Winter Wandering

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Sweet Zeecee enjoying our perpetual autumn weather.

Winter in California is kind of an oxymoron, since none of the attributes I readily associate with the season are present here. I guess if we drove into the mountains I would remember my youth in the Northeast and be filled with nostalgia. As it is, I find the winter in Silicon Valley to cause rushes of nostalgia for the years we spent in Israel. Cool but rarely cold, sometimes rainy. Colorful leaves falling throughout the fall and winter season, eventually leaving enough trees bare that we can appreciate the spring.

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The last night of our lovely Chanukah celebrations, featuring the Lego menorah Ben designed and built!
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Chanukah donuts, aka sufganiyot, fried balls of deliciousness! These happen to be gluten free, grain free, and Paleo! Search donuts on the blog Zenbelly for the recipe!

Truthfully, the grey winter days are welcome after all the relentless sun the rest of the year. In Israel as well as here I have had the common compulsion among Northeasterners to take advantage of every day of beautiful weather, as you never know when it might turn rainy, cold, humid, icy, etc. Except here you do know that it will be gorgeous just about every day, for eight months of the year, so I find the unpredictability of the California winter almost comforting.

Today it rained all day. In the morning we went to the library where there were many other toddlers and their caregivers seeking indoor, but out of the house solace. In spite of my love for the age group, nothing gives me claustrophobia quite like a crowded indoor space of knee high cuties. I just need to get outside. So we stayed just long enough for Ben to select his batch of graphic novels, and for Ella and I to choose some story books, preferably about princesses (Ella’s choice), preferably not entirely offensive to girls and women and totally lame (my choice) which is no small feat!

We headed back home for the afternoon but after a few hours Mo needed to get some work done and we were all filled with the particular kind of ennui that inhabits all apartment dwellers on rainy days. I don’t exaggerate when I say that we live mostly outside of our home, partly because we like to and partly because we have to. There isn’t anywhere to escape when there are three rooms, five people, with one sleeping and one working. Unless I wanted to be ambitious and bake something which I don’t think my messy kitchen could have handled right now, we needed to get back out. Zeecee announced that she was, in fact, awake, so we packed up and headed out to the last place any sane mother of three would willingly go the week before Christmas: Costco. The parking lot was full, it was raining steadily, and all I really needed was a gallon or two of cashews to make some more of the tamari maple delights the kids and I came up with last week. Obviously it was imperative. I decided to take it as an adventure and prayed for decent samples. Alas, there were super weak samples, except for the Vitamix demo guy who saved me with fruit smoothies just before the long wait in line. It’s the little things, folks!

After calling Mo to ensure that he was in fact working, and not heaven forbid relaxing or watching something on Netflix, I concluded that we needed to go somewhere else before heading home for the day. I thought about the possibilities for 4pm on Monday afternoon and came up short. So, another trip to another library it was! We currently had only about seventy library books in three boxes in my home, why not twenty more!? I have tried visiting the library without taking books with us but it is significantly less fun for everyone, especially me, who is the most enthusiastic connoisseur of children’s books in our family. I would say that I spend a good seven to ten hours a week reading aloud so it is basically my part time job to read these books. You’d be surprised how many bad ones are out there. Sexist, boring, too long, too sentimental, aimed too much at parents. The best ones are the opposite of all of those characteristics and there are plenty that are delightful. One of these days I’ll start posting about the good ones!

It turned out that the library we went to tonight was having a super cute international holiday traditions scavenger hunt with a clementine and a tiny candy cane as the prize for completing it. Ben powered through and Ella and Zeecee and I helped a little, mostly by not not letting Zeecee tear all the books off the shelves in his wake. On our way back to the car in the dark I remembered that I had told Ella she could more thoroughly splash in puddles and go down the slide at the nearby park once we were finished at the library. The responsible adult in me said to take the kids home and feed them dinner, but the part of me that is learning to loosen up and have more fun said drop the books in the car and get to that slide!

