Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wacky Weather

It is officially snowing in October...stuff like this and the ridiculous heat this summer makes me believe in global warming and that we are messing up our environment and weather.
It has been snowing and raining all day. It did not stick in NYC but in New Jersey they got several inches and there have been power outages. I did get a notification that all NYC parks are closed because they are concerned about the snow on trees taking down branches.
It was a long day indoors with the kids. By the time shabbos was over, they were bored and all played out and I retreated to my bedroom to hide until my husband came home from shul. It made me think of a long cold winter ahead with lots of time indoors. Shabbos makes things more difficult because they are restricted in what they can play with. We will need to come up with some snow day activities and maybe have a stash of special toys/treats for emergencies. Something else to add to my to-do list. But more importantly on my to-do list, I need to buy everyone boots!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Although I have been slowing down, one thing I do not want to give up is my weekly yoga practice. I had to miss last week because of succos but in general, I try to squeeze that session in somehow once a week. I feel so much better on so many levels when I go- physically, emotionally, etc.
At the beginning of every class, our teacher Magi asks us to close our eyes and form an intention for this session. While it does feel a bit new-agey to me, recently I have been focusing on really being present in the class without checking my watch at all, meaning, no peaking to see how much longer I need to hold this pose or alternately checking to see how many precious minutes of me-time are left before I head back to reality. Another intention has been to enjoy the class, while listening to my body and not overdoing it and knocking myself out.
Yesterday, Magi said something interesting. She said, we could also form a dedication for this class, meaning dedicate our practice to someone who could benefit from some yoga in their life or somebody who is already benefiting from the fact that we do yoga. I immediately thought of my children. While my primary goal in doing yoga is definitely to make time for myself, my children and husband are the clear beneficiaries of this activity. By taking good care of myself, I am in a better place to then give to them. It's a pretty simple equation. If mom is happy and balanced, she can help her family achieve the same thing.
So, yesterday, as I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, I smiled and thought to myself, "Kiddos, this one is for you!"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Slowing Down

Well, I am finally ready to admit that it is time for me to slow down. I have been trying to take it easy but with yomtov, mommy responsibilities,etc it is not always so easy to do.
But my body is slowly but surely giving me signals that it can't keep up. This morning I did a lot of walking, taking A and M to the pediatrician for well visits and flushots. By the time I had dropped them both at school on opposite ends of the West Side, I was ready for a nap (which I did not take. I did errands instead. But I could have used it).
 At night, I spend a lot of time on the couch or in bed because my belly just feels heavy and I also start having Braxton-Hicks contractions if I try to do too much. Then again, I am having Braxton Hicks contractions while sitting on my bed here typing as well, so I guess that just means my body is practicing :)
I like to use my evenings productively when it is quiet- dishes, laundry, sweeping and sometimes bigger projects like going through closets or finding my boxes of baby clothing. I am guessing I will have to put some of this on hold or move it to the morning time, when I still have more energy.
For now I have a feeling my evenings are going to involve a lot of time lying down, reading blogs or interesting articles online and knitting. I made a baby blanket but want to enlarge it so I am thinking of adding some more panels to it. I am also knitting a baby cardigan and need to finish up a maternity sweater I started a while ago. I guess if I don't do that soon, I probably will not even have a chance to wear it.
I recently heard one of A's teachers tell her that even when her mommy is sitting down, her body is still working very hard because she is growing a baby. I am going to adopt that as my new party line so I don't feel too guilty for resting and "slacking off" a bit.
At what point in your pregnancy did you start feeling that it's time to take it easy?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We did it

We made it through yet another 72 hours of yomtov/shabbos along with the non-stop meals/davening, etc.
The kids went to kids hakafot on Thursday evening and then caught the last 15 minutes of hakafot in the morning. They had a lot of fun and I think it was the perfect amount of time for them, without anyone getting overwhelmed or bored.
Today A asked when we are going back to a normal week, with just shabbos and we told her she was in luck, because it's starting tomorrow! I am happy to be getting back to some sort of routine, although checking the calendar, I realized for some reason there seems to be a day off or some other event almost every week for the next few weeks- Election Day, Veterans Day, Parent-Teacher Conferences, Thanksgiving, etc. And then it's crunch time....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gilad, Special Needs and Birth- a bit of a hodgepodge

