When you read that sentence, did it make your heart start palpitating and you started breaking out in a cold sweat?
Or did you feel a thrill of excitement and burst of adrenaline for this incredible, all encompassing Jewish holiday that wraps you up in a world of its own; where regular life ceases to exist and family and meals become front and center of your life.
Yeah, that really is possible – or you can at least get closer to the latter reaction.
Pesach is a lot. It really is. There’s so much to do and so much to buy and so much to prepare.
Now, as I’m preparing to make Pesach in my own home for the 14th year, I’d like to share my top Six Sanity Tips for Pesach, in the hope that they offer some help in some way to some Pesach-makers.
#1- It starts at the roots, it’s the foundation. It’s the most important and fundamental rule that will make all the difference in everything I do: I must love pesach.
Yes, love it.
If the feeling isn’t natural, I repeat “I love Pesach” over and over again until it becomes a part of me. I repeat it again and again. And then again. Starting the day after Purim, I think it while I work, while I walk, while I drive and just about any other time of day or night.
And it really happens. Try it and see for yourself; you will convince yourself. You will love Pesach.
Especially considering the fact that it comes back every year, rain or shine, it’s integral to have a healthy relationship with it.
You must love it.
And to make sure you really love it, buy something new for yourself every year or do something special for yourself; it doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be something that gives you a positive association with the workload. (Think a new book, chocolate stash, manicure, purse, shoes, costume jewelry or whatever makes you happy and fits your budget.)
#2: As much as it’s important for me to love Pesach, my kids need to love it too; and really, that’s all dependent on what they hear me saying – which goes back to #1. If I become a ranting and raving chometz guard, we will all hate Pesach together.
Do things that give the kids positive associations with the preparing; be creative with suppers and meals for the days before Pesach – as in, forget the rules and do what works. Can you imagine, nothing says best mother better than allowing cereal and milk for supper!! For three days straight! Double points if it’s Shabbos cereal! It’s just a few nights; everyone will be ok. Their emotional and mental health is top priority over here. Buy some new games or books that are special just for Pesach.
Whatever it is that works, it has to be in line with making the kids love Pesach and not leaving them wishing it went away and so they can get their normal mother back.
#3 I believe that my cleaning help is just as certified and qualified to do the Pesach cleaning as I am.
If you don’t have regular help, hire a company, group, someone, anyone. Your sanity costs a lot more money than the cleaning help; and it is alot harder to fix or replace your sanity if you lose or damage any of it. .
Remember that the mitzvah is to get rid of edible chometz you can see. Food doesn’t fly and crumbs don’t jump. Just clean. And save spring cleaning for a calm day in July.
#4 Pesach is not the time for me to patchke and fuss with new recipes; I save that for during the year when there’s actual ingredients to use, instead of attempting to use (lousy) makeshift replacements and substitutes. The first year I made Pesach I made 5 different types of sweet potato/potato combos. Rolled, layered, scooped – you name it. They all had fancy names and they all tasted the same. All the work for nothing.
Unless fussing with elegant and delicate foods is something that gives you joy and it’s really your thing, just make the food you like and the food your family will eat. No one needs to know what your menu is.
#5 Look for shortcuts. My best shortcut is that I don’t empty a single cabinet or drawer or pantry in my kitchen. I have two self-standing plastic storage cabinets from Costco that are in the garage all year long storing all the pesach stuff and then the cabinets get moved into the house and it continues to house all the pesach stuff. My chometz cabinets get spring cleaned on random days in the year when it’s not Yom Tov season and it’s not spring. True, it’s additional clutter to have two cabinets brought into the kitchen; but pick your poison. Go for the one that will give you less work.
#6 Lists. Paper, Google docs, excel or whatever works. But make those lists and plan ahead.
You can shop around for people’s ideas – but most importantly; make them your own.
There are so many different ways to do it; cooking everything before Pesach, kashering after Purim, kashering the day before or kashering on Erev Yom tov. There’s no wrong way. Find the right way that’s right for YOU. Do things because they work for you, not because they work for your friend or sister or mother or grandmother.
Make Pesach yours. Make it your own.
And I can gaurantee you, you will love Pesach.
