Little Yellow Notepad


It’s the favorite time of year for little boys. Water, fish, sand and if you’re lucky, mud too. It just doesn’t get better!

It’s Tashlich.

And feeling so experienced in the boys, mud, water and sand area, I reminded my kids to wear their Crocs to Tashlich. Most of them followed directions and I let it be. How dirty can they get anyway, maybe I was just being paranoid…

Arriving at Tashlich only 4 minutes after my boys, I’m greeted by muddy feet and wet pants.

And that’s when I see my oldest. In the mud.

“I lost my shoe, I need to find it!” he hollers.

We are at the pond. The pond that has been shrinking all year due to the lack of rain. And what is left in place of where lots of the pond used to be is thick, heavy mud. The type that when you walk across it, your shoes gets stuck. Which is apparently what happened.

I see the crowd gathering at the gazebo, just a few hundred feet away. I see my son, caked in mud till his elbows and up till his knees in his (new) dress pants.

I tell him to get out of the mud.

I tell him his shoes were lost and it’s too late to save them.

I tell him it is more important to get out NOW than to find his shoes.

He waves back and reassures me that he would find his shoes.

I tell him to get out of the mud.

He tells me he will find his shoes.

I breathe deeply and count to ten slowly.

I need to think quickly.

And then I tell myself what I tell my kids when they are in crisis mode:

You have a few options.

I could scream at him to get out.

I could threaten him.

I could take away all computer time for the next 18 years.

I could take away his camera indefinitely.

But as I slowly get to ten, I know none of those would work. He is not coming out.

He is going to find his shoes. With all the kids watching him, that was more important to him than 18 years of computer time.

I needed an alternative plan.

Think about him, not about yourself!

The crowd is nearing the pond, ready to recite the tashlich prayer.

I look at the approaching people.

I look at my son, covered in mud.

And there I stood, with just a minute to leave with a grace.

Breathe, count to 10 again.

“Alright, I hope you find your shoes. You sure are determined.”

I turned to face the crowd, watching as they register what they were seeing.

Yes, the rabbi’s son, in his dress clothes, is knee deep in mud.

My son. My oldest son.

The looks of amusement, horror, disgust and entertainment are pretty apparent.

He will have to figure out how to save his pride, but I had to figure out how to save mine.

Because after all, if anyone is judging my child, why then, they are ultimately judging me.

And so I say the only thing I can think of, the thought that I would be thinking if it was someone else’s child…

“Whose kid is that?! Where are the parents?? Which irresponsible mom lets their 10 year old get knee deep in thick, gooky mud in their dress clothes!?”

The ice was broken; now they are all on my team! We laugh together.

And my son, holding his pride, emerges from the mud, waving his mud soaked non-recognizable shoe with a look of triumph.

I bite my tongue hard to hold back any reprimanding because I realize it’s not necessary. Mud has it’s own natural consequence.

Mustering up whatever dignity he can find, he tells me in his most grown up way that he is going to go home and hose himself down in the backyard so he doesn’t bring any mud into the house. I enthusiastically agree it’s a good idea.

I’m squirmy at the sight. I’m not a mud person. And deep inside, I’m still mortified. But that’s not my son’s problem. I will not take that out on him.

I’m also just a teensy bit proud of his determination. And his courage to face the crowd. I remind myself that these traits will do him well as an adult…

He strides off, with all the little boys watching him in awe and with the greatest respect while the moms are cringing.

And I sigh in relief. 

True, I didn’t win. He got his way.

But sometimes winning is figuring out how to lose gracefully.


Mommy camp.

It’s like being a walking, talking  Pinterest board.

There’s at least 273 easy and creative things to do with your kids – without having to leave your house!

It seemed so simple!

We’ll do home made play dough and cake pops and then colored gel sensory something or other. And then collect empty toilet paper roll thingies and make the 76 easy and no mess things that are so simple and fool proof..

