I did it. I ran the marathon. No, not a 5k or 10k. I’d call it the gazillion-k, if not more.
I ran the Pesach marathon.
It starts off with weeks of training, slowly easing into it.
Warm ups. Looking through pastmyself. Checking old menus. Shopping lists.
Training gets a bit more intense; decisions need to be made. 10 holiday meal plans in place. Out of state orders need to be placed for on time delivery.
I’m feeling ready to start. I’ve got on my best running shoes. Ready to switch gears, get out there and run. House cleaning starts. Bedrooms done. Dining room. Living room. And then we are ready.
Let the real marathon begin!
Kitchen here we come. Counters, sink and stove. Refrigerator and freezer. Empty, clean, scrub. My cleaning help is working overtime, and so am I.
And in comes the Pesach stuff. Pots and pans. Cutlery and dishes. Big pots and bigger pots. And still bigger ones. The cooking is ready to begin.
Side dishes and main dishes. One chicken, two…three…twelve…thirteen. We stop counting. Brisket. Potatoes and more potatoes. We’re picking up speed!
Peeling and peeling vegetables. My trusty crew of dedicated volunteer peelers fill the house. Ten, twenty, thirty….sixty pounds of peeled potatoes later, we’re making headway. These guys are quick! The piles are growing. The marathon intensifies. The oven is working harder than ever, no rest for it, no rest for anyone.
The timer beeps, it’s reset, beeps, reset, no end in sight.
Where to store all this food?? The clock is ticking, it’s getting later. I want to go to sleep!
Refrigerators are full. Freezers are full. But the marathon is not over!
Onto the second leg, Seder is coming! Centerpieces. Salmon. Gefilte fish. And the carrots on top. Zroah. Eggs. Lettuce. Marror. Charoses. There’s enough work for everyone!
I’m coming around the bend…I’m panting, but I’m still running! I will make it, I will reach the finish line!
The waitress arrives. She loads her car and shleps the stuff over to Chabad, the place of the community Seder. I print out my in depth 4 page waitress manual and review it with her. Step by step. Help! There’s so many steps!
It will work out. It will all work out! It will all work out!
The kids need their new Pesach clothes. The house is flowing with white shirts. Plenty to go around. Four year old has the size 6, 6 year old has the size 4. Quick switch. Uh oh, 3 year old took his grape juice stained one. No, tonight we wear the clean, sparkling white shirts. Of course they’ll be full of grape juice at night’s end, but that’s irrelevant.
One thing left on the list. Whoops, forgot to plan what I should wear. I do a quick closet search and find just the right thing.
I look at the clock. An hour to Seder. I look at my speedy-quick drying nail polish on my night table. Do I dare?
Yes, I need to do it for myself. I grab the bottle before I can second guess myself, and say a silent prayer that it’s as speedy-quick-instantaneous drying as it promises.
The Seder is coming, we’re going to make it.
Everyone, in the car!
And the Seder is here.
I can see the finish line, there in the distance. I can feel the blisters on my feet. I can feel my aching muscles. But I will finish this marathon!
I scan the tables. Matzah, Seder plate, lettuce and more. Centerpieces. Sweet wine. Dry wine. Grape juice. Cups. It’s all in the right place.
I greet the guests. And the TV crew.
TV crew? Gulp, what are they doing there?
They have strict orders to film until the candles are lit; once the holiday starts, there will be no more filming. I smile, my most relaxed smile.
I sit down. 4 year old reaches for the Grape Juice. He’ll finish the bottle before we even start. I negotiate and work that one out.
The Seder starts. I lead the women in lighting candles. The air is rich with meaning and joy. Every seat is taken. The guests relax and warm up.
The night progresses. The marathon is too full of enjoyment to notice we’re still running.
The crowd is happy. My kids are happy. My husband is running a great Seder. He’s calling up people to put on animal masks. The crowd is roaring with animal noises, as we relive the ten plagues.
I sit in my seat, taking it all in.
The finish line is even closer!
The crowd is alive. Standing on their chairs, singing Dayeinu! I feel the adrenalin rush, the type that hits as you near the end.
For serving dinner, I’m on call. We work our best to get the food out in the quickest, most efficient manner so that it stays hot and gets served quickly.
Mission accomplished. I can barely walk back to my seat, but mission accomplished!
More matzah. More singing. People are shmoozing. I hope some new friendships are formed.
And the night winds down, ending 10:30 precisely, as promised. I share a look with my husband. We made it!
As the crowd leaves with “L’shana Haba’ah B”Yerushalaim” (Next year in Jerusalem!) on their lips, I can feel the energy.
The energy of a nation, of a people so different yet so bound as one. We remember a nation of old, being led out of Egypt. And we relive it as the same nation, a nation with a bond so deep it can’t ever be destructed.
The crowd is so diverse. Some people I’ve never met, and some people I probably won’t see again for a long time. But it’s irrelevant. We are one. We share a past, we share a future, and tonight we shared the present.
The waitress is still working. I make a mental note to get her a nice gift after the holiday.
I gather the kids. The sweet little kids with grape juice stained clothing. They are happy, they enjoyed themselves. It’s written all over their shirts.
And we start the walk home. The 11PM – 1 mile walk home.
We start the trip, and suddenly I’m unsure if the finish line is behind us, or in front of us. Or maybe we are standing on it. Or maybe there isn’t one at all!
No, there is no finish line. This is the best marathon of all. The one that keeps on going.
Sure, some stretches are more intense than others. Certainly this time of year is one of the quicker paced-full on parts of it.
But thankfully, it’s not over.
Tomorrow night is another seder, but that one is hosted at our home, and with a much smaller crowd. Nothing major, compared to tonight.
I get home and collapse on the couch. Every muscle, nerve and tendon that I never knew existed is calling to me all at the same time.
Adrenalin is over. I need sleep. I’m empty of energy. But I’m full of warmth. Full of joy. Full of life.
Our house is full. Lots of family joining us for Pesach. Every last blanket, pillow, mattress and floor space that I own is being used. My heart is full.
It’s way past midnight, and the kids are having a ball. My 6 year old is still wearing his crocodile hat.
Eventually they’ll go to sleep. Probably after me. My husbands flat out on the playroom floor. Fast asleep.
We’ve given it our all. And before drifting off into a fitful sleep. I have thoughts of next year.
We’ll do it again. Of course we will. There’s no greater or more satisfying exhaustion than the Seder marathon.
And I know that all of us; each and every participant at the Seder tonight, and at all Seders across the world; we are all winners.
We are all in First Place.
P.S. After Pesach, we were able to watch the TV clip of the pre-Seder festivities. And when the camera zoomed in close on my speedy-quick-drying polished nails lighting the candles, I couldn’t help but smile to myself, I certainly had made the right choice! :)
Click here to see the beautiful clip from KCRA, highlighting the Jewish power, faith and unity after tragedy.
I watched the torches.
8 torches, with shining, radiant flames, parading down the street.
Parading through the streets of small town, America. The streets of a city with strong values. Secular values. Ethical values. Moral values. But not known for Jewish values.
But there they were. The torches raised up high. Held by the future of the Jewish people. The Jewish children.
They marched proudly, leading the procession. Followed by a truck, emblazoned with signs marking the Torah Dedication Ceremony. With live music, blaring Jewish melodies.
And there, flocked by the Jewish community, the Torah was proudly paraded through the city streets.
Under a majestic canopy.
Crowned with a magnificent silver headpiece.
Wrapped in a coat befitting royalty.
There, surrounded by joy and pride, was the Torah.
The Torah, the gift Hashem gave to the Jewish people. The very same Torah received at Mount Sinai, rewritten once again, for our community.
The joy was palpable. Cars slowed to watch the procession. History was being made, and you could feel it.
The crowd was so diverse; people of so many different beliefs, and some with no belief at all, yet here we were one.
One people. One Community. One Torah.
And the torches burned proudly. Am Yisroel Chai!
