Adar….

February 15th, 2013

My family had lots of good news this week!

My daughter found a turtle. There has been a three-year campaign (at least) for a pet, that resulted in my finally declaring that if they found a turtle and it lived in the yard, they could keep it. So this find means not just an adorable (???) turtle named Sheldon in our midst, but a triumph over the parents that said “no” to pets. Very exciting.

Turtle

Not Sheldon the Turtle, but similar.

I have two boys that have been accepted into a high-quality private school in Jerusalem, who have decided to commit to the longer commute and increased hours of Torah study. I am proud of them for deciding to take on the challenge. More than that, I am relieved for them because their acceptance in their current school has not been great, has caused them a lot of tears and frustration and has not helped their aliyah one bit. It is very hard to move at 11 years old, and it is also hard to accept new and different boys into your circle when you are 11 years old.  The school itself starts in seventh grade, so the rest of the boys will be “new” as well, and I hope this will help.

I also have three boys (two of them are the same boys) that were accepted into a boys’ choir based in Jerusalem. They all love to sing, we love to let them, it will give them fantastic opportunities and experiences, help them make new friends, and involve three boys in one chug  (after-school activity) – always a logistical plus.

We want you

The most important part for now about both the school and the choir is that word accepted. After feeling rejected socially by their peers for so much of the past six months, the three of them feel wanted, and we all need that.

I also am feeling a more “wanted”. I have accepted a part-time job that is challenging, exciting and rewarding. I hope to have more of an official “announcement” soon, when we finish finalizing the details at work. In the interim, I often come home feeling like I have done a little bit of good out there in the world. As I drive to work I get this ‘high’; the feeling of freedom and escape from mundane housework, the astonishing views on my commute that just feel like a daily gift from Hashem, and the knowledge that I am working in the Holy City of Jerusalem with ideas and people that make a difference just come together in a moment of endless gratitude.

My children are daily beginning to experience their first Purim in Israel. It is one of the moments in the year that olim internalize deeply, because it is so radically different than in the rest of the world.

There is much for us to be celebrating this Adar,

our first as a family in Israel. 

…BUT…..

It is hard to ignore that Adar is also a month of azkarot, memorial services. Purim is the story of the return of Amalek, and our triumph as a people over it – with Hashem’s help. Israel has suffered an inordinate number of terror attacks in the month of Adar. When people pause to remember, they realize that it was Adar when a terrorist killed eight young boys in the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. Adar when the Fogel family was torn apart, leaving those young children orphaned in a way that so clearly screamed “bloodlust”. Unfortunately the list goes on.

Fogel family, z

Fogel family, z”l, killed two years ago today.Boys murdered at Mercaz Harav yeshiva March 6, 2008.

As the Jewish calendar is cyclical, we know that Adar beckons Amalek back every single year. In our age, we triumph by simply going on, building our state, celebrating life and not death. But it is the modern day “ad lo yada” challenge for us to be b’simcha (joyful) not only over Mordechai but also Haman, and to rejoice in Adar, our month-long Purim-fest, while also attending memorial services.

Ad Lo Yada, celebrating on Purim until we don’t know the difference between blessing Mordechai and cursing Haman.

 

I pray every day that in Adar this year Amalek doesn’t add any names to the list.

 

 

**If you would like to support Israel’s victims of terror financially you can do so by ordering mishloach manot for them or sending your matanot l’evyonim to them. If you want more information or ideas, please just leave a comment here, and I will respond.  

 

 

Really Sarah Syndication wrote a great blog post about an Israeli app called tawkon, that monitors the radiation outputs from your phone. This prompted me to ask her for an opinion about which smartphone I should buy. Not only did she give me a thoughtful and informative reply, but she did so as a blog post. I feel honored!

Blackberry

I am making the switch from my no-frills simple phone (that doesn’t have texting at all) to a smart phone, because I have taken on more work/clients, and will need them to be able to reach me more easily. This was a reward I had promised myself when I earned it as a business owner, so it means a lot to me. But which to buy? I asked on Linkedin, thinking that a professional setting was the right place to go. I received no answer. I asked friends who all said “it is a matter of personal choice.”

