Sunday, December 30, 2012

4 years old!

I think blogging is like exercising. When you are in the routine, you do it regularly. Once you slip, it's hard to get back into it. I'll use that to explain my long absence from this blog. No real excuse other than life, family visits, finals and other fun things. Moving right along...
M turned 4 today! His English birthday is still two weeks away but we decided to celebrate the Hebrew date. He helped me make his birthday cake and we decorated it  with frosting, chocolate chips and sprinkles. We had cake and pizza (in that order) and he wore a cute little crown we made him.
birthday boy

ay enjoying the cake a bit too much

Our little man has really grown up this year. I have finally gotten used to his short hair cut, although I still miss his curls. He is getting used to wearing a kippa and tzitzit every day.
M loves coloring. He could sit there for hours and uses up reams and reams of paper. He has a great imagination and colors people, robots and other things. He can also write his name. Lucky for him it is short. He loves the color red and superheroes such as spiderman and superman. He also loves music and can often be found singing to himself.
Another thing he likes is books. We try to go to the library weekly for new books and he loves to sit and read together. He also likes puzzles and games such as memory, chutes and ladders or Go Fish. We are still a little wobbly on all the rules but he is learning.
M has a great personality- very easygoing and loving. He is friends with everyone in his class and his teachers tell us how everyone vies to play with him. We love the preschool he is in and he loves going there. He is disappointed when there is vacation and often asks when he can go back.
M says the funniest thing such as "If I watch too many videos I will be a potato couch" and he also asks very smart questions. Of course he is mischievous and always thinking of creative ways to wreak havoc, but that is all part of the fun of having a boy.
wearing my headscarf and heels

in the newspaper box

When he is tired, he can get a little whiny and tantrumy but so do most people. He is still a little jealous of Baby AY but I do try to give M attention when the others are not home. We go to the library together and we usually bake together- another activity he loves. We usually make muffins or cookies and M is a great helper..when he is not spilling flour all over the place or putting his cookie hand prints on the wall.
I can't wait to see how much more he will grow and learn this year!
being silly w the siblings
PS: For the few of you who like this stuff- a link to M's birthstory

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Tale of 2 Parties

I have to be honest. I love my routine and schedules. I find it is the only way to stay afloat these days. So after the kids get home from school around 4 we do homework and they watch a bit of video, at 5 we do dinner, and at 5 30 we do baths. At 6 we are in PJs reading books and playing "calm" games (the calm thing does not always happen but we try...) 6 45 we brush our teeth, fill the water bottles and at 7 pm we say good night, although recently the kids have been staying up till closer to 8. But they need to be in their room, ideally in their beds.
So this works pretty well. And then of course once a week it's Shabbos and that messes everything up again. But we work around it. And then every month or two there is a Jewish holiday that throws a wrench into my perfectly structured evenings.
Right now we are in the middle of Channukah which means a week of mayhem and late nights and way too much sugar. I try to be flexible, but ask my husband, it is really not my biggest strength. We also wanted the kids to have fun, though, so I knew I needed to get out of my comfort zone.

Monday night we decided to take the kids to Channukah on Ice, even though the event did not even start till 6 pm, which is usually PJ time. Basically, Chabad takes over the whole ice skating rink in Central Park and there is kosher food, Jewish music, candle lighting and a performance by the Maccabeats.
We knew this was an ambitious plan so we asked our awesome babysitter to come with us for back-up. Of course we caused a stir on the subway there because there were 4 kids and 3 adults and lots of noise. We were kind of hard to miss. We got there okay and proceeded to put the 3 big kids in ice skates. This was their first time, so they were tripping all over their feet before they even got on the ice. But I have to say it worked out really well. The weather was beautiful, the views of Central Park amazing. A went off with her friend and actually got the hang of skating. The babysitter and I each took one of the boys and took them on a few rounds. My husband held the baby, because the skates did not seem to fit his feet well. I loved being on the ice- I have fond memories of going ice skating every Sunday as a child and it was fun being back in skates. We skated a bit, had dinner and then stayed for the Maccabeats performance- M was dancing and Y was loving every minute too. Things were going so well, I was surprised when my husband said it was past 8 pm and time to leave...I was having fun and would have gladly stayed for more skating.
But the baby and M were getting really tired, so we called it a night. The kids were super excited and the event was a definite success, especially given the fact that I did not come home stressed and overwhelmed.