When it rains, it pours. Somehow over the last few days, I have accumulated quite a few topics to write about and with yomtov around the corner, I wanted to get them all off my chest :)

First of all- Gilad Shalit. What an amazing miracle. No matter how you feel about the release of prisoner, who can not rejoice with the Shalits and all of Israel. I am so moved and have been thinking about it all day. Gilad was kidnapped about a month or two before A. was born and so whenever I thought of the length of time he spent imprisoned, I would think of A. I would marvel at how big she was getting, how 5 years is an eternity, my child's entire life up until this point. It just made the insanity of the situation more real to me. And now I can finally stop using A's milestones as a measure of his length of imprisonment.
Here is a link to a great blogpost about Gilad, posted by a blogger appropriately named A Soldier's Mother.
And a video of Gilad's first moments back in Israel, reuniting with his father that made me cry.

Enough said...

On a totally unrelated topic, The NY Times had a great op-ed in the Sunday edition entitled Notes from a Dragon Mom. Emily Rapp writes about raising her 18-month old son Ronan who has Tay-Sachs and will most likely die before age three. She writes how knowing her son's days are numbered makes her appreciate every day with him and focus on the present. She can let go of all her goals and expectations of a Mini-Einstein learning to read at age two and getting into Harvard on full scholarship; and just be with him. And while it is obviously very painful, it is also liberating to live in the now instead of constantly being future oriented as most parents are.
Although raising a child with special needs is very different than raising a child with a terminal disease, there is a similarity in the sense of letting go of expectations. While we do hope for a long and successful future for Y and for all our children,  we have redefined what that success means. It is about being happy, being a good and kind person who is interested in helping others, rather than academic achievement and landing the biggest job. This reality check of what really matters is incredibly valuable.

Lastly, some news on the topic of birth, a topic I have been neglecting on this blog for quite a while. Being six weeks away from my due date, it is obviously on my mind. Just in time, Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, the makers of the film "The Business of Being Born" have come out with the uninspiredly titled sequel "More Business of Being Born". Or, more accurately, four sequels. They felt that there were many issues surrounding childbirth that were not addressed in their first film and so they decided to explore as many as possible in their follow-up.
Here is the trailer

In Part 1, Ricki and Abby visit Ina May Gaskin, often called the mother of modern midwifery on her famous Farm. In Part 2, they interview celebrities about birth and their choices. Part 3 is called Exploring Options, giving more information on doulas, birthing centers and c-sections.
 I haven't watched any of these yet, but last night while cooking yet again, I downloaded and watched Part 4- The VBAC Dilemma. As many of you know, VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is a topic close to my heart.
That is because Y. was born via c-section in 2005 and since then I have had 2 wonderful, uncomplicated VBACs and am gearing up for another one soon.
It frustrates me that the VBAC-rate in the US is so abysmal. Many doctors will refuse to even consider them or often tell patients things like: "Yes, you can try for a VBAC but just be aware that your uterus can explode any minute and you and your baby might die!" While uterine rupture is a very serious complication that I am not trying to downplay at all, the truth is that the likelihood of rupture is somewhere between .3 and .7%, less than 1 in 100. And that means any kind of tear in the uterus. The likelihood of a catastrophic and life-threatening rupture is 1 in 2000. As one of the doctors in the movie points out, the likelihood of miscarriage from an amniocentesis is 1 in 200, yet many women are comfortable taking that chance.
I have to admit that having done my research already, I did not learn a lot of new things about VBAC from the movie. Still, I think it was well done and for someone just at the beginning of their journey, trying to find out more information, this is a great resource. It offers a lot of facts and statistics, as well as some personal stories about VBAC. It explains both sides of the issue, trying to separate real health concerns from ones that are inflated and dramatized. It also talks about the risks of repeat cesarean, that doctors often do not share with their patients.
Part 4 of the movie can be watched for a small fee on the Business of Being Born website. You can also get more info on the other parts of the movie as well as the planned dates of screening. Surprisingly, there do not seem to be any screenings scheduled for New York at the moment.

