Ramblings on Motherhood

Just picked up a few things at the store
Just picked up a few things at the store
Just hanging around
Just hanging around
It's so intense when the kids are sick.
It’s so intense when the kids are sick.
Enjoying Sukkot close to Ima's heart.
Enjoying Sukkot close to Ima’s heart.
Ella learning to take big steps on her own.
Ella learning to take big steps on her own.

I go through my day, hoping for the best, trying to be present, wondering what comes next. I follow my toddler across the playground, sometimes wishing to be standing closer to my friends, so I could actually hear their conversation, and chime in. I remember to look around at the trees in the afternoon sunlight and marvel at the pure delight that is autumn in California. The sun is so warm, the breeze so cool, the leaves fall yet we stay in shirtsleeves. I feel lucky and fortunate and grateful that my kids are roaming around on a lovely safe playground surrounded by friends and trees. I wonder what’s for dinner, and know it’s up to me. I remember what feels like a million years ago walking through the market and deciding what to make at 7pm, knowing it was just for me. Now my work day is just nearing the end at that time, and I know it’s never really over. Because these heartbreakingly sweet, heartbreakingly frustrating people still need me nearby, need help to fall asleep, return to sleep, to wake up in the morning and eat. They look to me for help, advice, and information, but mostly nourishment of body and soul. This is alternately empowering and suffocating, inspiring and intimidating. What if I don’t know how to take care of myself? What if I forget for a moment how precious they are to me and tread on their trust? They always forgive me, partly because they need me so much, but I hope also because I honor their trust most of the time. I notice so many things about each of them changing every day, and I take mental notes and pictures of a million moments as they flash by. I remember moments from the time before I had kids, which somehow seems like I was only half me, or half awake, or swimming underwater maybe. Not because kids are so magical, but because the day my son was born so was I. Everyday I wake up more to life. My kids offer me the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. All I have to do is stop trying to turn them into whatever I think they should be, stop insisting on what I’m sure I have figured out and they need to know, and just really see them. Witness and listen, and just spot them as they climb, literally and figuratively.

Working it out
Working it out

Yesterday Ben and I were talking about working toward a learning goal and after I got frustrated and tried to force something with threats and incentives he said, “Ima, just let me go at my own pace.” I dropped everything, thanked him, and started over. Today he picked up the work in question and told me he would do it by himself and just check in with me if he needed help. Then tonight in bed we were laughing about something that was nothing but it felt so wonderful to just laugh and be silly. I’ve learned that often the best way for me to connect with my kids is through humor. I tend to take myself too seriously and get bogged down by the woes of the world, so it can be both difficult and so healing to just let go and laugh at nothing. It turns out I have a very similar sense of humor to a seven year old boy, at least a seven year old boy who love potty humor and any kind of pun. I’ve found the best way to respond to gross kid humor is to out gross him, which he loves. Mo thinks we’re both ridiculous. Ella tries to get in on our jokes but she hasn’t quite gotten the nuances of potty jokes yet so she mostly just says any rude words she can think of and then commands us to laugh. Which in itself is funny, so she gets her laugh after all. Even Zeecee makes jokes without words. I’m telling you, she makes us all laugh just with her eyes. She also likes to climb all over us when we are laying in bed and there really is something funny about a one year old coming and sitting on your head when you’re trying to read a bedtime story. There is a lot of humor in life if I’m willing to look for it, and stop dreading the disaster that hasn’t happened yet. The truth is that the disasters that will inevitably come, please G-d not soon and not often, are not the ones I play out in my head. They will probably be unexpected and random and my rehearsals won’t make a bit of difference. Pain is pain is pain whoever and wherever you are. My fear of the unknown is outweighed only by my courage to take each moment as it comes. I’m only learning what that means a little every day, and I have to trust that that is okay.

Ben working on a rudimentary computer kit Mo's coworker gave him to try.
Ben working on a rudimentary computer kit Mo’s coworker gave him to try.
Ella liked the rainbow colored wires.
Ella liked the rainbow colored wires.
Being silly
Being silly
I love this kid!!!
I love this kid!!!

All photos from Mo’s phone (thanks baby!)

I hope to update more frequently to share our journey with you!

love,

c

Of Me, But Not Mine.

A treasure of a moment, the baby's look is the one she always has for her Abba.
A treasure of a moment, the baby’s look is the one she always has for her Abba.