The next night, however, was a different story. We were scheduled to go to a chocolate making party at a local candy store. First, Y refused to go, so he stayed home with a sitter. When we got to the store, M was not interested in making chocolate and instead was walking around touching all the candy...Baby AY was excited about all the sugar and I had to hold him and make sure he did not get to it. Then Y changed his mind and showed up with his sitter, who was not doing a great job of supervising him. He also started wandering around the store, grabbing things. I now had 3 out of 4 kids not participating and wandering around a store full of candy and chocolate, and my stress level was getting higher and higher.
I was counting the minutes till the pizza dinner, hoping that would offer a good distraction, when all of a sudden, Y grabbed on to the jelly bean dispenser and yanked, sending a cascade of literally hundreds of jelly beans flying all over the store...I was really embarrassed and decided I had reached my threshold.
I grabbed 2 slices of pizza to go and shepherded the 3 boys out of the store and back home where they ate, took baths and got back into my regular routine, while we waited for A to come home with my husband.

The moral of the story- you never know which event will go smoothly and which will require a lot of supervision and nerves. It's not always the one you think it will be. We are all partied out at this point and will spend the next few nights at home playing dreidel and eating chocolate gelt. I am happy we were able to do some fun things with the kids. I do feel that we are creating positive memories for them when we make the extra effort to take them somewhere special. That is something that is important to me and that makes all the stress and  logistics involved in planning outings ALMOST worth it. But I am looking forward to getting back to my boring routine.
Happy Channukah to all!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Facebook Family

Glennon on momastery posted an interesting article about how we appear to others versus what the reality is.
In the age of social media all most of us see is the glowing pictures of us and our significant others and children smiling, having fun, going on trips- the picture perfect family.
I am a little guilty of this too. I mean when you post pictures like this

and this

how can you not think that all is well in my household? Everyone is dressed nicely and smiling and looking picture perfect.
Sometimes people compliment me about being calm. "You're so calm" they say. "How do you do it?" I smile and say thank you and fight the urge to tell them that I am in fact not always so calm, and that my children know this very well. For example, just last week M was fighting with A and said to her in a serious tone: "Do I have to raise my voice?" Um...who could he have possibly learned that from? My good friend says we are in fact calm. Because we deal with a lot of drama and craziness all day and then eventually we crack. Room for improvement obviously, but we are actually doing quite well.
(For more on appreciating ourselves, check out this post- Thankful for me)
And so people see those happy pictures and they feel badly because that is now what their reality looks like. Glennon believes in honesty and telling everyone what is truly going on, so others will feel less alone.
I hear that to a certain extent but I do believe that family life is private and your disagreements and imperfections do not have to be laid out for all to see. There is somehow a balance that needs to be struck.
So I don't only post the glossy pics. I post pics of my kid passing out on the floor after a major tantrum

of what my apartment looks like at the end of a long day

and other funny, crazy moments.

Because that is life- sometimes it's calm and good and positive vibes all around. Other times it is screaming children, pandemonium and a mom who just wants to get dressed for 5 minutes in peace. What's your take?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

No rest for the weary

This post has been ruminating in my mind for the last two weeks but I have not had a chance to put it into words. I am too busy running this household of six, which is what this is about- raising a family is a lot of work.
I  know this is not  exactly news but sometimes I just feel this reality more than others. The laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, dishes and the constant constant clean up. I clean up after my kids all day long and then when they go to bed at night I spend another hour or two cleaning up some more- putting away books, toys and clean laundry, washing dishes, sweeping floors, wiping down counters. And this past week I added on doing lots of  vomit and poop-laundry as a stomach bug hit Baby AY and some of the other kids.
The crazy thing is the more cleaning I do, the more I see needs to be done.  I am really just covering the basics, I have my running list of projects to get to "when I have time": clean random stuff off the bookcases, wipe off the walls and all those hard to get to corners, organize closets, clean the fridge, wipe down cabinets, etc. The list goes on and on. The funny thing is I actually have cleaning help but once a week really cannot hold us over for a whole week. Usually not more than a few hours actually, once the kids come home and wreak their havoc.
A home requires constant maintenance. I was discussing this aspect with a friend  recently. About the difficult of having spiritual aspirations when most of our life is so physical and really requires us to be hands on all the time. And the impermanence and repetitiveness of all the things we do. I remember once learning that it is all about "who you become in the process". Currently, the only thing I am becoming in the process is cranky and tired. This is something I will need to work out as I go along on this journey. For now I will just keep on cleaning- and possibly relaxing at the end of it all with a nice glass of bubbly wine.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things I am thankful for

