Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The repetitiveness of childcare and housework

I was talking to a friend recently and mentioning to her my ongoing frustration with the never-ending cyclical work of mothers/caregivers. You cook food, then it is eaten and you have to cook again.You do laundry and then you wash it again, you wash dishes, sweep the floor, and then you need to do it all again the next day. Nothing lasts. You get the picture.
What I love about knitting (on a side note- I am almost done with a grey sweater coat for myself and I think it looks really nice. Will post pics when it's done) is that it's permanent. At the end of the day or week, I can hold up something concrete, a sleeve perhaps, and say "I made this."
But my friend had an interesting insight, that I had not thought of. She agreed that many parts of housework/childcare are mundane and repeat ad nausea. But there are moments and memories that last beyond that. You can host a big Purim seuda for 35 people, and while the food may be gone, you will still have the satisfaction of having had a delicious and successful meal. You will  remember the fun that was had and the people who enjoyed your home. The same is true for the birthday cake you make that your daughter loves and shows her that you care, or the many times you wake up in the middle of then night to comfort your baby.
Of course this cannot be applied to every dirty diaper that we change. Much of the work we do really is mundane and repetitive. But it's important to remember that all the little, at times annoying, tasks add up to a bigger picture. They are all part of the process of investing in your home and family and becoming closer with your kids through everyday interactions.In this way you truly are the caregiver of your home, the one who gives care and love to all members of the household through the myriad of things you do every day. Even if you have to redo them again tomorrow. And the day after that.
And while you are busy taking care of everyone and everything, don't forget to give yourself some care and love every once in a while- preferably daily. Somehow we always put ourselves last. So go for coffee, read a book, or lock yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes of quiet time. It's the least you deserve. After all, you are creating memories, love and little people.
An example of the messes we deal with here

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Visible vs. Invisible disabilities

The funny thing about Down Syndrome is that it is pretty self-evident. You can see it on my little guy's face. My husband and I sometimes talk about how Y's features are not so pronounced but the truth is that most people can tell right away. While this summer, people recognizing Y on the street earned us lots of brachos, that may not always be the case.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to having a visible disability. The advantage is that people may be more tolerant and patient with the child, because they see he is not "typical". There are the rare times when Y acts up in public and I have a hard time controlling him. It helps to know that people are not judging him or me, or at least I hope they aren't.
The disadvantage is that people may be too tolerant of Y's shenanigans or have very low expectations of him. Even though Y is developmentally delayed, we still expect him to learn how to behave properly. We were recently in a store and Y decided to sit down in the middle of a busy aisle. I immediately told him he had to get up, while the store clerk kept saying, "Don't worry. Let him stay there." While, it was nice of her to say that, Y knows better and this is not behavior I want to encourage. So I thanked her, but still insisted that he stand up right away.
I also do not want people to see my son and automatically assume that he can't do something because of his disablity- can't talk/play/behave/understand or otherwise. Because the truth of the matter is that very often he can and will. People often express surprise at how well Y can navigate the playground and/or children's museum by himself and we definitely like to encourage that independence.
Parents of children with autism or other so-called invisible disabilities often complain about the opposite problem. Their children often look typical and whenthey act up in public, people are not always understanding and will judge the parents for not controling their child better. They sometimes have their children wear cute shirts that say "I have autism, what's your excuse?" or something similar, so that others will be more tolerant.
I guess I want it both ways- for people not to make assumptions right away when they see Y, but also to get some leeway in the instances when he does need some extra help, patience or understanding.

In an ideal world I wouldn't care what others thought and they in turn would not judge people by their visible disabilities or other external appearances. All I really can do, though, is to try my best to help my little man learn how to act like a "mentch" and not worry so much about what others think when things don't always go according to plan.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On children and G'd