I get lost in the haze of daily tasks, one to the next to the next until we finally make it out the door and I feel like I have narrowly escaped something. I’m not sure what, but it was really chasing me back there, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that sun on my face, because it’s now more real than the stress I was swimming through while making lunches and listening to my kids argue. I also find myself sinking into the depths of love for these kids at least a few times a day, which has to be a pretty good rate, considering all the tasks and chasing and arguing. When I look at them, and really see them, it’s thrilling and terrifying and beautiful and painful and above all, I see that they aren’t mine. They’re here on loan from G-d, from their future selves, from the universe or nature or whatever higher power you believe in.

My two year old daughter closely guards her feelings in a way only a two year old can. She is feisty and emotional, and her true softness is hidden inside. It can be hard to get a genuine snuggly hug with her, but last night after helping her work through some big intense feelings and sad sad tears she sat on my lap and asked me to put my hand on her chest while I held her. I felt her heart beating under my hand, so fast. I almost couldn’t believe it keeps that up all day and all night, every day. How can I remember to be grateful for that heart beating it’s rhythm so quickly, tirelessly, without even a thought from me? I feel like my children’s caretaker, and I try to be their teacher, I know I’m sometimes a great example, but I’m not running that heart. She is. They are. The great machine of life is running it’s current through the bodies of these people who were once a part of mine. I have to sit here knowing that and still go to sleep and wake up and make more lunches, and somehow love them and see them, really see them. It’s hard so much of the time, but I will remember to be thankful for these fast little hearts growing in my care. Of me, but not mine.

Flying frogs.

How to Measure

Teamwork!
Teamwork!

 

Mo and I have been on what I would call an adventure of personal growth since we met eight years ago. I had always been involved with holistic healing and spirituality, and Mo had been interested in Eastern religions for years. Like most couples, we went through ups and downs, learned how to live together, learned how to be married, and learned how to be parents. The parenting part really brought up a lot of difficult feelings and experiences for both of us, and at a certain point we didn’t like the direction our relationship was heading. There were too many treacherous pitfalls to tread around in every conversation, too many arguments, too much misunderstanding and resentment.

We began to really consciously make an effort to be more self-aware and try to grow into our best selves about three years ago when we started seeing a therapist in New York. A year later when we lived in Jerusalem I found myself part of a beautiful women’s group therapy circle in my neighborhood, and that was the beginning of another level of a journey inward for me. I began to learn to look inside my feelings, my fears, and my uncomfortable places, discover their stories, and have the courage to talk about them.

Talking about my inner life was a difficult leap for me. I spend a lot of time in my own head and I don’t always know how or even think to say what’s on my mind. I do things like start a story in the middle, think I said something when I really didn’t, and expect Mo to understand where I’m coming from when he has no idea because I haven’t told him. Healthy communication is really hard for me, and it is something that I have been working on for what feels like a really long time! I try to dig deep and have the courage to not only look at my true feelings, but say them out loud, to Mo or our therapist.

The other night Mo and I were talking about growth and change, wondering out loud how long it takes to make progress, what progress looks like, when to step back and acknowledge how far we’ve come, when to let something go and come back to it later if it’s too hard, when to accept that certain things will always be hard, what is the status quo, and when do we need to push ourselves further? So many questions!

The main theme for me was based in my noticing that there are things that I’m aware of that I want to change, in theory, but that I somehow find myself continuing to do in a way that doesn’t really work so well. Do I give myself credit for the awareness at all? Do I accept that it’s hard for me and let it go? Do I really push myself to change? To a certain extent I think that personal growth is like peeling away layers. If you take it step by step and work on what is “up” at any given time, things will move forward and get closer to the core. I do notice that it loops back on itself though, with issues that I struggle with popping up, being addressed to a certain extent, then taking a backseat for a while. How do you feel this works in your life?

My birthday is approaching (next Saturday) so I feel like I’m sort of taking stock of where I am now and what I hope and wish for in the year ahead. I’ll try to keep sharing my thoughts with you throughout the week, and I’m planning on doing the month long daily posts for November, so I hope to really dig into the blog in the coming weeks.

