Life in General

Good Advice…or is it?

“Wow, I’m the best mother ever! I’ve really got it all figured out!”

Said no mother, ever.

That’s just how it works; part of the gift of motherhood is the gift of doubt, guilt and second guessing.

And that’s where good advice comes in. The remedy for all this is good advice.

But not all advice is good, even if it has good intentions.

My personal two least favorite and least productive pieces of advice are these goodies;

“The days are long, but the years are short; before you blink they’ll be grown up, hold onto these times!”

“Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems!”

I don’t know if they’re meant as cliches or advice, but I do know what they actually are; when delivered, it’s just another form of the big bad G – GUILT – albeit with fancy wrapping paper.

Continue reading “Good Advice…or is it?”
Life in General

Six Sanity Tips for Pesach

The countdown is on, Pesach is coming.

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.

Motherhood

Moms, have you ever heard of D-MER?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of D-MER.

Raise your hand a little higher.

Hmm, there’s not that many of you.

Chances are everyone reading this has either experienced it or knows someone who did; the problem is, most people don’t know that it actually has a name.

It’s a common breastfeeding related condition that gets little attention and is not well known – and must be publicized. Because if you’ve experienced this, putting a name to the description will make you feel normal again.

I am grateful I’ve been able to nurse all my babies. When my eighth was born 4 years ago, I was relieved that once again nursing was no problem; except for one minor detail change.

Every time I’d start nursing, I’d suddenly be hit by the most overwhelming feeling of sadness. As if something terrible had just happened.

At first I was so confused.

What did I just see? What did I just hear that I feel this way?

And then was the strangest part. After no more than 30 seconds at most, the feeling was gone and I felt great again. Gone without a trace. To the extent that at first I thought I was imagining it.

But then I noticed the pattern. All was well, I was going about my day in a good mood. I’d sit down to nurse and suddenly be hit by this emotional wave. I’d count to 20 or 30 at most and it would be gone, leaving not a trace behind. It was fascinating and bizarre all at the same time. I started asking around, my sisters and my network of friends. No one could understand what I was describing.

I started doubting myself that this was actually true. Maybe I was making it up! But then I’d nurse again and experience it all over again.

My baby got older and slowly these incidents stopped and I forgot about it.

Until my 9th was born, 2 and a half years ago. I recognized it as soon as it happened. Everything was fine, I was feeling good and my baby nursed well. But I’d sit down to nurse and bam, there came that emotional overload. I’d focus on my counting, knowing it would dissipate before I got to 30, and it was gone.

But what was it?!? I googled any terms I could think of. Sadness while nursing. Overwhelming feeling while breastfeeding. No results.

I asked my doctor about it at my 6 week follow-up. This time I knew I wasn’t hallucinating. I knew I felt it. My OB stared at me blankly. She said some random platitudes like “Make sure you’re drinking and getting enough help in the house.” But I KNEW that wasn’t it. It was so hard to explain but I knew it was real!

I started polling my sisters and friends again and still, nothing doing. No one understood what I was referring too. Because really, it sounded crazy. An overwhelming emotional overload for 20 seconds?! Something that had no connection to the activity I was doing right before nor to where I was? It sounded crazy.

I was able to continue nursing with no problem, and the episodes faded and I forgot about it again.

And then, a few months later, I was reading an article in a magazine and I nearly yelped out loud.

This was it!! They were describing me!! This this this!! It was real! I wasn’t making it up! It even had a name!

The elation, the sheer joy and excitement at being validated!

True, this condition hadn’t interrupted my life thank G-d. But I knew something was going on to trigger it and I so badly wanted to know what it was. And here was my answer, in print.

D-MER. It had a name. It was real. Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.

It was as strange and bizarre as I described it, but there was a reason for it. I went to dmer.org and read it top to bottom and bottom to top. There wasn’t a whole lot of information, but the name and description was enough.

I couldn’t get enough of it. It was a real condition.

There’s a broad range from extremely mild (in my case, lasting 20 seconds) to the extreme of debilitating anxiety that lasts long after the nursing, causing women to stop nursing because it is too difficult.

And I shared the info with every person I could think of. I don’t know why it does not get much publicity and why it’s hardly known. Any woman can experience it, it has nothing to do with any other part of your life.


It has nothing to do with one’s emotional or psychological well-being. Read that again. It has nothing to do with one’s emotional or psychological well-being. It is solely related to the milk release while breastfeeding. It is fascinating.

Fast forward to the birth of my 10th in May, just a few months ago. I start nursing and bam, there it goes. But I know what it is, it has a name! I am not crazy. This is real. I count through it and in 20 seconds it’s gone.

I go back to D-MER.org and see that there is even more information available on it than the last time I checked.

It has a name. I know the name. And I want to make sure that every single woman out there knows the name D-MER. D-MER.

It’s real and it’s a broad spectrum. For some it affects their decision to nurse or not. And for some, like me, it’s the knowledge alone that it has a name that helps me get through it and be able to nurse happily and successfully.


Even if you’ve never experienced this, you can help spread the word. My fellow moms, listen carefully the next time one of your newly postpartum friends start babbling about how she feels. You may be the one to give her the name to the experience, together with the validation that what she’s experiencing is real. Validation. The very best baby gift ever.

Motherhood

I knew my house would be different

kid-drawing-on-wall

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.

It was well worth the price.

Motherhood

I ran the marathon!

marathon blog

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 past notes. 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.