You may come to the Seder tired, but there’s a difference between tired and resembling something that the cat dragged in or tired but full of pride and joy and a sense of accomplishment; that you made it without destroying anyone or anything in the process.
And then you can actually be present at the Seder; you will enjoy the time with your family and your food, and actually feel the depth of this holiday celebrating our freedom. You deserve it.
I had it all worked out. My house would be different.
I eyed my new dinette set. I had carefully chosen the color pattern for the chairs; the greys and blues blended so softly. The texture was right, and it was easy to wipe clean too. The table matched so well, all carefully chosen for my new home.
And I vowed that my house would be different; in my house, kids would not color on the chairs. Or tables. Ever.
I’d make sure!
Baby number one arrives. All pens, markers and writing utensils are hidden, stowed in high cabinets. He turns one years old. I smile smugly. See, the chairs are still clean!
No pen is ever left in sight.
Little sister arrives. Then little brother. I’m smiling smugly. My table and chairs are still scribble free!
Little brother. Little brother. The house is filling up. So are the toy bins. And markers and pens are nowhere to be seen.
I’m chatting with one of my friends. Her kids love to draw. And I stop and think. Do my kids love to draw?
Yeah, of course.
Um, I think so.
Well, I don’t really know, because… well because every pen and marker is out of sight!
And suddenly my plans don’t sit so well. My house can be different. At the price of depriving my kids from their creativity.
Or my house can be the same. At the price of my kids experiencing the joys of coloring. And accepting that they will scribble on my table and chairs.
I take down a few markers. The light colored ones. A few papers. I carefully watch as they color and quickly collect the markers after. The table and chairs are still scribble free.
I have a small coloring table. That’s where we color.
But who am I fooling. They need to color. They want to draw. They need more space.
And I can’t get anything done, because I am busy playing policeman to the markers!
And I break my promise.
I buy a 100+ marker set. All sizes and colors. I buy a case of construction paper. I designate a drawer in my kitchen for colored paper, and I refill it constantly. My dinette table is drawing headquarters.
And they draw. And draw. To their hearts’ content.
They draw pictures of me. They draw pictures of my husband. They draw pictures of their siblings. They draw pictures of places we went and people we met. They draw things I can’t identify.
I get a glimpse into their little minds. Into how they view what goes on in our house. How they view me. How they view each other.
They play Hangman and Tic Tac Toe. They make word searches and mazes.
The table is always full of construction paper. The floor is scattered with markers.
And this morning, as my three year old carefully explains to me every detail of his picture that looks to me like a line with two dots, I have no regrets.
And my carefully selected dinette chairs? Well, they have some markings.
And my table? It has seen many scribbles. Some come off, some don’t.
And even the walls have seen a scribble or two. Or three.
My house is not different after all.
But I learned my lesson. Kids can’t thrive if they are not given the opportunity.
“The grout on the kitchen floor, between the tiles; why is it that color?”
I stood there staring at my landlord, baffled.
There are pros to renting a house and not being a homeowner; namely, when something breaks, it actually gets fixed! A downside, though, is when the owner wants to do an annual inspection and see how the house is doing.
I know he’s not coming to judge my housekeeping abilities per se, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that my capabilities are being scrutinized. As many times as I tell myself he wants to make sure we didn’t knock down any walls or paint the kitchen without permission, I still can’t help but feel it’s the dreaded housekeeping police, the type every mom has nightmares about, that walk in unannounced when the house is an absolute war zone.
But I was ready and I was pretty pleased last week when the landlord arrived; the floors were clean and the toys were put away. Even the sinks were empty of dishes!
And the kids – they were all dressed. In matching clothes. No, not matching to each other, that stopped when baby #3 was born. But they were wearing pants and shirts that matched each other, respectively! And some even had socks on. They had all brushed their teeth the night before, their faces were clean. I was proud.
All the more reason why I was standing there speechless when he started asking about the grout.
At first, he gave a quick scan of the living room. All was in its proper place, we hadn’t taken down any walls, or build any new ones either. But it was during his quick look at the kitchen that he stopped to frown.
My first thought was -there are no dishes in the sink! Not a trace of last night’s dinner! Why are you frowning??
And then came the grout question.