Here are some photos of our recent adventures, Shavua Tov, have a great week!

love,

c

Big helper!
Big helper!
Little helper!
Little helper!
Ben loves to read and sets the best example.
Ben loves to read and sets the best example.
Ben's toy friend having an adventure on one of our neighborhood "nature walks".
Ben’s toy friend having an adventure on one of our neighborhood “nature walks”.
Visiting Uncle Yoni at the lab where he works in Key Biscayne, looking for ghost crabs. We didn't find any, but we did come home with a new pet, a sea snail named Speed.
Visiting Uncle Yoni at the lab where he works in Key Biscayne, looking for ghost crabs. We didn’t find any, but we did come home with a new pet, a sea snail named Speed. Yoni has generously signed on to do a little marine class every Thursday!
Playing around at Marando Farms, our new source for grass fed raw milk and organic veggies.
Playing around at Marando Farms, our new source for grass fed raw milk and organic veggies.
Ben is finally back at the beach after months of protest! He spent hours in the water and didn't have a meltdown about being sandy after! This was a real triumph.
Ben is finally back at the beach after months of protest! He spent hours in the water and didn’t have a meltdown about being sandy after! This was a real triumph.
"All About Halloween" My super Jewish kid is obsessed with Halloween! He decided to make a book about it, constructed the book himself, wrote the title and drew about twelve different pictures. I included two of my favorites below.
“All About Halloween” My super Jewish kid is obsessed with Halloween! He decided to make a book about it, constructed the book himself, wrote the title and drew about twelve different pictures. I included two of my favorites below.
Vampire, seemingly with rabbit ears and a plunger...
Vampire, seemingly with rabbit ears and a plunger…Ben informs me that they are actually horns and a cup full of blood. Oy.
Ghosty! (or sea creature?)
Ghosty! (or sea creature?)
The best part of my day.
The best part of my day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschooling Diary 10: Ups and Downs

These characters!
These characters!

I’m finding with having both kids together all the time that the highs are really high and the lows are really low. The sweetness between the kids is growing as they bond and spend more time playing. There is also a lot of frustration between us all because we are kind of on an island right now. Our formal activities are getting started in the next few weeks, so in the meantime, we are playing it by ear a bit more than I would like to be. We have been getting together with friends and going to different parks, playgrounds and museums. These casual plans are allowing me to develop a rhythm to the days themselves, which is helpful. However, the lack of consistent structure and direct engagement with activities and peers to play with have been hard for Ben and therefore for all of us.

Scoping out a caterpillar who was on a papaya at our friends' urban farm.
Scoping out a caterpillar who was on a papaya at our friends’ urban farm.
Close up! He was kind of intense.
Close up! He was kind of intense.

There are about a zillion different ways to parent effectively, eat healthfully, and just plain live life. What I’m trying to find is what works for me, for my husband, for our kids, and for all of us as a family. Four people with different needs and personalities are kind of a lot to consider, especially when we are spending so much time together. Realistically we can’t be everything that each other needs, so we need to discover when to outsource as well. I would be tempted to call this process trial and error, but let’s go with discovery because it sounds nicer and is closer to the way I am trying to see it as we move through this stretching time. I really do feel like I’m stretching right now, emotionally and mentally especially. I feel like I am burning out a little in this introductory phase, which I guess is fine because Mo is on vacation for Rosh Hashana starting Friday afternoon. We will have to readjust our routine, if you can call it that after just a few weeks.

Mo and Ella reading together. Totally snuck this shot without them noticing.
Mo and Ella reading together. Totally snuck this shot without them noticing.

Truly, all this living is really good practice for life, which to me is the point of homeschooling. As a kid in school I always felt like I was waiting for something to happen, learning a skill to use in a more practical application later, being prepared for something that never seemed to come. My hope with homeschooling is to turn childhood into life (if that makes sense), and spend as much time as possible with the people who are most important to me. One of the good/bad side effects of the new set up is that I am spending SO much time with them, that I am finally forcing myself to get out and spend time alone, simply because if I don’t I will lose my mind. I am also more excited to write, because it is even more satisfying than usual to spend time alone in my own head.

A quiet visit with some friends.
A quiet visit with some friends.

I would like to take the space at the end of my homeschooling diary posts to acknowledge some of the ups and downs that we go through each day.

Highlight: At bedtime tonight Ben and Ella were laying in bed, gently patting each other’s faces. Ben said, “I love you forever and ever and ever.” Ella said, “La la la,” which I think is her way of saying “I love you.”

Lowlight: Every argument, refusal, and moment of anger. Example: Discovering that Ben had inexplicably bitten through the rubber part of my new stroller’s handle.

Try to continue: Getting kitchen cleaned and prepped for the next day before bed.

Try to change: I am really working hard to follow through with what I say to Ben.

Looking forward to a quiet weekend, sending love!

c

Homeschooling Diary Day 6

Kids getting ready to play tug of war at Phys Ed for homeschoolers class.
Kids getting ready to play tug of war at Phys Ed for homeschoolers class.

I’m going to stop counting the days because it seems a little dramatic, but I would like to continue to chronicle our adventures. I am making a commitment to myself to sit down every week day and write out the day’s experience.