We’ll cut sandwiches into cool shapes and everyone will gobble them up because of the cool shapes..

We’ll slice watermelon and kiwis and avocado and spinach and make ices that will fool the kids and they’ll lick every last drop, asking for more.

We’ll cut pool noodles and use ice cube trays to make the greatest water toys ever.

I’ll make all those colorful and bright signs and charts and the kids will follow all my marching orders, tucking all their stuff in the right places…

Another day of mommy camp passes and I fall onto the couch, too tired to even read.

I mentally go through my Pinterest-board-mommy-camp-day…

I manage to start the day off with a quick shower, put on some clean clothes and I’m the last one to join the breakfast crew.

I cracked, beat, flipped and scramble eggs, while I myself scramble from counter to counter giving everyone breakfast. Make that their second breakfast. My husband had already given them breakfast when he started the first shift..I was lucky to have the late shift of 8 am.

3 bowls cinnamon life, 1 bowl maple brown sugar life…oh no, that was supposed to be 2 bowls cinnamon…pour contents back in box, get another box. Soymilk, almondmilk, regular milk, spoons and I have breakfast under control. I sneak over to make a coffee while everyone is immersed in their food, which I know will last for at least 90 seconds.

I clean up two floor spills, one table spill, one ice-maker flood, dump some things in the sink and join my kids at the door to wave good bye to my husband like he’s leaving on some long journey, while truthfully he’s going all of a mile to the Chabad House and only till 5 pm. Not that many hours until then, I convince myself.

I direct everyone to get dressed, wipe up another spill, dump in a load of laundry and say a little prayer that I should remember to get it into the dryer before tomorrow.

Feed the baby, dress the baby, change two diapers.

Trip over some cars and referee a Lego battle.

Remind everyone we are leaving to the park in 12 minutes, so we can get there before the heat does.

Balancing the baby in one arm and trying to keep him from grabbing my marker, I scribble some pictures on our makeshift daily schedule so the kids know what’s happening.

They’re not totally decipherable, but good enough for our mommy camp.

Put on socks, velcro shoes (once again validating my no-shoes-with-laces policy) and strap in car seats.

Diapers, wipes, snacks, drinks, sunscreen.

Shlep out bikes from the trunk, distribute helmets, lug out the scooters.

I sit in the shade and do nothing, relishing every moment of the shade and the nothing.

I give out water bottles, and guard them as told.

Push the toddler on the swing, feed the baby.

Answer some questions by random strangers…

Yes, they are all mine.

Don’t worry, they’re not ALL boys, there is a girl in there somewhere.

Yes, I do have cleaning help.

Yes,  I do homeschool.

And I leave the rest for them to discuss when I’m out of earshot.

Time to leave and pile in the bikes and scooters and helmets and we are back home…just in time for lunch.

With the baby in one hand, I crack eggs, beat and flip and scramble…grill cheese sandwiches, yesterday’s pasta…No cookie cutter sandwiches, no cutesy nothing.

One thing is for sure, in mommy camp we do a lot of eating.

Baby and toddler go for a nap and now we can start activities.

Set up a paint project – outside. Nothing from the list of 101 creative ideas. It’s called freestyle. They can paint whatever they want. We focus on the process, not the result (read: they’re busy, that’s good enough for me!)

I direct cleanup and then clean up the rest. And 2 spills.

Baby is up. Feed and diaper again

Ooh and aah over paint projects and listen to elaborate descriptions of what it’s supposed to be.

Wash a few dishes.

Sweep the floor, minimally.

Referee another Lego battle.

Clean a spill.

The kids get into bathing suits and I spend the next hour contemplating if I should make a chart to keep track of who splashed who in our tiny kiddie pool that’s really too small for so many kids and telling the kids to close the back door and not get water in the house. No fancy water toys in sight, only good old fashioned cups (and some other things that someone sneaked out of my kitchen and that I pretend not to see).

No avocado spinach trick-your-kids ices.

Strawberry mango smoothies, some liked it and some didn’t and cleaned more spills, only these were sticky.

Change another dipaer.

Somewhere along the way, I’m not quite sure when or how, put together food for dinner.

Referee computer time.

Wiped up a spill.

Join my kids at the door to greet my husband, giving him a hero’s welcome.

Supper, showers, baths, brushing teeth reminders and kids in bed.

Sit with each kid a few minutes and chat about their day.

Nothing about my day was Pinterest worthy. Definitely not the pile of wet towels at the back door, the scraps of paper and crumbs and scissors and gluesticks that litter the kitchen floor.

Mommy camp is exhausting, grueling, draining and at times challenging.

But mommy camp is also spending every moment of my day with my biggest fan club, and that makes it all worth it.

They make me feel important.

After all, I’m changing the world, one diaper at a time.


I don’t usually follow the click-bait links on Facebook; I stay far away from ones that say things like, “You won’t BELIEVE what happened next…” Chances are that if they are so sure I won’t believe it, they’re probably right.

But I have to admit, I did click on this link – 11 Things People With Spotless Houses Do Every Day. Not because I believed it, more likely because I was thinking, “Oh really? Convince me…”

The verdict? Either this was not intended for Real People With Real Kids or just as I expected, they missed out the real truth.

The real truth is that there are only Three Things People (who have kids) With Spotless Houses Do Every Day:

  1. They send their kids to boarding school, hence the ability to keep a house spotless
  2. They send their kids to live at their neighbor’s house, hence the ability to keep their own house spotless
  3. Their kids live in their backyard, hence the ability to keep their own house spotless.

Other than those three, there is no trick in the world that’ll keep a house with kids spotless. (Actually, there is one other option: You can keep your kids in a cage. But I wouldn’t recommend that.)

Just a few examples of how they had it all wrong:

Tip #2: They squeegee the shower.

“We squeegee the shower door after every shower to prevent water spots and grime,” says Deanne Goodman, 33, from Oceanside, CA. “It only takes about 20 seconds, and it keeps the glass looking clear and bright.”

Squeegee after EVERY shower? I barely even get to keep the water on long enough to take a shower for 20 seconds, and you’re suggesting what? An extra 20 seconds to squeegee the shower? To the sound of bangs, shouts and stampedes from all corners of the house? No, that’s not so feasible.

Tip #4: They clean the bathroom sink.
Blogger Traci Hutcherson keeps a container of wipes (baby wipes work just fine) under her sink. “Just pull out a wipe and give the sink a quick cleaning.” Try it and you’ll never have to look at toothpaste dribbles again!

For starters, keep a package of baby wipes under the sink…and in 4-7 minutes it shall be empty. And not because I was busy wiping sinks.

And when I do have the luxury of using the bathroom, I don’t even notice toothpaste dribble as I rush to get out before the kids discover my getaway.

Tip #5 They wipe down the kitchen counters.

“I wipe down our kitchen counters nightly with a homemade solution—one part vinegar, three parts water and a squirt of almond oil dish soap—that I store in a spray bottle,” says blogger Camilla Fabbri. “The vinegar cuts through grease and also does a great job clearing up the smudges on our stainless appliances.”

Sheer brilliance. Wipe down the counter. Whether it’s with Fantastik or vinegar, it’s not the point. I don’t avoid wiping down the counter because I can’t find my vinegar concoction; I don’t wipe down the counter because amidst cutting, peeling, serving, attentively listening to 5 year old epiphanies, wiping spills and stopping food fights, there is no time to even think of wiping down counters.

Tip 6: They Clean As They Go

Blogger Chelsea Morhman never likes to go to bed with a dirty kitchen. The trick is cleaning up while she cooks. “If I have something in the oven, I wipe down counter tops and wash dishes while I wait for it to finish,” she says. “I try to have almost everything cleaned up by the time dinner is ready, so that all we have to do after dinner is stick our dirty dishes in the dishwasher.”

