I can't remember the last time my house was so quiet.
School started today and while we've been doing this back to school thing for the past six Septembers, this is the first time that I have come home from drop-off alone. All four of my kids are in school this year and it's kind of lonely, as in weeping in the car lonely.
I know it'll get better and I know that I won't be bored, I start working part time as their school's art teacher next week but for now, today, I'm kind of sad. Not bad sad at all, just bittersweet sad.
I didn't have any little chatterboxes with me in Target this morning and I didn't have anyone begging for chocolate at the checkout line in the supermarket. What I did have though, was time. Because, man, I am so much faster in Target when I'm alone - I just didn't know it was possible to be in and out in ten minutes and still get everything I need. If we're ever in and out of somewhere in ten minutes it's most likely because we were not behaving and so we left a full shopping cart in the middle of the store and came home to take a nap.
Anyway, while I was in Target, I picked up a few things to make a (very) small first-day-of-school dinner party.
We now have balloons hung in the kitchen, a small wrapped toy on each bed and a plate of cookies on the table, along with a new book for each kid. I love new books. And the kids love meatballs, which is what we're having for dinner so win-win for everyone.
The whole party took 15 minutes to throw together (and that included wrapping toys) and now we have a new tradition for the first day of school for years to come.
These balloons are from the first grade Author's Tea, a delicious play about reading and literature by the first grade.
When we left the play last night, my kids stood in the school's parking lot and let the balloons go. They each made a secret wish about school for next year and let the balloons fly away. It was all kind of sentimental, as this was our last school function in this school.
This school year went super fast; I can't quite believe it's over - and not only the school year but our time at the JEC, a most wonderful school where our kids were loved everyday.
Thank you JEC for the past four years, it's been a wild ride.
And now, after we get last-day-of-school ice cream after, it'll be on to to packing, moving and getting acclimated to a new school and new community.
I still kind of think change is not good. But that's a step up from being bad, right?
Milestones are a fact of life and we hit a big one yesterday - and yet, it appears that I was the only one traumatized. The only one sitting on the floor, holding back tears while saying yay and hooray with everyone else.
After begging for months, we finally moved our just-three-year-old into a big girl bed and she's loving it. Now, every few minutes, she will announce that she is tired and must take a rest in her new big girl bed right now. And off she goes, returning 90 seconds later, all rested.
We've been through this a bunch of times before, this whole transitioning from a crib to a bed thing (or, in our house, a twin mattress on the floor), but this time was extra bittersweet because she is the youngest. We've had a crib, and for a long while, two cribs, consistently in use for the past almost 8 years. There have been times when no one has slept in these cribs, but they were always there, we were always a house of babies and toddlers. And now, we're a house of biggish kids and it makes me sad.
But I take solace in the fact they are so much fun to be around now and that I really love watching them grow and expand their wings. I take great joy in listening to their after-school stories and make believe games that all four play together. And I love watching them experience new things and try, even if it's something they are scared to do.
There are many hard adjustments with little kids - giving up the stroller (where am I supposed to put all my stuff?), potty training (I hate going to the bathroom in the mall), and the kid who is just learning to recognize their letters and causes you to think hmm, maybe this one is dyslexic.
But I truly believe that crib-to-bed is one of the hardest adjustments - for parents - and not for the reason you may think.
I dislike the big-kid-bed move because it's one more kid who can get out of bed.
One more kid who can come downstairs and say they can't sleep.
One more kid who can come downstairs and complain that their roommate already fell asleep.
One more kid who can wander into our room at 3am and either poke me hard in the arm* or silently stand there and stare until my eyes open**.
I feel like kids of all ages should sleep in big cribs because then once they're in for the night, they can't get out.
How awesome would that be?
Now I have four kids coming out of bed - and I'm not making this up - in the first thirty seconds of her first night in her big-girl-bed, she was out and on the top of the steps calling my name. Twice.
She is definitely the boldest - the other kids all had the decency to stay in bed at that age and just call our names. But nope, not this one, she's a wanderer and I'm thinking we may have to lock the bathroom door at night so she can't get in. Only problem - how will the other kids get in? Okay, that wouldn't be the only problem - how would I get in? I'm always in there.
We have to figure something out. But that's a whole other story.
** Am I the only one freaked out by this? Truly terrifying.
There have been some serious germs in this house over the past two weeks,
ending with bronchitis, for me. At least, I sincerely hope this is the end; I
cannot handle more coughing and sneezing and dirty tissues behind the couch.
Isn't that where your kids throw their tissues when they're done
blowing their noses?