Yesterday was the first day of school in South Florida, including the high school where my husband Mo is a teacher. Because it was the first day of school for the rest of the world down here it felt like a certain excitement was in the air. Over the summer I did a lot of internet research on homeschooling, and felt like I had a general picture of what was available in this area. I found a group on Meetup.com that gets together at a park about half an hour north of here every Monday morning. No one else had RSVP’d to the event, but I figured at the very least we would spend the morning in a park that was new to us.

We got lost on the way but still arrived at Treetops park a few minutes early. It was gorgeous, lush, green all around, with three different playground areas, a horse barn, and a butterfly garden. This place was pretty epic! It was also empty, and I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach of being the first one at the party. Homeschooling is bringing so many new social interactions into my life, which feels pretty intense, especially considering the level of social anxiety I used to deal with. Thankfully having kids means being forced to meet strangers constantly, so I have gotten over a lot of the stress I used to feel about meeting new people. Lately I think I have been coping pretty well. About six months ago I was really struggling with anxiety again and found some herbal supplements that sort of helped (I sometimes use the Stress Relief formula from Simplers). I think what has helped, and continues to help the most is talking openly with Mo and friends about my feelings, working on the roots of my issues with my therapist, and writing this blog.

I was feeling adventurous and I didn’t feel too worried even as we wandered around the park looking for the group. Ben was wearing a cape made of his favorite blanket and carrying his lovey toy George the monkey under his arm. I had a wave of self consciousness wash over me, “I’m the homeschooling lady with the kid in the cape!” but I laughed at myself for caring and thought with love how brave Ben was being joining a new group, facing the unknown, and he needed some support from his accessories. We finally found the rest of the meetup group and as the morning went on, I was amazed at how much the playground filled up. There were about fifty kids of all ages from all different backgrounds. I got the impression that most of the families were Christian, but the group was very loosely organized so I didn’t actually speak with too many people. The highlight of the morning was watching a herd of kids from age three to ten walk into a wooded area, pick up sticks which they slung over their shoulders like wild adventurers, and hike around pretending to be all sorts of things. There was a Han Solo, a Ninja Turtle, an Indiana Jones, and more. They came across a wild armadillo (for real!) in the woods and even more kids trooped in to see the outrageously cute little creature. His face was so sweet, with his funny armored body and skinny tail…I couldn’t believe it was real. Ben was impressed!

Overall I was really amazed by the level of imaginative, creative play, as well as the cooperation and general lack of conflict. As I listened to kids introduce themselves and as I introduced myself to several moms, I realized that most of the other people there were also new to the group, and many were new to homeschooling. It really felt like we were at the first day of school, yet it was so nice that we were not at school at all. It was almost an anti-milestone: today, we don’t send, we don’t separate, we get together and move forward with the integration of our kids into our everyday lives and learning.

I really don’t want to offend anyone who happily sends their kids to school. I know that what works for every family is different. I do want to freely share my opinion about why I have decided homeschool and what I like and don’t like about it. I hope that you will share your opinion in the comments and we can learn from each other.

While I was at the park I chatted with a few moms who shared all sorts of local homeschooling support and activities that I hadn’t heard about. There is a nature class on Thursday mornings, a part time “unschooling” project-based school nearby, and a parent support group that organizes field trips all over (Fan boat tour! Chocolate factory! Legoland! None of the above with a 15 month old, but sounds cool). I started to realize that a challenge of this homeschooling adventure is not going to be finding things to do, but rather choosing what to do from all the options. I will also have to decide which groups to be a part of.

After we left the park, feeling encouraged, Ella fell asleep in the car. I debated where to go. It was still pretty early in the day so we drove to another park where I figured the kids could play when Ella woke up. As we pulled up to the playground I saw a group of kids gathered under a huge tree across the way and thought that they seemed older than preschool age. It dawned on me that maybe I had accidentally happened upon the homeschooling phys ed class that I had read about months ago without even remotely realizing the day or time. I literally pulled up just as the class was gathering, walked over and asked if it was the class I thought it was. By luck or fate, it was! Ben joined in and spent the next two hours in the class led by a coach, running around with a group of about fifteen kids, who were mostly Jewish. This was exciting because at the other group we seemed to be the only Jewish family. I grew up Christian and now my family is observant Jewish (part of my story is here) so I feel like it is important for my kids to spend time with all different people. I don’t want Ben and Ella to feel like they need to only be around people just like them, although I’m pretty sure not so many people are JUST like us! I also want them to have a sense of belonging and community, especially spiritually. We haven’t really found a synagogue nearby that we like to go to, and now that Ben isn’t in Jewish day school I want to make sure he learns about the holidays and Hebrew, etc. This phys ed group, funny enough, with all the boys with kippot and tzitzit, seems like a good place to start!

