Little Yellow Notepad

Of all the things I’ve discovered in the past 11 years of motherhood, I’ve reluctantly come to terms with the fact that I can not micro manage every corner of my house or everything my kids are doing.

Actually, I can not micro manage anything.

PJ’s end up in middle of the playroom and don’t necessarily get put in the hamper. Wet towels pile up on the floor of the bathroom after shower time. I don’t always know if everyone washed their hands before supper. It can take a few days until I get wind of a particular project going on in one of the kids rooms. (Very) often the beds are not made. Oh of course, I have a rule that everyone has to make their bed  in the morning. But a rule is only as good as the way it’s implemented. 

And I’m not able to implement everything, all the time.

Many times I have to let things go.

And I’ve decided that that’s ok. 

Really, it’s all just a juggling game.

We are all jugglers. And if you’re a mom, that takes your juggling to the next level. You add a couple extra hundred balls and up the speed by 500% or so.

But the aim of the game is not just to be a good juggler. It’s to realize that not all my juggling balls are the same.

On the contrary, they are quite opposite. Some of them are glass; the most fragile and delicate type.

And some are made of extremely durable rubber; no matter how hard they fall, they will bounce right back up.

The goal of the game? Don’t confuse which balls are glass and which are rubber.

Myself. My husband. My kids. Each one of them. The smiles on their little faces. The atmosphere in our home. These are my glass balls. These cannot be dropped, no matter the circumstances.

The house. The laundry. Fancy dinners. Matching socks. Sales. Beds that are made up each morning. Clean floors. A clean bathroom mirror.  Sinks that don’t have dishes piled up. Walls that don’t have some marker designs. DIY projects and cutesy homemade crafts.

They are all rubber. Every single one of them. If I drop them for an hour, a day, a week, (a year)…I know they will bounce back up. Eventually. 

And that truly guides me through each day, as I watch my rubber balls scatter in all directions, further and further from my grasp.

Organized closets? That’s a rubber ball, it’ll bounce back. 

Quality family time and not losing my cool? That’s a glass ball. I can not let it drop. It is not worth the price.

Always focus on the glass balls, they’re much harder to repair if they fall.

It was the perfect arrangement. I needed to buy 2 new car seats, and the kids wanted to pool their Chanukah gelt to buy the coolest sets of Lego. We all wanted to go to Target. What a great plan!

So we hopped into the car, me and my second in command – my daughter – and my 5 little boys. My oldest was out with my husband.

I entered Target and noticed mistake number one. Don’t ever go to Target in mid December, unless you absolutely have to. Every register, every aisle, and every inch of store was filled to max capacity.

But not wanting to disappoint the kids, I made a quick decision that it wasn’t a big deal and off we went. We divided into two teams; half went to the Lego aisle, the other half (the two that fit in the cart) joined me and my daughter in the car seat search.

After some quick deliberating, I hoisted box #1 into the cart…but that took away the two year olds spot. Out he went and in went box #2…but the top seat needed to be folded, so out went the one year old. With the baby in one arm and my daughter firmly holding my 2 year old’s hand, I managed to navigate the shopping cart, which I couldn’t see over the top of, customer service where they so kindly agreed to watch it for me while I finished shopping.

We got a new cart, got the kiddies settled, and headed to the Lego aisle.

Decisions, decisions. These were big life decisions.

As we negotiated and discussed which Lego set was truly the best one and appropriate for our home, this little sweet big eyed girl with glasses passed with her very obviously stressed mom.

“Mom, look how many kids they have!!” I heard her whisper loudly, as only kids know how. The look of complete mortification on her mother’s face was pretty comical, as she continued to look straight ahead as if she didn’t notice us.

I wanted to ease her tension, but with 6 little people talking to me all at once and the mom refusing to make eye contact I couldn’t really say anything to her.

What did I want to tell her? I was just going to ease her fears and tell her don’t worry, it’s not contagious. And this was on purpose.

As we continued to narrow down the decisions, little-girl-with-big-eyes apparently snuck away from her mom and came back to peek again, remarking loudly, “Wow, there’s so many!”