How did it happen? How did we get to this day?
I was struck by that thought that almost every person in the crowd has an ancestor; one, two or three generations back, who was ready to sacrifice their life for the very same Torah. For mitzvos. For a relationship with Hashem.
They valued it and lived for it, and that’s why we still exist.
This is truly the hand of Hashem. A hand that cares for each and every one of us, a hand that holds us strong, even when we feel alone.
A hand that directed me and my family to Folsom, California, and who directs each member of this wonderful community.
And I watched my children, beaming with pride.
My 9 year old. He was a strong supporter of the Torah campaign. He had watched the numbers on the website banner go up with each donation, getting closer to our project goal.
At one point, he noticed we were $44 away from the next $100 mark. He was hooked. He was adamant. He wanted to participate.
He was so proud. He was so attached to the Torah. And despite his dreams of mega lego sets and other things important to a 9 year old, he begged to take $44 from his bank account and contribute. And he did. So proudly! And as the youngest donor, he was honored with dressing the Torah in its royal garb.
The joy on his face. His love for Torah was ablaze. His heart shined like one of the torches.
We were all torches yesterday, lighting up each step of the parade route with the love for Torah. Lighting up each step with a pride for our identity. For a pride deeper than anything else that exists. A pride from our core. Our very DNA.
Am Yisroel Chai!
And we danced in the parking lot. The women danced together. The men danced together. We danced for ourselves. We danced for the Torah. We danced for the joy of the moment.
But most of all, we danced for the future.
And I silently prayed that each person there would pack up some of the joy and pride in a box, take it home and keep it. Not as a relic of the past, but as an energy for the future.
I knew I had to call the freezer repair guy.
I knew it for 6 months. When I plugged in the freezer back in November and it made this monstrous, horrific buzzing sound, I knew something was wrong.
But I did what comes to mind when you discover an appliance is broken – I plugged it in again.
So I did the next knee jerk reaction; I started Googling “buzzing sound when I turn on my freezer.”
What do you know, apparently I wasn’t alone with this! People from all walks of life had similar issues; I narrowed it down to the fan. Certainly the fan.
Now what? Call the repair guy.
But it’s my spare freezer. I didn’t need it working in November anyway, so I made due with the other two freezers I have.
And I pushed it off.
Checked in on it in February, plugged it in, hoping it had fixed itself. No, it hadn’t.
I pushed it off again.
Until finally, I needed the freezer and needed a repair guy now.
With Pesach quickly approaching, and 3 cases of chicken and dozens of milk being delivered next week; this was serious.
I tracked down a decent company, made an appointment and for only $79, I would know what was wrong. No, that wouldn’t fix it. This was just the initial visit.
And the guy came.
Plugged in the freezer. Monstrous noise. I smiled a little, as if to say, see, I was right, it IS broken.
He looked around.
Plugged it in again. Unplugged it.
Looked at the bottom ledge, where the light is. And apparently a small black switch sits there too. And he flipped the switch.
And the noise was gone.
That was it.
$79 to flip the switch.
Apparently this smart freezer has a temperature alarm that sounds if the degrees goes down to low. The alarm had been turned to the on position. So when the freezer was plugged in, this smart freezer sounded the alarm to let me know that the temperature was too low. You can’t get a smarter freezer than that!
I tried to negotiate, “C’mon, this was your easiest call today. Do I get a discount?” Nope, no discount.
I paid. He kinda felt bad, I felt rather stupid and my freezer, well, it felt great! It hummed to life.
At least that’s all it was. You didn’t want it to be broken! Better than having to buy a new one. At least it was so simple to fix.
And those were all true! But I still didn’t like the idea of spending close to 100 bucks on something I could have done myself!
Moms sure have lots in common with these appliance repair guys.
We also carry around a multi purpose bag of tools and tricks. Only repair guys get more time to assess the damage before pulling out the right tools. Moms don’t always have the luxury; we have to reach inside our bag and grab one quick!
Sometimes we look for big solutions, and there’s really a simple answer right in front of our eyes.