Although I am not really a fan of Thanksgiving, it is always nice to take stock and appreciate all the great things I have in my life. So in no particular order, some serious, some more in jest, here is my list of things I am thankful for this year:

-My little AY. Turning a year and bringing so much joy into our life. He is at an age where he is busy exploring and is keeping me on my toes, but it is fun to watch him discover things, play with his siblings, and to hear his infectious giggle. Of course I am thankful for my other children, who say the funniest things and always find new creative ways to give me minor heart attacks

- that my kids love spending time with my in-laws. We took a train out to their home today and they were so excited for our little trip. I love that think they view taking a subway and then a train as an adventure (I know, we don't get out much) and that they were looking forward to this little outing for so long, planning it and talking about it at school.  They even spent the morning making special cards to bring my in-laws as a present

- That my big guy is making progress.

I love this kid. Some days he frustrates me so much I want to scream (this is not really unique to special needs, the other kids have that amazing quality too) but the truth is he is really growing a lot. His speech is expanding every day and he amazes us with the things he tells us. We are ever so slowly seeing progress in the last few hurdles of toilet training. He is obsessed with football (and the iPad), loves his baby brother and playing with his cars. If he stopped waking me at 5 15 that would be awesome, but he truly is a great kid and I am thankful for him.

-My Ergo baby carrier that lets me have my hands free when I need them. We decided to leave the stroller home today on our trip, which was a good decision because the train was packed and it also saved time. Enter the ergo. When I need to run down to get the kids from the bus, I often use it too. In the afternoons when AY gets cranky and does not want to get put down and I have to make dinner/give baths. etc, I use the (you guessed it) Ergo.
Riding on my back
I do have a moby wrap and a sling that I use sometimes but this is really the easiest and most functional. Thank goodness for babycarriers.

-My husband. He is supporting me on my venture to obtain a nursing degree which means a lot to me. I know it is not easy for him that I am less available and busier, to have to pitch in more with childcare when my babysitters are not reliable (don't get me started...) and of course to pay for all of it :) But we are doing this thing together, slowly and steadily. It's nice to be a team- in this and all other areas.

-That my dad came to visit for the week bearing gifts- most importantly Belgian Kleinfeld chocolate. Now that is something to be really thankful for....

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy Birthday AY

Today, Rosh Chodesh Kislev is my little AY's first birthday.
Hard to believe that in one year he went from this
to this

He is such a happy kid, a pleasure to be with, as long as he is well slept and fed. He loves playing with his brothers and sister and interacting with people in general..his giggle and infectious laugh are an often heard sound in our apartment these days.
For those who are interested in such things and I know most of you are not, his birth story can be found in this post

I hesitated to write this post with all the craziness going on in seemed too happy and carefree. Rest assured Israel is in our thoughts and prayers. We mourn the tragic loss of life and feel for our nation who is once again under fire. May the month of Kislev bring lots of light and miracles into the world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Redefining busy

 When I was newly married and in school, trying to make dinner and master household chores while studying and taking tests I felt busy. When I had an infant with special needs and was balancing therapy sessions and household, I thought my hands were full (by the way, I hate that expression but that's for another post). When I had two kids 15 months apart and moved halfway across the world to become the Rabbi's wife, I had a lot going on. Just when things were getting into a routine, along came baby number , beginning the period of time called "3 kids under 4 in diapers" which was pretty intense 
Then little AY was born. Then I went back to school, taking just one course. This semester I am taking two courses with labs. In September, I hope to start nursing school full-time. Can you say "busy"? 
There are still only 24 hours in a day. I still attempt to get about 7 hours of sleep a night. Yet somehow it all (or most of it) gets done. This is not about bragging about how amazing I am...quite the opposite. This is about the realization about how much we can actually accomplish. Just when we think our days are full, something else gets added to our schedule or responsibilities and we manage to squeeze it in. Then we do it again.
Of course there is always a limit. Eventually something has to give. There needs to be downtime- to eat, relax, recharge, whatever. But it is still pretty cool how much we actually CAN do, even when we think we can't. So give yourself a pat on the back- we are all supermoms :)

On the topic of taking some time for  yourself, read this
To read more about what an amish birth center can tell us about lowering the C-section rate, check this out
And this is the final word on being busy and what moms really do all day: