Friday, December 20, 2013

That Time of Year

It's that time of year.

Report cards.

I've worked diligently. For months. I've checked roll books and tallied attendance. I've designed the Excel file and created formulas. I've called the parents that needed a calling, spoke to the students that needed a speaking, wrote the letters that needed a writing, and completed report cards for my 79 students.

Seventy. Nine.

It never feels that much until report card time. And then it is that much. And my eyes start to blur from the ABC's (fine, also from the DEF's. No there is no E grade. Why is there no E grade?) and my brain starts to fizzle out comments, rather than essays, about all seventy nine. No time for 79 essays; no time.

It's the time of year that I like to congratulate myself on deciphering the Da Vinci Code (required, when trying to decode what my students are writing. Want to test your talent? Translate these treasures: yourup, contenyou, stricket, concer, pritty.)

It's the time of year that I like to congratulate them on offering creativity when they can't find, you know, the right answer. (That was my way out of many assignments back in the day.)

And of course, there is no time like the present, to take a moment and appreciate their optimism (gotta love the student who graded her own test in pencil before handing it in. Unfortunately, that was some misplaced confidence,) and their really sound excuses explanations for not doing as well as they could have (and please, can I please take the test over?).

So in honor of the Report Card Joy that we're all feeling, I'm bringing out an oldie-but-goodie. Came up with most of this list a long time ago (so it may look familiar to you) but I've added in some new ones to commemorate the fact that I'm doing this again. And again. And again. 

_______ brings a lot of positive energy to our class (does she ever sit at home?) and is always eager to share her knowledge and insight (incidentally, while I'm busy sharing my thoughts with the class myself). We look forward to teaching her in the coming semester (although, we've heard of some other GREAT schools in the area). 

We take pride in ______ improvement (yes, WE take the pride). With more attention to neatness and organization (read: if she uses her locker as storage, rather than the floor around her desk), _______ will achieve excellent results.

With increased maturity (approximately eight years worth), ________ will achieve excellent results. We look forward to continued (read: new) focus and attention to her studies (academic studies, that is. Although her artwork is improving greatly throughout our classes). 

_______ needs glasses. Seriously, we're pretty sure she doesn't know where in the classroom the blackboard is located.

_______ needs Methylphenidate. No, we don't insist that all students take this. But you told us that your pediatrician and school psychologist recommended it. So remind us again why it's not in your child's best interest?

With increased focus on schoolwork (oh, and less child-rearing responsibilities of her siblings) _______ will achieve excellent results. We take note in her eagerness to please and look forward to teaching her in the coming semester (unless, of course, she simply won't have the time).

_______ has achieved excellent results this year. We are proud of her positive attitude and dedication to her studies. We'd like to clone 78 copies of her for next year. We thank you in advance. Go genetics.

To be fair, I probably use the last comment the most ;) Or something very similar. 

I love what I do and I do what I love. My younger siblings can attest to the fact that I was teaching them and grading their pretend tests from as soon as they could write (I'm still waiting for a redo of that spelling test, Mushkie.) I have a large group of wonderful students and although there are down days, overall this year is shaping out to be a good one.

Report cards, however, put dark lenses on my glasses. And so that's how come you see grumpiness right here. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Lightweight Festival

I haven't been writing but I've been super busy doing just about everything else. And with the holiday season in full bloom, I've even set aside time to be thankful for all that I have and to think about how I can add light to this world.

Of course, I think I deserve a light-bringing medal for the two children I have. But I could probably do some other great stuff too.

To be honest, I am having some issues with this holiday. In the original Chanukah story, one small jug of oil, enough to burn a candle for just one day, lasted an entire eight days! Hear that? The same small bit of oil used up over e...i...g...h...t l...o...n...g days.

Let's talk about the modern day Chanukah story. Google "Exxon Oil Spill" for the complete details. 'Cause folks? That's pretty much the amount of oil that is being used over these eight artery-clogging days. Are we trying to make the miracle one about surviving the latke and donut intake? I must be missing something.

And the money. Oh my. We discussed rights and liberties in my classroom this week. And a student stood up and said, "Children have the right to receive Chanukah gelt." I couldn't get past the sputtering stage to teach her a life-impacting lesson.

Remind me again what the purpose of Chanukah gelt is? I always thought it was about rewarding our children for their efforts in learning. Forgive me if I missed the memo on creating pretentiousness as the ultimate goal. My daughter received a quarter on the first night of Chanukah. And frankly, she was devastated when she came to learn that there was no wrapper, the coin could not open, and that adults think real money is better than chocolate. The next night she got both a chocolate one and a real one. (And the fact that she hinted to not being my friend anymore unless the aforementioned happened, had nothing to do with it.)

I'm just trying make Chanukah fun. And educational. And heart healthy.

The holiday of Chanukah is one of triumph of the weak over the mighty. The victory of light in the face of darkness. As a mother I am aiming for the victory of remaining calm when anger is so close and easy, and finding ways to raise and praise my children even when Time Out is so tempting. And trust me, it's tempting.

I am also going to redefine for my children what exactly makes me proud. For example, when you tell me that you didn't do something insane, dear daughters, that doesn't make me proud. Mostly it just frightens me.

"Mommy, I took off my sheet all by myself. And I didn't cut it, or rip it, or ruin it. You're so proud, right? Right?!"

Wrong. Wrong!! Actually, WAIT! I'm very glad that you didn't destroy an innocent sheet, but I'm also freaking out a bit over here. Is it really a struggle for you not to cut up everything in sight? You know what? Let's just move on. We've been through worse.

Wishing a Happy Festival of Lights to all! And may it also be a Lightweight Festival.

Amen.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

After the Birthday Post

Chaya woke up early on Tuesday.

She looked at her mommy and asked, "Is it my birthday yet?"

"No Chaya," said her mommy, "First we have to clean the house."

So Chaya helped her mommy dust...and vacuum...and wash the floor.

"Is it my birthday yet?" asked Chaya.

"No Chaya," said her mommy, "Your birthday was yesterday. We have 364 days to go. Thanks for cleaning."

I'd like to take a moment and congratulate myself on PATIENTLY lasting all the days and hours and minutes from last birthday until this one. I don't think I'd feel half as old as I do if she hadn't reminded me every single second that we were inching closer and closer to the big day.

Happy fourth birthday to my beautiful daughter, the first to make me a Mommy. (And even though sometimes she tells me that she wishes she would have made me someone else, I know that she loves me too.)

Thank you  for being adorable, bright₂, creative, devious, energetic, funny, giggly, helpful, idealistic, jovial₁₀, kindhearted₁₁, loving₁₂, magical₁₃, noisy₁₄, outrageous₁₅, pensive₁₆, questioning₁₇, resourceful₁₈, silly₁₉, teenage-ish₂₀, unique₂₁, vivacious₂₂, witty₂₃, xanthic₂₄, yummy₂₅, and zippy₂₆!

In summary, MAZAL TOV to a beautiful little girl who is so much like her mother =)

Keep reaching for the stars Chaya! Or the balloons! Whatever you're going for, never give up.

We love you so much!