I received two pieces of helpful advice, both suggesting to me the same thing. One was Sarah’s posting, and the other was the random customer service guy at Verizon. He obviously didn’t want me to go the Iphone route, but that notwithstanding he gave me good advice.

G-d willing, I will soon be the new owner of a Blackberry.

That advice basically has been that if you want something very functional for work purposes, the Blackberry is your best bet. If you want cool apps and toys and a lot of fun with the smartphone you are getting anyway, then go with the Iphone. As for the Droid? Well, Sarah explains it best, but not happening just yet for me or most of the market, apparently. The last thing I need is more distraction from work, so any cool and fun apps is not a good selling point for me. And as for  syncing issues, I haven’t been an apple person since I graduated college, and don’t forsee going back no matter what my Mac friends tell me. (Which they do, often.)

This past year I wrote about my challenges to work as a work-at-home-mom with my little one with me. This year he will be in school, and I will be working full-time for the first time in over a decade. It is a frightening prospect, as I become one of those cliche women trying to “balance it all” like in the magazines. I am excited about the work, though, and am grateful to be doing almost all of it from my home office.

I truly hope the Blackberry becomes a helpful tool in my juggling act, and not another gadget that distracts me from that which is important.

Thanks, Really Sarah Syndication!

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”…..

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.

My least favorite jobs.

February 17th, 2010

I love a lot of what I do.

One of my least favorite jobs is having to smell laundry to determine if it is clean or dirty.

I didn’t think that would make a very good Facebook status update.

“Work at Home” Mom

January 25th, 2010

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……….

I have a 19 month old that makes me want to pull my hair out – if not worse – just about every day. It really has nothing to do with his personality; I recall having similar feelings with all of my 19-month olds.  Most of them weren’t very verbal, which is frustrating for them, and for me.  In some cases, nursing has also been a factor, and it certainly is one now.

It really isn’t his fault; my current baby nursed constantly as an infant. I coped by nursing and typing (as mentioned in an earlier post). Only now every time I sit at the computer it is construed as an invitation to nurse. And I sit at the computer a great deal of the day.

The truth is that he is active, curious, and has a very reasonable expectation that someone (meaning me) will play with and entertain him all day, and take care of the house, the other kids, the bills and work – all during his hour-long nap.

I blame myself and get quite harsh with the “ima guilt” over how little that interests me. I do drop everything and play with him — so that I can jump back to “getting things done”. It doesn’t help that I know that his proper development is the thing I am supposed to be “getting done.” I wish it did.

I dealt with this issue with each of my children, and I had one simple solution that worked every time. A mother’s helper. With so many little children so close in age it was easy to justify a second set of hands to give me a break now and again. This way, with frequency depending on the child, someone would take said toddler to the park, or play trains, or spend an hour over lunch, etc… and that someone didn’t have to be me.  This was not only great for my endless pursuit of doing too many things at once, but it allowed me a pause in the constant desire to pull out my hair – or worse.

My circumstances no longer make it as easy for me to justify the help.  I am going to have to see if delaying getting help with him will result in my needing help for me. In the meantime, I am resolving to do “work” as much as possible after he goes to sleep.  All of the rest of my work, i.e. taking care of my family, he will just have to do alongside me.

I  did some digging into whether there are other moms with 19 month olds that want to pull their hair out  – or worse.  And that is how I was reminded (I really did already know) that the terrible twos are just like everything else in the development of a child; “on a scale”. Every child comes to things in their own time. Including being infuriating. They don’t wake up on their second birthday being difficult… getting that way is a process that takes time; growing out of it unfortunately is too.

I did find it redeeming to read that time-outs are not too sophisticated for a child that a) understands verbal commands and b) is clearly defying them on purpose in order to test his/her parents. This is really nice to read, since we have been doing it anyway.

One other way I cope is to blog. While perhaps not even my friends will actually read through such a long posting, I have at least had the chance to record it.

I like newborns and elementary schoolers better than “difficult toddlers”, “terrible twos”, or whatever inappropriate label we want to give them.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love my child, of course. It means I have enough honesty to recognize that some phases work better for some of us than others. And who would have thought I would enjoy my preteen and my teenager more than a cute little toddler? I think that is something to feel good and proud about.