Thursday, December 29, 2011

hot dogs, cheerios, and peanut butter toast...

ha ok so if i told you that this is what i fed my kids for dinner tonight, would you have a feel for the kind of day it was? (hey in my defence, there were 2 proteins in there!!... and the cheerios were dry in the bowl, alongside the hot dog with no ketchup (ran out) and the crustless little toast with peanut butter... mmm, appetizing...)... anyway, the kids managed to eat enough and get to bed on a full stomach and i am left to decompress and review my whirlwind day...

you see, sometimes the demands on our plate are just too much to handle and we have to find ways to make it work, and ways to allow ourselves to be something other than our ideal. we have to know when it's ok to be less than what we'd like to be and when it's not, and how to deal with both...

so let's take my day, for example...

ok so my kids have just finished their winter vacation for channukah and today was the first day back to school (this is why there haven't been posts for the last week--- kids home=craaaaaziness!! really it's not so bad, they just need 100% of mommy's attention u c, hence very little computer time... ) anyway it has been a busy (and wonderful) kid-filled week, and to top it off, my husband had to go away overnight yesterday, so here i was, slightly worse for wear, ready to take on the day... (oh yeah, we are also in between babysitters and house cleaners... grr... )...

so i'm happy to say that morning-routine went very well and we made it out of the house happy, dressed,  ready-to-go, and even on time! (for those who know me the punctuality part is particularly impressive)... ok but then i kind of have this thing where when things are going well and are under control, rather then just stopping and enjoying the under-controlness, i take this as a cue that more needs to be done...

so ambitious as i was feeling, after dropping the big kids at school, i decided to head with my baby to the shuk (jerusalem's outdoor food market) to load up on inexpensive, lovely produce, in time to cook a gourmet meal later this evening for shabbat tomorrow... and Baruch Hashem, still going well, did this in record time and made it home safely with a couple hours left of the kids' morning out... so now what? clearly it's time to do several loads of laundry and clean up my kids' room whose mess has been a low-level disaster for about 3 weeks now... right... then i have to go get the kids, make it home, feed them, and keep goin'... ok the next Baruch Hashem comes in when both girls nap at the same time after school- yay! so the logical thing to do at this point would be to put my feet up for a few minutes... but no, clearly this is the cue to clean up the rest of the house while they sleep and my son is occupied with something else... including to scrub the floors to get rid of the face paint which my kids lovingly decorated the floor with this morning (during my disaster-prone last few minutes of sleep which i mentioned before... ha and yes they also ate fistfuls of chocolate chips at this point)...

ok where was i? anyway, the point being, eventually they woke up and now we have one way-tired imma (mommy) and three active, little, raring-to-go people who need some lovin'! so as you may be able to imagine, the next several hours were a little more challenging than those prior (read: a lot more challenging)... but somewhere in there we managed to play several games (some of them which involved me laying on the couch and just watching... niiiiiiice...) like when i discovered that our stack of full pop and water bottles can entertain a 4-year-old and 2-year-old to no end by simply placing them in different patterns on the floor and moving through them or just admiring them, ha don't ask... k what else? yes there was bath time, a few more loads of laundry, and probably some other stuff that i already can't even remember...

but the way i measure the success of the time spent with my kids is not really how much i was able to get done despite having them around (if i would fall into this way of thinking i would need serious help!), but rather, besides taking care of their physical needs (which is hard enough... note the funky dinner...), have i properly taken care of their emotional needs? have i created a safe and loving atmosphere in the home in which they can thrive? have i stayed on an even emotional plane myself or have i been unpredictable and volatile? have i created clear boundaries in which my kids know what is expected of them and how they too can succeed? have i been careful to work on my own positive character traits so that i can model the type of person i would like them to become?

so listen, if i could answer yes to all of these questions, that would be a pretty amazing feat... but if i'm asking myself these questions, then at least i know what i'm striving for...

and so what about today, when i was feeling so tired and kinda overwhelmed and was struggling to make it through the rest of the day? well i actually did pretty well, and i think that most of the time i was able to act with foresight and control, but not the whole time... (also please note that the activities we did once all the kids were up were less about accomplishing, and more about ways to keep them busy!)...

there were also the moments when i was raising my voice, yelling about something that hadn't bothered me 5 minutes prior (2 problems here: 1. lack of anger management!, 2. unclear expectations for the kids... one minute something is acceptable, the next minute it's not...)... ok what other embarrassing moments shall i post to this world wide web? (i trust that y'all will love and forgive me for my mistakes!)... ok there is the general bad-moodness which can last for one, two, ten minutes, or more, which includes sulking, pouting, and not having anything nice to say (ick!)... right, then there are the occasional bursts of actual tears (oy!)....