We arrived at the empty and street lit playground and Ben tapped me on the shoulder and yelled “Tag!” I don’t care who you are, if you are able to run it is irresistible when a kid tags you and runs away! Zeecee thought it was hilarious and the sight of her toddling around in her third time’s the charm hand me down blue rain coat with dinosaurs all over it was one for the memory books. At one point once we were all soaked and winded Ben remembered that near the park is a street where every house is decorated with lights and asked if we could go. I went with the theme for the evening and said “Of course!” The sensible me said, “We can drive by.” Ben suggested walking, and again I decided to go with it.

We stomped through every puddle in that park, watched the steam rise off the public pool where swimmers were practicing, and eventually made it to Christmas Tree Lane. I will say, as an adult, the displays are heartwarming if not awe inspiring, but for a kid it is truly magical. Little trees covered in colorful lights line the curb up and down the street, and each house has some sort of lights or display set up. We pretty much had the sidewalks to ourselves which I imagine is rare at this time of year, unless it’s raining as it was tonight. We don’t celebrate Christmas but I find that something like this whets the kids curiosity and desire to be part of whatever festivities are going on at this time of year.

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Frolicking down Christmas Tree Lane, in the rain.

Part of me was still trying to be practical or responsible or just a tired grown up so I thought we could just walk halfway down the block, cross and go back up the other side. Had I ever met a child? What was I thinking? Of course we needed to see the entire street, couldn’t I see that house up there entirely covered in red lights and what was that in their yard!? We had to get closer to see. Anyway, we saw all there was to see and tromped back through the park, leaving no puddle out of the kids boots. I kept watching them gracefully sprint and indelicately slosh their way through these little bodies of water and thinking how lovely it is to be a kid. Their only practical concern was making sure they would be allowed to ride home in their underwear after peeling off their soaking wet pants.

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Hamming it up!

When we finally made it back to the car poor little Zeecee had had enough of riding in the carrier on my chest while wearing a drippy rain jacket. The big kids were stoked and peaceful at the same time, having had a tiny candy cane, an epic night time puddle adventure, and a visual smorgasbord of lights. I told Ella to get right in her seat and she said, “But I have to pour out my boots!” I thought I misheard her until she sat on the edge of the car, removed her boots one at a time, and poured out about a cup of water from each! Something about it filled me with happiness. We got in the car and ate handfuls of those unsalted pre-maple tamaried cashews all the way home.

As I watched the headlights reflecting off the wet pavement, streaming toward us while driving carefully down the busy thoroughfare, I thought of how all that was keeping us safe was a fragile agreement among drivers to each stay on the proper sides of a yellow line we can’t even see very well in the rainy night. It’s just that simple agreement, and belief in its power, that keeps us all where we belong. So at the end of our adventure I feel thankful for the moments when I can step over boundaries and make the choice to be free, and fun, and spontaneous, and for the moments when boundaries hold firm and keep me and my treasures safe. I hope my kids feel the same way.

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The park looks different, and beautiful, during the day!
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The shadows are long, and the living is easy!
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Jellyfish at the Monterey Aquarium
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The aquarium is so gorgeous and photogenic!
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Ben and the jellies.
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Zeecee enjoying the sand on the beach in Monterey after the aquarium when we went for the day with my dad.
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Ben doing what Ben does best: exploring nature. Here he is gently touching a sea anemone.

 

Wishing everyone happy holidays and a great 2016 to come!

love,

c

My Birthday Present: Sharing My Birth Story

Me and Mo a few days before Zeecee was born
Me and Mo a few days before Zeecee was born

My 30th birthday was on Sunday. About a month ago I decided that I would like to do 30 blog posts in 30 days to celebrate my 30th birthday. At first I thought I would start before my birthday. That idea got washed away in the tide of baby/child/house/self/family care and I thought I would start on my birthday. I almost did, because I sat down to write an update post and ended up writing my whole birth story on my birthday. That was a great gift to myself! In the end, I’ve decided to write 30 posts in the next month or so, but I won’t keep a tight deadline of 30 days. I am really excited to give myself the gift of time, and honoring my creativity and need to write. I can’t wait to see where the next 30 posts take me!