The moms there told me about another entire set of playgroups, classes, and resources in the area. I felt like our homeschooling fortune was overflowing! It was great to sit and chat with the women at the phys ed class. They were from all different backgrounds, lived totally different lifestyles, and were all very intelligent and clearly committed. We talked about why we had decided to homeschool and the overwhelming response was that “school was taking over our life” and “with school we had no true family life.” These were not parents with fundamentalist religious views, nor were they super crunchy granola anti-establishment folks. They were just people who had seen something in their lives that wasn’t working, and decided to take a leap and find a way to change it. Some said that the main deciding factor was simply not being able to afford to outsource the kind of education they hoped for for their kids. I can relate to all of these reasons, and it was very empowering not to feel alone. I don’t know about you, but some sort of outdated stereotype of very socially awkward, religious fanatic homeschoolers lingered in my mind. I was relieved that at both groups everyone seemed truly overwhelmingly “normal.” Let me say that I truly love “weird,” I used to be entirely socially awkward, and some of my closest friends would be considered religious fanatics. What I really mean is that I was thankful to see that homeschooling has actually become a bit more mainstream and all sorts of people are doing it.

By the time we left our second play extravaganza of the day, the kids were filthy, shirtless, sweaty, and buzzing with excitement. I was feeling so grateful to have found both groups, and looking forward to fleshing out our weeks with all the classes and get togethers we had learned about. I am feeling really happy and satisfied with our decision to homeschool this year, and I am proud of us for following our intuition. It felt like we were going against the grain in a certain way, but really following our hearts. Now that the “first day of school” is behind us, I’m looking forward to an interesting year full of love, growth, and learning!

Homeschooling Diary Day 3

Running at the science museum yesterday.
Running at the science museum yesterday.

Today was great. We started out at a playground with Mo super early, then met my friend Blair and her daughter at a favorite coffee shop and played in her garden nearby. We haven’t seen most of our friends here in Miami since before our trip so it feels great to reconnect with everyone. Seeing this friend was especially nice because she homeschools her two kids, and in terms of being unconventional, Blair is an amazing trailblazer. Her family lives in a school bus converted to a mobile sustainable living demonstration. It is cozy and beautiful, and she welcomes us to her home and her garden in midtown Miami. Ben and Ella were excited to be back at the garden where we had been going to a weekly playdate for many months. Ella went for a naked swim in the baby pool while Ben played with a dollhouse on the bus. Blair and I collected mangoes from their tree to bring home and talked about our hopes for homeschooling this year. Visiting the garden always leaves me feeling more hopeful and whole.

Ella in the swing
Ella in the swing

We made it home with no major screaming in the car (Ella has never been a fan of car trips) and Ben was super excited to watch a DVD and eat a strawberry coconut milk ice pop while I put Ella down for a nap. We are very sparing with screen time, partly because of ideology, but mostly because of behavior. Ben does best with under an hour of screen time per day, always followed by direct interaction. If he is cut off from the screen and told to go play or do whatever it always ends badly. When Ella is sleeping I sometimes want to just eat chocolate and surf celebrity blogs, but instead I sat with Ben and read his new book and some old comics that our friend in Vancouver gave him (don’t worry I had a chance to do the chocolate/blog thing after the kids went to bed). I do always enjoy the quiet time alone with Ben, I feel like we get to connect and actually build our relationship. Daily life can get so busy and distracting, especially with two kids. The activities that actually nourish us and build the connection between us sometimes get swept away in the tide. That is another huge reason I wanted to homeschool this year. I feel like the past few years have created a distance between us, and I miss the special connection that we once had. Ben is such a unique person, a sensitive soul, and has been through so many changes in the past three years since I was home with him full time. I think being at school for full days since he was two, and all the moving have really taken a toll on him. Since Ella was born Mo and Ben have really bonded in a special way, but Ben and I have grown further apart. I consider this year a gift to both of us, to take the space to really reconnect.

Ben in Wynwood. Hipster.
Ben in Wynwood. Hipster.