You’ve got to be kidding! This house is still in one piece, the place is clean, the beds are made, kids are dressed, and you are worried about the grout?!
But of course, I didn’t say that.
I smiled sweetly and shrugged, “The floor is washed a couple times a week. I guess it’s the sign of life.”
He nodded slightly, not totally convinced.
And I silently counted my blessings. The many blessings that consume my life so that things like tile grout isn’t something that made it to my stress list. To me, that was the sign of a full life.
And later that evening, during bedtime, when I was doing a quick scan of each bedroom before checking off the kids’ charts; to see if clothes were in the hamper and things were put away, I caught sight of some little toy/thingie hiding in the corner of one of the rooms. I caught myself as I was about to point it out to the kids.
I thought of the grout. Of how I felt when all my hard work on maintaining this house, (ok, with the help of my housecleaner!) was unnoticed, and all that was mentioned was the measly kitchen grout that refused to stay its original color.
The kids had cleaned their room. Their clothing was in the hamper. Their things were properly stowed. And one measly toy, cast aside, was forgotten and unnoticed…well I wouldn’t notice it either. I wanted to motivate them; and mentioning the one didn’t-do instead of the many did-dos would not help them want to do it all again tomorrow.
And later that night, when all was quiet, I did a quick google search just to clear my conscience. And guess what. There is no long term solution for keeping grout clean! Unless you get on your hands and knees and scrub it each night. I’d rather keep it the color it is. As a constant reminder that my life is full of more important things.
There are some moments of Mommyhood that I call defining moments.
They are moments when everything you stand for and believe in, moments when everything you put your energies into, are suddenly on the edge.
When all you live for is about to tumble down on your head.
If you’ve had any of these type of heart pulling and nerve wracking moments, you’ll know what I’m reffering to.
Which brings me to adorable little boy #3, my 4.5 year old. He’s a charmer. Big puppy eyes, always happy, always having fun. He’s had a total of 3 tantrums in all his toddler years. He’s the life of the party. Ok, he’s also mischievous, rambunctious and at times a downright troublemaker.
It was because of this charming little boy that I installed a chain lock high up on my front door; he was a runner. In simple English that means, if the door opened, he was down the block. Laughing and squealing, of course. He was the only one of my kids (so far!) that pushed me to strongly consider buying one of those kiddy leashes. Truth be told, even a dog leash. But as I said, a charmer indeed. And he has helped me reach many a defining moment, with the most recent taking place last week.
I came to pick up my little guys from an after school activity. All the kids were having fun. Moms were hanging around talking.
And then it happened.
Right in front of everyone’s eyes.
Sweet little two year old girl was standing minding her own business. And rambunctious 4.5 year old squealed by swinging his lunch bag. And I saw the glint in his eye. It’s a .01 second spark that those in tune with it (like me) can pick up on, but can’t sop in time.
And then he did it.
He. Hit. Little. Girly. On. The. Head. With. His. Lunchbag.
In. Front. Of. All. The. Moms.
I saw it. So did the other moms. I couldn’t defend him. I couldn’t deny it. And I couldn’t disappear, either.
If it was someone else’s kid, sure I’d know how to react. I’d laugh it off to the mom and tell her not to sweat it, kids are kids. I’d swoop up my little girl and sympathize that her head got a bit of a bang. And I’d reassure her that no, lunch bags are not for hitting. The little boy made a wrong choice.
But that wasn’t the side of the coin I was on at the moment. I was on the wrong side.
There I stood, in my defining moment. As a mom, As an adult. As a friend. As a person.
All the pages of the mommy books swam before my eyes, all my life experience as a mommy rushed through my head, and there I stood; little girly screaming, mischievous boy waiting for mommy to react and all the moms very un-casually half watching.
What now? Look the other moms in the eye and smile? Frown and admit failure?
Quite the humbling moment, watching your own kid starting the trouble.
And then I got myself together. It was a defining moment. A moment that defined my love for my adorable and rambunctious 4.5 year old.
A moment that allowed me to take him by the hand and lead him away calmly, but not to be angry at him.
A moment to understand him, love him, admonish him, discipline him and hug him, all at the same time.
Certainly a defining moment of the paradoxical relationships that comes along with the wonders and joys of Mommyhood.