Libraries are not for little boys.
I knew that.
But I was being a good Facebook mom and taking my five little boys to the library.
Maybe it was the sunny weather or maybe it was my good mood, but for some reason I believed all those who told me that the local library was a great place for kids.
It’s beautiful, special kids wing, it’s new and nice, there’s lots to do there…
So there we were, heading from the parking lot to the library, reviewing library etiquette on the way. My little boys nodded along, agreeing with it all.
The first red flag came when we passed the fountain out front. The type of fountain that makes the minds of little boys race, trying to figure out the quickest way they can somehow get wet. On their tippy-toes, desperately trying to reach up and into the water…
Still optimistic, I gathered them up and reminded them of our exciting plans of actually going into the library..
The second red flag followed too soon, when we had to cross through the adult section of the library in order to reach our destination.
And it was silent.
I mean deafeningly silent.
It hurt my ears, I had not heard such loud silence in years.
I shushed my five little boys and rushed them through the room lest one of them makes so much as a peep.
And I silently wondered; what would happen if someone made noise in a library? Who said you can’t read in noise? I mean, I manage just fine. After all, I can read a whole recipe without the sounds of crying, laughing, shouting, toy fire engines and garbage trucks even slightly distracting me! Or maybe that’s why every now and then I mess up a recipe and forget an ingredient or two…
We made it to our destination. And just as I carefully planned, the after school crowd hadn’t come yet and the preschool kids were taken home for naps already, so it was just me and five of my little boys.
And they sat down at the little table with the activities, long enough for me to snap a pic and Whatsapp it to one of my doubting friends, to say, “See, it’s working out great!”
Five minutes later, it was still working! I settled in on one of the nice inviting couches. Baby is sleeping, rest of the boys are busy; wow, this just might be a relaxing afternoon. We should come here every day!
Except for the other couch. The large u-shaped couch that has a wide flat surface leading from the back of the couch to the window. That, to my kids’ eyes, is nothing short of a stage. Or walkway. Or runway.
Warning 1, 2 and 3 are issued.
We are not climbing. We do not climb in libraries. How about a book about trucks? Chickens? Cities? People? Anything?
Like I said, libraries are not for little boys. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t visited the library in 7 years…it was suddenly coming back to me.
And perhaps libraries should call in moms of boys to design the kids’ section. Before consulting any contractors, they need to make sure the room is boy proof. No ledges or edges, no poles, no slats – nothing that can be mistaken for a play structure.
So out we went, with the little boys trailing behind, wondering out loud why we were leaving.
And I reprimanded myself quite firmly, “You can not be angry at them! Little boys don’t belong in a library, why did you take them there in the first place?!”
And off we went, to the place where little boys belong.
To the park.
And they played and ran and jumped; climbed and swung on the swings and splashed in the drinking fountain; acting like normal little boys because that’s what I was allowing them to be.
I have to remind myself of my mantra more often; Don’t believe anything you see on Facebook.
I keep pressing backspace; whatever I write just doesn’t seem to come out right.
I’ll try again.
He was a giant of a man. He was larger than life. He cared for everyone.
It’s all true. But it doesn’t seem to really explain who Zaidy was. It sounds like just Anyone’s biography. And Zaidy was certainly not just Anyone.
So I’ll try yet again.
He was timeless. He was 90 but too young to leave us. He only saw the positive in everything and everyone. He made an impact on the life of thousands of people.
It sounds so cliche, but it’s all true! Yet, it’s still missing the heart of who Zaidy was.
He educated thousands of children in the Torah’s ways. He dedicated himself to reaching out to every Jewish person he came in contact with. He worked full time, every day of his life. He never retired and never got old.
It’s all Zaidy; every word of it.
But it still not capturing the life of Zaidy.
And the more I write, the more I realize that words alone will never suffice to describe my Zaidy; Zaidy isn’t someone you can just write about; Zaidy was life. And the words themselves are only half the picture.
And the other half are the memories I hold close to me.
The shared memories of me, my family and my relatives. The precious memories of love for all of us, never ending enthusiasm for anything we were telling him and patience for each one of us. And when I say “us”, thats a few hundred “us”, the lucky grandchildren.
He made each of us feel as though we were his only grandchild.