That brings me to the end of my long and slightly rambling post. Wishing everyone a Chag Sameach and see you on the other end of yet another 3 day yomtov marathon :)

Succos Pictures

As promised, here are some snapshots from our Sunday Chol Hamoed outing.
This is not succos related but just too cute not to post

Pizza lunch in the Succah truck

The succah-truck/mobile courtesy of Chabad

Y thoroughly enjoying the child size basketball hoop

Y. and A. taking a leap together

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Succos Activities

I have been a bit derelict in posting. 3 day yom tov will do that to you.
We had a nice but loooong 3 days. It was hard to keep everyone entertained and happy, especially because it was raining a lot of the time. We were lucky that the rain did not coincide with our meals, so we were able to eat in the sukkah for all our yomtov meals.
Today was the only day of Chol Hamoed where everyone was home, so we really wanted to do something fun and memorable with them. A. was lobbying hard to go to Brooklyn. We toyed with the idea. I thought it would be nice for the kids to see all the sukkahs that have been put up and to feel the holiday a bit more. In Manhattan, succos is a bit under the radar because of the difficulty of putting up sukkot.
Ultimately, we decided that it was too far and it would be too crowded and overwhelming for the kids. Any fair or concert would probably be sensory overload for Y and chances are, my husband and I would spend a lot of the time chasing the boys who would be taking off in opposite directions. It seemed like a recipe for stress and frustration rather than fun.
It is hard at times, to balance the needs of the kids and the different developmental stages they are at. But it is also important to understand their level, so that we don't expect too much of them and end up frustrated.
So we took the kids for pizza in midtown and ate in the mobile succah that Chabad had set up outside J2 (pictures to follow). We also checked out the big sukkah that was set up in Bryant Park. Then we headed to an overpriced but cute playspace in Chelsea. The kids had a lot of fun there, especially Y. who spent a long time at the child sized basketball hoop. We came home tired but happy. And most importantly, my husband and I were not frazzled or stressed.
I feel a little badly that A. missed out because of her brothers, but Monday and Tuesday morning she is the only one off from school, so I will try to do some fun activities with her that we don't do when her brothers are around, such as the neighborhood pottery store.
I will try to post some pics tomorrow- when I am not busy food shopping, cooking or spending quality time with I am not making any promises :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Post Yom Kippur Letdown

There is this big build-up to Yom Kippur and in some form, on Yom Kippur we try to be at our best. We fast, we are patient with our children, we try to pray with true concentration and fervor.
And the question is always, what comes after. It's not realistic to sustain it at that level, but can we take some of it with us into the new year.
Today I had a disappointing day. I had had a pretty good fast for most of Yom Kippur, thanks to a great babysitter and a wonderful nap. But then I started feeling unwell for the last hour and a half before the fast ended and spent post Yom Kippur in bed, drinking a lot and resting.
The kids have been waking up very early recently, so I was not entirely surprised to hear Y up around 5 30. But I wasn't jumping out of bed eagerly either. My husband and I both attempted to get him back to bed but by 6 am, M had joined the party as well. I handed them the iPad and stayed in bed for another hour, but still had half an ear out to make sure they were not up to trouble. When I finally got up, I was cranky, which was not helped by the fact that M was cranky and tired as well.  That meant a lot of crying on his part and a lot of irritation on mine.
This spiraled into a morning of sub-prime parenting, involving getting 3 children to Central park for Y's soccer league, chasing Y around a  huge soccer field to make sure he stayed with the group and then running uphill (at 33 weeks pregnant) after M who took off running and didn't look like he was stopping anytime soon.
Needless to say, I was not the paragon of patience and while it may be understandable, it was also disappointing to start our "new slate" this way. The rest of the day got better although I still found myself snapping at the kids at different points.
 I know I did not change dramatically in 24 hours but it's depressing to feel like it's just "same old".  In truth, the hard work starts don't just magically become more patient. You need to work on it. I guess there is always tomorrow.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I just wanted to point out that I made a mistake in my previous post. That is what happens when you try and post deep Torah thoughts without looking them up.
Kapara refers to the atonement for specific sins we have committed. Tahara is the process of repairing our relationship with G'd and the negative impact sin has had on our soul.
I hope I did not confuse anyone too much. I will also go back and correct the original post but just wanted to make sure everyone sees this revision.
I guess it is good practice for Yom Kippur, to publicly state that I was wrong, without offering up excuses. One of the classes I listened to mentioned this point. How difficult it is for us to say that we were wrong, especially without any qualifiers- it was a mistake, they provoked me, I did not understand, etc
My husband will be the first to tell you that I am very good at rationalisations and not taking responsibility for my actions. So to counteract this trait, I am offering a public apology now, to anyone I may have offended with my blogposts or even IRL (in real life), as they say. I hope you will find it within your heart to forgive me.
Wishing you an easy and meaningful fast, and again a gmar tov.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Taking time out to think

