Life in General

Thank You Hashem!

Today is a big day for me. I pulled out my Little Yellow Notepad to make a list.

My little yellow notepad that is my right hand man, my guide to my day, my trusty counterpart – has never been neglected for this long.

Filled with joy, for the first time in over a month, I made a list.

I didn’t plan to neglect my notepad for so long; I was just going to the hospital on Chol Hamoed Pesach to give birth and planned to be home a day or so later and get back to list writing soon after. 

Well, let’s just say that things didn’t go as planned.

It’s just five weeks ago that I opened my eyes and was coherent for the first time in 5 days. Trying to make sense out of where I was. A hospital room?! Tubes, wires and machines all around me, screens and blinking lights, purple and blue streaks and marks decorating my arms and legs .

They’re asking me questions. I can’t figure out what’s going on. 

They show me a picture of a baby girl.

“Do you know who this is?” They ask me.

“No,” I reply.

“It’s Mushka, your new baby.”

“No it’s not,” I answer in confusion. “I didn’t have a baby, I wasn’t event pregnant.” In my foggy mind, I can’t figure out why they think I had a baby. 

“Where am I anyway,” I ask, starting to whimper. “I’m just so confused, please tell me what happened.”

Calmly they show me a picture of the Rebbe, taped to my bed rail. 

“Do you know who this is?”

I do a double take.

“The Rebbe,” I whisper through tears.

Yes it is, they say. 

I’m surrounded by nurses. In a hospital room. My mind snaps to focus. There’s no way they could have that picture here unless I brought it.

This is real. But my mind is foggy.

My husband walks into the room.

I smile and say hi. He nearly faints from shock. I can’t figure out why he’s so surprised.

Slowly and gently my husband tries to fill me in on what’s been going on.

“You missed 5 days,” my husband tells me.

“5 days?” 

“Yes,” he tells me. “Pesach is over. You’ve been out of it for five days.”

I look at him confused. “When did Pesach start?”

My mind is blank. My memory is a fog.

And why am I in the hospital anyway? 

He tells me of the five days of complete fear and terror that he went through. The multiple operations and transfusions, tests and scans that I had been through. The life saving doctors who Hashem gave the power to to perform miracles.

I’m not comprehending. Because I’m not the type of person to have such a story!

“The whole world is davening for you,” he tells me softly.

“What? For me??” 

I’m still on a big list of medications, my mind isn’t totally clear and comprehending.

And this is too big to understand.

The whole world is saying tehillim for little me? 

I can’t grasp it. Slowly he’s telling me the acts of kindness people have done for our family. The gifts pouring in for our kids, the dinners being delivered, our community rallying in support; praying, offering to do carpool, taking the kids to the park, coming over just to play board games with the kids.

My husband leaves to go pickup my newborn and bring her to me. My precious baby girl that I’m not remembering giving birth to.

I am too weak to hold her. I don’t remember giving birth, but my mind is clear enough to know she is mine. I don’t remember coming to the hospital. I can’t sit up, I can’t even turn my body. I don’t recognize my fingers, they have no grasp and they are three times the size.

They offer me some grapes; I am thrilled to have some food. I reach to take one, and discover it’s a far harder task than I ever thought. After many futile attempts, I agree to accept help and have a grape put into my mouth for me. Oh the cold and sweet juicy taste!! After being intubated and extubated multiple times over the five days, even though I had no memory of it – apparently my body did, and it craved the cold, the juice, the sweetness. The most delicious grapes I ever tasted.

And all I want is an ice cold drink.

And I can’t stop drinking; apple juice with loads of ice feels like a heavenly beverage-about 10 cartons in a row.

The day passes in a blur, I’m trying to piece together my story. 

And it’s too big for me to grasp.

The next day the memory just pops into my head; coming to the hospital, giving birth! I am overjoyed, I remember it!!

But Pesach…the memories are coming back slowly. I vaguely remember the first Seder, a bit of the second. Slowly I go through my pictures on my phone – which feels like the weight of a brick-  of two week before, before I went to the hospital to give birth- and my memories slowly come alive; pesach prepping, Seder set up, Chol Hamoed trip. I’m remembering.

My big goal of the day is to get out of bed.