In my memories, Zaidy is full of life. Passionately sharing a word on the parsha. Enthusiastically telling us a story at the Shabbos table; every story he told felt as though he was there to witness it. On the way to some far out little city to find a lonely Jew who needs some motivation to pursue Judaism. Boarding a plane to yet another grandchild’s wedding. Holding yet another great grandchild, as Sandek of the bris. Listening to a three year old grandchild reciting his alef bais, glowing with pride. Patiently asking my children what they were learning in Chumash, so eager to hear their responses.
And glowing grandchildren lined up, waiting for his warm embrace.
Bubby and Zaidy were an inseparable pair; together they not only raised a large family, they raised a community and a generation. They lived for the same goals, aspired for the same dreams.
Yet Zaidy never sat back to marvel at what he accomplished – even though he had every right to! He only kept moving forward. His focus was the next generation; making sure they were educated and trusted to continue his holy work.
It’s so hard to share the memories properly, complete with their rich warmth and life. And I don’t think I ever can.
The other night we had a conference call with lots of cousins. And we shared memories. And we all felt it; we all knew Zaidy, and we felt the life of these memories.
And that’s where I know Zaidy will continue to live.
Pen and paper alone are not enough.
He will live with each one of us, his grandchildren.
And as the sadness sets in that Zaidy, our patriarch, our role model, our grandfather who was blessed to live until 90 without ever getting old is no longer with us, I know he will continue to live in all of us. All of us who know his life, who felt his warmth, and who still feel the love when we talk about him.
Zaidy will continue to live in how I live my life.
With his positive outlook on life; with his patience for every child; with his love for each one of his children, grandchild and great grandchildren; with his incredible ability to always see the good in everything; with his great respect and admiration for Bubby, with his determination to reach every Jew and share with them the joy of Judaism, with his passion for Torah and mitzvos; and with his acceptance of everyone, as they are.
And I think I know the secret to how he was able to do all this; how he was able to be 90 but young, to get older without ever aging.
Turning 90 was but a mere detail of his active and busy life.
Because he never retired.
He never sat back, saying his work was complete and it’s time to relax. His life was not about himself, it was about everyone else.
When you have a life worth living, you never retire.
A piece of my heart is six hours away in a lovely campsite, enjoying a week of winter camp. On Monday I exchanged one part of my heart for another – I picked up my son and dropped off my daughter.
Over the week my big almost ten year old was in camp, I scanned every photo that was uploaded to the camp Facebook page, trying to get some information of how he was doing.
He’s smiling, he must be having a good time.
He’s huddled in his coat, oh he must be so cold, I should have sent warmer clothes.
They’re on a hike, I forgot to send him a cap, oh no! I hope he doesn’t get a sunburn.
I hope he remembered to put on sunscreen.
Good, he’s wearing a different shirt than yesterday. I hope he put the other one in the laundry bag, so it comes back home.with him.
They posted a video – a video!! I can get more than a one second glimpse!
He’s standing on his bench, singing along with the other kids. One second, two seconds. He sits down.
Why did he sit down? Maybe he’s homesick? Maybe his foot hurts? Maybe his new sneakers are bothering him?
Oh, he’s back standing.
I guess he just wanted to sit down!
And so the week goes on, until he can call. He calls! My heart feels closer to complete for a moment. But. I have a million questions!
Are you too hot with your coat?
Is it too cold, should we have gotten warmer clothes?
Are you homesick? Are the kids nice to you? Is your counselor nice?
Are your shoes comfortable? Did you take a shower? Are you happy? Are you sad?
But I prepared myself; I knew he’d have a short time to talk, and the worst feeling is hanging up and realizing I didn’t give my kid a chance to talk.
And so he called. And I quieted all my screaming questions and said, “So, what do you want to tell me about?”
And off he went, telling me about every and any activity, answering none of my unasked questions. So I listened, trying to read between the lines.
He sounds happy.
He’s not crying.
He has a lot to tell me.
And I have to accept that I will not get the answers to all my questions. Even though I’m his mother and I should know everything!
And the week passes, we pick up my big boy and drop off my big (but looks little to me) 8 year old girl for the greatest week yet. She meets her friends, some of whom she has only seen in online school over the computer. First she’s shy. They’re so excited to see her, she’s not really reciprocating.
