how it happened. I am still not. (Sorry.)

In fact, not satisfying people’s curiosity about the circumstances was something completely new for me, and I was rather proud of myself! I have never been one of those people that could just leave people hanging without the story they so want to hear. This time I had good reasons, which I explained were why he “just fell”, and moved on.  Some people really didn’t like that. But it was liberating for me, and yet one more sign that this is really the year I have gotten older.

When the little guy got his cast he was so cautious, and just sat and whimpered until we came over to carry him from place to place. After a couple of days he was scooching on his tush. Then crawling with the cast. By the beginning of week three he was climbing on and off the furniture, dancing, running, jumping – even on beds – and moving so fast and so well that I couldn’t get a diaper on him.

Today he sauntered into the orthopedic surgeon’s office with such cast-finesse that the experienced surgeon was shocked.

They decided they had to take it off to get the x-ray they wanted in order to check his progress. Off it came. I sat with the baby in my lap, cradling him in my arms. He immediately recognized “Luke” (who was just amazing, by the way) and started screaming. This was the horrible man who had put him in the thing! Now, this same person was coming towards him with a small electric circular saw. Can you imagine the scene?

Of course the little guy couldn’t understand the freedom he was getting. He couldn’t understand the kindness being done to him. He was just scared and upset.

The x-ray showed a miraculously and completely healed leg bone, and they left the cast off. As he sat there with a completely healthy leg, he refused to step on it or use it in any way, never mind walk. Of course he has to readjust, and I wouldn’t push him. He will get back to being a crazy monkey, eventually, just like he did with the cast on.

By this evening he hesitantly stood and limped along using both legs, declaring “yay feet!”.

But I had a real revelation today about our human nature as I sat holding my terrified little baby getting freed from his bondage.

There are so many times that we cling for dear life to whatever it is that has most recently become familiar. Even if it is itchy and “weighs us down”, it is what we know. And since it is what we know that is how we want to move, run, dance – even if life could be lighter, easier, faster and smoother, we resist the adjustment process itself. We are just like Hashem’s scared little 2 year old, having no idea that this scary circular saw coming at us is really truly “l’tova“, for the good.

I am happy this moment came during the counting of the Omer. This is our personal and national ascent in spiritual heights to become the person we need to be in order to personally receive the Torah on Shavuot. I know that at least for me, this will definitely have to involve casting off some shackles of my own, and learning to walk again.

Yay feet!”

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