ok we get the picture? basically there was this long, full, eventful, fairly successful day that was quite challenging and included several low moments amidst the ones to be proud of... so now what does one do with this?

here we turn to three pearls of wisdom:


* most problems are technical, not existential... that means they can be solved, just make it a priority!* (taught to me by Rabbi Jamie Cowland)

*guilt is a tool of the evil inclination (more on what this is later, but basically it's the bad voice on your shoulder telling you to do what is not good for you, the one that makes you hit snooze when you really want to get up...)... so since we all experience feelings of guilt, what should we do with them? really, guilt can be a tool for good! guilt is a good thing for the moment that you experience regret enough to motivate you towards change, any guilty feelings after that are worthless and only drag you down and you must get rid of them*

*love yourself, forgive yourself. there is always a road map back... if you find yourself in a low place, have the courage to recognize this is simply the turning point to go back from, and tomorrow is a new day for you to try again. you are human and make mistakes and that's ok* (from my shalom bayit (peace in the home/marriage) teacher Rachelli Miller)

eeeeeexcellent.... so now let's apply this to my case, in reverse order actually...

1. being a mom is challenging and certainly not every day is perfect. i had some tough spots today, but let me focus on all the good parts and remember that i can try again tomorrow...
2. ok i feel bad about my mistakes and want to fix them, but will not dwell on feelings of failure (this is related to step #1, loooooooooving myself, yay!)
3. solutions... note that the problems came from 1. over-exertion and 2. exhaustion... solutions might include grabbing those opportunities to rest, finding my new babysitter!, asking others for help, not taking calmness as a sign to try to squeeze more stuff in...

aha and now we can move forward...

ok friends, i detect that this post may have been a little all over the place, but i think you get the point! anyway let's all love ourselves and look forward to every new day as an opportunity for growth and self-fulfillment...

much love and shabbat shalom

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

diet vs. donut

so i only just figured out that changes to a woman's body after baby #3 don't just magically disappear like they may have in the past, and that possibly one should consider watching her figure a little bit more... meanwhile channukah is donut season in israel! not helpful! (you see, latkes and donuts are both deep-fried in oil, and eating them is clearly the most reasonable reminder of the miracle of oil!)...

anyway as i sit in a world of donuts (they actually line the streets on trays outside the bakery steps from my house), i attempt to practice the art of self control! (major sweet tooth and nursing-mother-sugary-carb-cravings do not help the situation)... anyway, wish me luck!

to freak out, or not to freak out, that is the question!

ha... i was originally going to call this post 'to yell or not to yell' but then i realized that totally does not adequately describe the challenge that i am faced with like 80 times a day! ok so the [first] time it happened today was before the sun even came up... you see, my kids are early risers, so i try to stay in bed until the last possible minute in a desperate attempt for a little more rest to help propel me through the day... however, this more than often leads to full (or at least near) disaster!

to set the scene: so we are blessed to live in the old city of jerusalem in the jewish quarter. we have a beautiful 2-bedroom apartment in a quiet courtyard with this kind of amazing secret garden (that my neighbour maintains and i just enjoy!) that you get to by opening a non-descript metal door on a winding, jerusalem stone-paved street. we also have a really incredible 360 degree view from our rooftop balcony that includes glimpses of the jewish quarter, the gold dome, mt. of olives, hebrew university, modern jerusalem, surrounding arab villages, the security fence, the desert, and the mountains of jordan! you gotta see it to believe it... (and all you far away friends are definitely invited to come see for yourself if you can ever make it to these here parts!) anyway, the point is that we love where we live and are so grateful for our home and don't want to move... meanwhile that means that our kids all share one room which Baruch Hashem (or 'thank G-d'... kind of the jewish punctuation to about half our sentences which basically means 'i am so lucky and don't take this for granted, i know it too is a blessing from G-d, and i certainly don't want to forget') has been working out so far for the most part... but the morning requires the most delicate balance for this because from about 4-6am they all become much lighter sleepers and have a great possibility to wake each other up either by accident or eventually on purpose (to my dismay!)