That’s a project that involves a PT and some help from my angels called the nurses and a walker. They cheer me on. One step, I’m a hero! I’m a star here in the Trauma ICU!

Do I laugh or cry?! I am so grateful.

They start talking about me going to rehab. “But I’m not the type of person who goes to rehab!” I want to shout. “That’s for other people and older people, definitely not me!  I’m not the type of person who needs a walker to walk 3 steps and gets a standing ovation!”

I’m the type of person who marathons through making my kids snacks and lunches and getting everyone ready for school, drives a 15 passenger, orders Instacart and stops for Target pickup and then Walmart pickup and then some Amazon orders all before 10am, moving onto lists and event planning. 

As one nurse put it – no one wakes up in the morning and decides; today is a good day to go to rehab! Life takes us to unexpected places. And it’s up to us how we go about it.

My kids come to visit in the afternoon; it’s a wonderful moment that I hold onto and cherish every part of it.

Just five days later, I’m discharged and on the way to rehab, a place that was never on my bucket list.

I always thought I knew about juggling; I was tuned into my glass and rubber balls and constantly re-evaluating my priorities and making sure my family comes first and not to get caught up in the small stuff.

And there, in my week in rehab, I am juggling just one glass ball. Myself. And even that is a lot.

I can feel the embrace of all those words of Tehillim being said for me; it’s holding me together.

I spend a lot of time with my husband; there’s so much we need to talk about, so much I need to know. And my precious baby girl. 

Baby. Girl. Pink!! 

One week shy of my older daughter’s 16th birthday, she finally has a sister!! My 9 boys are great, I love them dearly! And now a baby girl. 

The days in rehab are exhausting from OT and PT, which includes things that I could’ve done in five seconds just a few weeks before.

And I focus on my one juggling ball- made out of the most exquisite and delicate glass; not the Dollar Tree cheap and thick type.

Myself. 

I’m going to let my body guide me; there’s so much healing it needs to do, it’s been through a war.

I only have one glass ball. Myself.

My husband brings me a big bag of cards. Cards from so many people, some who I know well, some from people I’ve met once or twice and even some from people who I’ve never met before. Each filled with them telling me how much they are praying. My phone is full of hundreds of messages, texts and emails of support; short messages letting me know of prayers and thoughts and love sent my way. Each card and each message touches me so deeply; the love, the care and the prayers surround me. I know I will get through this.

Just one week after rehab, 18 days after innocently leaving to the hospital to give birth, I am finally home. I have so much to process, and that will take time. I’m not stuck in Pesach anymore. I’m walking, I’m feeling like myself, and I’m letting my body heal.

My bed feels like I’m sleeping on a cloud, my couches feel like a piece of heaven. I want to just hug the walls, the ceilings, the floors. I never want to forget these  moments; where mess and toys don’t matter and just relishing in being home.

I sit on the couch and my kids come and go, busy with their stuff and stopping to show me things, sitting near me a few minutes and running off to something else. Fighting, playing, arguing, laughing – all the regular things.

And my role as a mother? It’s not the cooking or cleaning or laundry or constant moving around and doing doing doing. 

It’s being. I’m just sitting. And I’m giving my kids what no one else can fill in for; I’m being. 

It’s the most I can do and it’s what they need most. Always. And so easy to forget because we are so busy doing.

Each day I feel better and better Boruch Hashem; while I’m impatient to be back to my normal strength and be completely healed, back to my marathon days and regular complaints of running late and sticky messes-I know I need to be patient. I’ll get there, but it takes time. Hashem held me tight and brought me here, and will continue holding me the whole way through.

And as I take out my treasured yellow notepad and make a list of appointments I need to make, things I need to order for my kids, food we need for the house and open up InstaCart, I am flooded with gratefulness.

My phone is light again, I can think comprehensively, I can walk, move and get out of bed with ease – I am overwhemed with gratefulness.

And to write again!

So what does one do when one witnesses miracles? What does one do when they become a miracle? I don’t have the answers.

But I know that it’s not my miracle alone. It’s the tehillim and prayers from across the world and back that made my miracle happen. To all of you who prayed for me and brought me to where I am, I humbly say thank you. I hold you all close. You are carrying this with me.