Recently I have had the opportunity to reflect on the parallel of the relationship between us and our children, versus us and G'd.
Like any parent, I want to have a good relationship with my children. I try to involve them in some decisions and explain why we have certain rules and why we do things a certain way. I also try my best to listen to them and validate their feelings. Torturing them with antibiotics and eye drops is not high on my list of of fun things to do. All this can go out the window, though, when dealing with a situation where you have to do something unpleasant to your child for their own good/health/safety.
In the last two weeks I have had the "pleasure" of strapping thrashing children into carseats, attempting to wipe a child who has a bad diaper rash and doesn't want to be touched, administering antibiotics and eye drops while someone else holds the screaming child down, cleaning infected eyes amidst cries of "stop"...and other such fun- you get the picture. This was not the first time it has happened, not will it be the last, it has just been happening a lot recently, and has really cause me to think.
Each time, the child was crying and looking at me with pleading eyes and sometimes even disappointment. "You are my mother, how can you hurt me/let someone else do this to me?" It is hard, if not impossible, to explain to a young child that these actions are ultimately for their own good, even if they seem unpleasant at the time.It is hard to see your child cry and thrash in pain, and know that you are the (indirect) cause. It is unpleasant, but you know that you are helping your child, even if they do not understand it and feel hurt.
This theme has been echoing in my head a lot, particularly because it is very much connected to Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year that begins two weeks from tonight.
Only this time we are the children and G'd is our father, a theme that is often repeated in the prayers of the High Holidays. It is a time when we are judged based on our merits and G'd decides our fates for the coming year. And the truth of the matter is, we may not like everything that is being done to us. At times, we may be like the screaming child, refusing to swallow the antibiotics, asking "Why in the world are You doing this to me, G'd? Don't you know this was supposed to be the year of health/job success/insert your wish. You are ruining things for me! This hursts." But what we need to understand is that we are not in control, that we do not know what truly is for our good. But G'd does and we need to trust that there is a plan, even if the medicine tastes quite bitter at this point in time.
This is my project for the next few weeks, my way of preparing for Rosh Hashana. To finally admit that I am not in control, even though I desperately want to be. To "Let go and let G'd" as one cute saying goes. I do not understand His plan and I never will, but I need to trust that, just as I would never want to hurt my children, so too G'd is setting everything up for my own good and whatever pain or suffering I may go through, is only His way to facilitate my growth.
Does this resonate with you at all? What do you think?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back to Reality

After a month away, we are now back in New York. As much as it was hard to leave Israel, it is so nice to be in our own space again. The kids are thrilled too.
Speaking of children, they were amazing on an 11 hour (!) day flight. They slept a bit, watched videos, played games and were very mellow. D and I were so pleasantly surprised.
Due to jet lag, the kids were up bright and early this morning- can you say 3 30 am? We ignored them for an hour and then D got up with them at 4 30 and I got up at 5, because at that point I was awake already and couldn't fall back asleep. We have had quite a productive morning and I am almost ready for a nap.
I unpacked, did some laundry and went to CVS for some toiletries- at 5 30 am! The guy must have thought I was nuts, but they ARE open 24 hours, so why not take advantage? Next up is more laundry and stocking up on groceries. And bills to pay and phone calls to return. In other words- welcome back to the real world!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vacation vs. Structure

Sorry for disappearing. My kids messed around with my laptop and took off a bunch of keys which made it really annoying to type. Thanks to you tube tutorials I was able to fix most of them, except for the spacebar. Suggestions, anyone?
I was really frustrated that my children are intent at breaking anything valuable that I own, but then I read Nienie's post about her kids messing up her "G" button on her computer. Not sure why it makes me feel  better to know that other children break stuff too, but it does. Shared misery, I guess.
We are now 2 months into summer vacation and have another 4 weeks to go before school starts. I am not sure whose idea it was to give children a 3 month vacation. I have found that my kids really thrive with structure. Not a totally rigid system but an idea of how their day is going to progress.
We have taught Y a little mantra that he repeats in the morning:" First dressed, then breakfast, then watch". He knows that he needs to get dressed and have breakfast, before he can watch a short video. The same thing at night too- dinner, baths, books, brush teeth, bed. These are routines we more or less try to adhere to even while on vacation. We are missing the routine for the rest of the day, though. Our day goes something like: park-lunch-hang out at home till it cools down around 3 or so- afternoon activity. But it's hard to come up with new activities every day.
My husband keeps reminding me that once school actually starts, it will be the opposite extreme. Both Y and A will be in school till 3 this year. Baby M and I will be hanging out all day, every day. Probably just as well because he is super-attached right now and freaks out every time I leave, even sometimes when my husband is home.
Right now, though, all that seems so far off. I should just focus on the present anyway. Enjoy the last few days here before I need to fly home, get settled, go through mountains of mail, deal with the Board of Education, work out other scheduling issues, etc...Reality will catch up with me soon enough; I might as well enjoy the last few days of freedom, even if we are missing some structure and routine.
Y and M enjoying the swings at
 yet another playground

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pictures, as promised

I just want to preface this by saying that I am terrible in pictures, so it should come as no surprise that my eyes are half-closed in the family picture. Because everyone else looks so good, I decided to post it anyway.