At times I explore new, complicated ideas; yet it’s the simple ones that work best.
Like what happened two weeks ago.
It was one of those days. My son was having trouble sitting at his computer during class. As I’ve mentioned, the unique schooling my children attend is online; class, teacher, friends and all, with a webcam and mic. This comes along with unique benefits (I can send the kids to class in PJ’s if they’re late) and disadvantages (having to make sure they sit in their seat!)
And this was being a tough day. He was bouncing. He was bothering his siblings. He was sharpening pencils all over the place. He was doing everything other than sitting in class.
I took a deep breath. Reached deep into my “tool bag” of tricks. And started to formulate some chart I would put together and some system I’d establish to get his behavior back under control. Started to launch into how many warnings he would get and what consequences he would deserve. I was ready to be patient. And firm. And get him to sit in his seat and do what he was supposed to do.
And then, for a fleeting moment, I thought out of the box. Like a light bulb went on.
Ditch the systems and charts. Forget the lists of broken rules.
And he did. Eager for a reason to leave class, of course.
We went outside. “Alright, I’m setting my timer. Let’s see if you can make it to the corner and back in 20 seconds.”
And off he went. No questions. No negotiating. No complaints. He ran and ran. And then tried to beat his time. And beat it a third time. And we got it to 15 seconds.
And he was out of breath. Cheeks flushed. The type of flush that is full of life and exuberance, excited and challenged. And the type when a kid looks pleased with himself.
And we went back inside. Him to class, me to continue what I was doing. That was it. It worked.
He didn’t need any complex behavior chart. He just needed help switching gears.
I just needed to flip the switch. He had the wrong one on, and thankfully, at that moment, I was able to realize that.
But I can’t say I always do.
So many times I harp on the same things. trying the same route again and again, thinking it’ll change things, when it doesn’t.
Sometimes I look for complex and time consuming solutions, and that’s not it either.
Like with my freezer. If I would’ve just looked at it, instead of all around it, about it, and Googling it, I could have saved myself a couple dollars.
Same with my kids. I need to make sure to stop and do that more often.
To stop looking around at what they are doing, saying, going, playing, destroying, bothering, wrecking; and instead look at them.
Because more often than not, I know that’s where I can find the solution.
It’s my favorite time of year. The time when all list makers shine. It’s list lover’s paradise.
It’s the few weeks before Pesach.
Little Yellow Notepads fly off the shelves like hotcakes.
It’s before the work starts. The time when all you can do is make lists. And a lot of them. One for every room. One for every day. One for every child. One for every meal. The possibilities are endless! And I bask in the glory of making precise and comprehensive lists… before reality hits and I’m reminded that I’m the one who needs to complete the myriads of tasks that I came up with.
But I’m not thinking about that yet.
Let’s talk lists. The aim of the game is divide and conquer. Divide-into lists. And conquer-get it done one list at a time.
I start with the fun ones. I make a column for each of my kids on a fresh sheet of my newest Little Yellow Notepad, that thankfully Sam’s Club sells in bulk.
First I scan the closets; I finally give the stuff a close look; white shirts with unidentifiable marks and spots are condemned; into the trash. When my son insists it’s a “perfectly good shirt that he loves to wear!” I nod pretending to understand and casually tuck it under my arm to escort it to the land of no return. Likewise for pants with knee holes. It’s high time someone invented steel kneed pants for boys! Next I record what they need; 2 pants, 3 short sleeved shirt for boy 1, 2 shirts and undershirts for boy 2, boys 3&4 insist on wearing each other’s clothes so I have no idea what they need. And girl- well truthfully, she needs nothing, but shopping sure isn’t fun without some pink or lace or frills stuck in; a new Pesach dress it is. And the baby, I mark down what he needs too. Eventually hand-me-downs get worn out! Yarmulkas, tzitzis, socks and shoes.
List one is done!
Next I look through my print out of all my recorded notes from last year. Menus! I scan last year’s stuff and draft up proposed menus for 10 holiday meals.