Life in General

Mommying + Davening; The Struggle is Real!

The coast is clear.

It’s time to make my move.

Baby is napping.

3 and 5 year old are playing together.

Everyone else is at shul with my husband.

I grab my Siddur and move as quietly as possible to a standing position, ready to take on Shemoneh Esrei; I’ve got this.

Of the many adjustments to motherhood over the years, shortening my davening, interrupting it and sometimes missing it altogether has been something that took time to get used to and at times still makes me feel uncomfortable.

Although I know that as a mother, I can interrupt my davening if necessary, I still try to avoid it when realistically possible. Shemoneh Esrei is the trickiest – and this was my lucky moment.

Standing facing mizrach, taking three steps backward and forward, I started my rather quick prayer.

And that’s when I heard it. Two little voices. They were playing nicely. Oh so sweetly.

“Now do my beard.”

“Ok, now you make me a beard.”

“And a mustache.”

Continue reading “Mommying + Davening; The Struggle is Real!”
Behavior & Discipline, chanukah, kids, candles, menorah, Life in General, Motherhood

If the candles could speak…


If the candles could speak…

The warm glow of the Menorah. Watch the flames flicker and whisper-

“We do not play with fire! Put out the candle now!”

Watch them whisper the story of Chanukah. Feel the warmth –

“The next person to touch a candle isn’t getting any chocolate coins this Chanukah! This is not safe!”

Feel the warmth, look deep into the flames.
Flames that symbolize –

“Ok, no donuts! Till your bar mitzvah! That’s how fires start, don’t do that!”

Flames that symbolize our freedom. Our endurance. The power of the –

“Do not touch the menorah! It can fall!”

The power of our nation. The power of –

“That is dangerous!! Put out that match!”

The power of perseverance. The power of our –

“No running near the menorahs! That’s dangerous!”

The power of our people. So many lessons-

“Don’t touch the menorahs! No, you can not melt that spoon!”

So many powerful lessons from –

“That’s not safe! Do not light a candle from both ends!!”

…so many powerful lessons from Chanukah.

But sometimes I’m glad that my candles can’t talk…

What would your candles say?

Behavior & Discipline, Life in General, Motherhood

Can you get an F in Parenting?

Last week Thursday I got an F in parenting.

Completely and royally failed.

At least that’s how I interpreted the text message I received.

“Your boys are being extremely disrespectful; we need to talk about this.”

Oh.

Another adult was telling me that my boys were disrespectful. I got an F. I failed dismally.

My energetic and sometimes rowdy 8, 10 and 12 year old were being supervised and tested by their teacher who oversees our homeschool program and apparently it wasn’t going well.

They were outdoors in 90 degree weather, at 3pm, doing testing on laptops and as 3 brothers they feed off each other when it comes to all things; good behavior or otherwise.

And here it seemed to be the otherwise.

Is she blaming me?

So what does a mom do when another mom tells her that her kids are being extremely disrespectful and not cooperating?

Like is she really trying to say, you bad mother, you taught your kids to be rude to adults!

Does anyone think that mothers actually want their kids to act that way?

Do I apologize? Apologize for what?

One thing was certain, this adult was extremely frustrated, and as the mom, well I guess it was my fault.

Hence the F.

But here’s what I’ve discovered.

Parenting is not a gumball machine.

Gumball machines are straightforward; put in a coin, get a gumball. Every time. You put in what’s expected and you get what you expect.

I’d say parenting is more like the claw machine.

Y’know, the machine at every arcade place that taunts you and you convince yourself that you are going to beat it. And as it eats up coin after coin, you carefully and steadily maneuver that claw arm, never losing track of it, hyper focused on its every move and slowly lower it, so carefully and delicately aimed at just the item you want. You’re sweating from the intense labor and watch it slowly reaching your desired prize; it slowly grasps a corner, lifts it a fraction of an inch as you watch not breathing, and then drops it, delivering you nothing.

That’s parenting.

You sweat, you toil, you make intentional decisions and mindful choices; you give all you have, you give all that you know how to give … and most likely what you get in return is not what you envisioned.

But different than the claw machine, where you walk away with nothing; in parenting you don’t walk away empty handed.