What do you think of my cute crew?

Y and A showing some love. M refused to be in the picture.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shabbat Shalom

I am writing this post from Katamon, where we have moved for the last leg of our trip. It is a cute apartment in a nice neighborhood and the children are adjusting to their new surroundings. We are all still a bit under the weather- some with colds, the children with some stomach issues and we hope to use this low-key shabbos to rest up and feel reenergized.
My parents and brother have left, my other brother has started yeshiva again. Slowly life is returning to its routine. Even we are nearing the end of our trip. As always time has passed so fast.
I was hoping to post some portrait photos of my family that we took on this trip but as usual my laptop is not cooperating. So instead, I will wish you all a wonderful shabbos!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It is only 9 15 pm here but I am totally wiped. I am supposed to be sleeping now but instead I am blogging. Why? A) Because I am insane and B) because I feel like complaining about being tired.
I think all the running around, traveling and mommying is finally catching up with me. This morning I was woken up before 7 am by three enthusiastic children next to my bed, one of whom happens to be 18 months old AND SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO GET OUT OF HIS CRIB BY HIMSELF. Apparently M has not gotten the memo and has used this trip to teach himself how to climb out of his crib. Quite gracefully, may I add, since I had the pleasure of watching him several times over the last few days....Also woke up to find that my throat is hurting, I am coughing and I have caught a cold in 100 degree weather. Very talented on my part.
After everyone was dressed and fed, I brought the older 2 to camp and then proceeded to walk from Katamon to Rechavia, Rechavia to Kikar Zion in town, back to Rechavia and then from Rechavia to Keren Hayessod between the hours of 11 and 3 when it is incredibly hot there in Jerusalem (If these names doesn't mean anything to you, don't worry about it. They are all about15 minute walks)
Why? See answer A above. Really just because I had to go see an apartment, meet a friend for lunch and then take my kids swimming. All fun activities but they should probably not all be attempted within the span of a few hours. Especially if I am already not feeling well.
At the pool, my husband and I were busy making sure no one dives headfirst into the water or pulls any other dangerous stunts. Am I the only one who finds taking her kids to places with water very stressful and anxiety-provoking? Then M cut his toe on a shard of glass that was inexplicably on the floor. After determining that it was a very minor cut, we dressed everyone and hauled them home again. We picked up dinner on the way and started our usual routine of dinner, wrestling everyone into the showers and their pyjamas, reading books and finally BEDTIME! It took an hour but then it was quiet.
 I had said I was going to sleep right after the kids but I couldn't resist the urge to use the computer in peace and quiet and to clean up all the random stuff that is flying around the apartment. But now I am definitely going to bed. And my husband promised to wake up with the kids tomorrow morning...now that is a real vacation!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekend up north

We are back from a whirlwind weekend in the north of Israel with my parents, siblings and nieces and nephews (Total headcount: 13 adults and 13 kids, 9 of whom are 6 and under). Tsfat/Safed is a magical place to spend shabbos.
We had a few glitches here and there but all in all it was chaotic and fun, as predicted. I love that the kids are getting to know their cousins. They are old enough to actually play and interact with them. It is also great that my parents have a chance to spend time with the children, to get to know them and their unique personalities better.
My husband and I realized yet again how much harder it is to watch our children when they are in an unfamiliar place and do not have their set routine. It seems that structure and predictability works well for both parents and children. A, my almost four year old, specifically is having a hard time being away from home. Whenever she gets upset about something, she says, "I don't like this country, I want to go back to New York." Even just being in our rental apartment in Jerusalem seems to be easier for the kids, as that is our temporary base while we are here and more familiar to them.
There were a lot of spills, late nights, and a few episodes of missing children (we lost A once and Y twice- do I get an award for being Supermommy of the year...) but I would do it all again!
It was incredibly HOT today which made our outings a bit more difficult and less enjoyable. On our way back to Jerusalem, we visited the Hula Valley and then a nature park in Beit Shean that houses kangaroos and koala bears. I never knew that there were kangaroos in Israel. Live and learn I guess. As I mentioned, it was interesting but we were too hot to really stay out too long and kept retreating to theair condintioned bus.
Here is a picture of Baby M and me in matching lavender, all sweaty but braving the heat.