ok, right. back to this morning. so my big kids started their pitter patter mount up the stairs to our room (oh ya i forgot, our apt is on 2 floors with us upstairs and the kids downstairs, but don't worry you can hear well with the bedroom doors open...)... ok so in my half sleep i hear the approach and get ready... i think to myself 'can i convince them to crawl in bed for a cuddle and a little more rest?' 'have they already climbed up to the 'treats cupboard' and helped themselves to a fistful of chocolate or candy? (which btw happens a lot... only recently i upped my game on the treats hiding spots)' 'or maybe they'll just play quietly while i sleep?'...

well at first they're content to kind of lie down/sit in our bed and just hang out... and from downstairs i hear the baby cooing to herself, which leads me to assume the light's been switched on and she probably can't fall back to sleep, but i'll let her play as long as possible...

then i must have dozed off because a few minutes later we hear a loud 'thud.thud.thud.glug.'... i reassure my husband that they are just rolling the closed water bottle we had in our room down the stairs, harmlessly of course...

i think i doze off again, only to be aroused a few minutes later by full-fledged crying from the baby... this is my final cue to 'jump up and start my day like a lion' as the Torah instructs, yelling out a line in hebrew about how i am grateful to be alive, which i promptly do before running downstairs to see what the yeladim (children in hebrew) could have done to bother the baby or if they are innocent then just to take care of her if she is hungry/needs mommy, etc...

i walk in to the room. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!
(this scream is still just in my head, haven't reacted out loud yet- go me!)
but what happened?
i quickly see that the water bottle i claimed was harmless has been dumped all over the baby and her crib, leaving her soaking wet and sobbing!!!!!!!!! urrggghh.... ok so i go to pick her up and change her, and as i turn around, i see that also both my son's and daughter's beds are drenched with water!!!!!!!!!
deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep breath... inhale, exhale.
i freeze and think about my friend fran whose parenting course i recently took... she introduced us to this anger management ruler with a happy face on one end and progressively angrier/more upset faces as you go down to the other end with a scale of 1 to 10 along the way... she says that 5-10 should really be reserved for very serious problems like G-d forbid illness or death in the family, etc... and she reminded us that although spilt milk can often feel like a 10, especially as it happens, we have to try to get ourselves to remember it's really just a 1...
so, Baruch Hashem, I actually remembered this in the moment! i decided this was more of a 1 and i would simply dress the baby in dry clothes, feed her, and get the kids to follow me out of the room where we would calmly discuss the situation.

what followed seemed like genuine remorse on their part (to their credit they are thank G-d good kids, just curious and adventurous, oy!)... and i think it might have been partly because they were in shock that they didn't get in trouble, but they really wanted to help me after by playing nicely with the baby and helping me strip the beds to deal with the wet sheets, and i actually think they learned that pouring water on top of the baby and all of their beds is in fact NOT a reasonable thing to do! so anyway, are you proud of me?? on many other occassions i totally would have lost my temper and probably nothing good would have come out of it... and you know how i know i really passed this test? when i later accidentally sat on one of their beds while it was still wet and got my newly put-on outfit soaked and had to change, i still didn't freak out :)

anyway, to answer the question, it seems that 'not to freak out' is the way to go...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

on love...

so we actually have a pretty cool definition of love. it goes like this... the positive feeling you get when you focus on the virtues of another... one more time: love is the positive feeling you get when you focus on the virtues of another... and please note this is not lust- lust would be the positive feeling you get when you only see the virtues of another... (a.k.a. you see the person as being perfect)... however with real love, you see the whole picture and yet still choose to focus on the virtues (i.e. instead of the flaws)...
did anyone notice the exciting word in that last sentence? i'll help you out... CHOOSE... yes, according to this definition, love is a choice! a choice! amazing!

why so amazing? because if love is a choice, we can save ourselves from that horrible, ominous possibility that just as we fell in love with our significant other, so too might we just fall out of love...

if you would meet an expectant mother or father and ask them if they are going to love their child, they would answer 'of course!' without hesitation... and if you asked them if they would ever 'divorce' their child if that child misbehaved badly enough, they would probably also look at you like you were a little nutty and say 'no way!'... so how can it be that we can commit to such unconditional, unending love for someone we've never met and yet we suffer from a 50% divorce rate? no one gets married thinking they are going to be the ones in the divorce statistic (or if they do, that is beyond sad)... they get married to the one person in the world who they have hand-picked to be their life partner, and yet it still doesn't work out so much of the time! so what's going on?

