Little Yellow Notepad

kids

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.

packing

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.

filming

“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?

moms
Do me a favor, don’t celebrate Mother’s Day; I don’t and neither should you.

Does that sound sacrilegious? Unethical?

Ok, I’ll clarify.

Yesterday my newsfeed was flooded with sentimental and touching videos of mothers and the endless jobs that moms  do. Yesterday, “Mother’s Day,”  all regular activities ceased to exist, all that mattered was Mom. And for moms around the world, it was National Brag Day – show off just how well you were treated on Mother’s day..

Hallmark may have good intentions, but one day of showering Mom with attention doesn’t do justice for the right type of celebration every Mom deserves, doing a job that’s 24/7/365.

If you really want to know what moms want, what makes moms feel appreciated, I’ll tell you.

Here’s my idea; the new and improved way to really celebrate moms and the crazy amount of things we do…

Let’s start at the beginning; as moms leave Labor and Delivery at the hospital, there should be a marching band, confetti and a gift certificate for a day at the Spa presented to every mom (sponsored by Hallmark). That’s the least of what I expect when I leave the hospital. I’m always disappointed when all I get is a grumpy security guard who barely grunts a hello. Don’t you know what I did, I want to shout, I gave birth!! Where’s my medal?!  Where’s the celebration!?

Ever tried grocery shopping with some little helpers? How about every grocery store having a moms-only line, where there’s no little treats and candy bars within arms reach of every toddler. Instead there are bright flashing lights and a clown entertaining little kids while moms wait in line.

And shopping carts with a five point harness so moms can shop without worrying about wiggly toddlers trying to climb overboard. Now, that’s what I call appreciating what moms do!

Parking lots leaving the closest spots to the store for moms only, so it’s not necessary to balance a car seat, toddler and 15 lb. diaper bag in one hand while looking for a shopping wagon.

And airplanes – how about having supervised kids play area on all aircrafts, so moms can sleep in peace on the plane and avoid evil looks of grumbly passengers. And dedicated airline staff who are equipped to help moms go through security at the airport, and then put babies who were awakened for security check back to sleep.

These are things that make a mom feel valued!

How about a “Moms Don’t Cook Day” every week and all restaurants offer free dinner, saluting moms around the world.

Maybe the laundromats can offer free pickup, wash and drop off to honor us every now and then?

Instead of carpool lane, there can be a moms only lane, dotted with attractive riddles, pictures and games to keep the kids busy.

Drive through coffee shops can also carry sippi cups and pacifiers, something that is always left behind; and every mom knows the hassle of having to go back once you are finally on the way. Now that’s a thoughtful way to show respect for moms.

It’s time to upgrade public bathrooms and make them secure enough for moms to stop if needed – because moms do need to go sometimes too! – and not have to worry about a toddler opening the door, or better yet, peaking under at the stall next door.

And because we appreciate moms so much, how about a Mom’s Room in all public areas, to nurse the baby, freshen up or reapply lipstick.

And for moms of big, grown kids, how about special random promotions like take mom out to lunch on a tuesday in February and get a free dessert?

Mother and daughter manicures for half off.

Buy one for mom, get one for yourself for free. Any time of year.

Take mom for coffee, get a free pastry.

It should be woven into everyday life, and not designated for a day in May.

I walked into Starbucks last night with my husband; not because it was Mother’s Day, but because I had a babysitter. And they were out of soymilk. The frazzled guy explained Mother’s Day wiped them out. Poor moms who had to wait all year to be taken to Starbucks.

Yes, my dear fellow moms, coupons, cards and banners don’t do the trick; if society wants to really promote celebrating moms for the incredible work we do, it’s time to revamp the system.

I don’t make a big deal out of mother’s day in my house. I don’t want my kids to think one day a year is good enough to surprise me with breakfast or write me a little poem and make cards with hand prints . I don’t want them pushing off doing nice things until Mother’s day.

Every day is an opportunity; I want them to do nice things for me on any given day.

My mother always says “Every day is Mother’s day” and she sure was on to something. That’s how I am raising my kids, and that’s how I try to treat my mother too.

C’mon fellow moms, join me! Don’t be satisfied with one day!

family

I’m going to blame it on The Children’s Place.

After receiving 37 emails in the span of 5 days, shouting at me Free Shipping! Clearance! Extra 20, 30, 50, 60% off! I gave in to the pressure and opened the email.