-----------
₁ I'm pretty confident that comes from my side of the family.
₂ Naturally.
₃ Like figuring out that if you slurp up Cheerios just using your tongue, your hands are free for coloring at the breakfast table. Or on the breakfast table.
₄ You've been following the blog thus far. This requires no additional explanation.
₅ Keeps me in shape. Sort of.
₆ I love your funny knock knock jokes! They will never get old.
₇ And thanks for always laughing at my jokes. 
₈ It's always such a pleasure when you help me sweep your sister the floor.
₉ I love the way you ask for cupcakes every single day.
₁₀ Always up for a party. Day, night...don't matter.
₁₁ So proud when you share your toys with all of us.
₁₂ And it melts my heart when you shower your baby sister with hugs and kisses.
₁₃ Our house becomes a palace without so much as a snap of your fingers. Girl, you put Mary Poppins to shame.
₁₄ Our table becomes a drum set just as quickly. Pots and pans are always a great addition.
₁₅ When we go grocery shopping in your dress up clothes and flamboyant makeup. Good for you!
₁₆ I love to watch you think. I should really use that time to prepare my answers. 
₁₇ All day, every day. I hope you never lose your love of learning!
₁₈ You are a master at coming up with solutions! Let's not use your drawers as a snack holder again, kay?
₁₉ Winter clothes in the middle of July? Balancing balls on your head? Bring it on!
₂₀ Hey, I was nice enough not to start off with attitude or throw PMSish in the middle. 
₂₁ You're the only on of YOU! There isn't another in the whole wide world who can do the things you do...
₂₂ You love life, you love to laugh, you love your friends and you love school! 
₂₃ Yes, dear, I know you have an answer for everything. I'm afraid that comes from me :)
₂₄ Go Google it yourself. She was jaundice as a newborn. It starts with X and it works. 
₂₅ You really are, even though I always wonder why we say we want to eat our kids.
₂₆ I've said it before in so many ways but this is you: always on the GO!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Whyyy?

Somewhere in the world there is a book called "Things So Embarrassing You Shouldn't Publicize Them." And in that book is the following entry:

Once upon a time there was a mother who got bronchitis. Mothers aren't supposed to get sick. But this one did. This mother felt so sick on Friday afternoon that she wasn't able to give her children a bath. The children asked to be bathed. One even cried. She insisted that her hair smelled bad and needed to be washed. The Mother suggested perfume to mask the smell, but only because the smell didn't even exist.

Dolce&Gabbana, making kids happy since 1985.

But that totally fictional story took place last week. This week is going to be much different. Not because Mommy is ready to run a marathon, but because Mommy's brain is finally unfogged enough to realize that baths are a good idea.

Recently I was a part of an online discussion in which one friend of mine asked how often kids should be bathed. Most of the other mothers responded that obviously every kid is bathed every night. So I did a little research and came up with the following fascinating statistic:

80% of things posted online are a stretch of truth. Basically, we're all a little more Motherly than we'd like to admit. The reasons for the, uh, exaggerations among Those With Kids include not wanting to disappoint their own mothers (does that last forever?) and mothers not wanting to be judged by friends who are mothers themselves.

So why do we keep asking each other all these questions? I think it must be because we are ingrained, as children, to ask ask ask ask ask ask ask ask ask.

My oh-so-soon-to-be four-year old has graduated from simply asking me WHY (repeatedly, with a staggering increase in vocal intensity) to asking questions that require more thinking than I am usually interested in attempting.

How come you went to school when you were sick and I have to stay home when I am sick? 

How come you didn't let me come to your wedding? Did you leave me with a babysitter? I DON'T WANT A BABYSITTER!!

Why can't you give me a big sister? My friend has one. I want a big sister. Could that also be my birthday present? I really just need a big sister for the bus.

Why did you call me a love bug if bugs are ewy?

But Mommy....whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

Granted, I could simply tell her that I feel worse for her teachers than I do for my students, remind her that she wasn't born yet at my wedding, give her a quick lesson on Family Biology, and explain to her just how clingy love bugs are. But somehow I think that would just get me a tried-and-true, super whiny WHY?

There are all sorts of WHY questions. Some worse than others. My girls already know that some WHYs from me are really a suggestion for them to come up with a really believable story for their latest misdemeanor. These usually start with, "WHY IN THE WORLD?" and "Why? WHY? What were you thinking?" I don't know why I'm asking for insight into their logical deductions. I should know better by now.

The other WHYs from me are super focused. And usually warn my big girl that I'm going to sit and come up with various ways of asking the exact same questions (hey, props to me for not simply repeating the same thing over and over again) to find out what, if anything, she has learned in school. "Well, why did he do that?" "Can you remember why that happened?" "Why would that happen?" "Why did he decide that?" "Helllooo, why are pretending that your toys are more interesting than my pop quiz?" I'm gonna need to learn to lighten up before she gets into serious school or I'll be getting the WHY calls from her teachers.

Update on the WHYS from my girls: not all send me hunting down the nearest exit sign (which, by the way, is the same as the entrance sign and so I never quite make it far.)

"Want to know why I love you Mommy? Should I tell you why? Because you are six years old, and 'cause you are so cute, and 'cause you are my yum-bum, and 'cause you share your makeup with me (Guys, I can explain!), and 'cause you play with me and color with me, and 'cause you smile at me, and did I eat lunch already? 'Cause my stomach feels like it has space for food right over here."

And that's my cue.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Jumping Advisory

Today's post is going to be dedicated to my downstairs neighbors. Not just because they are amazing, but because Chaya has developed a recent obsession with jumping and I cannot seem to redirect her energies. I have 6 jumpable mattresses in the house, one trampoline on the porch, and one room that doesn't actually touch the downstairs apartment. It's like she doesn't even know.

She NEEDS to jump right here, in the living room, on everyone's head.

We have practiced soft jumping, tip toeing, jumping on mats, and, you know, actual SITTING...but those have been vetoed.

To be fair, it isn't actually her fault. She has told me on numerous occasions that her shoes and the floor alternate forcing her to jump. And to jump hard. Can I blame her for not being able to stand up to the floor?

I am thankful that my children have energy and that they are eager to explore, even though sometimes that exploration means let's see what will happen if we destroy this delicate looking thing or I'm gonna try to pick you up, Rivka, okay? And then you try to climb on the counter and get me the crackers. And then I'll share one with you. 

I had a friend over the other day and she was horrified when she saw me sitting on the floor doing absolutely nothing while my little one was climbing up on the dollhouse roof to reach the window sill to people watch through the window. She recommended that perhaps I should put my daughter in Time Out every time that she climbs until she learns that climbing in unacceptable. But...what?

Is climbing one of those things that are unacceptable? I know it would be best to teach her to keep it at the park and am therefore accepting all volunteers who would like to bring her there and watch her climb. But so long as (a)  it's cold outside, (b)  it's before noon, (c) dinner is not yet made, (d) my school work has not been completed, and (e) I'm feeling lazy, I'm gonna let her climb the walls in this very house.

With that in mind, here is next week's schedule:

Sunday - Climbing*
Monday - Climbing*
Tuesday - Climbing*
Wednesday - Climbing*
Thursday - Climbing*
Friday - Climbing*
Saturday - Climbing*

*and jumping. Never forget the jumping.

This story got me thinking about some of the worst advice I have ever received. So I asked around to hear the worst advice that other mothers got and narrowed down my Top Ten Terrifically Stupid Words of Advice :

1. Put a drop-full of wine into your baby's bottle before bed. It's not too much alcohol and it will help him sleep through the night. Sounds like an awesome introduction for his future AA meeting. 

2. The best way to toilet train your child is to have them drink only soda: it will make them incredibly thirsty AND have to go a lot. I mean hey, what's the harm in a little dehydration every now and then, right?

3. If the baby won't finish her bottle, add some sugar. OR, and this is way out there, just spill it out because she's probably not hungry.

4. Don't stay out too long in the heat because your breast milk (nope, not the pumped kind) will spoil.  I have no words.

5. Push down on both sides of your baby's gums to help the tooth pop out. Sure, because it's just like popping a pimple which is also, oh wait, NOT recommended. 

6. The only way your child will understand that heat is dangerous is if you put their hands into something hot. It will give them a tiny burn but a lesson for life. Call me when you're teaching road safety so that I can have ACS on hand.

7. If your child bites another child, force them to put their own hand in their mouth and then clamp their teeth on it, hard. They'll never bite anyone again. Yup, you just come along with #6 please. 

8. If you see that your newborn is crying a lot, it means that you are giving in too often. Leave them once or twice a day to cry it out; this will teach them that they can't always have their way. Funny, 'cause I was under the impression that babies cry on account of they can't yet speak. So maybe your baby just needs something. Like your attention.

9. Wear extra layers during pregnancy to keep the baby warm. As an added plus, you might overheat and pass out and then  you can get a free tour of the Maternity Ward at the hospital! And free juice!