After Ella’s nap we went to Whole Foods to get groceries to last through the weekend. Ben was pretty wired and asked me for just about everything in the store. I realized that I hadn’t been as clear with him as I could have been at the outset. In the end I bought him a yogurt and he was quite happy. Ella rode in the Ergo on my back and was pretty content. I felt kind of badly for taking them on another errand, but I know it’s just part of life sometimes. Mo is always willing to go shopping and he is much better at sticking to the list, so I will try and let him do it more in the coming weeks.

We picked Mo up at school, and seeing the kids’ faces when he walks up to the car is always one of the best parts of my day. The big smiles just for him, the expectation and surprise, because they know we are there to get him, but then his face just appears in the window. It’s the best. They love him so much and he gives them such great attention even though he’s had a long day at work. I feel so lucky to have a partner who shares my priorities. None of this homeschooling or holistic healing or organic food eating would be possible without Mo and his hard work in and out of the home. So I guess that’s a shout out, Thanks Mo! I love you.

We came home and I cooked dinner while intermittently picking Ella up because she was squawking at my feet. I tried to nurse her in the Ergo while cooking but I couldn’t see past her head, which was bad for chopping veggies. She’s too big to cook while wearing nowadays! Dinner finally materialized, then Ben read books with my mom on Skype, Mo had a phone appointment, and I took some time alone to connect with Ella. The same thing I said before about getting distracted by life and not spending enough time investing in relationship building goes for Ella too. When my kids were small babies I was always connected to them through sheer proximity. When they are bigger I have to take the time and effort to step back, look them in the eyes, sit down on the floor, and actually play. Ella and I had a girls only dinner, then sat out on the balcony. Ella dug through a box of Ben’s toys and intermittently brought one over to sit on my lap and show me. She sings and chatters to herself when she is engaged in play, which I absolutely love listening to. I really enjoyed feeling the evening breeze off the beach (we are mile or two away) and just watching her, making eye contact, feeling her sit on my lap. It’s really cool to see her grow and change as she is in the transition between baby and little kid. Exciting stuff.

Since we came back from our nature filled adventure on Vancouver Island Ella is all about playing with rocks and sticks and digging in any dirt she can find. That's my girl!
Since we came back from our nature filled adventure on Vancouver Island Ella is all about playing with rocks and sticks and digging in any dirt she can find. That’s my girl!

Mo took Ben to the pool for a late swim and Ella and I watched him tread water and swim a lap from the balcony. He is so big now! Amazing. I put Ella to bed while Mo read Ben books in the living room. Then Mo went to visit a friend and I got to snuggle Ben to sleep again. I had all kinds of things on my mind but I tried to quiet down and focus on being in the moment. Ben was fidgeting and I started to get a little impatient. I almost told him to just pick a spot and hold still, then I realized that I fidget the exact same way when I fall asleep. Honestly, I think what we all want is someone to be patient with us while we get comfortable.

Lot’s of love and looking forward to tomorrow!

c

 

Opening Closed Doors

Sunday morning at the beach
Sunday morning at the beach
Busy Ben
Busy Ben
Me and Ella scoping something out
Me and Ella scoping something out

Mo and I have been married for almost six years now. We met eight years ago! This is amazing to me, because inside I pretty much still feel sixteen. We met when I was a junior in college and he was back at school finishing his degree. We dated for a year, had a really great time going dancing, sharing our favorite NYC museums and gardens, and generally doing the footloose and fancy free thing really well. Then Mo moved to Israel and things got serious. I moved in with him there, decided to convert, we got engaged, married, pregnant, gave birth to our baby boy and moved back to the states. Each step of the way we learned more and more about each other and ourselves. With each revelation came painful feelings that eventually yielded to a sense of freedom and openness.

When we can see things about ourselves, our families, or our relationships with clarity, sometimes it is really hard to take. I know I have done all kinds of things to avoid the uncomfortable feelings that come with looking honestly at myself or my life. It is very unsettling to think about making changes, letting things go, and acknowledging hurt in present and past. I read somewhere that the feelings that come from difficult experiences can become like locked rooms inside of ourselves, and we do whatever we can to keep them closed off. The suggestion in the book was to open up the rooms and sit in them for a while, let some fresh air and light in. This idea meant so much to me, because I didn’t have to do anything. My first question in any scenario is “What do I do?” This instinct helps me take action, but sometimes action gets in the way! With the “sitting in the room” technique I don’t have to do anything. Just let a little fresh air and light into a space inside myself. For me the hard part is finding the courage and desire to actually open that door to begin with. I find the motivation to begin by reminding myself that once the doors to more and more of these closed areas are opened, my internal space becomes more open, flexible, and pleasant to spend time in. I certainly do not think I have it all figured out, and I still sometimes struggle with anxiety, depression, and learning how to enjoy myself. Yet, when I look back at things I had difficulty with or realizations that caused me pain a year, two years, eight years ago, I realize that growth and change are possible.

More soon, including some special recipes!

Have a great week 🙂

love,

c

Who Knows the Truth?

Why I am always seeking the truth, about myself, about the world, about people, about food, about happiness, about life, about love? What is the truth? Who has it? Who knows it? Maybe I should go back in time and take a philosophy course in college. Wait, I’m sure I did take one. It was during my semester at Brooklyn College, after I had moved from Williamsburg to New Jersey and was commuting three hours each way on the train. I may have only attended three of the classes, which explains why I don’t remember any of it. I still have dreams sometimes about missing so many classes that I don’t get credit for the semester. I always loved school and got good grades, but once I wasn’t stuck in the building all day it was an extreme challenge for me to make it to class on time, if at all. I had favorite teachers whose classes I tried my best to attend, and I did my best work for them. Other classes I just couldn’t get it together. This brings me to a major challenge that is up for me right now: organization.

This morning Mo and I had an argument about a familiar topic, one in a long string of such discussions stretching back to the beginning of our relationship. Why can’t I keep a closet or cabinet in order? Why do I put things in a different place each time? Why did I move his towel/umbrella/pen? I don’t know! Sometimes it’s the kids, but really it’s my brain. Any distraction can derail me from what I was on my way to do. I now know that I have ADD which explains many frustrations over the years, but I don’t really know what to do about it. I have certain techniques like trying to put my wallet, keys, and phone in the same place every time so I don’t lose them. This is helpful, unless I forget and put them down elsewhere. I have some vague idea that labeled bins would be useful, but I don’t know where to put them, or what to put in them. To anyone out there with similar struggles, have you found any techniques that really work?

I manage to get myself and my kids dressed and fed and out the door in time to drive Mo to school most days, so I must have some latent organizational skills. I was a great waitress, and I could always tell when people were ready for their check by their body language. I was, to quote a former manager, “unflappable” during a rush. I am a great cook in many ways, and I love being in the kitchen. I feel at the helm of my ship and I enjoy every chop, stir, and taste. I can plan three meals’ worth of ingredients and shop for them, then cook them in a few hours and clean up afterwards. I know I can because I did it for a client, however I have never done any such thing in my own home because it is exhausting and difficult for me. I am trying to accept these things about myself as part of who I am, and out of compassion, find ways to accommodate myself. I want to love myself and be kind to myself, and also not drive my partner crazy. Thankfully Mo and I truly love each other for who we are, and we don’t want to change that. In order to grow closer, we do sometimes ask each other to work on certain things that are difficult for us. Mo has never said no when I ask him to work on something, so I am trying to do the same. I feel like one of the greatest parts of our relationship is having someone to see me, and reflect back to me what he sees with love. Of course we get frustrated with each other, especially when we’re overworked and tired. Thankfully through therapy we have learned how to talk it through afterward.

I feel like for our family the past two years have been a process of stripping down all the stuff that gets in the way, and slowly making room for whatever we really need. This process started when we moved to Israel and found ourselves back in our cozy neighborhood, different in a familiar place. Everything about living there felt wrong, except for our relationships with new and old friends. We began to really see the cracks in our own relationship with honesty and love. I began to see the layers of self I had built around my core, and began to peel them away and look at them, thanks to deep friendships and group therapy with wonderful women friends.

Now we are here in Miami, the most “surface” focused place I have ever been, and we are delving deeper into our process of self discovery. We are learning how to communicate, how to love ourselves, how to love each other, and what we want to offer our children. We are learning how and what to eat, something I have been thinking about and working on for the past fifteen years. We are, more than anything, learning that we will always be a work in progress, and that it is okay to make mistakes. That really, there are no mistakes, just change, growth, and more and more love.

Happily on our way to a matinee to celebrate Mo's birthday last week. We haven't had a date in a while so we were extra giddy to be out alone finally!
Happily on our way to a matinee to celebrate Mo’s birthday last week. We haven’t had a date in a while so we were extra giddy to be out alone finally!

Top 5 Things I Dislike About Being a Hippie

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Damn you, goopy peanut butter!

1. Stirring the peanut butter. Seriously, it’s so annoying! I know hydrogenated oils are awful, but so is trying to mix the oil back into the peanut butter, especially while holding my attachment parented baby in one hand.