And while I have stuff in the oven, I twiddle my thumbs and check Facebook.


Actually, while I have stuff in the oven, I change the baby’s diaper, wipe up yet another 3 spills, switch a load of laundry, referee a battle, help a kid or two with a band aid, refill a sippy cup and try to get the stuff out of the oven before it burns.

I also don’t like to go to bed with a dirty kitchen. But sometimes I don’t have a choice.

And I’m ok with it.

Tip #7. They Swiffer before bed.
Mary Beth Cooper, 42, from Peoria, IL, spends seven minutes (give or take) every night Swiffering her way through the downstairs rooms. A quick pass prevents dust bunnies from taking over the house.

Dust Bunnies. The last time I thought about dust bunnies was probably before I had kids. Why, if I saw dust bunnies, I’d invite them to join the party. It’ll make things all the more exciting. And I’m not so worried about them taking over the house. My kids have already taken over the house, and they are way more mighty than dust bunnies; they won’t ever let those wimpy bunnies take over. My house is in good hands.

Tip #8. They do a five-minute clean up.
Before bed, Fabbri gets everyone to pitch in for a quick tidying up session. The family of four picks up the dog toys, puts away the mail, hangs up jackets and puts items back in their place. “With everyone helping, it usually takes less than five minutes, and I feel so much better when I come downstairs in the morning and the house is organized.”

Yes, I also like to come downstairs in the morning to an organized house. And having everyone pitch in at the same time to get it that way is sometimes (usually) not worth it. At the end of the day, I do a quick assessment; what will be more helpful, to have the kids “pitch in for a quick tidying” or tuck them in and let these tired kids go to sleep. And more often than not I opt for bedtime, even if it means a disorganized house. Because cranky kids are far more difficult to deal with than having an untidy house.

So, from one real mom to another, it’s time to face the truth; as long as the kids are living at home, the house will not be spotless. Period.

And that’s how it’s supposed to be.


Dear Lego Company,

On behalf of mothers all around the world, I’d like to say thank you.

Thank you for entertaining my children for hundreds of hours over the past year.

Thank you for keeping your items so detailed and diverse, constantly changing designs and models, so that my kids are never bored.

Thank you for developing my children’s creativity and talents in the endless possibilities that there are in the world of Lego.

And the newest discovery, of being able to buy single pieces online, has done wonders for family peace in our home. And the free parts replacement that you can order when one poor little lego guy’s foot breaks has really enhanced the way my kids get along with each other.


I will be honest, there are a few areas that you can improve. As an experienced Lego-fight-referee, please consider the following suggestions:

I’m sure lego does much quality testing on its products; have you ever had anyone step on them in a dark room in middle of the night while barefoot? Perhaps the pieces could be a bit more rounded at the edges and a softer plastic so I wouldn’t give a blood curdling scream when stepping on it and thus wake my children night after night.

Did you have to make the pieces in a gazillion different colors, so that no two shades of grey and green match up and we are left in a constant state of needing more lego, because we are short on a particular color?

Did you have to include such miniscule pieces that when I sweep the floor they blend in with the multitudes of crumbs and I accidentally dispose of them…and oh what a cost I pay for that.

Perhaps you can make the plastic a little more noise absorbent so that when my son walks across the wood floor holding a masterpiece and accidentally drops it, it doesn’t sound like our entire house came tumbling down?

Did you have to make so many varieties of microscopic unique pieces, and then sell them only in sets of $100 or more?

These are just a few of my suggestions, and I look forward to seeing improvements.

I must go now , as I need to pen a letter to Costco to find out who was behind the idea of playing Lego The Movie on the 500 foot TV that was on display as you entered Costco yesterday, making my trip more difficult than necessary. The least they could have done was offer babysitting so parents could shop while the kids watched.


It was a great trip. Fabulous. Fun. Hectic. Crazy. And a lot of other things.