My kids don't either, except that they do and they are and I didn't know it.
But now I do and now the children understand that a garbage can is a garbage can
and a behind the couch is a behind the couch - you know, where we throw
the toys when we don't want to sort them.
The last time I was sick like this was almost three years ago, right after
my youngest was born - except then, no one thought I was sick. What we did think
was that I was having a very hard timing recovering from a c-section and also,
possibly, a vicodin addiction. Well, not a real addiction, it was more like I
finished every last pill in that very small bottle and called my OB to beg for
me because I felt, how should I say this, very very bad.
I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it was time to transition to Advil;
no more vicodin. So I transitioned and it didn't help and 12 days post
c-section, on a Sunday, I found myself in my internist's office begging him to
write me a prescription for something stronger than Advil. Luckily, he was
immune to my red eyes and drippy nose and obvious womanly charms
and noticed that I had a hacking cough.
Apparently, when you go in to have a baby, the baby isn't the only parting gift.
They offer bronchitis and a touch of pneumonia too. All for free, except for the
enormous co-pay for that private room, but that's a whole other story.
Anyway, back to now, I once again have bronchitis.
And what have I learned this time around?
That I have good friends.
I have friends that offer to bring dinner, I have friends that share the
secret witch's brew their dad swears by when he doesn't feel well and friends
who will gladly share the last of their pot of chicken soup with you.
We're all busy - some of us at work, some of us at home and some of us are
just busy coughing these days. But I love the friend who calls before she runs
to Shoprite, just to see if you need more cough drops. You say no, you're good
and she brings some anyway.
Thank you to my friends for taking care of a very-pathetic fellow mommy
this past week or so. But the very best friend of all - the husband, who
rearranges his life and work for days at a time to make sure the kids are good
and who makes sure I'm extra good. I'm good, Josh. Everyone will have clean
clothes again, soon. Maybe not in their drawers, but definitely near their drawers.
I hope that title was decriptive enough.
Three things to discuss today:
3. A Whole30 Vegetable Soup
I'll start with number 3 first because I'm always hungry. This soup was so good that Josh was concerned he might have to make room in his life for a third soup. Currently, he only eats chicken soup and oddly enough, cauliflower soup. And now there might be a third. He's worried.
You should try it - and it's Whole30 compatible too.
Here's what you do:
Saute 3 sliced onions in some olive oil.
Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and a little salt to the pot and keep sauteing.
Wash, peel and thinly slice two large carrots.
Add to the pot and saute the carrots too.
Wash and slice 6 zucchinis into 1 inch pieces, add them to the pot, cover and let them cook for about a minute.
Add 5 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil.
Partially cover the pot and lower the flame so the soup simmers until the carrots are done. The zucchini will be done a lot faster than the carrots, even though the carrots are a lot smaller than the zucchini. Go figure.
Once the carrots are done, allow the soup to cool and then use your very handy immersion blender to partially puree the soup.
It's really very good.
Moving right along to numbers 1 and 2 on the list above. They're intertwined so we'll just mix 'em up and call this number one and a half.
Manners and Chanukah**. Mannukah. Something we seem to have none of these days.
Right around night #4, my kids seemed to get very blase about the whole "gift each night" thing. As in, this is it? I didn't want that!, along with some tears. And that my friends, is not
even a little bit okay. But lest we defame only my children, this seemed to have been going on in many other houses in the neighborhood. And before we malign the neighborhood, I really do think it's a generational thing. Having said that, next Chanukah I am supposed to remind several of my friends about this ungratefulness. Next year, we are not giving the kids a gift each night of Chanukah. Yup. You heard me.
So here's the thing. I grew up getting a little something each night of Chanukah and I kind of like that tradition. But it's not working for us. In fact, on night five of this Chanukah, we did not give gifts. We had a gift for each kid, wrapped and ready to go, but we didn't hand them out. Instead, we used a popcorn maker to make popcorn and we all watched a movie instead, with the lights off and the couch turned to face the tv. And once the kids got over the initial shock of not having anything to unwrap, they loved it.
I think that's what it she be about - experiences. Popcorn and movie might not sound like much of an experience, but for my kids, it really was. Piling onto the couch and getting cozy under one big blanket with popcorn and drinks - it's just not something we do as a group, ever. Maybe it should be, maybe we should do it more often, but that's a whole other guilty-mommy-blog-post.
*In case you've been wondering where the heck we've been since seemingly dropping off the internet since the middle of Chanukah, we've been right here. Being lazy. I think (hope) we're back now.
** I know it's over, but I think it's still okay to talk about Chanukah, mostly because I still haven't finished putting away the menorahs.