2. Can’t eat on the run. Gone are the days of just grabbing a doughnut or pizza and a Coke. In theory, I believe that everything in moderation is wise. However, I feel awful and get really grumpy if I eat junk. I try to plan ahead and bring food with me, which brings me to the next thing…

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Getting the kids involved with the endless food prep. Ella says, “Give me a strawberry NOW!”

3. All the dishes. O.M.G. it takes a lot of dishes to make EVERYTHING from scratch! Cooking creates plenty, add in the soaking and sprouting and fermenting that are supposed to make all the nutrients in the food more available to our bodies, and my kitchen looks like a science lab after a failed experiment. Plus, all the tupperware I need to bring healthy food for all of us, everywhere we go, it’s overwhelming.

4. Target is no longer fun. I know too much, and I spend the whole time there thinking about sweat shops and fossil fuels. There are a few household items that are worth going to Target for, but as we all know, the whole point of Target is to get us to spend a ton of money on lots of other things that are NOT on our shopping lists. They are so good at it! The last time I went to Target I came home with a cute dress for Ella, sunglasses for me, and a new book for Ben. Not so bad, but let’s just say they weren’t part of my grocery budget! I have to just send the husband at this point, and even he comes back with some piece of plastic for Ben. I don’t argue, because little dude plays so nicely for so long with a new toy.

5. Trying to live my ideals while still living in the world. As you can probably tell, I feel a bit conflicted about choices and priorities.  I try not to make myself crazy with my idealism. Giving up processed food? Great. Cloth diapers? Not in a building where I share one tiny washer with eight other apartments! I have been on a path of conscious living since I decided to be a vegetarian in middle school, so I have had a lot of time to mull over what kind of impact I want to have in the world. Only now am I beginning to work out why, and what my choices truly mean, not just to the world, but to myself and my family. I have often wished to just be unaware and happily live without considering things so carefully. I don’t think that will ever happen! I will probably always over think things. My goal is to reach a place where I can carefully consider my choices, and feel confident in what I choose to do. I won’t always make the “right” choice, and that’s okay. I will make the best choice with what I know in the moment, and the next moment will come with new opportunities. 

Here’s to working, learning, growing, and hippie living, even if I do hate the peanut butter!

Motivation

The only motivation I need
Brave boy

Yesterday I lifted my baby girl (who is really more on the verge of toddler) into her familiar place in my left arm, and my wrist made a popping sound. It felt weird and hurt a little, and as I rubbed the spot where it felt out of place, I noticed how tiny my wrists are. I poked my fingers in between the long narrow bones, looking for a muscle or tendon to rub, to set things right. I realized that I use that skinny wrist to hold my girl for hours every day, and I never once questioned whether it was strong enough, or if I might hurt myself, I just did it. This is a good, childlike view. Strong and confident until surprised with evidence otherwise.

I also had a conversation with a thoughtful friend about what it takes to be happy. I said, “Is there a way to be happy in this crazy world?” She said something along the lines of, “Sure, you watch a lot of TV, buy the things you see, get a burst of happiness, then when it wears off, buy more things, and just keep all of your thoughts and interactions very surface.” I said that I don’t think that anyone doing that is really so happy. As I said it I realized that it is a similar cycle as what I’ve been working on breaking out of, but with the opposite inputs. I feel good about my health or my choices until I get used to them and then I move on, looking for the next best thing, the next healthy choice to make, the next issue to work on. Just before that, my “rub some garlic one what ails you,” relaxed, sneaker wearing friend had told me that a doctor mom in stilettos at story hour asked her to meet up for a play date. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to. Was my friend being a snob? Or was she just not interested in hanging out with someone she didn’t seem to have much in common with?

The answer to that question is the same as the answer when I ask myself why I’m interested in a new healthy way to do something. It’s the same answer to the question of whether I should be eating this, that, or the other thing. It depends. It depends whether I’m excited to try a new recipe or healing technique because I think it will “fix” something that’s missing or broken in my life, or because I feel like it is genuinely a good idea. It depends whether I’m eating a cupcake at a celebration with friends, or late at night standing over my sink because I’m stressed out. It depends whether my friend judges the the mom-in-stilettos’ values, or she just wants to hang out with someone she can chat with about organic food and personal growth (me, obviously!).

The more I wander down this circuitous path of healing and discovery, the more difficult feelings I confront, and the more honest I have to be with myself about my motivation. This honesty makes it easier to grow and change, because I’m not hiding from myself or my own true reasons for doing things. I don’t need to figure everything out, or be the healthiest person on the planet, but I want to be clear on why I’m doing what I’m doing, and that’s what makes the difference, to me.