6 days schlepping around LA, attending the wedding of my sister in law, daily breakfast in Cafes – it was all incredible. And beyond exhausting.

There were many moments, as my husband and I herded our 7 little passengers in and out of our great big 15 passenger van, that I wondered why we didn’t just go home already, back to our space.

But I knew that stressful and exhausting were two mere details of such an awesome trip spent with extended family. So many aunts and uncles for my kids to con into buying them every treat possible (especially those with Red #40).

And I learnt a lot on the trip. I learnt a lot about kids. Ok, it’s nothing that I didn’t know before. But I find, as a mom, I can learn the same thing every day for 10 years and still it will surprise me.

So here’s what I figured out.

Kids, by definition, will:

  1.       Make noise
  2.       Touch everything they see.

Hence it brought me to the conclusion that the two most useless, wasted statements to say to children are:

  1.       Be quiet.
  2.       Don’t touch.

And trust me, I got to say that many times over our trip.

At the Café when other people were trying to eat.

When they had a display of different drinks that the kids had to touch.

Over the two days in a hotel that didn’t have a sound proof children’s room –when, oh when will they start making child friendly hotels?

When they ran up and down the loooong hallway in the hotel.

When we walked through the mall and the kiosks had the most delicate, fragile items within arms distance.

And there we were, telling the kids to be quiet and not to touch.

But that’s like telling a mom not to worry.

It’s telling a child not to be.

Because kids, by definition, make noise and touch things.

We can’t tell them to stop being.

But we can tell them how to redirect their nature.

Go outside to talk loud.

Use a lower voice inside.

Ask before touching something that’s not yours.

Things like that.

But still, it’s not foolproof.

Kids need to be kids, and they will make noise and they will touch things.

And adults will continue to get nervous from it.

But the adults are the ones who have to adjust their reactions, not the kids.

And trust me, over the trip I sure had plenty of opportunities to work on this!

Oh, and there’s one other discovery I made on the trip.

Kids will fight with one another when traveling in a vehicle, no matter how big the vehicle is.


That 7 letter word that strikes fear in the heart of  every mom.

It’s the word that makes every trip almost not worth taking.

It takes hours, and no matter how organized you will be, you will forget something.

It’s called PACKING.

I do not like packing. I really do not like packing.

And there I was, with the clock moving quicker than usual, speeding around the house packing for 9 individuals of all sizes for a 6 day trip. It’s good I like math, because it was finally being useful.

54 pairs of socks, I keep muttering.

12 more pants.

3 more size 4 shirts.

4 more size 5 shirts.

Dressy shoes. Dressy Shoes.

When I pack, I chant. It’s the only way I will remember things.

Up the steps again, reciting out loud grey and orange size 7 shirt.

Back downstairs, I glance at the clock.

Big mistake. I’m passed my midnight goal.

My husband calls from Walmart – anything else I need before he leaves the store.

It’s part of every  7-letter-word dreaded experience; a midnight trip to Walmart.

I tell him to leave already, because I won’t remember the forgotten items until he has left.

4 more brown socks.   4 more brown socks.

The piles are sky high, and I try to look at the bright side, that at least all this stuff won’t be weighed, because we are driving to our destination.

Up the steps and down the steps another dozen times

Tylenol. Tylenol. I’m chanting out loud. Infant’s, children’s, adult’s.

I pass the couch piled with the kids back packs. I had told the kids to pack some stuff to keep them busy in the car.

I suddenly notice the half empty bookshelves and empty toy bins. And overstuffed backpacks. I try to lift one and nearly fall over. I make a mental note to be more specific next time.

Phone charger. Phone charger. I’m determined not to forget the phone charger this time.

Pampers. Wipes.

I check my pile of lists for the 112th time in 40 minutes, and discover I need to deal with what I’ve been pushing off longest….packing stuff for myself.

And it’s up the steps, once again.

I stand in my closet, seeing a blur of colors and trying to think straight. It’s not working.