Yup, it's over. Thirty long days that went weirdly quickly at the same time.
I weighed in this morning and found that I am down 7.3 pounds. At first, I was kind of upset. I had really wanted to see Biggest Loser type numbers but as my brother so sagely pointed out this morning, this is a lifestyle and not a diet because diets are bad and don't work. And also, like he said, something must have changed internally for the better over the past 30 days. I can't know what it is because I (sadly) don't have x-ray vision, but I do know that I am sleeping (and waking up) better, am way more even-keeled when it comes to my kids and am generally in a much better mood than I have been for a long time - and those are all totally worth it.
I began a second round of Whole30 this morning, but this time I am including exercise.
Why all over again?
A bunch of reasons, but mostly because I have not yet slain my sugar dragons. I still want what I want when I want it and what I want is mostly chocolate and brownies and just plain handfuls of chocolate chips. And while logically I know that those things are not good for me, I still know that they taste amazing and make me feel better. And therein lies the problem. I don't want those foods - or any food - to make me feel better. I want food to be just that: food. No strings attached.
More than losing weight, I am looking to sever the emotional ties that I have to eating. And those ties are very deep-seated and very rooted into who I am. This is something that I have been struggling with my entire life, something I will most likely struggle with forever (although hopefully to a lesser extent) and something that I worry about a lot when I look at my daughters, and my sons too. They're still so little and they have so much living to do, and I don't want food to follow them around like an emotional noose. Food is just food. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not a reward, it is not a hug, it's just fuel to make a body run.
I explained to my seven year old who sometimes has trouble knowing when he is full and should be done eating that G-d put us here with all these yummy foods so we can eat to live and not live to eat. He didn't seem to fully understand it the first couple of times (many adults don't), but the other day he uttered those words back to me after dinner, after not finishing all his food and what can I say? It made my heart smile. And he smiled back and walked away from the table when because he was full - and that's more than I ever could have said for myself thirty days ago.
Maybe, if I can conquer my issues, my kids can avoid these issues all together. That, I think, is my dream.
What is a home? And what is a house? The two words are often used interchangeably, but in my mind, one is where your heart lives and the other is where your possessions live.
Houses can be bought and sold, built from scratch or remodelled, or even knocked down in a hurricane. But your home, your home is wherever you are, wherever the people that you love are at that moment.
It's been a week since Hurricane Sandy hit the NY/NJ area and I feel like it's only now that we are starting to realize how lucky we have been.
The lights went out this past Monday night and stayed out until Saturday night.
The trees on our block are all still standing, our windows are all intact, our basement did not flood and our car still has some gas in it.
We are super-lucky.
But we were also prepared.
A couple of days before the hurricane, newscasters were already imploring residents to pack a go-bag, stock up on water, flashlights, batteries, medicines and, most of all, to make a plan. And because I am married to Mr. Safety, we did.
And I'm so sad for the people who didn't.
Even if this hurricane has turned out to be nothing, even if we were stocked with tons
of batteries and flashlights, so what? The worst that would have happened is that we would have been extra ready extra early next time.
Batteries don't go to waste. Canned tuna fish lasts a really long time. Bottled water lasts even longer. And besides, you'll eat the tuna and drink the water at some point. Just make pretend that there was a really good sale on those items (even if there wasn't) and buy what you need.
I'm not advocating becoming a survivalist - although, I do have to say, there is nothing quite like sitting in the pitch black with your family sleeping around you, just waiting for looters to show up and knowing that there is really nothing in the world you can do about it. Again, we got lucky, nothing like that happened around here, but it definitely did in other towns around here.
Being a parent is a huge responsibility, and part of that responsibility is to make sure your kids feel safe, even if in reality, they are not 100% safe at that moment. They don'y need to know that.
So instead of panicking*, we made a game out of the hurricane.
Josh handed each kid their own flashlight.
He brought all their mattresses down to the dining room - the room with the fewest windows - and pretended we were going camping. They all got into their cozy pajamas and we kept the tv on as long as the power stayed on. But once it went out, at about 7pm, they each got into their makeshift beds, with tons of pillows and blankets and flashlights and books to read or look at.
Meanwhile, I stayed upstairs, packing a big bag, should we need to leave.
At that point, we had no idea if the basement would flood, how much rain there would be or if "all" we would get would be 90 mph winds.