Then I realize the problem; I need to leave. I can’t hang around. As long as I’m there, she won’t loosen up. So I casually disappear in the crowd, and watch her running across the camp grounds with her friends and a big chunk of my heart.
And I practice the speech I know so well by now.
She’ll be ok. She has her friends with her. There’s good staff. I trust the directors. She wanted to go to camp. She begged to go to camp. She wants to be here.
And we leave. She waves. I try to be the grown up; I wave and casually get in the car. As if I’m as fine with it as she is.
And I wait to see pictures.
She’s in lots of them. She’s smiling. waving. Cheering with her bunk. Working on a scrapbook. She’s sitting between two friends.
Oh no, she’s sitting in a different row than her friends. Maybe they got into a fight? Maybe she’s upset? Maybe they’re upset with her?
And a little voice of sanity reminds me – maybe she just wants to sit there!
And then the pictures of day two. I don’t know how she slept. What if she cried herself to sleep? Was she homesick? Maybe still is homesick?
Again I scan the pictures, looking for answers. Are her eyes red and puffy? No, she’s smiling. Hmm, is it a regular smile or a homesick smile?
I’m slowly making myself crazy!
I show my husband the photos.
“Great, she’s having a good time!” That’s it.
“You think it’s a real smile? Do her eyes look red? You think she cried last night?”
He shrugs, “Maybe, but that’s ok too.”
And for a moment I wish I was the father, not the mother; life is so simple!
But I know he’s right. It IS ok. It’s ok if she gets homesick or doesn’t sit near her friends. Even if she chooses not to participate in an activity. She needs to experience all that. It’s part of growing up.
She’ll call tomorrow. And I’m going to put my million unnecessary questions aside and listen to her talk. And I hope she won’t cry, because I’m not convinced I won’t join her if she does.
After all, I miss having my heart complete.
I’m looking for the Surgeon General. I’m determined to uncover who is this ambiguous being who has the authority to issue ominous warnings and rules on a whim, without ever checking with those it affects.
Surgeon General, we have a bone to pick.
Boruch Hashem, two weeks ago I gave birth to another little beautiful baby…boy! With the help and support of my dear friend Ep E. Dural, who always stands firmly and supportively at my side through each birth, (well, except at baby #3, which I still haven’t forgiven him for, but I will save that for another time!) I’m not a big fan of unnecessary pain, and I enjoyed every moment of the pain free labor and delivery, truly experiencing the wonder of it all.
And with the announcement of “It’s a boy!” I couldn’t stop my response from escaping, “Are you sure, can you check one more time?!”
They were sure, and I assumed that anyways, because by now I’m a tried and proven Mom of Boys. I’ve earned my title. What ten years and a band of boys have done to me is pretty wild. I can just imagine what another ten years will do…they’ll be walking on the ceiling, I’ll smile and wave and go back to what I was doing without even taking a picture.
So back to the Surgeon General … apparently the Surgeon General is not a mom…because this Surgeon General decided that it was best for new moms if they closed down the nursery in this particular group of hospitals and require all moms to room in with the new baby….huh?
If you’re one of those moms who prefer that, well, we don’t talk the same language. The best advice I ever received was before my first was born…a dear friend advised me; send the baby to the nursery for the night! For your good and the baby’s good! You will go home from the hospital well slept and you can catch up on your sleep deprived nights for months to come! Don’t feel guilty, you have to take care of yourself!
Yes, best advice ever.
I’ve gotten a good night sleep and come home a step ahead, not a sleep deprived mess.
Well, enter Surgeon General…with his new ideas.
Baby was born at 10:39 PM. By 1 AM, all quieted down and I was pretty exhausted. With the nurses finally giving me some peace and quiet, and the baby asleep in my room, I started drifting off…1:10 baby was up…fed him again, put him back in his little bassinet thing, laid back in the awkward hospital bed…1:40, he’s whimpering again…1:50 he’s back asleep, 2:20 he’s back in my arms…I adjust the bed, up and down, trying to find comfort and trying not to fall asleep while sitting up feeding the baby…after all, the nurses told me that the Surgeon General says not to fall asleep while sitting in bed holding the baby…yet another clue it’s not a mom, because falling asleep isn’t something a mom can control…
2:40 he’s back asleep…3:10 he’s whimpering…3:30 they need to check vitals…4:00 they need to clean the bathroom…4:10 he’s up…and I’m hitting the 24 hour mark of being awake…
Where is that Surgeon General?? You’re telling me this arrangement leaves moms well rested and more competent to take care of the baby upon arrival at home?!