10.  Mash bananas and rub them around the newborn baby's eyes to get rid of the "eye junk." Oh dear. Does that work with the baby jar kind or am I gonna have to mash my own?

I think we can all agree that the best place to find advice is probably from a stranger online who keeps a blog.

And that inviting the downstairs neighbors up to join in the jumping makes everyone happy.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Post Tantrum Stress Disorder

Well, today started out like any other day with a supreme space out by Mommy who didn't start the get-dressed-eat-breakfast-and-pretend-to-forget-to-brush-their-teeth until 20 minutes before the school bus was about to arrive, naturally progressed into an episode of Cheerios miraculously scattering all over the kitchen floor by themselves, and an inevitable tumble out of the high chair by Child #2 who, like her big sister, can do everything by her absolute self.

It seems as though falling out of a highchair really puts a damper on her mood, though. Mine too.

Making routines is easy. Following them? Not always. If you look through the pictures on my phone one day, you might notice that I have captured my children doing ordinary things. Some people live for the applause, my kids live for paparazzi. I've discovered that I can get them to do almost anything if I take a picture of it and promise to send it around (my family can attest to the various pictures that they have received of children getting dressed, shampooing their hair, and flossing their teeth.)

When the pictures don't work, that's when we get stuck. And usually end up in a tantrum. On account of I won't compromise about menial things. Like washing hands with soap and going to bed, for instance. My friend Chaya has taught me that tantrums can affect even the best of mothers and we may not recognize that we are harboring past traumas of when our children, in scientific terms, Lose It. Some of you may resonate with the official diagnosis of Post Tantrum Stress Disorder. Don't feel ashamed, it's pretty common.

Symptoms include headaches, memory loss surrounding your decision to have children, Google searches of how to put a string cheese back together, and a strong desire to crawl under your bed.

Treatment options are much better. You can try chocolate, ice cream, manicures, and showers that last more than five minutes. Success varies. More research is needed. All ideas welcome.

Some other helpful terms from my Dictionmommy:

Pinstressed - (adj.) Me, on Pinterest. See DIY.

DIY - (v.) Do it yourself? Destroy it yourself? 
Martyr-dumb - (n.) Rescuing your child from your spouse's strict discipline and then realizing you are now stuck with the toddler who is wailing about the sun being in the wrong part of the sky. 

Thermomentor - (n.) The person you call to find out if you should take your child to the doctor. Usually not the doctor. Usually the mother. And usually she says, "I don't know. I had babies a long time ago. Call your sister."

Vaccscene - (n.) No matter where in the world you are, you will know when my kid is getting shots. We are the family that scares all the little kids still in the Waiting Room because we make it sound like war is going on inside the Examination Room. That's how we roll.

Dinnerd - (adj.) The mom who tries to make cutsie stuff out of the vegetables she is serving, but fails. See Pinterest and DIY.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Carefully Crazy

Everyone on social media makes fun of social media. Right?

I've noticed a trend among us mothers posting pictures of our children in quite precarious positions:

Stuck under a table.

Sitting in the drivers seat.

Standing on the high chair tray.

Hanging out of the dog's mouth.

Swinging from a sibling's arm.

Climbing over railings.

I'm curious to know if anyone has an actual equation to help moms recognize when it's time to put the camera down. I'm certain it would include variables such as distance between mom and child, distance between child and hospitalization, and the photograph's level of cuteness. I imagine special circumstances might take into account evidence of successful trials of the exact dangerous activity in the past. Oh, and birth order. That's the most important factor: is this the first, second, or tenth child?

I was once a Mother of One. So were you.

And I bet you went to those same family parties that I went to. And you watched those Mothers of More. And you judged. There they were eating calmly, without a single child on their lap, pulling their hair, or grabbing their legs under the table and untying their shoes. And they would converse with others, and laugh, and drink cups that had liquid poured all the way to the top.

And there you were running after your one little kid who didn't even run himself. And everyone would try to convince you to relax, sit down, enjoy the party.

And you were all, "OMIGOSH, are these people FOR REAL? Hello, my baby is the most PRECIOUS gift I have ever received. I would NEVER just let my BAJILLION-dollar jewelry run around the backyard unsupervised, no way am I letting my CHILD get more than three feet away from me! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THREE FEET IS?!" And then and there you swore to your righteous, committed, actually-care-about-my-kids self that you would never, ever NEGLECT your kids the way that other mothers do. And you promised yourself that no matter how many kids you had, each would get the exact same special treatment. And then you went home and read a parenting book that told you to Rock On. And you called every indignant mother that you knew and launched your Ultimate Parenting Plan.

And then...you had another kid.

Nothing screams "Born Second" like a saggy diaper. Or snot that's wiped with the very shirt your kid is wearing. Or tantrums that are observed as though they were being conducted by someone else's kids. Or that call out at the family party that sounds like, "Hey, has anyone seen Rivka lately? Lemme know if she needs me, K? I'm just gonna eat a few courses here."

My children really do have different experiences in life. The first one has an album full of newborn pictures in which she yawned, went to sleep, moved a finger, and then yawned again. The second child has newborn pictures that are blurry because I was chasing after the older one who was pushing her in a doll stroller. The first one didn't know what chocolate chips were until it was time to potty train; the second one has already located the hiding spot. I told the whole world about each milestone that the first one achieved; I'm not even sure what the second one is supposed to be doing these days, but she keeps my busy so I assume she's on target. I cried when the first one got shots; I wish I could give my second one the shots myself and avoid going out to the doctor. I was a nervous wreck when the first one started preschool; I almost "accidentally" left the second one behind after her sister's orientation.

Oh and by the way? I know that those of you with more than two kids are laughing at me now. Don't Hello, Don't Hello, Don't Hello.

But let's call a truce and make a pact that no matter what number child we are snapping pictures of, if they are gonna end up in the doctor's office, let's make a safe photo op later. Trust me, they'll do something carefully crazy and you'll capture it.


----
"My loud voice is coming. I'm really trying to tell it to go away but it's trying to pop out. Quickly go get your shoes like I asked you to!"

"Oh I really want you to help me cook but it's very dangerous if you get near the counter when I have raw meat out."

"My voice isn't functioning well enough to read a book so let's save it for first thing tomorrow morning."

"Absolutely, Mommy is also going to sleep now. Just gonna kiss you good night and go right into my bed."

Friday, October 18, 2013

These are the Moments

In my world of nursery, diapers and play dates, spirituality often comes to me at random moments. These moments are fleeting, and despite my efforts to make them last or to repeat them, they simply disappear. It’s not that I’m not taking the time to connect with G-d, although I could put in more effort in that area, it’s that my mind is always in multiple places at once and I feel as though I can never make these moments truly meaningful.
Sometimes, though, there are little moments that absolutely take me away.
On Friday, the second day of Sukkos, I experienced such a moment. That morning, my sister had left to the hospital to deliver her 3rd child (ka”h). The day of waiting at home was an anxious one, as we could not contact my sister or brother in-law because it was Yom Tov. It was also a crazy busy, oh-my-g-d-I-am-never-having-two-sets-of-twins one, as I found myself acting as a second mother to her two children who are close in age to my own two children. With naps and tantrums and snacks and bathroom reminders, it was as un-spiritual of a day as it could possibly be.
About an hour before Shabbos my brother-in-law came rushing through the door. The labor was not progressing as expected and he needed to prepare food and anything that they would need before Shabbos started. As he left back for the hospital he asked me, “Can you please light candles for your sister tonight?” I immediately said that I would, but I remained standing at the door staring after him, long after he had gone. I don’t know why I couldn’t move. I don’t know why it meant so much to me.
I didn’t have so much time to think about it because there were four kids who needed to get into pajamas; two of whom were not thrilled to be sharing their Mommy and Tatty and two of whom were missing their Imma and Abba immensely. And then it was time to light.
I carefully helped the two older girls step up to the table and light their candles. And then it was my turn.
I lit one…two…three…four…five…six…seven…eight candles.
Eight candles.
And I was overcome.
My sister is more to me than just a sister; she is also my best friend. We have done so many things for each other over the years. Some incredibly embarrassing (how exactly is a kallah supposed to pull up her stockings when her nails are wet?) and some just incredibly special (she was there with her own two kids helping me while I went through postpartum depression); but nothing felt as enormous to me as this. That evening, my sister entrusted me with a Mitzvah that is so uniquely special to her and to her family. She entrusted me with their Neshamos and with the light that is her duty to bring into this world.
To my dear sister, I hope I did you justice.
I couldn’t tune out the giggles, and whispers, and whines from the kids, so I instead allowed that to be the background music as I davened for their growth. I davened that they should continue in the way of Torah as you and I do and that one day they should cover their own eyes and bentch licht for beautiful families of their own. I davened that they should have as special a connection to their siblings as we do with each other and that they should always be there for each other in the best of ways.
And I’m not gonna lie. I davened that they would all go to bed nicely too.
Tonight, I am back at my house and you are at yours. We will be lighting our own candles miles away from each other, but you have helped to make my experience more meaningful. I think of that now; I think of the night that I lit eight candles, the night that I was forced to connect to Hashem in a more meaningful way because I was promising to do your part for you.
And so, most of all, I will pray that with our candles, we will be able to fill the world with the ultimate light of Moshiach.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Public Shame Me