For now, here is the story:

These past few months have been a bit extreme in the scope of our experiences, but truly full of blessings. In the months leading up to the birth of my youngest daughter, Zeecee, Mo was offered a job in California out of the blue. We had been happy with our life in Miami in many ways, but he was less than thrilled with his job there and I was really not enjoying all the driving I was doing while homeschooling. We have both always wanted to live on the West coast and have tried several times to find viable work options out here, to no avail. Our first choice had been Vancouver Island, but after spending two weeks there in 2013 we realized that it didn’t feel like the dream we wanted to pursue any more. It was a bit of a letdown, since we had had it in mind for so long, as sort of a carrot to work toward. We had mostly put aside the West Coast idea and worked to move forward in our life in Florida.

The job opportunity coming out of the blue seemed to offer a special choice to us. It wasn’t great timing, since we would have to rush to move just before the baby we were expecting would be born, or wait and move after. Mo wanted to go before, I was in love with my midwife and friends in Florida and wanted to wait. Neither decision was ideal, moving to a place without very many friends or close family nearby is always a challenge. I felt that with two older kids homeschooling and expecting a new baby it would be impossible for me to pack up and move in a matter of weeks, then land without much support on the other end. I knew that giving birth in Florida with the support and love of friends and family there would be easier in certain ways, but harder in others, especially since Mo had to be in California on a certain date. Either way we knew we couldn’t predict exactly what would happen.

Thankfully children and especially new babies make it clear to us that we are not in control of the unfolding of events. The more important, scary, and seemingly needing to be well planned and controlled the event, the less control we actually have. I worked so hard to let go of my illusions of control, even as I was sure that the baby would come early, just to make the move easier on us since Mo had to start work in California on August 18th. My due date was August 7th, so I figured she would arrive a week (or maybe three weeks!) early. Early enough to give Mo some time with her and me some time to recover before he had to leave, but not early enough to eliminate the possibility of the homebirth I had been planning, or to cause any health problems. Consciously I knew I wasn’t in control, yet I had it all planned out with wishful thinking.

Lo and behold, in the way of life and love and babies, she waited until a full week past my due date.

ENOUGH ALREADY
ENOUGH ALREADY this is funny but not really

I tried everything during that week. I saw the chiropractor every other day. I had acupuncture every day. I wept with joy and sadness and fear and bravery. I held my children in my arms. I went on so many dates with my husband that we had nothing left to say to each other across the table of our favorite restaurant, and just held hands while watching mindless action movies, maybe hoping the loud sounds would startle the baby into coming. We talked to her, we asked the kids to talk to her, we sang to her, we offered her kisses if only she would come into our arms. We prayed and walked miles on the beach, trying to jostle and appeal to her. I floated on my back in the bathwater warm Florida Atlantic and watched the sunset over the land while Mo laughed with joy at the sight of my huge round belly glistening atop the sea. I embraced the chaos, I was full of love, I was sure I was open in whatever ways I possibly could be.

My cousin who had come to help with what we assumed would be the postpartum recovery had been with us for a few days already, and my mom was arriving the following day. It was four days before Mo was set to leave and we had had enough. We visited the midwife at 8pm and talked about our options. I wanted to know what our last resort would be. It was apparently showing up at the hospital where my midwife had connections with a very pro-homebirth doctor who would be willing to dilate my cervix with some kind of a balloon and potentially still send me home to labor. Instead, my midwife gave me an exam and was able to manually dilate my cervix slightly. She gave me a bottle of castor oil as a next-to-last resort, and we headed home. I started having contractions about 20 minutes apart. I rested, we talked, we were sure that this had to be the time because we were out of time.

Around 1am the contractions stopped so I took the castor oil and went to sleep. I tossed and turned on the couch then woke up at 6:30am feeling one of the effects of the castor oil. After about an hour, the effect we were looking for kicked in and I started feeling contractions. They started strong but not overwhelming, about 10 minutes apart. By 8am they were five minutes apart and I was sure it was really happening so I called my midwife. She told me to call her back at 8:30. My labor was progressing quickly and by then I couldn’t speak very clearly on the phone so she began to hurry over. She told me not to rush, sort of kidding, but I could hear from her voice she was just hoping she would make it in time.

