Friday, November 27, 2015

New Year, New Interview

My firstborn turns (6!!) today and in preparation, we have completed our annual interview. Each year I am amazed at the answers that change and intrigued by the ones that seem to stay the same (here's the one we did three years ago when she turned 3:

Happy Birthday, Chaya! We love you so so so so so so much! (Did you count the so's? I'm cool like that.)


What is the meaning of life? Does it mean what's about your life? About my life is that people don't say mean stuff to me and everybody loves me and plays with me, because I'm a nice girl to play with. (Self esteem? Check.)

What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a Mommy who has a lot of money. But I don't know how to make money. Ma, how do you make money? You stand outside with a cup of tzedaka? (Oh my gosh, I am laughing with tears now!)

What makes you happy? I have a hundred, million, thousand stuff to say! How much should I answer? I'll tell you one thing. One thing is by swings, when we go on the swings, when Morah picks me first to go, it makes me a little excited and happy. (Yes! Always have a hundred, million, thousand many happy stuff!)

What would you buy if you had a lot of money? I would buy a crib for my baby. (To clarify, she means her baby doll. I think.)

What are you afraid of? Afraid? Hmmm. I'm scared of lions roaring. (Truth.)

What's a funny/silly word? Bakadakaka. (Kay.)

What's the best thing in the world? The best thing in the world is when I go on trips with Mommy and I have vacations. (She works hard, deserves vacations.)

What's the worst thing in the world? The worst thing in the world is when my Mommy says No or Wait. (Don't I know it!)

What makes you angry? Angry? When I'm angry is when my Morah says something and my friends are all talking and I don't hear. I'm angry but I still don't show them because then that would make noise.  (#angel.)

What makes you sad? Sad? When people bite me. (Who bites her??)

What's your favorite toy? My favorite toy is mentchies with doll houses, and coloring. (I can handle that.)

Who do you love? Who do I love? Hmmmm. I love Mushka. Because she's a cutie pie. (I swear other years she said Mommy and Tatty!)

What is the hardest thing to do? The hardest thing is to listen to Mommy. (Respect.)

What's the easiest thing to do? The easiest thing is when on Sunday I have a lot of time to color. That's for sure the easiest thing. (Like I said, she works hard.)

What is the meaning of love? Oh. Love. When Mommy and Tatty take care of me and I get the same much attention as Rivka. (Oh, sweetie. Thank you for not #hashtagging for attention. Really, truly, THANK YOU.)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Donna

Today I opened Facebook and received a notification that said, "Today is Donna Stiebel's birthday." Tears sprang to my eyes and I looked at the phone angrily. Didn't Facebook know that it wasn't her birthday today? Didn't Facebook know that Donna passed 5 years ago?

And then I had a moment of inspiration. Standing outside on my porch waving goodbye to my children (the requisite 5-minute wave until their bus is completely out of sight), I realized that today is Donna's birthday. For Victor, Aliza, Moshe, Micha and Shayna; today is Donna's birthday. For all of us, today is Donna's birthday. Because today is the day we celebrate all that Donna was and is in our lives. Nothing can take away the meaning of her birthday; nothing can take away the time we had together.

As I raise my young daughters I find myself thinking back to my own childhood multiple times a day. Donna was a big part of that childhood as she and her family lived next door to us and I spent many hours in her house. I didn't turn to Donna for advice the way my older sisters did, because I was only ten years old when we moved away, but I can clearly (and embarrassingly) remember standing in her kitchen and asking her a quarter-of-a-million questions while she tried to make dinner in peace. Yeah, I was that kid.

But I don't ever remember being sent away and that's what makes Donna so special. I try to emulate that with my own friends' children, to treat them like they were my nieces and to help them feel welcome in my home.

When I close my eyes and transport myself back in time, I can imagine that I am standing in the Stiebel house listening to Donna's infectious laugh. I can hear her offering to pick up groceries for my mother since she is heading to Giant Eagle anyway. I can see her doing carpool with a smile on her face, and I can visualize her calling to Aliza from the kitchen, helping her with homework. (In retrospect, I may have overstayed my welcome some days :P)

And because I'm back there in my mind, I can also see Micha doing something (everything) that warranted yet another set of stitches. Micha, I think you may have been the original #hashtag.

It's been many years since I was ten years old but the memories of my childhood are stronger than the memories of why I am standing at the open fridge at any given time. And so today, on Donna's birthday, I am sending big hugs to everyone who misses her. And also a big high-five because we are of the lucky ones who got to know her.

Thinking of all of the Phillips Avenue crew today! (Can you imagine how simple it would have been to arrange Cops & Robbers if we had a WhatsApp group back then?)

Shabbat Shalom <3 Stay safe in Israel.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Can You Keep a Secret?


Yes, I know it's been months since I've posted. I hope you haven't forgotten about me. Back in April I was all, "Oh I am SO writing a book!" Now it's September and I *think* I got one page done. So maybe it's better that I wait until my life is a little less busy.

But after several...spectacular? weeks of Mommy Camp, I am so happy to announce that my girls started school today. BOTH OF THEM! #hashtagrivka is in school!!!! Well, she might still be on the bus on the way but my baby is starting school today!