As a teacher, I am often the recipient of unsolicited advice from my students, my colleagues, and of course, my own parents who have been teachers for years. The kids usually advise me to give more recess and less homework, but the adults tend to give me great tips about almost everything.

Sometimes, though, their advice sucks.

The other day a staff member in my school suggested to me a solution to the incessant (and incredibly aggravating) note-passing that is going on among students (what they have to talk about so urgently that they cannot possibly follow along in class is beyond me. And then they spend all night on the phone.) Her suggestion was to "catch" a note being passed and read it aloud to the class.

Her reasoning, "They will be so embarrassed when the entire class hears what they wrote, they'll never do it again." I'm not a hater of old school policies, but this one really disturbed me. Since when is humiliating students a teaching method??

But hey, can I blame her? Public shaming is all the rage. Think about all those pictures you've seen online about the parent forcing their child to stand in a heavily populated area wearing a sign that said, "I was twerking," or "I shoplifted," or "I am a bully." In an age where we are FINALLY recognizing how detrimental bullying can be, and at a time when we are putting so much effort into bully prevention, why on earth are we modeling that very same behavior?

Certainly we would all agree that if a group of children would force an individual child to stand at the corner wearing a sign declaring her shortcomings, that would be bullying. Why, then, are our actions exempt?

If you're going to use public shaming as a means of parenting, go ahead. Just one condition: stand next to your kid and wear a sign too.

"I'm the idiot who lets my children watch Miley Cyrus's sickening objectification of women and sexuality."

"I'm the incompetent parent who isn't getting my child the help that they need."

"I'm the parent who believes bullying is okay for adults."

No child is perfect (kids, when you're all grown up and reading this, kindly refer to previous posts to confirm your almost-but-not-quite perfect behavior), but no parent is either. Instead of placing blame one-sidedly and shaming your child into submission, why don't you explore where you may have gone wrong or what you can do to help them.

I've made my billboards, where are yours?





Thursday, October 10, 2013

Motherly Mystification

Today I discovered that I have a lot of unanswered questions about Toddlers and Preschoolers (I've been advised that a nearly four-year-old no longer falls under the category of toddler, so I'm down to one preschooler, one toddler, and no patience. Haha, kidding about the patience.)

Anyway, I'm feeling quite perturbed by some physical phenomena I am noticing in my children. Take this for example.

Here is a list of things my kids can hear from up to 600 yards away:
1. The suction breaking on the refrigerator door.
2. A bag of popcorn being removed from the pantry.
3. The word "chocolate" being whispered in another room.
4. The nail polish brush as it sweeps across my finger.

And yet, they somehow miss all of this:
1. "NO!"
2. "PUT THAT DOWN!"
3. "YOUR SISTER IS NOT A TOY!"
4. "YOUR TOY IS NOT A FOOD!"

Or even this:
1. Please come here.
2. Please pick that up.
3. It's time to eat.
4. Let's go brush your teeth.


Their muscular health is also of great perplexity to me.

They can:
1. Walk uphill to the park.
2. Run away from me.
3. Run away from me with toys in their hands.
4. Make rounds through the grocery store.

They cannot:
1. Walk uphill on the way home.
2. Pick up their toys.
3. Carry their plates to the sink (toddler exempt)
4. Bring me a tissue from the bathroom.

I brought this up with my pediatrician but he just looked at me strangely for a while. Then he said, "Should I just say that it's all normal?" I guess he had a long day.

Personally, every day is a long day.

Especially days that start extra early.

There is only one number that all children need to learn from birth: the number SEVEN. It's when we go to sleep and when we wake up. Chaya knows that she is not supposed to leave her room until she sees "a seven with two dots" on her clock. 7:00 7:01 7:02 7:03....you get the idea.

Interestingly enough, that rule only manages to cover us 2/7 days. Y'know, because emergencies come up and she has to get to us quickly. Yesterday she came out at the-six-with-two-dots because her hair was in her eyes. She had real tears. Note to self: bad days can get worse when you mistake your child for a snooze button.

It's understood that when you start the day off on the wrong foot, it usually does not get better from there. It's come to the point where I look so harried a mere two hours after waking that Chaya now asks me to stay at the top of the stairs while she boards the school bus alone. #wellIdon'tevenhello

Oh, let us not forget to mention:

"I put a powder vitamin in your water. It's like arnica, so now even if we don't put arnica on your legs before you go to sleep, they won't hurt you while you try to fall asleep."

"Oh, that cat isn't allowed into houses. That's what it says on the collar right there. Shucks."

Friday, October 4, 2013

I don't Hello

I was like a fully charged battery my whole life. Then I had kids.

------ battery remaining: 30%



But that's not the only way I'm similar to my iPhone.  For example, I'm expensive.

And high maintenance.

And it's not good to leave me out in the rain.

And I haven't relaxed at a beach since I was pregnant with my first, so my white phone and I are similar in color.

And my brain has multiple tabs open at once.

And they all have trouble loading.

And I have a serious problem in the department of auto-correcting the spelling and grammar of others'.

And I often have to delete something from my memory to make room for something new.

Aaaaand, I can make creepy smiles.

If I'm being honest here (and when am I ever not?) I should really say OUR phone. Because my daughter has reminded me on multiple occasions, both by force and nonstop nagging, that it is really important to share. It is possible that there are more apps on my phone dedicated to her enjoyment than to my needs. Getting her a fake phone worked for close to ten seconds.

I'm proud and thankful that she is exuding signs of intelligence but it's been a busy week here buying and installing new locks on all the doors leading outside (she is tall enough and strong enough to open the ones we've had until now), hiding my treats more efficiently (she checks the freezer daily), destroying evidence of summer (am I really supposed to pull the pool out and reattach the hose? This weather is confusing,) and of course, trying to remain a step ahead of her in the Parenting Game.

I was misled when I was told that backtalk starts in the teens. Maybe that's when the intent starts but toddlers are pretty good at smarting back answers. I know she isn't doing it out of spite but sometimes I just stare back at her because I'm completely stumped about what to do next.

"I was crying for the water and not using my words because you aren't allowed to speak when you have food in your mouth."

"I'm not going to say 'I don't care!' when you tell me something; I will just say 'I don't hello!' (in the same belligerent tone) because that's a nice way to say it."

"I can't let Rivka play with me because I might move in a lot of directions and she might get hurt."

Listen, I can't expect myself to be fully functioning on 30% now, can I? Mama's gotta recharge every once in a while. So here's the breakdown of how to earn back battery:

Chocolate - 5%
Alcohol - 5%
Chocolate and Alcohol together - 20% (synergy, folks)
An hour alone - 15%
An hour alone in a shopping mall with someone else's credit card - 80%

And I think I need to add in taking time to sit down and do something you like, such as writing :) Because I'm starting to feel a little bit recharged.

My house could use a cleaning, the toys need to be put away, I haven't yet started cooking for Shabbat, I have a few loads of laundry waiting to go in, and I have some last minute shopping to do. But you know what?

Quite frankly, I just don't hello =D

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oh, I have a blog?

Somewhere in between the past few weeks of packing, going, staying, coming, eating, packing, going, staying, coming, eating, I think you get the idea, I lost the will to write. And eat. But the writing procrastination lasted a lot longer than the eating.

Last time I checked in was before I decided to drive seven hours with my two beautiful girls. Just me, the girls, and my two younger brothers who both don't drive. Let us say that I seriously overestimated my ability to keep my eyes open while driving for 7 hours and severely underestimated my baby's crying stamina. I'm talking three hours straight of, "MOMMY!! ALL DONE BYE BYE!!" My poor brothers tried to woo her with food, silly faces, songs, more food, and then even more food. Her big sister looked on in horror and announced, "Rivka is screaming, Mommy! She is making a really bad choice." Except I was the one who made the really bad choice.

There was one blurry moment, three hours away from home, when we stopped to get gas and the machine would not read the credit card, and the attendant pointed to the porta-potty when my daughter needed to go, and the baby was in my arms still shrieking, that I nearly called my husband to tell him we were not going to move another inch. But I did the math and realized that I'd just be waiting six hours with Screamer. And who knows what Big Sister might think up in all that time.

So we persevered. And then Big Sister announced that she had to you-know-what. And you-know-when. And so we pulled over with a package of 100 wipes that we completely used up and a pair of toddler underwear that we left on the side of the road. Somewhere in me I am working up the effort to care about the next person who shoplifts from Walmart and gets stuck cleaning that mess. But I was already on my 6,000th hour volunteering with my own kids so....

Anyway, we made it back alive. And I am writing this post so that I don't pop up in a month from now and say it wasn't so bad and we should try it again.

This month has been one of lost routines so as my daughter became more creative in her ploys for longer playtime, more candy, more food, more candy, more food, and more candy, I became more creative in my responses:

"The lollipops actually need to charge now."

"Sure you can have this candy...oh boy, what's that mark there? I hope it's not mold."

"Oh this chocolate is sour, let's put it in the fridge till tomorrow."

"The Dentist just called. She said you can have just one of these candies so which do you choose?"

"We are taking an Eating Break now because the food has to think about you eating it."

In other news? The baby has emerged as the winner in Baby Rivka vs. Childproofed Cabinets. I've got to go save my plastic containers!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Kitchen

For many people, holiday season is a spectacular time of year. I think those are the people who either love being in The Kitchen or have full time help at home. Or both.

I love holidays. I love eating holiday food. I even love eating holiday food that I don't like, as long as I don't have to make it. The Kitchen stresses me out.

The Kitchen is not my favorite room in the house because it is too busy being my least favorite room. I prefer The Laundry Room to The Kitchen. I can put things in a machine, I can add soap, and I can watch it spin. I can hang clothes, put clothes in the dryer, and fold clothes while they're warm, and clean, and smelling delicious. But I can't, for the life of me, figure out what "fold into batter" means. How in the heck do you fold cream into batter? FOLDING IS FOR CLOTHING! The rhyme is what seals it as truth.

I also cannot follow recipes with more than six ingredients. There is a limit to how much I can count. And there is no way I can find shallots in the store. Yes, shallots. They look lovely in the picture in my cookbook but I have spent longer than I am willing to admit staring at the produce section trying to find shallots. Of course I'm not going to ASK, that's embarrassing. 

My cupboard is stocked with spices that I have used once and never again. Turmeric, nutmeg, chili powder, cumin, sumac, zahtar, and salt. Kidding about the salt, that's the only one I know how to use. If I don't have the exotic spice that the "super easy and user friendly" recipes call for, I sometimes try to replace with something that I do have. For instance, cumin and cinnamon share a lot of the same letters so they might be related. Turns out there is no reasoning when it comes to spices. No one is related. It's not a Jewish institution.

I also have an issue with recipes that use the world "almost." Almost doesn't count. And almost doesn't work. How do I know if the mushroom liquid is ALMOST evaporated? I don't have a countdown! What happens if I turn off the heat when it's almost almost evaporated instead of almost? How does the recipe-writer know what "almost" means for me?Almost must be removed from all cookbooks. Now.

I would like to say that I DO try. And I do cook. And I do bake. And my food is good. (If you've eaten here and disagree, disagree quietly.) But unless it's a recipe that I've used time and again, cooking is stressful. And I haven't even begun to talk about what it's like when you have a toddler in The Kitchen with you. I have two.

My 3.5 year old is always eager to help and she begins snapping her stool into place at the counter the minute she sees me eyeing my apron. I don't discourage her and I try to let her help because that's what the Parenting magazines tell me to do if I want her to be the one cooking for the family in a few years. So I let her place her stool directly in the line of fire so that I may trip on it every time I turn around.

My one year old likes to be a part of the action, too. Her favorite thing to do is look in the oven. Which is great, unless I need to open the oven. Then I have to find a way to distract her long enough for me to get the oven open, put the food inside, and close it. This requires a lot of maneuvering. Sometimes I pick her up, run to the other side of the house, place her down, and run back to The Kitchen. She moves pretty fast but if I put enough things in her way I can make it back to The Kitchen before she does. Hopefully during that time my big girl hasn't decided to help by adding some more spices to the dish. She is helpful like that.

If you've ever cooked together with your children, you know that you pouring anything into the mixer is sacrilegious. It's a known fact that they are the chosen pourers. Of everything. Even if the cup of oil weighs more than they do, they will pour. And you will not help. So I do a lot of deep breathing during cooking. And a lot of oil spill cleanups. 

Kids also like to bring things to you. Chaya, the big girl, is very proud of all the things that she can find in the pantry. Rivka is as well. Generally speaking, in the time it takes Chaya to find the ground pepper which is right in front of her, Rivka has chewed through a box of raw macaroni. Don't worry, it's whole grain.

For Sukkot I will be joining my extended family and so I am only cooking some dishes to bring along. To my family reading this: just because I don't enjoy cooking, doesn't mean I can't. Please eat my food. Here is what I'm bringing: challah, sweet and sour chicken, marsala chicken (this was me out of my element, but my husband really liked it when we had it elsewhere), spicy lemon chicken, vegetable orzo, and butternut squash kugel. 

Which brings me to my final cooking point: If it calls for more than 1/2 C of sugar, let's do everyone a favor and just call it cake, not kugel.

----

Fear not, I have been keeping up with my Motherlying over the holidays. In fact, I was quite proud when a friend complimented me on my speed of creation for said untruths. Some of the latest:

While she was ALREADY in bed and I was just about to leave the room, "Honey, we can't go wash your face because it's not good to put cold water on your face right before you go to bed."

"I didn't forget to buy your vitamins, the doctor wants me to research some new ones for you."

"Yes, I will look online to see if I can find you Aleph Beis cookies like your friends have."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

About the Drivers

Living in New York has given me the opportunity to study and analyze other drivers on the New York road. After years of strategizing my way out of heavy city traffic and almost killing half a dozen pedestrians who can't seem to locate the walkway, I have narrowed down the 4 types of drivers we have on our roads.

Type A Drivers: Probably Out of Towners. These drivers don't drive in the bike lane. If they are making a right turn, they wait until they see the broken white lines to change lanes. They drive 25mph when the Jackie curves. They don't cut in front of city buses. They make friendly 'go ahead' waves when they see people walking. And they move to the side when they hear sirens. Annoyance Rating: 10/10.

Type B Drivers: New New York Drivers. These drivers recently got licensed to drive. They may be young or old. Depends on how many tries it took to pass the Permit test and then the Drivers test. They want to drive like the top dogs but they're scared. So they weave. They drive right up to the edge of the shoulder but instead of passing traffic they hang out between their lane and the Forbidden Zone. They inch out and then swoop back in to their correct place. They plan to cruise straight through a yellow but end up screeching to a halt 30 seconds before it turns red. When they hear sirens, they panic and usually end up taking an unnecessary turn which gets them lost. Too proud to ask for directions, they pull over into a safe gas station, press lock on the doors multiple times just to be sure, and get directions from their GPS. They usually get lost one more time because they can't look at the GPS and concentrate on the road at the same time. Annoyance Rating: 10/10.

Type C Drivers: New York Drivers. We own the road. Own it. Rule it. Spit on it. Litter on it. Honk-the-heck-out-of-our-horns-on-it. Don't-know-a-single-driving-rule-on-it. But most of all We. Own. It. It's not just about how quickly you can get there. It's about how quickly you can get there even when you have no reason to rush. We rush. Always. The thought of some other car getting there before us is blasphemous. Our joyrides are about the joy we get from using oncoming traffic as our left line and getting a head of all the other cars. There is a special thrill that we get from weaving down an entire street laced with double parked cars on both sides and never once using the brake. There is skill to be found in our Big Apple way of avoiding speed bumps and red light cameras. We hate traffic cops. They're just out to get us. Why do they always pick on us? It's like they can't tell how ridiculous the A's and B's are. And did they not known that 'born and bred in New York' is an actual violation exemption? They must have never gone to school. Annoyance Rating: 0/10.

Type D Drivers: Bikers. Annoyance Rating: 100/10.

The crazy thing about driving in New York is that it's not only the drivers you have to worry about. Take pedestrians, for example, they're like the plague. Most of us New York drivers are quite confident that the law states that pedestrians may cross on the walkway, when they see the little white man, and if none of us are trying to make a turn. And yet these guys can be seen crossing all over the place. They run out into the middle of the street like it's the apocalypse. And they're usually pushing a stroller or dragging kids behind them. Or both. And the ones who cross at designated crossing areas aren't doing much better if they cross when the red hand is showing or if we need to turn. Pedestrians are always supposed to wait for drivers. It's pretty basic.

We also have to deal with tickets. Ridiculous tickets. Like if we park at a pump and go shopping for a couple of hours. What, the cop didn't notice the hazards were on? How is that our fault? And tickets for alternate side parking. These are the almost the worst. New Yorkers experience a paralyzing fear on alternate side parking days. It's hard enough to remember what day of the week it is, much less which side of what streets are being cleaned and when. Probably the most puzzling aspect is that the streets are always filthy. What exactly do those street cleaners do? Does anyone know? Does Bloomberg drive them? Super sketchy.

The very worst thing to do in New York is park. Parking signs make no sense. Three signs are propped up next to each other. One reads, "NO PARKING", the other says, "LOADING AND UNLOADING ONLY", and the last one reads, "NO PARKING ON MON and THURS between 11-12:30." And they all have arrows. One arrow seems to be pointing to the sky, the other to the apartment building, and the last toward the ground. So, no parking in the sky, load and unload the apartments, and use the ground before 11 and after 12:30? Did I get it right? There is no way to know. There's anxiety when looking for a spot (why don't people ever park normally so that we can fit?), anxiety when you find a spot (there must be some reason why no one is parked here), anxiety when you're the only car parking on that road (is there a comic-sans-font-pink-printed flyer from the NYPD hiding on a tree somewhere?), anxiety when you get out of your car (did I lock it ten times, put on a bar, hide my chargers under the seat?) and anxiety when you return to your car: is there or is there not an orange ticket on the window? There is no way to know for sure that you will be passed over. Each time is like another little miracle. Bless it.

The moral of the story? Today, and every day, be a proud New Yorker and know that you are always right.

The serious side of me is thinking about and remembering 9/11/2001. I look forward to discussing the theme of sacrifice with my students today. What do you sacrifice and why?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Guestiquette

Happy (Jewish) New Year!

Freshly showered after a three-day holiday and I feel like I can take on anything.

Except maybe the laundry.
And the overtired, sugar-high, off-schedule kids.
And the overtired, sugar-high, off-schedule me.

But everything else I can totally handle.

This holiday we were guests, as my husband is a chazzan and we went to stay in NJ near the shul where he davened. So I've decided to dedicate this post to all the guests out there who might need my own $0.02 on how to be good guests.

So, the laws of Guestiquette:

1. If you have any allergies or weird eating habits, let your host know. Before you come. If the habits are severely strange (like you eat only cooked spinach on top of roasted eggplant for breakfast) consider preparing your own food. Consider it a lot.

2. Expect your routine to be off. In addition to holiday happenings that push things off schedule, prepare that your children will not go into bed as easily as usual and may not go to sleep "on time." Don't expect your host to close all of the lights in the house and have all the kids whisper so that your kids can nod off. (You're allowed to dream about this, just can't implement it.)

3. Don't discipline your host's kids. Actually, don't discipline anyone's kids. Except yours. Even if you're the greatest parent in the world. And you know exactly what needs to be said. And it always works for your kids. And you can stop a tantrum before it starts. Just keep your mouth closed. If you don't like what you're seeing, walk away.

4. If you use it, clean it and/or put it away.

5. Don't break stuff.

6. Don't jump on the couch.

7. If you bring special treats or toys for your kids and they are not going to share them, keep them in your room.

8. Follow the Rules of the House. Like, do not allow your children to bounce balls in the house or play with the light switch if those games are forbidden. (Is the whole light-switch-gonna-start-a-fire thing true? Or did they tell us that just to scare us?)

9. Pick up a broom every few hours.

10. And sweep.

---

Did you feel Motherly over the holiday? I often found myself lying explaining.

For example, "We're not allowed to have more than one apple with honey each day."

And, "If we touch a spider's house it will break, and that would be very, very, very sad. Because we love spiders. And we want spiders to be happy."

And of course, "The outside gets closed up after bedtime. And the trampoline stops being bouncy."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Support an Artist

My nephew is eight years old and some days I wonder if he is stronger than me as I watch him overcome the challenges in his life and grow.

I am proud of his mother, my big sister, for the hard work she puts in to help him be the best that he can be.

And I am in awe of his artistic talent (the genes come from our side of the family, but it seems I got only enough DNA strands to make cartoons. And heart shaped pancakes.)

Mendel has entered into an art contest which ends this Wednesday. I am including a link and shamelessly asking you to please like his picture to give him more votes.

Click HERE to LIKE his picture!

ps. Some people who have liked this picture are already my best friends. Snap.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Reasons We Don't Do Stuff

I have resurfaced from somewhere beneath mountains of laundry, crumpled notes inside schoolbags, homework assignments ready to be photocopied and handed out, class lists and seating charts, and the cooking and cleaning that sort of happens in between.

The school year has begun. And as a teacher and as a mother the school year is my life force.

My daughter, the little girl who was too shy to speak at school until January of last year, has blended into her new class seamlessly. She is thrilled about her new Morahs even if she can't remember their names; she repeats everything they say and reports to me where all of her classmates' brothers attend school. More than one person has commented me on how outgoing and independent she is. And each time I hear it I just manage to avoid laughing.

Independent? I don't know. It sure doesn't fee like it when she is insistent on breathing down my neck when I'm cooking, when she demands to hold my hand as I sit near her bed and wish her good night, when she wails about how much she loves me and and how much she will miss me if she does, in fact, go to sleep in her own room and not visit me during the night, and when she begs me to sit next to her at every meal and simply watch her eat.

To all the attachment parenting advocates: be freaking careful what you wish for.

(As a general rule, I love my kids. But some moments are more loved than others.)

Of course this change in routine means that there are plenty of new things for us to discuss (read: argue about) and we are certainly getting our fill. I can't decide if I'm proud or horrified that my three-year-old's vocabulary is peppered with "this is making me crazy" and "I'm so frustrated." I'm almost sure that there is a book somewhere that will say how great it is for her to express herself this way. (Most books do not mention the decibels or intonation of such expressions, so it must mean that all variables are cool.)