I grab armfuls of clothes and lug it downstairs, hoping I’ll have enough options for each day of the trip, but too tired to really care.

The clock is still moving.

My body aches and screams for bed.

I line up the suitcases, the shoe bag, the diaper bag, the laptop bag and lots of food bags and some random other bags and collapse in bed, only to jump up two minutes later to get the phone charger and to jot down some more reminders. Long after my intended bedtime, I finally close my eyes and dream about staying home and never packing another suitcase again.


“We have a school project, I’m going to make a video!” shouts my 10 year old as he comes barreling through the front door to share the good news with me.

I take a deeeeeeep breath.

Because I know what this means.

It means the contents of my towel closet spread across the length of the upstairs play room to set the stage just right.

It means my neatly folded linens will be hanging from the walls with his trusty blue tape to make the perfect backdrop.

It means every hamper will be overturned and dumped out to create thrones, chairs, tables and more.

It means contents of toy boxes dumped out to use the containers for something or other..

And it means various other items that belong to me, from all around the house, will suddenly go missing.

And it also means I’ll have to keep the baby in my arms and the 2 and 4 year old under close scrutiny so they don’t dare mess things up.

I let out my breath.

I smile a fake smile.

“How exciting, what’s it about?”

He pulls out a pile of papers.

“This time I’m being organized. I made a list of props and costumes that I need, Can you help me get them?”

And he’s off, calling his built-in cast, his younger siblings, from all corners of the house.

He is so creative, I marvel.

And then I remember I have my work cut out for me tonight and I’m not quite as thrilled.

As I listen from downstairs, I hear them all laughing and giggling as they get into costumes.

Enjoy the moment, I think to myself.

I know what lays ahead of me.

They will fight. They will argue. They will come crying to me at various times.

They will laugh and have a blast. They will film each other and make goofy faces.

And the two year old will ruin some part at some point.

There’s only so much I can micromanage from being downstairs in the kitchen, cooking supper and holding the baby.

Part of me wants to discourage them…maybe make it a bit shorter…you don’t really need props…maybe just draw a picture…build something with lego…

But I know letting their creativity loose is more important than my neat linen closet.

I give them some rules.

Oh, they need a digging scene.

Only sand, no water.

No, you can not make mud.

No sand on each other’s heads.

Deep down I know that there will miraculously be mud and there will be sand in everyone’s hair (and no one did it).

Only the blue sheets.

Oh, but he needs the green.

Ok, also just the green.

And just one more…

I’m losing my control of the situation…do I try to get it back or let it slide?

So many quick decisions to make.

And just one more towel.

And one more roll of tape.

And the silver tray.

And for the 47th time in one hour I remind them to make sure it all gets put back because I trust them with all this stuff.

No food. No, you can not take food. You have to pretend.

And they’re off to start filming.

I hear laughing from upstairs.

Then a crash. I just know that was the sound of the tripod…

And then someone is crying.

And  a door slams.

Then some language that’s not allowed in this house.

That’s it, I’m marching upstairs and making them stop. It’s not working out.

I make my way to the steps and start marching up, only to hear the sound of laughter.

Oh, the fights over.

I head back downstairs.

At the next fight, a mere 3 minutes later, I breathe deeply and count to five. I do it three times. breathing through the fight, kind of like a contraction, only here it actually helps.

Sure enough, more laughter.

An hour later I’m still downstairs, praying to have patience not to make them stop before they’re done.

And then they finish and I get to watch it.

And oh, how my heart swells with pride.

How creative! What a great cast they make! What a great job!

And there’s even a “behind the scenes” clip and some bloopers, and I pray that I’m not in either of them.

Phew, I’m not.

I get a glimpse into what was going on the past couple of hours.

How they all worked together.

And as I notice the towel cabinet door slightly open and towels stuffed in on all sides, I bite my tongue from pointing anything out.

Who needs neatly folded towels anyway?


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