You always get something beautiful and priceless, if you stop trying to limit the options. 

So my kids were disrespectful. So much so that the adult came complaining, which in my perception was blaming, and vented her frustration to me.

So do I say I’m sorry I’ve raised such rude children?

Do I say I’m sorry I told my kids to be disrespectful?

I chose something more neutral; I’m sorry you had to deal with that. I will speak to them about it.

Am I proud of them?

At that moment, I sure wasn’t.

Should I punish them? Consequences? Retribution? How dare my children behave like that to another adult!

So do I get an F? Is it that easy to fail?

Parenting isn’t a gumball machine but really it’s a lot better than a claw machine.

It’s the ultimate test of self; of patience to allow our children to grow and mature at their pace, through their stages and phases and ups and downs. Of being a guiding light and good example of what’s right and wrong. Of catching them when they fall but not shunning them when they fail. Of allowing each child to grow into their best self, not your version of best. Of loving each child even when another adult is annoyed.

So my fellow Annoyed Adult, I’m annoyed too. And to be honest, I’m sure it’ll happen again. And I’ll watch them grow into their own little people. But my kids are not gumballs and my kids are not my report card. There’s no such thing as an F in parenting.

Parenting is not about helping your kids be the best version of your dreams. It’s about helping them become the best version of themselves. And the path is a bumpy one.

The only F is if you expect it to work like a gumball machine.

Life in General

The things you can accomplish for just $3…

“But you said you’d give it back on the last day of camp!”

“Never said such a thing!” Responds the head counselor, totally disregarding the camper’s wide, innocent eyes as he watches an adult not keep his word.

“I never give things back when I take them away, sorry!” And the head counselor moves on to his many other things he has to do.

Sure, it was only a $3 keychain; nothing of much value. That is, nothing of much value to the head counselor.

But that’s 3 whole dollars to this child, plus his integrity, being tossed in the trash.

It happened the first week of camp; the spunky 10 year old had his $3 keychain with him; the head counselor approached and asked for it and he gave it; that’s when he was informed that it was being taken away.

And that’s also when the camper remembers being told that he would get it back on the last day of camp, and the head counselor doesn’t remember anything of the sort. Truthfully, why would he; considering the millions of things he’s dealt with between the first week and the last.

The child comes home from camp; he’s had an amazing experience filled with trips, activities, swimming, games sports and more. But what’s the first thing that he says?

“He took my keychain and wouldn’t give it back! Even though he said he would! And it was $3!!”

A broken promise from an adult.

After much deliberation, the child’s father reaches out to the (young) head counselor and tries to bring him into the bigger picture; the harm in adults failing kids and breaking their trust, and asks the head counselor to replace the keychain. It’s not about the $3, it’s about the lifelong lesson of adults keeping their word when they make promises to children. The father says he will send him the $3; please show him you take him seriously. He is convinced you told him he’d get it back.

“Sure,” agrees the head counselor, understanding that it’s about more than the $3. He doesn’t have the keychain, of course, but it’s easily available to replace.

“He’s going to send you the keychain,” the father tells his son; the look of his eyes lighting up, of his integrity and trust being restored, is hard to miss.

A week passes, followed by the father receiving a message from the HC: “I changed my mind, I’m not sending it. I don’t give back things that I take away from campers.”

Huh? What?

All conversation cease to exist; he has made up his mind and does not respond to any follow up conversation.

And this trusting 10 year old is trusting no more.

“I don’t give back things that I take away!”

How is that a thing?

Who is right? Did he say it or didn’t he? Is the 10 year-old remembering correctly or is the head counselor? At this point, it’s not relevant, because there’s something bigger going on.

There’s a great saying I came across – Mean what you say, say what you mean; but don’t be mean.

A kid is using something inappropriately or at the wrong time? By all means, take it away. 

But the purpose of taking away should be for the purpose of the respect and discipline needed at the time; not for the gratification of showing a child that you and your stuff is worthless, so I will toss it. Too bad.

$3.00. An insignificant amount to an adult.

$3.00. Sometimes it’s that cheap and easy to teach trust and respect; the principle of keeping your word. $3.00 to show I respect you as a human.

And $3.00 to destroy it too.

Don’t forget the big picture.