Next page, we are onto quantity. List of total of each type of food I will make. I count the total tentative guests, sleepover and for meals, and do some quick math. 14 pesach brownies. 8 potato kugels. You get the idea.
I’m on a roll!
My adrenalin is running, I’m in master list mode. Time to start the lists of all shopping lists. It takes only 12 stores to get all I need! Cleaning supplies, kitchen supplies, meat, fruits, vegetables and more. An hour later, I have 12 lists made!
Volunteer list; what will I need help when preparing the community Seder for 80 people. I come up with the tasks and how many helpers I will need.
And the fun is just starting. Time for the cleaning task list.
I divide the house into groups of what needs to be done. Nothing is insurmountable. All broken down to small tasks
I can do this!
I figure out what my house cleaner can do. No, we won’t be cleaning every shelf and drawer or the ceiling; no distraction by spring cleaning. Only pesach cleaning. That means cleaning all the areas we use, feel and touch.
And the lists continue. Peeling list. How much of every fruit and veggie needs to be peeled, cut, sliced or shredded.
Guest list. Email list and phone call list.
Revise the lists. Consolidate lists.
And then my favorite. Plugging it all into the calendar. A paper calendar; for some reason my phone one isn’t as productive. Probably because its so simple to switch it off and pretend there’s nothing to be done, unlike the Little Yellow Notepad that glares when it’s ignored.
All is in place. My lists are ready.
All is divided by day. It’s all small tasks, just on some days more of them than on others. But most importantly, when I get stressed out or overwhelmed, it’s very specific. I only stress about that day’s stuff. No worrying ahead of time, I have specific days to worry about specific stuff.
But even more importantly is that I won’t get distracted. Because the truth is, when we get distracted, that’s when the stress comes in. No experimenting with recipes that aren’t on my list. That’s for a calm day in July. No cleaning boxes of keepsakes and spending hours lost in memory lane, that’s for a different day in July.
I’m exhilarated. I’ve done my dividing and when my list tells me it’s time, I’ll start to conquer!
And it really works. For anything in life. Most things are overwhelming when we have no plan. A plan is the difference of getting to the goal intact or, well, not intact. I’m a big believer of the old saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” It proves true every time.
So whenever my list says GO! I will start my tasks, with a firm and positive goal. A goal to enjoy Pesach, and the route I take getting there.
It’s so predictable. It’s always during bath time. Always during supper time. Always during cranky hours. Always when everyone is home and needs attention. And needs to be served. And needs to be cleaned up.
And low and behold, in the midst of the happy hours of evening routine, when parents are running in ten directions trying to keep the house standing, is the dreaded H word – homework.
I don’t know who invented it, but it certainly was not a mom. It doesn’t line up with a typical family lifestyle.
At most, it’s good for a home with spare parents hanging around.
But since I don’t have that, it just simply doesn’t work. And despite the unique schooling my kids have, a combination of homeschooling and online schooling, the hours of 4-8 pm are the same in all homes. It’s kind of like the common thread that unites us. Unites moms across the world.
It’s another H word – Havoc.
Ok, when I was a young teacher, I have a vague memory of viewing homework differently.
I have a bit of forgiveness to ask from some moms of my young first graders, to whom I so patiently explained all the important life-altering benefits of homework. Why it was crucial to a child’s success.
I have since discovered more crucial components of a child’s success. Like shower, pajamas and bedtime. On time. Without homework being done.
Or a calm mom. One that’s not trying to do 2nd grade math, 3rd grade creating writing, 5th grade project of some sort, changing a pamper and washing dishes, all at the same time.
Or just hanging out and playing with their siblings, jumping on the trampoline or digging up the backyard. Playing. Playing in a stress free house, because there’s no stressed out mom stressing about homework. Yes, playing is a crucial component to a child’s success too.
It’s time for the Homework Revolution. Moms fight back.
Review is important. I know the drill; kids need to review what they study. I’m OK with that idea. It makes sense.
