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.

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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 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.

Motherhood

The freezer repair guy

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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.

Same noise.

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.

“Follow me!”

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.

Behavior & Discipline, Motherhood

Kitchen grout and kids

house

What happened to the grout?”

Huh??

What grout?

“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.

Motherhood

A defining moment of Mommyhood

Smiling boy with lunch clipart

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.