At 5:00 am I call one of the friendly nurses and plead with her, please oh please can you watch my baby for a little so I can get some sleep…
And the nurses are so sweet and nice in this little small town hospital, and three hours of sleep is granted!
Ready to take on the day…of course, sleep while the baby sleeps…in between nurses coming in and out, doctors checking in….filling out paperwork, another cleaning crew to clean the bathroom, meals being served (my lonely kosher tray of a banana and an apple juice…it’s good my husband brought me some goodies of my own)…
And the day continues, with a total of 41 minutes nap time…And the night begins, I bemoan my tiredness to the visiting nurse of the hour, inquire about this know-it-all Surgeon General who obviously never slept in a room with a newborn or has never experienced interrupted sleep…11 PM we’re both asleep, 11:30 we’re both up, including the visiting nurse…12 AM we are both asleep, 12:20 we are both up..by 3 AM I call a nurse and she kindly takes the baby for 3 hours…and a total of 3 hours of sleep is under my belt.
If I find that Surgeon General…I’m already planning my lawsuit.
I leave the hospital more sleep deprived than I’ve been in 5 years.
No, Mr. Surgeon General, your plan did not work. Depriving new moms of their precious little sleep is not the way to send them home to start motherhood responsibilities in their best shape and form.
I’m not a first time mom-you can’t sell me a boat like that.
And all the articles I’ve read that nursing creates the same hormones the brain secretes during sleep or something like that, so really, you’re just as well rested whether you sleep or nurse all night…I don’t buy it.
I remember sitting bleary eyed in bed, nursing my oldest, wondering where that hormone was and what was wrong with me that I was so tired…
Nursing at night is tiring. It’s sleep depriving. No sugar coating it. It’s not easy. Period.
But I do it anyway. For as long as I can, so long as it isn’t affecting my daytime functioning as a mom. It’s part of the uniqueness and joy of motherhood. But let’s not pretend it’s not tiring!
And hence the reason a sleepful night right after childbirth is so dire; to me, it’s like refilling the fuel tank (which goes on empty after childbirth), and the full tank goes a long way.
So, dear Surgeon General, I will find you. And you have a lot of explaining to do.
I love reading Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I never subscribed to it, but for some reason they keep sending me the issues. I find that it’s a great place to get ideas that never work in real life. But I still enjoy looking at it; I enjoy seeing the colors, styles and decor of dream houses – that stay dreams.
And then there’s the practical tips page; the ones that promise you the easiest solutions to all your problems, guaranteed to work and fail proof.
I don’t know who writes them, but it’s certainly someone with little life experience.
Or someone who was never a mom.
So I was reading this must-try brilliant answer to all of life’s challenges, an easy way to get organized:
Post a dry erase board on the refrigerator and every time you remember something, run out of something or need something, just jot it down on the board and presto, at the end of the day your list is made and nothing is forgotten.
Great idea, no?
Well, I laughed out loud and couldn’t help imagining what would happen if I tried this in my house.
I’d start the day off with breakfast, and we’d run out of cheerios. I’d quickly jot it down on the whiteboard.
The kids get dressed, and I notice 5 year old has yet another pair of pants with ripped knees; I quickly jot down to buy more size 5 pants..
I remember I need to make dentist appointments, and I quickly jot it down.
Ran out of mayo, no problem, it’s already on the list.
More tissues. There it goes, onto the whiteboard.
No more trying to remember things; the white board is doing it for me!
Somewhere between supper and bedtime, one of my kids – don’t know if it’ll be 3, 5, or 7 year old, will notice the whiteboard. And the dry erase marker.
And there are fewer things more tempting to little hands than a dry erase board. I’d say it comes in at a tie to a Sharpie marker.
And in one little swift giggly move, gone would be my list. And the contents of my brain. And a whole days work. With no way of ever getting it back. And in it’s place would be some indecipherable modern art drawing, probably with Sharpies.