I have gotten so many comments over the past few months wishing blessings and luck on her teachers. And I've passed them on diligently to the lovely women who will be her educators this year.

Diligently, but silently. Very, very silently.

Out loud I said things like,

"Hi Morah Nechama! This is Rivka! Have I told you about the time she washed all the dishes for me?"

"Hi Morah Sheina! This is Rivka! Boy, did we have a great time folding all the laundry last night."

"Hi Morah Devorah Leah! This is Rivka! She'll be happy to sweep the floors in here!"

"Gosh, thanks to Rivka organizing all the toys I was able to get out of the house on time today!"

"Did I mention that Rivka loves to cozy up in the rocking chair and read books most of the day?"

If they call me in shock about behaviors that seem so out of ordinary of the character that I am describing, why, I'll be shocked right along with them! It'll be our secret, aight? ;)

Truth: I am (almost) totally confident that she is going to take after her big sister and be a superstar student!

Other truth: I am very, very nice to the principals. Just in case.

The picture her teachers see. 
The #hashtag we know and love. 

Her beautiful big sister who has been a tremendous joy throughout my journey.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hashtag Anxiety

In what is pretty much normal for this house, my girls woke up already in middle of an argument. I’m convinced that they are telepathically connected in a way that allows them to begin quarreling even while they sleep so that when they wake up they can immediately bring the fight to the next level.

Decibel level.

When they finally found an activity to enjoy together I committed to being relaxed about the activity and to stop it only at the danger of actual death [to clarify, one kid blacking out for a minute here or there is not danger of actual death.] The activity in question was the methodical destruction of every drawer filled with neatly folded clothes. Unfortunately, there were only three drawers like that in the entire house and the activity ended all too soon. That’s when #hashtagrivka spied the bag of plastic shopping bags that we keep in the hallway and figured it could do with some emptying out. Now, a bag of bags in which I carried food home? We musta had hundreds of those.

So I planted myself on the couch and watched the girls gleefully jump into piles of bags like they were at Disneyland. It took only a minute for me to realize that I was tense. And that the only thing my brain was letting me see, over and over, was an image of my kids blue in the face. My heart was pounding and I felt hot and uncomfortable.

I tried to reason with myself. I was sitting right next to them. They weren’t putting the bags on their heads. If one of them would jump headfirst into the pile my problem would be a cracked skull, not suffocation (you can see how helpful I am at helping myself. /sarc font/). The logic didn’t help.

In an instant I was up off the couch, shouting panicked warnings about asphyxiation and grabbing plastic bags in a frenzy. The girls got caught up in the cleaning activity but they were disappointed and bewildered.

Having a mother with an anxiety disorder isn’t easy.

Having anxiety and mothering a tenacious #hashtagrivka is no antidote.

I felt sorry after the episode, wishing I could go back and deal with it calmly, in a way that would actually teach them something. But I know better than to dwell. I don’t tell myself that there is always tomorrow to do better, I tell myself that there is now. Now I am going to start over. Now I am going to try to be mindful and present and not let the anxiety get the best of me.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

In Sickness and Insanity

It has come to my bleary-eyed attention that I get pretty cranky when I'm tired.

And I get pretty tired when my kids are cranky.

And my kids get pretty cranky when they get sick.

If you paid any attention during algebra class you may have figured out that my kids are sick and cranky and I am right there along with them.

When my kids get sick, I take on this martyr role and generously tell G-d that I would do anything, anything, to be sick in their stead.

And then when my prayers are answered, and I get sick, I turn to Him indignantly and demand to know exactly why He allows mothers to get sick. Mothers. What purpose could there possibly be in that? Mothers should never get sick.

It seems my complaining has landed me in a heap of hot, smelly stuff. Cuz now Mommy and both of her girls are sick.

At. The. Same. Time.

(The Man of this house would probably suggest that he is too big and strong to get sick but us girls are pretty sure he's been spared only because he spends most of the day at work, far away from our germs.)

We are a sneezy, coughy, wailing mess. Tissues have piled up around the house like house plants and my counters are littered with every natural and non-natural medication that exists. I have reached out to family and friends to collect every weird superstitious magical healing spell that has every been used. I have rubbed Vicks on size 28 feet and spread chopped onions around the house like potpourri (spoiler alert: real potpourri has suddenly become desirable).  I have locked myself in the bathroom with tired, crying children, turned the shower to blistering and nearly passed out in its steam. I have tried multiple types of humidifiers, shoved vitamin-filled fruits and vegetables down unwilling, sore throats and mixed up soups with the vengeance of a mother on her very last thread of sanity.

For all my work, I was blessed with the green light from my doctor that my big girl was well enough to go to school. Coughing, I was informed, might stick around all winter. But the virus in her itty bitty body is all gone. Her lungs have become exhausted of opening on their own, what with all the coughing, but I am more than happy to visit her classroom daily to spray magical albuterol in her mouth. Anything but keeping her home any longer.

Now there is just me and the baby. The 2.5 year old toddler that I insist on calling "baby" because I think it will make her tame and docile. My dedicated regiment of herbs and meds has graciously gotten her to the point where she well enough to make trouble, but still too sick to sleep sweetly.

So raise your Tylenol glasses with me and pray for the deliverance of sanity to mothers everywhere.

Chee -- hachew!---rs.