Little Yellow Notepad

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.

pesach

I’m slowly coming out of the three week blur called Pesach. The calendar is deceiving; it makes Pesach look like a one week holiday. But as any mom can attest, it’s way longer than that.

And I loved every minute of it.

Every minute of the cleaning, hosting, cooking, delegating, organizing, shopping and peeling, just to name a few.

I always loved Pesach. As a kid, it was magical. The kitchen transformed; nothing was regular.

I was never the biggest fan of Pesach food, and I’m still not, but I loved the atmosphere. I loved getting together with all the cousins, aunts and uncles at my grandparents house, filling every nook and cranny with blankets and pillows for everyone to sleep; more people in the house than I’m sure were legally allowed. Lots of kids, noise and more noise.

I loved it all.

Now, finishing my 8th year of “making” my own Pesach, my Pesach cabinet has grown exponentially from the original knife, cutting board and tea kettle.. And somewhere along the way, as the lists and responsibilities grew, that love for Pesach got a little less natural and bit watered down…

And so I made some changes.

Each year, before the mile long lists begin to take shape, I focus all my energy on one thing and one thing only:

To love Pesach.

I spend a whole week mentally going through the Pesach motions and do everything I can to cement it all with a strong love for the beautiful week of celebration.

And so when somewhere between preparing chicken #19, potato kugel #7 and setting the table the exhaustion, overwhelming-ness, noise level and sleep deprivation hit all at the same time, I can still smile and love Pesach.

When every last of the 18 pillows I own, plus the 9 new ones my husband had to run to Walmart to buy before the guests arrived (all my kids insist on sleeping with two each…) I loved it all.

When the kitchen was strewn with half eaten yogurts, eggshells and lady finger crumbs, I loved it all.

When I was preparing food for three different simultaneous seders, my head spinning as I labeled  each container of potatoes, onions and eggs to make sure they ended up in the right place, I loved it all.

When I made a dash around the house, handing out clean, new white shirts to all the boys to wear to the community seder, and then I got 7 minutes to quickly prepare myself and went off to host 70 people,I loved it all.

When all the new white shirts were covered in grape juice, the floor a sticky mess and the kids up past midnight, I loved it all.

And each time I sat down to nurse, I thanked my baby for making sure I got  a sitting break, helping me love Pesach.

And each time my cleaning lady showed up as planned, I thanked her profusely for helping me love Pesach.

It’s one big blur, but I know I loved every moment.

phone The coast is clear.

I look both ways, making sure I won’t get caught.

One kid reading on the couch. One in the bathroom. Two playing UNO. Two playing lego. Baby asleep. It’s my big moment, I”m going to make my move.

I’m going to make a phone call.

I creep back to the kitchen, as inconspicuous as possible.

I dial the number. I start my call.

Kid-reading-on-the-couch slowly gravitates to the kitchen..it’s the perfect time to tell me all about the book he is reading. I make the one-minute motion, which he apparently chooses not to get. I mouth “Please wait till I’m off the phone,” but it’s not working.

The two lego-players come barreling in, needing a referee. “It’s my diamonds!” “No, it’s from my special pieces!” I give the one-minute motion. Nothing doing. I head to the garage, hoping to get a moment of quiet, and they all follow. UNO cards come raining down in my path; the game is over with no winner, only mischievous-looking faces. And the UNO-card rain dance is in full swing.

I motion, I whisper, I cover the mouth piece and beg for a moment to finish up…

“Come wipe me!” calls a little voice from the bathroom. And I hear that noise. The non-mistaken noise of the roll of toilet paper being unrolled as he waits…a roll that I know I put in only an hour ago.

“I’ll wipe you!” calls one of the Uno-dancers, making a beeline for the bathroom, something he knows will certainly get my immediate attention.

And then I hear it…the baby is crying. His 12 minute nap is done.

Can’t anyone see I’m trying to make a phonecall?!

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