As always, there are some discussions that leave me wondering if my nose is growing more rapidly than most others. This weeks highlights include:

"Yes of course I am looking on the computer for lipstick to buy for you. It's just that I can't seem to find the right color for you. I think maybe they will get some more soon."

"I do want to go with you to your friends' house, but we can't this second. They are sleeping now. I think they sleep a lot." (I imagine the mother of these little girls has her eyebrows past her hairline reading this.)

"We can't go swimming because all pools have to be put away once school starts. It's dangerous around the pollution of the school buses."

"Morah doesn't let you bring more than one penny to school because pennies have germs."

I hope she reads this one day.

And I hope she realizes that motherhood demands the creativity of motherly lies.

And that it's not always easy to come up with something plausible.

And she should appreciate how hard I am working to come up with good reasons for everything we don't do.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mommy Camp

I have a new respect for Stay At Home Moms. I've been doing it for a almost two weeks now and I'm completely wiped. Completely.

I love my kids, I really do, but this Mommy Camp could use a new director. We've gone on trips the few times I managed to get us all out of the house marginally clean, we've colored chalk on all the pavement within a 10 mile radius, we've blown enough bubbles to soap up all the chalk, and I'm pretty sure all of us have ingested at least a minimal amount of Play-Doh (I have a love/hate relationship with the creator of Play-Doh by the way, but that's for another time.)

I'm tired. We eat, we play, we go out, we come back, we eat, we shlep, we fight, we cry, we eat, we sing, we Facetime everyone we know. And then we look at the clock and it's only 3:00pm. How?

So I've become a little lax with my Rules of This House (yes, that was euphemism in the motherliest of ways). But I can't actually tell them that I give up on my rules, so I have become a master at ignoring things. Here are some rules I no longer enforce:

Only One Person In This House Can Cry At One Time
Don't Eat Off The Floor
Don't Drag Your Blankee Around The House
Don't Swing On The Crib Rail
Don't Drink From The Bathroom Sink (don't judge me; I really tried to keep to this one. The other day Chaya asked me for a drink of water and I sent her to first wash her hands. When she returned, I offered her the cup of water that I had prepared and she looked at me like I had grown a second head. "I already drank, Mommy, from the WATER FOUNTAIN." It took me a few minutes to understand. On account of we don't have a water fountain. On account of we just have a bathroom sink. But I guess it's better than the toilet. Right?)

Every morning Chaya wakes up and asks me, "Is it school TODAY, Mommy?"

And every morning I want to tell her that I feel the same way. That I'm also counting down. That I really don't know what I'm going to do with her. But somehow I always end up telling her that it's going to be another fun day with Mommy and that we are going to have an absolute blast. And the crazy thing is that as I say it I realize I'm not lying (not completely). There really IS something special about spending the day with them. I only wish I could figure out how to make that special feeling last all day.

And how to wake it when she cuts her skirt.

And then her hair.

Both shockingly, "an accident and I won't ever, ever, ever do it again!"

Until then the countdown remains:

Four. More. Days.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

When She Grows Up

The other day my daughter randomly said to me, "Wanna know what I want to be when I grow up?"

I answered with a casual, "Sure, I'd love to!" but inside my head I was waving pompoms! I was all YES! It's Happening! She's being creative without any prompting! She's going to ace school and have no issues. Ever! I'm doing something right! Heck, I must be doing EVERYTHING right!"

And then she continued, "I want to be a Mommy," and I felt an instant deflate. Seriously? That's not creative. And anyway, it's lame.

"Why do you want to be a Mommy?" I challenged. Her face lit up, "When I'm a Mommy I can drive a car, go shopping by myself, fold laundry, touch the oven, and take a shower!"

I still was not impressed.

"Why else do you want to be a Mommy? What is your favorite thing about mommies?"

"Well, maybe I can go on the computer, and I can wash dishes, and I can talk on the phone, and I can change the baby's diaper, and feed the baby, and buy stuff on the computer."

"Those things are fun?" I asked.

"YOU always like to do EVERYTHING that a Mommy does, right? So me too when I'm a Mommy."

And then my pompoms were back in action. With a side of being ashamed of my initial (and thankfully quiet) reaction to her admission.

'Cause you know what? I really am doing it right. She wants to be a Mommy and wash dishes, do laundry, and chauffeur the kids around. She is excited about making dinner and buying groceries. And that's because she sees me do it with a smile. (Most of the time.)

Being a Mommy is NOT LAME. Shame on me.

I'm not perfect and I certainly have my moments. But that day I realized that I am her hero and she is watching every single thing I'm doing. When I run our home with a smile on our face and invest myself in the moment, in being proud of who I am and what I do, I am teaching her that there IS beauty and wonder in being a mother. And it's not all about the giggles and perfectly clean houses and moms in pearls and heels in the magazine ads. It's about being present.

I am proud that I am a mother. I want my daughter to be proud of the very same thing. And I am so very grateful that she can absorb everything she witnesses in this house and use it to think and plan creatively for her future.

It is also worth mentioning that she continued on with, "And I could wear whatever I want when I'm a Mommy. Like sparkly purple dresses and sparkly pink shoes with flowers that you didn't buy me."

Monday, August 12, 2013

More No

So I've noticed that a lot of mothers (yours truly included) have a hard time saying NO.

You are blinking at the screen. Probably trying to decide if I've gone mad. What does she mean she rarely says no? Don't most mothers worry that they say no too much?

So here's the thing. I say no. I say no no NO! I say NO WAY! And absolutely not, uh uh, no way, not gonna happen. I say all that (in a gentle, loving but firm voice, of course) and I say it a lot. But there are dozens of times that I should be saying no and I say something else instead. Like, not now or maybe soon or I don't think so or I'm not sure. 

I know I'm not the only one. The other day I passed by a mother and her litter of kids near a construction site. And I heard her call out to her son, "Moishele, we're not playing with concrete now." Because obviously playing with concrete was on the schedule for later. 

And in this house, it happens all the time.

"Mommy, can you buy me a purple dress with sparkles?"
"Hmmmm, I'm gonna look into that."

"Mommy, can I color with your inky pens? I never ever EVER got to."
"Let me think about it."

"Mommy, can I have a chocolate treat today after breakfast?"
"Maybe after lunch. Or dinner."

"Mommy, can we go to the new museum again?" 
"Oh, the one that's ridiculously far away? That required actual movement and interaction on my part? You know what? That's a great idea. I'm gonna talk to Tatty about it later. Or never. Probably never. But I stopped speaking out loud because otherwise you'd be screaming from the minute you'd hear me say never"

And there you have it. I hedge because I'm trying to ward of potential tantrums. Well, committed tantrums. Absolutely reliable tantrums. 

I have no good advice. I am simply publicizing the fact that I am a wimp. Or just a regular Mommy with a limited amount of patience. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Don't Ask, Don't Tell does not apply to painting without supervision, playing with Play-Doh or waking your sister early from her nap.

It does not apply to using my makeup, nor generously washing the fine china.

Don't factor it in when sharing the dollars you found in my wallet with your friends, and kindly don't consider it when redecorating the kitchen walls.

It doesn't cover playing outside alone (how in the world do learn how to open every door, anyway?), nor adding treats to the shopping cart at the grocery store.

It is not in effect when taking home toys from school (where's the blushing emoticon?) and cannot be used to excuse any toddler hair cutting.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a strict policy that must be applied to certain situations, such as:

1. Witnessing Mommy eating a chocolate snack.
2. Overhearing anyone using bad words.
3. Seeing someone dressed in something that I'd never let your wear.

---
Today was Twin Day in camp and my daughter had a very hard time with the concept. First, she didn't want to be the same as anyone (this from the kid who begged me to buy her sandals just like everyone else had.) Then she panicked: how will anyone be able to tell me and my friend apart from each other if we are dressed the same?! (In her defense, her good friends are twins and she often has to ask them straight up for their names because she otherwise has trouble telling them apart.) Then she went impossible: I want to be twins with EVERYBODY in my class. Not just the person that Morah decided. You have to text all the Mommies!! I'M NOT GOING TO PUT THAT ON!

In the end I had to call out my inner Motherly.