in the Torah world, divorce under the proper conditions is neither forbidden nor shameful. in fact, if the circumstances demand it, divorce is even a mitzvah (a commandment)! but how do you know if that's really what you need?

in Judaism we see marriage as the union of two halves of one soul being reunited into their original oneness (nice, right?!) so therefore your spouse is not just the person you share your life with; your spouse is just as much a part of you as your limbs are... and if your hand hurts, do you cut it off? no. and if it really hurts, do you cut it off? no. and if it really really really hurts, do you cut it off? no! but when it turns green and starts spreading up your arm, you cut it off. so too with divorce. if your marriage is killing you, then it's time to end it...

ok so practically, how do we do this choosing love business... it starts with seeking out the positive... and here we get to a major jewish concept, seeing the glass half full- and not only is it half full, but any minute someone could come along with a nice pitcher of cold water and fill 'er right up, the potential is endless! but seriously, it really works, even with total strangers...

like let's say for example that you are running to catch a bus (that's how we roll in j-ru) and you totally almost make it such that you're even pounding on the driver's window as he's about to pull away and he totally sees you and drives off regardless, leaving you sweaty, tired, and very late for your important meeting... so what's the natural feeling? rage! how dare he! doesn't he have the common courtesy to help me out? he obviously saw me, etc, etc.... ok and what does the 'choose love' response look like? it involves putting yourself in the other person's shoes and giving them the benefit of the doubt... so you might say something like 'wow it must have been so hard for the driver to pull away when he saw me running and pounding on the door, but he is so conscientious to stick to his schedule, especially since traffic had already made him late and everyone else on the bus and the whole route would be thrown off if he stopped, and he probably has to deal with situations like that all day, with people being angry with him and rude to him... wow i hope i didn't make it worse and the rest of his day goes better...' how do you think you feel after both of those two scenarios? you missed the bus no matter what, but when you choose to love the driver, now you're happy, relaxed, and smiling, instead of skulking and driving yourself into a hole...

and how does it work with your significant other? example* (not true to life, don't worry husband!)... ok let's say i really need milk and i ask my husband to bring it home when he comes home late after work (because i can't drink black coffee and will faint if i don't get my morning fix, the baby needs her bottle, and the kids only eat cereal for breakfast), but of course, he forgets it... reaction 1: 'you *#$@! you are so inconsiderate and never think of me and now i'm going to have a horrible morning because of you!... (not a very good model for healthy relationships)... reaction 2: i feel the anger rising up, i STOP it as fast as i can, and quickly look for positive thoughts about my husband and the situation... 'wow he loves me so much he just wanted to rush home to see me and that's why he forgot', 'he works so hard to support the family that he was really distracted from his long day of work,' 'he will probably be really regretful himself when he realizes his mistake because he knows it will be challenging for me in the morning,' 'he is normally so reliable, i hope nothing's wrong'.... ok now that i'm in a positive frame of mind (and therefore getting that good feeling called love), i can say something that will actually build the relationship and build us closer like 'welcome home honey, i'm so happy to see you'... yes, i don't even have to bring up the milk right now! if it will just make him feel bad (and neither of us are going back out of the house to go get some), then i would be better off waiting for another time to gently ask him what the best way to help him remember is, whether it's an extra text, phone call, or something else, in order to actually help me get the milk next time! so instead of fighting, we are now more in love, and feeling closer and more connected! see? i told you it was amazing! and can you imagine doing this all day long??? i totally recommend it...

ok i think that's a long enough chain of thought for now, hope it was follow-able! questions/comments definitely welcome...

lots of LOVE for all y'all (ha i totally always wished i lived somewhere where they said y'all so i too could get away with saying it...)
laila tov (goodnight!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

let's dedicate this...

ok so first of all, a huge shout out to all my peeps who made me feel safe, loved, and like this is actually a good idea! it can be kinda scary to put yourself out there, so your support means so much!

ok and secondly, i want to first dedicate this blog to all my parents (dad, 2 moms, in-laws, my many grandparents (kanaina hara), etc.) and to my husband for giving me everything they had, teaching me so much, and helping make me who i am today... and furthermore i want to say that if any "zchusim" (merits/good things) should come out of this blog, like someone gets inspired or excited about life, or just gets a laugh or a little smile, then all of that should be in the merit of my father (Yaakov ben/ son of Golda)'s refuah shleima (speedy and full recovery), amen! any additional prayers for his health would be greatly appreciated!!