I have had some time over the past week to listen to some more classes about Yom Kippur and Teshuva in general. I found them helpful, but I am starting to realize that rather than keep listening to more and more classes, I should just take some time to reflect and make goals.
I think I mentioned this idea in my Rosh Hashana post- unfortunately, I have yet to do that. I was talking to my mom, and she told me that she went on her yearly trip to a tzaddik's gravesite in Germany with her friends (story for another time) this week. They spent  about two hours there, just praying and thinking. She said it was very powerful to have time out to just think without any phone or other distractions.
While I am not about to go flying off to Germany, I am hoping to take some time and recreate those conditions. No laptop, no phone, just me and a notebook.
Some questions to ponder:
- What are some accomplishments and things I am proud of this year? What actions am I not as proud of ?
- What are some small and concrete changes I can make that are conducive to growth?
- What are my spiritual goals for the year?
- What are some improvements that need to be made in the realm of relationships- spouse, children, family, etc
I am sure there are more, but it seems like this is a good start.
What I have been pondering in my spare time is R Soloveichik's essay on Tahara and Kapara. It is one of my favorite ideas about teshuva and one that I return to (no pun intended) every year. He writes that sin actually affects our essence and even once we achieve "kappara", atonement for what we have done, there is still a deeper level of teshuva that we need to do. The teshuva of tahara is about repairing our relationship with G'd and trying to undo the negative spiritual effect our actions have had on us. This is a very deep idea and not easy at all. I truly believe, though, that if  we really want to change, it has to be beyond the level of action, but rather at the level of pursuing a real relationship with G'd, whatever that may mean to us.
Okay, getting off my soapbox now. This was actually really helpful in clarifying things for myself. I hope it sparked some thoughts for you as well. Gmar Chasima Tova

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rosh Hashana Highlights

It's hard to believe that the long-anticipated 3-day Rosh Hashana has come and gone already. We had a nice yomtov.
-I had a chance to daven in shul both days. This was meaningful to me, as I told a friend later on, because I often feel that that spiritual part of me is so far buried under mommy-brain and being busy with the kids, that I worry it may not exist anymore. I don't really pray very much during the year, and when I do, it is usually hurried and without much concentration. Having time to really tap into formal prayer and to daven without distraction was really encouraging. It is just good to know that, when given the rare opportunity, I have not lost the ability to connect in that way.
On a related note, the davening felt so familiar to me. Reaching certain passages was like greeting old friends or rereading passages of a favorite book. It may be an odd way to describe it but it was also very comforting to feel so at home in the prayers.
-The kids missed shofar on the first day, because I miscalculated the timing, but the baal tokea was nice enough to blow a few kolos for them after shul. They heard the last 40 kolos on the second day and really enjoyed that. M was a bit noisy so I had to take him out for parts of it, but the other two were pretty good. Y also had the opportunity to stand next to his Abba at birkat kohanim. It was very sweet, although he was a bit confused as to what was going on. He just followed the lead of the others, though, and swayed underneath the tallis that we bought him this summer in Israel.
- Our meals were fun although they started and ran pretty late so by the time we finished lunch it was 4 30 or 5 and it was already time to get ready for the next day. I might have to rethink keeping my oven on for the whole yomtov because the kitchen was unbearably hot, and the heat extended into our dining room as well.

Some cute anecdotes from the kids:
-On Wednesday, Y's class was learning their basic information such as name, age, address, phone number, etc.. The teacher wrote me a note, saying that Y was insisting that he lives in Israel...I guess he takes after his mother in that respect.
- Today, the kids were teasing M for some reason, calling him a baby. He responded indignantly; "I am not a baby, I am M. I can do the monkeybars." If you can swing on monkey bars, then you are definitely not a baby anymore :) He also said that he is not a baby but "Ima has a baby in her tummy"  I guess it is slowly sinking in.
Which is a good thing, because at almost 32 weeks pregnant, we are definitely getting close to the big day! More pregnancy related stuff in a different post- how was your Rosh Hashana? Any exciting/funny/inspiring highlights?