Her poor mortified mom. It’s ok, mortified mom. This is why we love kids. Because they’re not scared to say what they’re thinking!

It was time to head to the register, and I admit I had no plan.

No plan how I was going to push a cart that I couldn’t see over and a cart that had two little guys in it. And my helpers were not interested in helping, and the truth is, they weren’t really fit for the job.

They couldn’t see over the cart either, and I figured I’d knock down less things than they would, so I better steer that one.

And a cart with two little guys…pushing 60+ pounds is a bit much for them.

But we got this far, I wasn’t going to give up.

And after all, one of the car seats were on sale, I needed to buy it today!

We made it to the register, swiping the sides of only three racks.

We checked out and I thankfully had the great idea to ask if someone could help me out to the car. What do you know, it was a service they offered!

We got to the car, which the kids were very excited to point out to this nice Target employee – “Yes, that’s our van! The one with the dent on the side that Mommy….”

I tried to talk over their description of every scratch and mark on the van, chatting with my fellow cart-pusher as if I was taking a stroll in the park.

We reached our destination and I opened the trunk…forgetting that it was not empty.

I tried not to show what I was thinking, which was How in the world is this going to fit, what was I thinking?

Holding my pride in check, we pushed and pulled and squeezed and maneuvered…and got the trunk door closed. I couldn’t see out the back window and the front passenger was a car seat box, but it was doable.

We did it! Although it wasn’t simple, our mission was accomplished.

And when you’re doing things with your kids, now that’s something to be proud of.

thought

I knew becoming a mom would mean giving up lots of little luxuries about life as I knew it.

I knew having many kids would mean giving up even more.

A good night’s sleep, reading a complete book, the biggest piece of cake, a clean piece of paper.

All these things I knew and was prepared for.

Clean floors, clean car, counter tops that aren’t sticky; it’s all just part of the deal and boy is it worth it.

But I’ve recently added a new item to the  list of things to give up when having kids; something that I’m not so sure I had realized.

Having kids means giving up the luxury of completing a train of thought. To think something through from beginning to end, without interruption.

It’s the strangest thing. I just noticed that I have not posted a blog post in over two months. But here’s the thing; I’ve written at least 20 posts since then!

And that’s when it clicked.

I started to write 20 something posts…about trips to Walmart, 10 hour road trips, mismatched socks and kids leaving their shoes at home….and they are all still in the drafts folder of my brain; no, they never even made it to the keyboard. Because having kids does that to you.

It happens like this. I have a great idea, I feel the energy flowing, I’m ready to take it on….and then someone is calling from the bathroom to be wiped or something of the like and all is pushed into the drafts folder in the recesses of my brain.

I come back to reality a couple hours later and have time to pick up the thought. But by then, I can’t remember what it was to begin with.

Ahh, the joys of motherhood!

The things we start but don’t get to finish.

Like the marker on the banister on the steps heading upstairs.

How many times have I grabbed a Clorox wipe and marched in that direction, determined to finally complete the task of washing it all off, only to be called off by something much more important and urgent before I even reached my destination. Someone fell. Someone broke someone’s something. Issues that were far more pressing and in need of my attention. Things that deserve my time more than the banister does!

And that’s where all my blog posts are. In that place in my mind of unfinished thoughts and projects and tasks, that got pushed off the list because there are little people who need me.

The 76 emails in my drafts folder on my phone…how many times I started to type, and a spill or a cry called me away.

How many Facebook posts I started and never got to hit the POST button.

Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s annoying and sometimes it’s maddening!

But I will not fight it; I will embrace this discovery of incomplete train of thoughts with patience and humor.

It’s certainly worth the trade in.

BUT I am determined to figure out how to sneak a complete thought every now and then – because I do plan to keep posting. I’m not giving this one up.

And, as soon as I figure out the secret how to get it done; don’t worry, I will most certainly share it with you.

mud

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.

mommycamp2

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.

house-cleaning-clip-art-294849

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.

Not.

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.

lego

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.

But.

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers