Category Archives: Parenting

Gratitude journal

P1210653My husband asked me to start a gratitude journal with him and write in it every night together at bedtime.  My husband is a writer, an artist, a songwriter, a musician and an all around artsy guy.  I guess that comes with making a living as an architect.  I have my crafty moments (like when I make snack bags for the kids and when I decorate cakes or when I knit), but I am not really good at introspection and journaling.  I am way more into taking family photos to document our lives.  So, I kind of blew off his suggestion.  This blog  and Facebook is the closest I get to writing about anything.

I have already written about my husband’s extensive journaling of our family’s life.  He likes to write about and sketch most things that go on in our lives.  He has pages of drawings of home modifications that will never happen, ideas for songs, quick sketches of our kids doing everyday things, ideas for businesses, and a variety of lists…books to read, movies he loves, movies he hates, music he wants to buy…the list of the lists could go on and on.  Someday, my kids will fight over all the sketch books and journals lying around our house with their father’s notes, drawings, songs and dreams.

When my kids were babies he started a little notebook for each one of them.  Whenever we visit family, we have our relatives write notes to our children in their respective books. My 8 year old is on to her second book.  Of course, the younger kids do not have as many entries (because they are younger and because by the time you get to three kids you forget to bring the notebooks to many family events).  It is so much fun to go through them now and see notes from grandmas, grandpas, great grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles about our babies learning to crawl, learning to walk, mispronouncing funny words, going to school for the first time, having holidays together and riding bikes.  I look at these books as “baby books” for lazy parents.  I have somehow convinced my extended family to keep track of all my kids’ milestones so I will not have to.  Not bad, huh? I do try to jot down a few lines when the kids do something noteworthy or we have a particularly good day, but I do not do it often enough.

So, in an attempt to contribute to our family’s history and herstory I am going to take my hubby up on his offer and give this gratitude journal a try.  What do you think?

Play us a song you’re the piano girl…

P1210613Today, my 8 year old had her first piano recital at the Merit School of Music.  It wasn’t exactly a recital, though.  It was kind of a competition.  She had to play in front of two judges who took notes and graded her.  Then, they will let her teacher know how she is doing.  There was also an audience that we were not expecting.   I thought that might throw her for a loop.   It didn’t.  She was confident and happy even though I was pretty sure she had not really memorized her second piece.  My daughter is hardly a virtuoso (many of the other kids at this recital definitely were).  She doesn’t really take her lessons or practicing very seriously.  She sometimes crys that she does not want to play anymore.  But, then hours later, I catch her at the piano playing for fun.   She is not particularly motivated by her teacher’s approval or her disapproval.  She just kind of plays when she wants and doesn’t when she doesn’t want (which I think is just fine for an 8 year old).  She was actually supposed to play one of her pieces last year at the same event, but never bothered to memorize it so her teacher pulled it and her from the competition. But, today, her teacher and she thought she was ready.  And she was.

She was definitely not the best.  She made mistakes and I was right that she still had not completely memorized her second song.  Yet, she was cheerful and excited and confident.  She marched right up to the front of the room without hesitation when they called her name.  She smiled at the judges and the crowd.  They asked her if she wanted to warm up with some scales.  She was the only kid who said “no” (I am not even sure if she knows what a scale is).  She played her best and was not fazed by her mistakes.  At the end of her two songs rather than taking a bow like some of the more polished kids did, she stretched both arms up in the air and yawned right in front of the judges. Was it relief?  Nerves?  Stress?  Probably not.  She was just up late last night (to hang out with me playing guitar) and up early this morning (for a fantastic Purim Carnival) and she saw no real reason to hide the fact that she was tired.  Then, she skipped back to sit with me and watch the other kids.

I am so proud of my daughter.  She will most likely never be a fabulous musician. I doubt she will get a piano scholarship to a prestigious university.  She may not even continue to play piano in the future (I quit when I was about 12).  But, today showed me that she will try almost anything and has no fear.  She does not get down on herself when she makes mistakes.  She just takes it in stride. She does not see limitations.  She sees opportunities.  She will try anything even if she is not the best.   In some ways she is a lot like me, but in most ways she is a lot better.

You can’t be allergic to Penicillin

My darling little 8 year old had a severe allergic reaction to penicillin this week.  Most parents would have been terrified (I was, deep inside); Most parents would have rushed to grab the Benedryl (I did, eventually); Most parents would have comforted their kid (I did, after I grabbed the camera).  I am not most parents.  I am a wannabe cheesemaker.  So the only thing that popped into my twisted head was “I wonder if she can still eat Blue Cheese?”.

Bad Mommy.

This got me thinking about food allergies and how difficult it must be for parents with kids who have them.  Peanuts?  Wheat? Corn? Soy?  The list is endless and the dangers are real. I have kids with chronic health issues but I am not sure I could successfully manage food allergies. Kudos to those of you doing it!

Have Your Cake and Eat it, too

8th Birthday Sushi Cake

8th Birthday Sushi Cake

When I was little, my mom always made me a homemade birthday cake.  I never had a store bought cake and therefore decided in my own mind that they were somehow inferior.  Now, that I have my own kids, it has always been an unspoken rule that I would make all of their birthday cakes. I take great pride in planning, baking, decorating and serving my homemade cakes (sometimes I cheat and use mixes, but I always decorate them myself).  They never look professional and they always have little finger marks in them,  but they are my creations and they always reflect the theme of the party.  Although I am sure the kids remember the jumpy houses and the ponies and dancing the limbo, the cakes have become some of the fondest memories of my kids’ birthdays for me.

cupcakes       2nd Birthday Cupcakes

Train Cake

Train Cake

I clearly remember sobbing at 10 pm the night before my son’s 2nd birthday because I could not get his train cake out of the pan.  I baked that one 3 times before I actually got one that didn’t break.    I remember the first time I worked with fondant, the tons of decorated cupcakes that outnumbered the guests at my littlest daughter’s 2nd birthday and the replica of Wrigley Field that required my husband’s help (what is an outfield?).  I remember the bird cookies that had to accompany the bird cake and decorating them to look realistic because my 7 year old would know the difference.   I remember begging my husband to help me squish pink and white gumdrops together to mold small shrimp for the top of my daughter’s “Sushi” cake.

So, tonight I am staying up late trying to figure out what kind of cake to make for my soon to be 5 year old.  She is having a gymnastics party and I have lots of ideas, but very little time.  Maybe this year will be the year I finally buy a store bought cake.  Yeah, probabably not.

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P1140031  7th bdayP1170676



Walking to School

Walking to School

When I take my youngest daughter to preschool every morning we have a ritual.  I take her out of the car and she demands to hold my hand before I can even close and lock the car door.  We take the big kids to their respective classroom lines and say goodbye to them.   Then we walk to the back of the school and play on the playground until her door opens 15 minutes later.

My daughter has a bit of Mama-diagnosed OCD so our mornings (and surprisingly just our mornings) are always the same.  It is funny and exhausting and endearing at the same time because it never waivers.  While I try to talk to the other moms on the playground, she commands my attention to tell me that she is either too cold or too hot.  She will then refuse to do whichever thing I suggest to fix her internal body temperature issue.  She doesn’t want mittens or a hat.  She won’t take her sweatshirt off.  She won’t zip her coat. She won’t roll up her sleeves.   No matter what I offer, she refuses.  Reverse psychology usually backfires.  Giving her control, asking other’s opinions or ignoring her do absolutely nothing to provide relief from the potential meltdown.  Miraculously, once she interrupts me from my only daily dose of sane conversation with other frazzled moms, her body regulates and her temperature problem is cured without any intervention.  Then, she will ask me exactly 3 times (spaced about 5 minutes apart) if it is time to go into her school yet. “Not yet, honey, 10 more minutes”.  “Not yet, honey, 5 more minutes”.  And finally, “Yes, honey, it is time now”.

Once, we get into school, she will do four things:  1. Grab my hand and try to get us both to fit side by side through the door that the teacher is propping open even though there is only room for us to walk single file.  2.  Ask me frantically (as if she has asked 20 times and I have not yet answered) to help her take off her coat because her “arms are stuck” and  3. Ask me if her hair is sticking up (that one just started recently and it drives me nuts).  4.  Get in line to wash her hands first, but then let all the other kids go in front of her so she is last.  After the school’s required routine of washing her hands she says hello to her teacher and/or a few select friends, and then gets to work on the morning’s table top activities.  When it is time for me to leave she begins her most complicated, time-consuming ritual.  Some might find  it adorable; some may think it is annoying.  It is not one I instigated.  It is not one I encourage.  It is not one I helped her to create.  But it is the one I love the most.

Every morning before I can leave to go about my day, she asks me to bend down to her level.   She then proceeds to kiss me on every available body part before I am allowed to stand up.  Right hand, left hand, right cheek, left cheek, right eye, left eye, nose, hair, chin, neck, ears and finally lips.  If she misses any spot, she does it again.  Even when I am in a hurry, I try to savor the moment.  Because in a week and a half she is turning 5 and I never know when this will end.

Tight Knit

Mommy and son knitting at the library

Mommy and son knitting at the library

I taught my 6 year old son to knit today.  He is home on Winter Break from school and was bouncing off the walls.  I was trying to tune out the kids fighting, running, yelling, and generally being kids so I plopped on the couch with a new knitting project and tried to focus.  Within minutes, “my overly active, never sit still, can make any furniture a trampoline” son sat down next to me and asked me to teach him.  I was reluctant at first.  There was no way he could do this without getting frustrated and waving my knitting needles wildly.  This was going to end in another trip to the Emergency Department.  Besides, I was not going to let him practice on my very expensive fancy yarn that we got on our “date weekend” to New Orleans a few months ago ( But, he insisted.  So, I had to find him a set of needles (they were in the computer desk, of course) and some spare yarn (skeins of yarn for hundreds of unfinished or more likely never started projects are stashed in every drawer and every closet around here).  I did not think he would have the patience to wait for me to gather what we needed and cast on enough stitches to start a scarf and then wait for me to be able to show him what to do.

I was WRONG.  He not only waited patiently, he watched over my shoulder as I carefully cast on 20 stitches and then knitted the first 2 rows.  When I tried to sit behind him and take the needles in both of our hands, but he said “I got it, Mom. I watched you”.  (Really?  It took me weeks to get the hang of knitting.)   I knew he was capable of focusing on something he is excited about (usually a new toy or a superhero movie that I have finally agreed to let him watch).  I also  knew he was good at spatial relations (like his father, the architect) and figuring out complicated diagrams (like Legos).  What I did not expect was that he would make mistakes (only a few) and ask for help without getting frustrated and that he would stick with it most of the day.  He even asked to take it to the library and sat with me knitting while the girls picked out books.

An added benefit was that as he was knitting, he was talking to me.  He rarely talks to me.  I mean he asks for food, and snuggles occasionally and refuses to go to bed and tattles on his sisters and says he loves me (usually when he wants something).  But, he doesn’t talk to me about anything important very often and if I try to initiate a conversation he gets embarrassed or too silly to talk.  The knitting changed all of that in a way that even the focus of building Legos cannot.  Today, I heard all about the kids at school, his teacher and her dog.  I heard about his favorite songs from music class. I heard about his fears that his friends might tease him for learning to knit because “they do not know how fun it is and they might think it is only for girls ” (not sure how this could be my kid).  I heard about his future dreams “he wants to live at home forever” (ugh!).  I also heard about how he thinks about people who are homeless a lot and wants to donate his warm scarf once it is finished.

The other thing I heard that I have not heard in a while is a calm, silent, focused, happy boy.

Holiday Stress

menorahLots of people post about holiday stress.  They list all the things you can do to make a picture perfect Martha Stewart holiday for your family without going broke, getting divorced or killing your alcoholic famly members.  I do not have that kind of stress during the holidays.  I have a wonderful husband, a happy extended family (although some would say we are crazy) and I gave up having a perfectly decorated home long ago. Lots of blogs talk about the meaning of the holidays and how to avoid fighting over toys at the big box stores and how to get free shipping.  I have yet to read a blog about my kind of holiday stress.