Yes, dear dry erase board and brilliant ideas writer in Better Homes and Gardens, please put a disclaimer with such ideas that for reasons of sanity, not to try it at home until the kids are married and have moved out.
Which reminds me of an important rule I follow when it comes to filtering all advice, especially the unsolicited type:
Not all advice is good advice, and not all good advice is good advice for everyone.
For me, my Little Yellow Notepad works. For some it’s Post It notes or a spiral notebook. Good old fashion ink-on-paper.
And even if little hands get hold of it and try to destroy any level of organization I’ve worked so hard on establishing, I can always get on my hands and knees, collect all the bits and pieces and tape them back together.
Trust me it works; I’ve tried it.
What is it with us moms that we never tire of hearing about other people’s kids’ crazy antics? There’s such a thrill and satisfaction in seeing someone else’s house covered in flour, marker on someone else’s white couch or even just toys strewn across the floor from wall to wall.
I can look at photos of such stuff and listen to people talk about it for hours on end.
And I know I’m not the only one!
And the truth is, I think I know why.
Because it validates me. Of course I know it can’t just be my kids and my house; but there’s nothing like seeing it to feel comforted.
And so hence the obsession.
Somethings are funny only when it’s not my own kids.
The other day I was at an event with some of my kids.
I was talking with some people near the food table, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed the table lifting upwards slightly. As a mom, that didn’t startle me. That’s a normal thing.
But I was sure I knew who was under the table, making it happen, and I could feel the annoyance at my kids rising for hiding under the table.
Ready to call my sons’ names and demand they come out, two little heads popped out from under the table.
And miracle of miracles, they did not belong to my family!
The annoyance was gone.
Actually, I thought it was funny. Cute. Whatever. It really wasn’t a big deal, didn’t disturb me in the slightest and totally didn’t matter.
But more than that, I was amazed. Where did the annoyance go? How’d that happen so quickly??
Why, if it was my own kids, would it bother me so greatly? And why, when I discovered I wasn’t related to the culprits, did I barely give it a second thought?
I filed that image in my mental mommy files, one to keep in mind when my kids are up to something like that the next time – other kids do that too. It’s OK!
And that goes back to the obsession; we so enjoy seeing other kids doing stuff like that.
Yesterday was a good example of a day that would have been funny if I was with someone else’s kids. It was Wednesday, the no school day. It’s the day of the week that the four younger ones are home with me. And it’s always an action packed day.
7 and 5 year old found a wilting lulav branch in the garage; after fighting over it for ten minutes or so, they went out to the backyard to play some game that I decided not to see. But the winner of the game was apparently the neighbor, because that’s the backyard the lulav branch ended up landing in.
Great, just what I needed. Another reason for the neighbor to be annoyed at us.
Off they went, back to the garage, hunting for something else.
In they came with a big grin and a bottle of diet coke they had found hiding in the garage fridge, that one of our guests had left behind. They were ready to make a L’chaim and enjoy it, but I crashed the party and poured it out.
Back they went, looking for some more stuff.
And on it went.
They went to play in the backyard again; I had to make supper, it was getting late and we had to get to swimming lessons.
And then one year old came walking in, looking a lot dirtier than when he had gone out. The firepit and all its ashes had been “sprinkled” on him…
Pretty funny, if it was someone else’s kids.
And back to trying to finish up my quick dinner; but this time with the helpers indoors. And the salt contents poured on the floor once again, in a nice neat mountain.
And the love-hate relationship I had with the water dispenser on the kitchen door…well at that moment it was all hate, with ice shooting across the kitchen.
And three year old gave himself a nice beard with the new markers, a combination or orange and brown. To match the colors of his arms.
Five year old was pretty proud of his red marker “nail polish.”
And I noticed they moved their tic-tac-toe game to the couch, and I mean literally to the couch. There on the armrest was a nice tic-tac-toe board, that I hoped would come off with a clorox wipe. But I had no time to allow myself to be annoyed.
We had to get to swimming lessons – so off we went.
Three year old with a multi colored beard, and 1 year old looking like he came through the chimney..
Only after arriving, did I notice that no one had bothered taking their shoes with them.
And they were all as happy as can be.
And I used all my effort to imagine that this crew of adorable little wreckers were someone else’s kids, because then I’m sure, at that moment, I’d be happy too.