The kangaroos (and some random strangers)

Hope everyone is staying cool!

Friday, August 6, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week

In honor of world breastfeeding week, I wanted to share some thoughts on breastfeeding. I will start off by saying that I am (obviously?) very much in favor of nursing. It creates a wonderful mother-child bond and is really the best start you can give your child.
I am not going to bore you with all the statistics on how "breast is best" for your child, rather I'd like to focus on another aspect of breastfeeding-tolerance. Before you say, "huh?" let me explain.
Breastfeeding, like childbirth, tends to bring out the worst in people when they meet people who disagree with their take on things. Those who want an intervention free birth are livid that there are woman who would want an elective cesarean. Women who want an epidural before even getting to the hospital think women who want natural childbirth are crunchy, masochists and weird.
 The same goes with breastfeeding. There are moms who exclusively breastfeed until their child is two who think mothers who don't are feeding their children poison when they give them a bottle of formula.
There are mothers who struggled with breastfeeding or never tried and feel very happy bottle-feeding their child.
I think every woman should be allowed to make her own choices without facing the wrath of other mommies who are judging her. I also think, though, that woman should have all the information before making these decisions. Read up on breastfeeding, speak with lactation consultants and/or other women who have successfully breastfed before you decide it is not for you. Most importantly don't judge.
I have been on both sides of this equation when it came to breastfeeding. I struggled for literally months with my oldest to breastfeed. Due to Down Syndrome, he had low muscle tone and just never got the hang of it. I spent hours with lactation consultants, pumped and took medications and teas to bring up my milk supply. I pumped milk for six long months before I felt like I couldn't do it anymore. I felt very conflicted about giving him formula, especially when he seemed to be allergic to it and projectile vomitted everything until we found him a (super expensive) special formula he could tolerate. I realized then that breastfeeding is not as simple as some had said it would be.
With my daughter A, on the other hand, I had no trouble at all. She latched on and nursed beautifully right away. In fact she never even took a bottle because she refused to drink from it, even if it was my expressed milk. I nursed both A and M for over a year and definitely incurred my quota of comments of "You're still breastfeeding?" or looks when I would breastfeed discretely in public. I realized then that breastfeeding is not as difficult as others had said it would be
My personal experience and talking to others has taught me not to be so quick to judge and condemn others for the way they choose to feed and/or mother their children.
So in honor of breastfeeding week, take advantage of some of the great information on breastfeeding that is available on the Internet. Then embrace what you are doing and respect the choices that others make.
PS: Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. I currently have 3 children jumping on me as I attempt to finish my train of thought.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reflecting on family

I feel so blessed to be here in Israel on vacation. It is an opportunity to relax, recharge my spiritual batteries and to reconnect with family. The family part is very important aspect to this trip.
I am enjoying the normalcy of spending time with them and seeing them everyday. Of meeting my parents for coffee this morning, having a playdate with my brother and his kids in a park, dropping my kids off at my sister's house because the babysitter canceled and I had to be somewhere. Everyone is a short walk or car ride away. It's just so...normal. And it highlights for me how atypical it is to be living so far from family the rest of the year.
I have been living away from family since I was 15. Most of the time I am so used to being on my own that I don't even realize what I am missing. Until we come here and I get a taste of typical family life.
During the year it is hard to be in touch. There is a 7 hour time difference and we all have busy lives. The weekly phone call does not always happen. There is so much to catch up on and there is really no way to cram a year's worth of closeness into 4 weeks. I feel that there are big aspects of my siblings' lives that I am not part of, and vast parts of mine that they don't know. It makes me sad. I guess that is to be expected, though, when you have a large family that is living in different countries and continents.
The goal then is to enjoy the time while it lasts, to use the opportunities to reconnect, for the cousins to play together and get to know each other. And not worry just yet about saying goodbye. I'll have plenty of time to miss them when I am back in NY.