The castor oil had kicked the labor into high gear and we were a bit surprised but so excited and going with the flow. Then whatever we might have called the flow turned into a torrent and by 9:15 I was literally screaming because the contractions which might be considered waves were crashing over my head. I couldn’t get a handle on the pain which might be considered intensity but lets be real, it was pain. Mo had taken my cousin and Ella to my lovely friends house in the next town over. By the time he came back it was really real, and I had no idea what to do. My blessed midwife and her assistant walked through the door seconds after Mo, and I managed to walk into the front room where we were planning to give birth. The women were calm and assertive and started coaching me through the contractions which at this point were basically running into each other. I remember standing between them, seeing the morning sun through my closed eyes, tears squeezing out, fists clenched, trying to breathe through the intense pain. My midwife said I was going to to pass out with the way I was breathing so she told me to bring my breath all the way down my body, to let myself open and go in the same direction as the pain instead of holding myself and bracing against it.

I sat on the yoga ball in front of the couch while my midwife’s assistant held a hot compress over my lower belly. Bless her heart it was the most helpful thing I could have imagined. She rubbed essential oils on my thighs, she cradled me in her arms like a child, she supported me in a way I couldn’t have asked for. Meanwhile my midwife who has been attending births for over thirty years held the space and gave directions, overseeing every motion and just fully attending to the moment. Ben had decided he wanted to be with us for the birth so he helped Mo blow up and fill the birthing pool with water. As soon as the pool was ready I felt the baby moving down and I decided to get in. I knelt and leaned forward against the inflated wall, resting my face and arms over the edge. The hot water held me but I didn’t float. I felt a contraction and this time it really was like a wave, and I was able to ride it instead of getting washed under. I felt the baby’s head but I was mentally in another place so I think I very mildly said something like “the baby is coming” and I’m not sure if anyone heard me or realized that I meant right at that moment because I felt quite calm and peaceful at that moment. One more contraction came and I gave a strong push, and our sweet baby was in my hands. I pulled her out the rest of the way, lifted her above the water, and held her in my arms. She began breathing right way, and the next few minutes are a blur. I know that I was helped out of the pool and over to the bed, we were wrapped in towels and blankets, and she laid on my chest and tried nursing right away. She was so very calm and never cried, just looked around. I had asked for Ben to leave the room once I got into the birthing pool because I didn’t want to be distracted and felt that the moment of actual birth was maybe too much for him. We called him to come back just after she was born and he and Mo and the midwives and I were all filled with so much joy to see our beautiful baby we had waited for.

Big brother birth helper with his sweet sister just a few minutes old
Big brother birth helper with his sweet sister just a few minutes old
Ella greets the newest member of our famiy a few hours later
Ella greets the newest member of our family
Bittersweet and full of love, Mo soaking Zeecee up the night before he left
Bittersweet and full of love, Mo soaking Zeecee up the night before he left
Me and my girl
Me and my girl

Stay tuned for the full story of Mo flying off to California three days later, and how our life is unfolding now that we are all reunited on the West Coast.

Much love,

c

Endless Holidays

Ella in her fort, looking at a book. Oh her sweet face!
Ella in her fort, looking at a book. Oh her sweet face!

 

Ben the alligator. Shape by me, design and name by Ben.
Ben the alligator. Shape by me, design and name by Ben.
My sweeties relaxing together after a long day out. I feel like I won the lottery when I see them do this!
My sweeties relaxing together after a long day out. Scenes like this make me so happy!

 

We are nearing the end of the fall holiday season, Sukkot being the last big holiday until Chanukah, which is actually around the corner. Because the Hebrew calendar is on a lunar cycle and this year is a leap year, Chanukah is early, landing square on Thanksgiving. Fried turkey anyone? Just an idea!

We have been really enjoying the holidays this year. Last year we had just moved to Miami with a baby and we didn’t have many local connections. The weather was hot and we felt a bit adrift This year we were total champs about the hot weather, because it turns out that anyone, including a devoted Northerner like me, can get used to Florida, and we even have friends! During this years holidays we have mostly just been spending a lot of family bonding time. It is the first time I have really had a chance to reflect on the homeschooling experience so far, and to notice how it is affecting all of our relationships.

I find that Ben and Ella are significantly closer and more interested in each other. I think this is partly because Ella is getting older and more interesting and able to engage with Ben, and partly because they are together pretty much 24/7. It has been beautiful to watch them start to enjoy playing with each other independently. As Ben becomes more invested in his relationship with Ella he has also become less likely to bully her or be annoyed by her. He still gets frustrated when she does certain things like pull his hair and he is sometimes jealous when she nurses. Because we have so much more time together overall, I find that he is getting more engaged attention from me and is more satisfied in general. I feel proud of myself for being present and engaged more of the time. It can be a delicate balance, because when one of us is having a hard time we all struggle a bit and compensate for the stress by checking out or with other behaviors that create sort of a ripple effect of distance and frustration. There are definitely ups and downs, some days are easier than others. I also feel like we are all getting in the flow of our basic schedule, even with all the holidays, which brings a certain ease and comfort to everyone.

Before I sign off for another several day holiday break (the last days of Sukkot) I wanted to share a quick story and some photos from the past few days.

Scene: Last night I found a marker with no lid. Ben looked for the lid and couldn’t find it. It still hadn’t been found this morning.

Me: If you can’t find the lid to this marker you are going to have to throw it away.

Ben: (standing next to the garbage, talking to the marker) I’m so sorry…..I did my best…..See you…never again….Goodbye. I loved you….I love you marker. I’m sorry.

I was hysterical on the inside but I didn’t want him to think I was laughing at his moving farewell!

Tashlich in Palm Springs.
Tashlich in Palm Springs.
Whoa.
Tiyul day in Wynwood. Art. Whoa.
Ben after tagging an inflatable sculpture at Giants in the City.
Ben after tagging an inflatable sculpture at Giants in the City.

 

Mo enjoying some coco frio and watching Ella watch the world go by.
Mo enjoying some coco frio and watching Ella watch the world go by.

 

This is SO Miami I can't take it!
This is SO Miami I can’t take it!

 

Our balcony sukkah.
Our balcony sukkah.
Decorations
Decorations

 

Ben shaking the lulav.
Ben shaking the lulav.
This years lulav and etrog.
This year’s lulav and etrog.
Ima and Ella
Ima and Ella
Abba and Ella
Abba and Ella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation

Finally passed out on our third flight.
Finally passed out on our third flight.
YIKES
YIKES teething + flying = weird combo
Finally made it to the airport hotel.
Finally made it to the airport hotel.

I’m writing this from a cozy bed in the beautiful Oswego boutique hotel in Victoria, the capitol of British Columbia. Victoria is a beautiful city on Vancouver Island, and is one of our favorite places in the world. We have made several attempts to move here, none of which have resulted in an actual move, although oddly enough two years ago we did move to Israel instead. That’s another story, but for now, we are here visiting, having worked and saved and looked forward to this two week break from our usual time and space.

On the ferry from the Tsawassen to Nanaimo.
On the ferry from the Tsawassen to Nanaimo.

We took three flights and a ferry to get to this island, then drove two hours into the mountains where we camped by a rocky beach at the edge of a forest. Our friends Ken and Meg who live on the Island prepared all the camping equipment, picked us up at the ferry and shuttled us out into the wilderness where we tried to catch up with ourselves after forty eight hours of travel. Huge husky evergreens led the way to the ocean, ancient, pale, drift wood logs littering the edge of the shore. The afternoon revealed countless tidal pools where tiny crabs skittered out from under each rock lifted by curious five year old fingers. Ella spoke to them in her high pitched voice reserved for animals of any kind.

Beauty and the beach.
Beauty and the beach.
Loving life.
Loving life.
Little photographer.
Little photographer.

At the campsite we looked at the alder branches reaching for each other over our heads, slept fitfully in the chilly mountain air, soaked up the smell of the campfire, and walked trails in misty morning hazy slanting sunlight. Ken and Meg are both real chefs so I was reluctant to cook for them and a bit embarrassed of my unprofessional knife skills. As it turns out, like most chefs, they are happy to eat anything halfway decent that they haven’t had to cook themselves. I was ecstatic to stand at the edge of the picnic table, chopping local veggies we had purchased from a farmers market in a nearby fishing village. Every meal was basically a vegetable hash with a different sauce, and eggs or salmon on the side. Nothing fancy, no one cared. The kids ate what we ate or the ubiquitous spoonful of peanut butter.

At the farmer's market.
At the farmer’s market.
Picnicking.
Picnicking.
Smelling espresso infused balsamic vinegar and plotting dinner with Ken.
Smelling espresso infused balsamic vinegar and plotting dinner with Ken.
Gluten free, Kosher, vegan s'mores- don't let all those qualifying characteristics fool you, they were decadent and delicious!
Gluten free, Kosher, vegan s’mores- don’t let all those qualifying characteristics fool you, they were decadent and delicious!
Our last night by the campfire, up until midnight, loving it!
Our last night by the campfire, up until midnight, loving it!

We even went berry picking at a small farm off the beaten path, recommended by another farmer. I will hold that morning in my heart as one of the closest to heaven, present in my body, moving without thinking, enjoying just the motion of reaching from branch to branch, gently plucking the sun-ripened fruit, letting it fall, in a word from one of my favorite poems which is also about berries, “unbidden,” to my hand. We each started in a different row of berries with an empty bucket. After about half an hour I called to Ben, “How many berries do you have in your bucket?” He answered, full of pride, “Three!” Oh my goodness that boy ate his weight in berries! The heart and belly filling happiness of being let loose in a field of ripe fruit!

Berry baby!
Berry baby!
Berry bliss
Berry bliss
Beautiful!
Beautiful!
Tickles
Tickles
Saying goodbye to the beach.
Saying goodbye to the beach.
Family shot
Family shot

More to come, love and more love from an Island far away but close to home.

xo –  c

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Top 5 Reasons Kids Make the Worst Bosses

I love having kids and being a stay at home mom, but sometimes it starts to feel like I’m just a peon in a work place run by tiny tyrants. Here are a few reasons why kids should never be in charge.

Kids are:

1. Irrational

You need to go back inside because you forgot your what? Oh, your pirate eye patch. Of course. Why would I ever think of trying to drive you to school without your pirate eye patch?

2. Impossible to please

Here baby, have a bite of the delicious sandwich I made for myself that you have been trying to pry out of my hands. And… you just spit it at me. Okay then.

3. Unpredictable

Yesterday he said, “Broccoli soccoli, you are my favorite!” Today, those look like tiny trees in an evil sorcerers forest. Of course they do.

4. Endlessly Demanding

Kids can be totally out numbered by adults, and they will still keep us all busy. Come to think of it, this is an interesting management tactic…

5. Insulting

This morning my son asked me why my “tushy cheeks stick out so much.” Seriously? I think this is material for a lawsuit.

And…an extra one just because it’s true:

The quarterly performance reviews will never be objective because they love us wayyy too much.

They may look sweet but they are really brutal in the office.
They seem sweet but they are really brutal in the office. Just look at Mo’s face! 

The “Must” List

Stopping to smell the flowers!
Stopping to smell the flowers!

I have mentioned the concept of self care and the care of my family a few times recently, and I realized that it might seem like I don’t care about service work or our relationship with the world outside of our door. I do care about both very much. I also realize that in order to offer my love, kindness, and effort to my family and the world, I have to make sure that I have what I need to function at my best. To explain what I mean, I will share with you some of my self care tasks:

1. Absolutely Necessary

Eating a balanced diet. This is not so simple, because it involves shopping, meal planning and cooking. In order for me to be able to eat decent meals during the day they need to be prepared ahead of time which takes a good deal of thought and action. If I wait until the last minute I fall back on things like bread, fruit, nuts, and hard boiled eggs. These foods are fine but not so enjoyable if that’s all I eat for a week.