My stress comes from celebrating Jewish holidays in a Christian dominated country. Channukah is a relatively unimportant holiday in Judaism, but the differences are really highlighted during this time of the year.   It is not just the Christmas music piped throughout the stores beginning shortly after Halloween.  I know all the harmonies to all the Christmas carols and I love to sing along. It is not the beautiful lights and decorations on the houses or the streetlights.  Although it is hard to explain to my kids why we do not have a Christmas tree or lighted snowmen covering our front yard. It is not having a Catholic husband who has all but given up his traditions to honor mine. I try to encourage him to incorporate his traditions with the ones we have created in our home.  It is not just having to proudly display all the Santa and Christmas tree coloring projects from my kids’s classrooms (this year they did do a menorah!).

My stress is less about the details and more about the big picture.  It is about being tolerated, but not having the support that people who celebrate Christmas have come to expect.  The world does not stop for my holiday.    I am expected to cook, decorate, and celebrate without having time off from work or the kids home from school.  Homework is due, projects have deadlines and classes activities continue.  So, my stress is more about struggling to get homework done, put a holiday meal on the table, light the menorah, give out gifts on a school night and then shuffle the kids to bed on time (oh and take a quick trip to the Emergency room for good measure last night).  There is little time to enjoy the holiday and the kids feel robbed of time to play with their brand new toys.  I would love a holiday season that was less rushed and had less stress where we could all just be together and relax and my kids could learn my traditions peacefully.

Growing up

yellow colanderMy niece sat for her driver’s permit test this week.  When I started dating my husband she was 3 1/2 and when she walked down the aisle in our wedding she was 4.  A good deal of our life as a couple includes memories of her and her then baby sister (and now another little sister).    I have a picture of her in a baby pool with a yellow Tupperware colander on her head (one of the only surviving kitchen utensils from my husband’s bachelor life). I have distinct memories of her refusing to call me “Auntie” until we got married, waiting for us at the airport when we came home from our honeymoon and years later asking me all kinds of questions about nursing a baby.  She was the proverbial “other woman” in our relationship. The only other girl my husband truly loved (until her adorable sisters and our kids came along).  In fact, the one time my husband cancelled on me when we were dating was when he called to say he was “hanging out with his niece” and wasn’t going to make it to see my friend play in a band. I could have been really angry after being stood up at the last minute by a guy I just started dating, but I think that was the moment I fell in love with him.

Over the years, my niece has grown into a confident, beautiful, intelligent young woman.  These days, she is talking about fashion, learning to drive, and wants to go to college to become a nurse.  She is a tennis player and an amazing student with unlimited possibilities for her future.  But, to me she is still a little 4 year old who asked my why my legs were so prickly.  Damn.  My sister in law must shave every day.

Losing it

Our Honeymoon

Our Honeymoon

I lost it yesterday.  Do not get me wrong, As a mom with three young kids, I pretty much lose it every single day.  But, yesterday I lost it worse than usual.  Part of it is that I have been sick with a flu that made me miss Thanksgiving and seems to be coming back as a hacking cough, earache and possible bronchitis.  Part of it is that my kids are often a real pain in the neck and seem to only get worse when I am not 100%.  Part of it is that my adorable, loving, handsome husband does not worry about the same things that I think are important after all these years. He is my laid back, fun loving, Yin to my stressed out, uptight, Yang.

So, I lost it and yelled at him.  In front of the kids.  I feel terrible.  Especially because he didn’t really do anything wrong.  He just did it differently than I would have.  And his way was just fine.  In fact, better than fine.  Besides, he works crazy hours everyday and then comes home every night and puts the kids to bed so I can veg on the couch.  When he finishes with the kids he brings me ice cream and rubs my feet.  He also does all of our laundry, deals with anything related to Legos, and is not afraid to paint my girls’ (and his own) toes with pink polish.

Sometimes when I am angry at him I go back and read the journals he has given me over the years.  I have one from the first home we bought together with sketches of how we were going to decorate it (of course we never did), I have one from our honeymoon with watercolor sketches of our adventures.  The one he wrote the first time I had a miscarriage makes me sob. He wrote a journal entry everyday on the train to work during my pregnancy and then when it was all over he printed it for me in a little book with a ribbon tie.  I like the tie.  Somehow it made it less accessible and allowed me to read it when I was ready (10 years later and I still can’t really get through it).

So, he is a good guy who has the right to do things his way (sometimes).  He deserves an apology and a break.  I deserve another sick day.