When parents decide to send their kids to school, usually it’s because they want to outsource the academics. And just as we moms don’t send our kids to school with a change of clothes and expect the teachers to shower them, or with dry ingredients and expect them to prepare dinner and send it home with our kids, well then, teachers shouldn’t send school work that needs to be completed at home. Fair is fair, agree?
So I’d like to initiate a new idea; the last class of each school day will be called homework, and every student can review their work and make projects in peace. Without oil stains and drink spills on each page.
All in favor say “aye”!
The laundry. I need to switch the stuff from the washing machine and put it in the dryer. It should only take a minute.
I walk towards the laundry room. I pass the bathroom. I see the hand towel on the floor. Ugh, I need to get a new towel in there.
I detour to the towel cabinet and grab a clean towel. I pass through the playroom. What’s that on the floor? With the baby crawling around, I’m constantly doing a quick scan wherever I go. I grab the unidentified object and stop in my son’s room and put it on his desk; I believe it’s his. I see his hamper overflowing.
Oh right, I was on the way to switch the laundry; perfect, I’ll take this with me.
I grab the basket and notice the towel on my shoulder. The bathroom-let me get this towel there. I stop at the bathroom and leave the laundry basket at the door. Put up the new towel. I see there’s not much toilet paper left. Let me run to the garage and restock the toilet paper.
I hop into the garage and notice two bags of groceries left out there, grab them and bring them to the kitchen and put the perishables in the refrigerator. What’s that bowl of I-don’t-know-what color stuff in there? It’s certainly overstayed its invite, time to dump.
I hear a voice from somewhere in the kitchen, “Get me down! I’m stuck!”
How did he get up there?
In this house full of boys, I usually enforce the rule of if you climbed up there, you figure out how to get down from there. But this once I break my rule and help him down, I think even he can’t figure out how he got up there!
Right, the toilet paper. I stack toilet paper in the toilet paper stacker thing and head in the direction of the laundry room, not remembering what I want to do there but knowing that that’s where I was heading.
I pass the hallway closet, and stop. I stand very still. Sure enough, I hear muffled voices. Before opening the door, I already know what’s going on in there.
“Guys, give me my phone.”
I know I’m breaking up quite the party with my 4 and 3 yr old sitting huddled deep in the closet, posting on Facebook and Whatsapp things that don’t belong there. I reclaim my phone, one of the few things in the house I call MINE.
It needs to be charged so I dash to the kitchen and plug it in, where it had been before it was swiped. I leave it in a corner of the counter, strategically hiding it behind the roll of paper towels.
And I notice the baby monitor; it’s making strange noises. I can’t help but smile and scowl at the same time; my kids are obsessed with putting it on the “popcorn channel” as they call it. Y’know that horrible sound you get when the two channels aren’t lined up? Well, they insist it’s the baby making popcorn in his crib. I switch it to channel B and sure enough, baby is up from his nap. I sneak into my room to go get him without my entourage.
I change him, give him lunch, clean him up, settle him to play. Uh oh dinner, the rest of the kids will be home soon. Where did the day go? I better keep my golden supper schedule…not that it guarantees they’ll eat it, but at least I have what to defend myself with. “You guys helped me make this meal plan, remember!?”
Kids are all home. It’s the time of day I feel like I’m on the conveyor belt at the grocery store, it just keeps moving and I can’t keep up! Plates, forks, napkins, spills. Clean up and mores spills. Someone pushed someone’s something somewhere, I’m not quite sure of the details but it wasn’t me!
Crash..ice cubes dance across the kitchen floor, what is with those ice machine on the front of the freezer door!! I wonder if somewhere there’s a little sticker that says ages 12+, maybe I missed it.
And then it happened. It was time to get in pajamas. First one little voice, then two, then three. “Mommy, I don’t have any pajamas in my drawer!”
And it hits me. The washing machine. The dryer.
And I stride purposefully to the laundry room to switch the wet load to the dryer. I pass my son’s laundry basket waiting so patiently outside the bathroom and take it with me.
You know us moms; we’re wonderwoman. We just know how to get things done. And we still think that it’ll only take a minute.