"How about this? How about if you dress just like your fake twin, Mommy will let you wear your special silver shoes to camp? But remember, you need to be very careful with them. This is a special privilege that Mommy is giving you because I know that this twin thing is very hard for you. Would you like to do that?"

The answer was an enthusiastic YES! I'm hoping that when she gets to camp and finds her twin also mysteriously in silver shoes, she'll just be blown away by the odds.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Creaky Floorboards And The Time of Naps

So there I am.

One foot up, one foot down. Balancing precariously as I slowly reach out one arm to lean against the wall. I have a half chewed cracker in my mouth but I am careful not to take a bite. Not to make a sound.

I just put my baby in for a nap and then stepped on the creaky floorboard. THE CREAKY FLOORBOARD. I knew it was there. Every mother knows where the creaky floorboards are. It's the first thing we do when we move in: walk around with house with the blueprint and mark down all the creaky floorboards. Market value goes up if the floorboards near the baby's room are creak-free.

But mine aren't creak-free. They're creak-full. And they just creaked.

I have my head cocked to the side and I'm using any muscles possible to try and stretch my ear out. Did I just hear her move? I'm sure she just sat up. Omigod, she knows. She knows I'm here. She knows I'm up.

What to do?

My second foot is getting tired now. DO. NOT. DROP. THAT. FOOT! I would make a good soldier. Or a sergeant. Maybe both. Why are you thinking about this now? You need a strategy. A good plan. My remaining brain cells are geared up for action.

Kitchen is only steps away. If you can make it to the tile floors you have smooth sailing until you get to the dining room. If you take a really big step over the threshold and make it over to the side, it's only six steps to the table. Up on the table and down on the chair on the other side and then you're nearly at the living room. One crawl will bring you to the couch and from there you can easily climb to the computer desk. You can do this.

Then my phone rings. MY PHONE.

The phone that's silent all day. The phone that I often find in the pantry. The phone that registers six missed calls in the span of five minutes, all from my sister, who knows that the phone is somewhere in the house and hopes that if she just keeps calling, I'll eventually trace the vibrations and pick up.

That phone. That phone rings. Except it's not on silent today. Nope. Nu uh. It's on loud today. Really, super loud. And it's belting out an irish folk dance. And omigod she can hear it! She knows my phone is ringing. She knows I must be around. She knows I'm up.

The ringing stops. My breathing regulates. Okay, okay, she hasn't made a sound yet. We're still good.

The ringing starts again.

It must be my sister. Why is she calling? Who calls when it's nap time? Doesn't everyone know that I'm putting my baby to sleep now? Doesn't she know that my phone is not on silent? Why doesn't she know? Why doesn't the whole world KNOW and PLAN according to NAP TIME?!

She's going to call another 4 times.

I count to ten. I don't know why. I don't even get the whole counting to ten thing. What is the purpose? To see if you can remember your numbers in a crisis? Who needs numbers now? I need to get to that phone!

It hits me then that the phone ringing is probably louder than the sound of the creaky floorboard.

I get the phone.

I check the baby monitor.

That kid is fast asleep and it don't look like she's gonna surface any time soon.

I've got the blueprint in my hands and I'm crawling.

Just in case.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Clean Up Song

So in all my early childhood education classes I was taught that singing is a great way to engage children when attempting to transition from one activity to the next. Especially clean up.

So I tried that today. And I found myself crawling around collecting Lego pieces while Rivka danced to my clean up song. There really should be a disclaimer.

---
"Mommy, how come you took my clock with the nightlight out of my room?"

"Um, I think it was broken. Yeah, it broke. It just wasn't working well."

"But how come it's in your room now? And how come you get all the light in your room? I want the clock in my room with the light so that I can see everything in middle of the night."

Sigh. "But the light was helping you see and then you just wanted to see instead of sleep."

"Nu uh. I just wanted to come to your room instead of sleep."

Oh. Yippee.
---

I'm thinking of asking The Children's Place advertising team to branch out and start sending me reminders for the things I need to get done. That email set up is intense. Their program is batting 1 email every 2 hours, maybe? I'd unsubscribe from them but it there is something about living in NYC that makes me feel as though having a stalker is kind of a rite. Plus, it's fun to bet on how many times their ONE DAY ONLY SUPER SECRET PREVIEW MEGASONIC SALE is going to renew itself. So far I'm winning.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Driving in the C of NY

While I was driving today I noticed several phenomena:

1. I am still the only idiot in NY City who pulls over for emergency vehicles. At this point I'm probably the hazard.

2. I am also the only one in NY City who is scared to honk the horn wherever there is a posted sign with a warning about a fine. I'm certain even the NYPD don't know about those signs.

3. It amazes me every single time I manage to just, just make it through a yellow-turning-red-okay-was-probably-already-red-but-I-can't-stop-now light, and I glance in my rear-view mirror to find that five other cars somehow made it through behind me.

4. There are many New Yorkers who would benefit from a good amount of time spent thinking about their desire to live. And if they find that they have a strong desire to live, they should probably start crossing at corners. And then, only when the little white man is up on the screen.

5. I was so busy thinking, I went five blocks past the street I was meant to turn down and realized that I would have drive another few miles out of the way since two-way streets are almost extinct.

----

Something else I learned today: you can consider yourself out of shape when your toddler makes a huge show out of huffing and puffing every time she bends down for something. (To all my readers who are pregnant, consider yourself excused; your shape is perfect.)

----

Had a Motherly Moment today? I did.

"Oh ewww, honey, this chocolate is soooo gross, omigosh I think it's spoiled or something. Totally ew!"

"Mommy, can I have the rest of it anyway? And hey, how come you're eating in your closet and the light is off?"

Monday, July 29, 2013

Other Mothers

Today I brought my 14-month-old with me while I got an eyebrow wax.

She took one look at the stranger touching me and screamed like she was witnessing a murder.

It was pretty sweet, save for the partial deafness that the entire salon was rewarded with. And I feel the need to come clean and confess that while she was bewailing my misfortune I couldn't help but wonder how loud she will scream when she is actually the one getting eyebrows ripped off.

Whenever I worry about my motherlynessless self (break it into syllables if you are having trouble), I instead think about any parenting failures that I witness in others and then I start to feel better about myself. Terrible, I know, but extremely effective.

As an example:

Yesterday we took the kids to the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Because it's worth $36 for my big girl to play with blue sand. BLUE sand! I don't know if she's seen sand in any other color but hey, it works! So when we pulled up to the Museum, we noticed another minivan pull up near us. The doors opened and out came two lovely parents. And then a kid. And another. And another. And another. And another. And another. And another. And another. And another. Were you counting? In a blur of activity I noticed at least three umbrella strollers being popped open for little itty bitty ones to sit in. I shook my head to clear it, looked back into the van and confirmed my original thought: there was NOT ONE car seat in the car. Anywhere. So to recap: that's 2 adults, 9 kids, 3 of which are too small to be walking around. ZERO car seats, and no possible way that there were more than 8 seats in that van.

So yes, I was horrified and sick by what I saw, but I did mentally add a check to my scoreboard.

Oh, and speaking of the museum. I had to tell a guy off for taking his daughter into the women's restroom. He looked at me like I was insane for even suggesting that his behavior might be inappropriate. What is it with some people? Am I really the only one who thinks it is so completely wrong? (To help ensure that you agree with me I will also let you know that he was in there together with his wife and some other kids, so they could have easily split the task with him waiting outside with some kids while she went in with some and then switch. Furthermore, a huge sign posted outside of the bathroom indicated that there were multiple family restrooms on the second floor of the museum, in the event that a daddy was alone with a little girl. Last, the men's room was next door. He could have taken the little ones with him in there and that would have been ten times more appropriate. Or 20 times. Or 100 times.)

End rant.

---
Feeling motherly?

Today I told my daughter, "Sunscreen is very complicated. There are complex things about application. Really only a mommy can do it and then a girl can help rub it in after. It says so here on the bottle under directions of usage."

I don't impress her with big words, I distract her.