Sleeping a minimum of 6 hours straight or more if interrupted. When the baby wakes up every few hours everything can get a little hazy. I know that when I’m tired my priorities shift and I might find myself spending more time zoning out on Facebook than I’d like, or eating ice cream for lunch. (Yup, that was today. Bleh.)

Taking a shower every day, preferably in the morning. I really do not feel my best until I’ve had a shower. Even if I shower at night I still feel groggy the next day until I wash off and start fresh. Anyone with young children knows that this can be easier said than done. Since it is a priority I find ways to make it work, whether by putting Ella on the floor in the bathroom with some toys or making sure to ask Mo to give me 10 minutes alone before he goes to work.

2. Hopefully

Taking a few minutes at various points during the day to do something I want to do. This may be reading an article, actually sitting down to drink my coffee, or calling a friend.

Spending time in the evening after doing chores etc. to actually unwind. The most common activities in this category are watching a movie or just sitting and talking with Mo.

Making sure I have clean clothes that I feel comfortable and look nice in. This means keeping up with the laundry, which helps me feel like I have my act together in general, especially because I feel better when I can put on one of my favorite tee-shirts.

 

3. In an ideal world…

This list goes on and on! In my imaginary world I do yoga every day, give up coffee and drink green tea, remove wheat, sugar and dairy from my diet, or maybe start getting raw dairy products straight from the farm. In this world my apartment is neat, my keys are where they belong, and I go out to hear music or do other fun grown up things. I think this world could really be possible, if I could only find a way to add a few more hours to every day…or maybe just get a nanny and housekeeper! I know that if I made them a priority I could pick one or two of these things and add them to my must list. Truthfully, I like the idea of some of these things much more than the reality.

 

These basic and not so basic tasks can be easily overlooked when life gets stressful. When work is crazy, the baby is sick, or I just don’t have the energy. I am posting this because I think it is worthwhile for me to acknowledge and consider what I need to be at my best for those who count on me, and to remember to make myself a priority in order to feel well, think well, and act well.

What are your needs and priorities? How do you fit them into your schedule?

Chanukah Sameach!

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The fam

 

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Chanukah candle made out of a glass we rescued from my Grandpa’s house. Candles don’t have to be in a standard menorah! We like to get creative and burn oil in glasses.

I will keep this short since today was Shabbat and tonight is the first night of Chanukah. Today we had lunch at my sister-in-law’s with some friends, which was so quiet and comfortable and lovely. The food was amazing, I hope she takes to her blog and posts the recipes for the sweet potato enchiladas and the bean burritos…and the banana chocolate chip cookies for that matter! If you’re jealous you should be.

In keeping with the theme of my blog title and what I’m working on personally right now, I made a point to notice some of my favorite moments today.

1. Ben sang literally the entire twenty minute walk to the park. Freestyling, spoken word, a few random tunes. The sweetest line was, “I might be…exactly what you’ve…been looking for…your whole liiiife…” Yes indeed Ben, yes indeed.

2. My adorable niece Siona gifting me some big open mouth smiles and carrying on a several minute conversation of squeals.

3. Letting the kids stay up to light candles. We NEVER let the kids stay up later than their bedtime so this was a big deal for us. We sang together and Ben lit the first candle of Chanukah all by himself (I struck the match and he did the rest). Not only that, but he lit his own candles in his very own chanukiah (aka menorah) that he had made at school! He has grown up so fast and this is the first time I trusted him to do it alone without even thinking about it. He’s such a big kid already, thankfully he still lets me kiss him and snuggle him but I know some day he’ll give me the “Moooom!” when I try to kiss him goodbye at school.

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Soo happy for Chanukah, staying up late, lighting his own candles…life is good! He didn’t even get a present or candy and still super happy. What a guy!
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Handmade Chanukiah created by Ben. I’m so proud!

4. Mo totally quelling the conflict that was an undercurrent in the house today by acknowledging that we had been taking turns being annoyed at each other for no reason other than some subtle miscommunication. I agreed that we were getting annoyed at each other for being annoyed, even though we weren’t actually annoyed at each other. Does that make sense? If it does, you are probably married.