Here’s the things, as a seasoned Children’s Place shopper, I know their tricks. It doesn’t matter what the sale is, when the math is done you are always back to the same price. But their marketing plan worked, because I opened the email anyway.

First I browsed through the little girl stuff, drooling over the stuff and counting all the money I’m saving. Then I check the big girls, nothing much there. Onto the boys department.

Hmm, tshirts are pretty cheap..I did some quick math and came up with 3 dollars and some change a piece…

An idea starts forming. We need to update the family photo...baby is already 5 months old and he’s not in the photo on the wall…maybe I can find matching shirts…

In every size…

They have the XS,S,M,L…oh cute, a coordinating toddler one…and a baby one…less than $20 and three minutes later, I had the order confirmation in my inbox.

Deep breath. We are going to do another family photo.

A week later the shirts arrive.

Time to call my photographer friend, who took such great pictures last year.

I push it off for awhile, still remembering a little too clearly all the details of last year’s photo shoot.

A month later, I’m ready to make the call.

We set a day and a time and the countdown is on. I go through all the closets, collecting the matching shirts and stash them in my room, so they can be clean and ready to be put on just seconds before taking pictures.

I gather matching pants for everyone, and add it to my growing collection.

I find my daughter something coordinating to wear, and it’s in my room too.

The day arrives. The kids planted all afternoon and by the end of the activity they looked more plantlike than kidlike, so some serious showers were in order.

Thirty minutes to picture time. I deem it safe to hand out the clothes.

Within seconds the boys are ready to roll. Socks and shoes, I ordered. I don’t usually control what they wear, but for picture time, I’m in command.

We’re taking the pictures down the block at the pond, so I send the kids who are ready to meet the photographer.

Alls going well. I still haven’t had a moment to figure out what I will wear, I need to deal with that soon.

My daughter is ready to run out the door. With her crocs. Bright. Yellow. Crocs.

“You can’t wear the crocs.”

“I have to wear my crocs.”

“Wear your shoes.”

“They hurt me, they don’t fit.”

“They fit yesterday. You can’t wear the crocs in the picture.”

As the only girl, she’s making up for it now.

“I want to wear my crocs!”

The tears are coming…

“Ok, I’ll wear my old Shabbos shoes.”

“No, you can’t wear your old Shabbos shoes.”

“I like my old Shabbos shoes.”

“Yes, but they LOOK like old shabbos shoes!”

I’m losing this battle, I can feel it.

My husband appears and thankfully takes over.

I finally get to run off to my closet and figure out what I will wear. It’s a mother thing, We forget to plan for ourselves sometimes.

I scramble around and thankfully find something that’ll match everyone and then do the quickest makeup job possible.

They’re waiting for me, so I run to catch up.

It’s only been 10 minutes, I’m sure they all still look as clean as when we left.

They’re all having a grand time, and I’m working on not being stressed.

And then I see the mud.

5 year olds sneakers look like they are supposed to be deep brown, only I know it’s a sheet of mud. His pants are splattered.

“I fell in the mud,” he admits sheepishly. He was trying to see the ducks…

7 year old has a sprinkling of mud on his shirt. Shoes are looking brown.

Oh come on, boys! I want to scream. Can’t you guys stay clean for even two minutes?!

But I don’t.

I don’t want them to dread family photos. I don’t want them to associate family photos with a stressed out mommy.

So I take a deep breath and we get everyone in order. We bribe, we give warnings and we make promises. S’mores for everyone who cooperates.

We smile, we laugh, we look at the camera, we look away from the camera; everyone looks in a different directions, some turn around and face the wrong way too. Some stay in place and some jump up and down.

I notice my daughter wearing her shoes and yellow crocs tucked in the carriage basket.

I make a mental note to find out from my husband what magic he used to pull that off.

My dear photographer friend shoots and shoots, capturing it all.

The kids hug each other and do lots of impromptu stuff.

And 10 minutes later we’re done, and I don’t care anymore how dirty they get trying to reach the ducks and pebbles and what not.

I didn’t get the photos yet, but I know I’ll love them

And I know they won’t be perfect.

I’ll be surprised if we can find one that everyone is looking in the same direction at the same time. And I’m sure the mud stained pants and mud caked shoes will be noticeable from a mile away too. But what is the picture there for, anyway?

I wanted a family photo not to capture perfection, but to capture my family exactly how we are, imperfect and happy.

sweeping

“Children should do chores in the house.”

“Children should not have to do jobs in the house, they should want to.”

“Children should be expected to help out at home.”