ok much love to all, and hopefully a longer post to come soon... maybe a tale about the gooey and delicious little moroccan donuts that will soon take over our household with the onset of channukah tomorrow eve?... mmm... yummy...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

not just a 'housewife'

ok so my husband recently came home midday and saw me in the midst of my regular hectic and full daily routine, only to exclaim 'man it so doesn't do you justice when i tell people you're a stay at home mom'... so we decided that a more fitting title is really CEO of a Jewish home ... sounds good, right? ha i like it, way more validating... 

but seriously, it really is way more accurate because to be a Jewish woman, and especially a Jewish wife and mother, is to have what feels like a million and one responsibilities, and to do them all lovingly, with care, and with joy...  this can be a challenge but is also crazy rewarding...

ok a few examples of what's under my area of operation:

- raise 3 kids under 5! ha... i once heard a mother of 6 explain to one of her older daughters how she does it... because anyway having one kid takes up 100% of your time (moms reading this i know you hear me!), so why not have 6 cuz it's still 100% of your time and no more!
anyway, i digress... ok so what's it like with the kids?
well, first of all there's the 2-3 hour time slot in the morning before school when we have to get everyone fed, dressed, and lunch-ready, all the while figuring out how to build the little ones' self-esteem, positive character traits, healthy relationship with each other, respect for authority, and understanding that their parents and The Creator of the World (G-d) love them unconditionally... no prob, right?

- ok then the 'big' kiddies (the 2 1/2 year old and 4 1/2 year old) go off to school for about 5 hours and learn all kinds of stuff that we will go over later...  meanwhile Imma (that's me, 'mommy' in hebrew) gets to work on everything else...

ah yes the other responsibilities:
- master personal chef for 5, catering to the needs of one picky eater, one baby mush eater, one grown man, one nursing mama (a.k.a. needs to eat!), and one good eater (phew)....
- logistical director and operating manager of family home... overseeing of laaaaaaundry, dishes, cleaning crew (when they show up!), organization, groceries, toy supply, etc...
- being in a good mood all the time! yes there is a mitzvah in the Torah to be 'b'simcha tamid' (joyous always)! that alone takes enough effort for a lifetime...
- then there's the profound spiritual growth and personal introspection expected each and every day
- add to this a deep and meaningful relationship with the Almighty (G-d once again) which takes a looooot of work actually! as we all know, a relationship is only as good as its weakest partner, so since G-d is all powerful and all loving, clearly the lack lies on this end... so as much as we are willing to invest ourselves in talking to G-d, reaching out to Him, relying on Him, etc., that's as close as we will feel and as strong as the relationship will be...
- ok, that brings us to acts of lovingkindness (chessed, in hebrew), like making meals for a family that just had a baby, like babysitting my friends' kids if they need a break, like helping the elderly neighbour with her groceries,... the opportunities are endless and can fill as much time as we'll allow...
- but where does chessed start? close to home... so besides the kids, there's the husband to think of! so yes, now we get to the role of loving wife... we'll get back to this later...
- then there are also the community activities like running evening affairs for 400 guests (last week), hosting a weekly cooking class for seminary girls chez moi, organizing social gatherings and other events for the women in my community...
- ah yes, not to forget, then there's taking care of me! this includes pilates twice a week, down time, reading, walking, time with friends, and reflecting on the big picture, etc~
- and of course there's shabbat... looooooooooove shabbat... so it also usually includes cooking delicacies and hosting about 10 guests for a 3-course meal every week, sometimes twice!


ok and these are just the basic, non-stop activities that are always there, never mind the extra stuff that always comes up! so you see there is more to do and more to fulfill me than i ever imagined was even possible! anyway that's the overview... what that actually means to come later...

off to bed now, love jules

why the blog?

i'm not sure exactly what i want to write about, or for whom, but I know there is a lot i want to share... i am a Torah observant woman, wife, and mother, and it's totally awesome. until i became one though, I had actually almost never met anyone like that in my life! and before i learned a little bit more about Judaism and what it has to offer, i actually held some pretty nasty stereotypes about what it meant to be a Torah observant woman... oppressed, archaic, 'pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen'!, etc... ich, didn't sound too good... so how could it be that i decided that this was the dream life for me, leaving behind the promise of law school and kushy north american jewish living?? well, i guess that's where the blog comes in! i want to share with you a little bit about what makes my life great, why i chose it, and what that might mean to you... so if you wanna know more about me or maybe hear a tidbit or two of ancient Jewish wisdom, read on! 
p.s. welcome to my blog, happy to have you here!