5. Ella doing her “bedtime dance” of tossing, turning, crawling and throwing herself all around the bed before she goes to sleep. She knows falling on the bed doesn’t hurt so she tries out all her new tricks there, and it is cuuuuute. CUTE.

This week will be busy because Mo and Ben have school, we have a few Chanukah parties, including two at our house, and I will still be blogging every day. The next big idea that I’m working on is “listening” so stay tuned!

 

work, work, work

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While I was putting Ella to bed and thinking about what was ahead of me this evening, I actually got excited that I had an “assignment” to do. When I looked at the dishes in the sink on my way to the computer I said, “sorry guys I have real work to do.” I am a stay-at-home mom for the second time in my life, and I still don’t consider work in the home to be “real” in some way. I’m not sure how much more “real” work can get than the day to day efforts of caring for people. The shopping, cooking, cleaning, playing, loving, and constant caring are tremendous efforts that become the background noise of life. Certain work in the home is made important and gratifying by the simple good feeling of walking into the kitchen in the morning and seeing the sink empty and the counters clean to start the new day. I feel satisfied by finishing a load of laundry mostly because if I don’t make the time to keep up with it on a daily basis it becomes almost insurmountable. This is particularly frustrating for me at this point in life because the building we live in has one tiny washer and dryer for each floor of ten apartments. Ten families sharing one tiny washer! This is insanity. Just ask Mo how much it bothers me. He suggested sending out the laundry to a service like we did when we lived in the Bronx. At that time I was working at a daycare and I just didn’t have the heart to spend all my home time in the musty basement washing clothes. We honestly can’t afford it right now, and I am at home with Ella, so I feel like I have to keep up with the laundry as part of my daily efforts to stay afloat around the house.

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The stuff that dreams are made of

The work that it takes to keep a family’s life together varies from place to place, home to home, lifestyle to lifestyle. I know that there are plenty of women who work full time and have to take care of the home as well. Women who have more kids than I do and live in much less pleasant areas than this.  I don’t have an angle here and I’m not complaining. I would like to point out that even though I work almost constantly from the time I wake up before 6 until I finally go to bed around 11pm, I don’t see most of the efforts I make to be “work.” If you asked me whether I thought work in the home was important, valuable, equal to work outside the home, I would say “Of course!” But when I look at my own thoughts it turns out not to be true.

I do wish for a certain validation in the public sphere. I want to be able to see and measure my efforts in something other than the endless rising and falling of dish and laundry piles. I would really like to find a way to feel that my work is valuable, even though I don’t earn a paycheck. I’m not looking for a sentimental idea like earning my living in hugs. I want to feel like I’m making a real contribution to the world!  I don’t often give it much thought, and I don’t think I am being personally undervalued in a direct way, but I know that within my own mind I don’t value the work I do highly enough.

“The blog!” you say? Yes, that is part of why I am writing this blog. To uncover, examine and move forward through the complicated thoughts, emotions and experiences that make up my life. Sometimes I encourage myself with the thought that I am helping to create healthy, loving people to participate in the world. But guys, that is such a long term goal! I couldn’t even finish my six week biology project in middle school, there is no way I’m going to be gratified by something as distant and intangible as my children eventually becoming well-adjusted adults. What I’m talking about is partly my need to feel valued, and partly my need to feel productive. Maybe the real issue is that I feel like I need to do something in order to be important. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate not just the value of work, but the value of time, and of not working, without guilt. That may be next on the list! New discovery, that’s why I’m here folks!

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The rice doesn’t cook itself, or pick itself up off the floor!

What I’m really trying to say is, even when I feel frustrated by the work I have to do, and by the way I don’t always value my own contribution to the world, I feel incredibly grateful to get to spend so much time with my family, to have a warm, dry, safe place to live, to have food on our table, clothes on our backs and the desire to create more and more peace in our hearts. I wish that for everyone.

 

Moms, dads, everybody, how do you feel about the work that you do, in or out of the home?