“It’s ok to bribe children, they will slowly grow out of it.”

“You should never bribe children.”

“Children shouldn’t be asked to help, they should be told to.”

“We should not put demands on children, we should create the environment to make them want help out at home.”

“Giving kids an allowance teaches them how to manage money.”

“Kids should not be rewarded with money. They will grow up to be money hungry adults.”

Walk into my house this past Thursday morning and you will see my 10 year old sweeping the kitchen floor, 7 year old washing dishes and 5 year old making lunches and zipping lunch bags.

Wow, you marvel. How does she get her kids to do that? I wish my kids could do that too!

I’ve done that before; walked into someone else’s house, seen kids sweeping, washing dishes and vacuuming and felt like a dismal failure. Why don’t my kids ever do that, I’d wonder, what am I doing wrong!?

I pondered all different systems, job lists, incentives, and charts. But since I wasn’t sure what my policy was, to bribe or not to bribe, I never got anywhere with it.

What is the law of the land? I read articles advocating all sides of the argument and continued to wash the dishes alone.

Finally, after 10 years of trying to work it out and my kids rarely offering to participate in household chores, I had an epiphany.

My house is my land; my husband and I are the rulers and we make the laws! And we know the citizens of the land best so we should make laws that work for them.

And so after a quick meeting of the powers that be, we came up with a plan.

And if you walked into my house last Thursday, here’s the part you didn’t know:

It was the first day of the new system, and the system works as follows: Each day there are 8 different chores you can sign up for and each one is worth a quarter. When you reach $5, you can cash it out. And if there’s one thing all my kids like, it’s earning money.

The kids shouted with glee as they reserved their chores for the week.

And now, a week later, it’s still working. They’re washing dishes and folding laundry. My husband gave free training on how to wash down the table after meals and I gave step by step guidance how to put in a load of laundry.

Forget the myriad books, contradictory articles and various tidbits on kids helping in the house.

This is my house, so my opinion counts most.

But I do admit, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, is that little voice taunting, “But what if…”

What if a grumbly camp counselor calls me in a couple years complaining my child won’t do his laundry unless he’s rewarded.

What if I get a phone call from an agitated daughter in law in 15 years accusing me of mis-training her dear husband, who will only do the dishes if he gets paid…

What if an annoyed boss calls me in 20 years that my son won’t clean his desk at work unless he gets a bonus…

What if I’m ruining all their ethical and moral values? Making them greedy?

What if, what if…

There’s plenty more what ifs, but I’m learning to ignore them. I have to deal with the present.

For the first time they’re actually doing real jobs in the house, earning money, saving me loads of work and we are all happy. And for right now, that’s good enough.

car-trip

This year was an ideal Pesach for Chol-Homoed-trip-lovers around the world.

I had the greatest idea for a trip; let’s go to Facebook land.

It’s a one stop shop for all trips; we could see museums, amusement parks, roller coasters; go hiking, fishing, boating. .. you name it, all free of charge, with smiling adults and kids and never any fighting.

I would have stayed on my Facebook field trip all day, but my idea was vetoed by the higher powers, namely my children. Off we went to the Aerospace Museum, bags packed with appealing snacks of macaroons, lady fingers, apples, pears and water.

First things first upon arrival, we snapped the signature Chol Hamoed Trip Facebook Picture.

Then it was back to business.

“We’re hungry.”

“It’s so boring.”

“Let’s stay longer.”

“When are we leaving?”

“I’m hungry.”

“We didn’t come here to eat! We paid admission, go check out the cool stuff!” 

“Where are we going tomorrow?”

“Let’s come back here tomorrow!”

“This place is so dumb, no way!”

“That’s my apple, I called it first!”

“When’s snack time?”

“I need the bathroom!”

“Is it time to leave yet?”

I sneak out my phone to peek at my Chol Hamoed Trip Facebook Picture, just to make sure we were still having a good time. Yup, we were all still smiling. No need to update the status, not everything has to be public knowledge.

Exhausted after a long day, we head back to the car.

“It’s my turn to sit near the baby!”

“No, you sat there on the way here!”

“No, I didn’t. That was yesterday!”

“He’s in my seat!”

Someone flips over the back row of the van…the way boys do, making sure their feet kick someone in the head.

“Ow! He kicked me!”

“It was by accident!”

“No it wasn’t! You did it on purpose!”

I sneak another peek at my phone. Yup, still all smiling. We are still having fun. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s trip.

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