So I packed three days worth of clothes, pajamas, sweatshirts for the kids and for us. Tons of extra socks. Tons of diapers for the little one. I dug out their winter boots from the attic and got together gloves and hats for everyone. Any conceivable medicine any kid might have potentially needed. And more flashlights. I'm not sure how it all fit, but all those items were stuffed into one carry-on bag. Or rather, a carry-on bag from the 1980's. Now, I'm
pretty sure all you can get onto an airplane is a backpack. Either way, it was not a huge bag, but it worked.
I'll say it again, I'm married to Mr. Safety, so perhaps this is all overkill, but I have definitely come around to Josh's way of thinking: better safe than sorry.
Having said that, I also packed another small bag with the following:
1. All our important documents. I never realized before how many we had,
including mortgage papers and passports.
2. Cash. We had gone to the bank before the storm.
3. Extra house and car keys.
4. More diapers and wipes.
5. A cell phone charger.
6. A bunch of plastic shopping bags.
We also put a case of bottled water in the car, as well as four fleece blankets. Okay, I'll admit, those blankets live there all the time, just in case (thanks Alissa - my sister-in-law in safety!) And of course, snacks. Lots of crackers and granola bars and pretzels.
Oh, and Josh backed up the computer and the laptop and took the back-up and the laptop with us.
My point here is this: we were ready. We had a plan. And we could have left at a moment's notice, should the need have come. It didn't. But we were prepared.
And so many people in evacuation zones were not prepared. Or they refused to leave.
I'm not judging at all, everyone makes their own personal calculations of which no one else is ever privy, and my heart is so sad for everyone and anyone affected in any way by the hurricane, but I do have to say that I cannot for one second imagine not leaving my house if my neighborhood had been evacuated. We would have left even if there may have been a thought that our neighborhood maybe perhaps should be evacuated.
A house is just a house. Only people can make it a home. My home is wherever Josh is. Wherever my kids are. Wherever we are, all together, is home.
*I do have to admit that there were moments of panic, for me at least. Josh laughed at me when the power went out and, well, this is how it went:
Me: oh no, how are we going to make hot cocoa in the morning? The hot water urn will be cold!
Josh: You do know we have a tea kettle, right?
Me: Oh. Yeah, okay, I'm okay now.
Oh my goodness. Those two weeks between camp and school can just suck the life out of you.
But we survived. And the Two Lost Weeks have almost come to an end; school starts in the morning. The tears and nervous stomachs have already started, mine included.
We worked out the secret signals we're going to use in the morning when we say goodbye at school. We packed the lunchboxes, backpacks and extra secret little toy to keep in your pocket.
We even picked out our clothes for tomorrow. But something has been bothering me, almost like something is missing.
I have been scouring the Internet, or let's be honest and just call it what it is - Pinterest - trying to find a back-to-school tradition that spoke to me, one that I could use year after year without it getting old. Or requiring too much planning. Or baking. Not in the mood for baking. And I have not been able to find anything.
But then, about an hour ago, while I was sitting on the floor surrounded by three grades worth of school supplies, marking everything up with my trusty Sharpie, I realized that the solution to my problem was already in my hand. My Sharpie.
Tomorrow morning, the first day of school, I would write a secret message on each of my children's palms. And that way, if they needed me during that very long first day of school, I'd be right
there, in their hands. And truth be told, because I was planning on using a Sharpie, my message would most likely be on their hands for days to come.
I'm psyched. I'm ready. And I even have my message figured out. MLA for my anxious second grader.
MLY for my nervous first grader and MLT for my I-can't-sleep-I'm-so-excited-I-can't-wait-for-kindergarten Kindergartener.
The M stands for mommy, the L stands for Love and the last letter is each child's intial. I feel like this is subtle enough for my big boys who are too cool for kisses in school and fun enough for my younger ones who just want to be in on the action.
I think I may just need to write a message on my own hand to get me through the the first-day-of-school worrying at home.
The craziest thing happened today. Or rather, I should say, my oldest has been driving me crazy this week and finally, today, I figured out how to fix it.
My middle two kids have been in camp all week but camp for my oldest doesn't start for another week and so he has been home since school ended. Bored. Which is bad for me, bad for him and bad for me again.
I found myself telling him over and over to go find something to do, without my brain comprehending that a 6 year old has no idea what that means. None. Not a clue.
And then, as Josh was leaving to work this morning, and I stood by the door all sad and frowny because I was going to have to deal with Bored again today, he had a stroke of genius. Why don't you make him a schedule and write it down for him?
Brilliant. Although I do have to say, I was kind of annoyed that I didn't think of this great parenting idea myself. I mean, really, I am the queen of schedules that I don't follow, lists that I don't complete and diet plans that I can't stick to. But I am excellent at making those lists - especially for other people.
This should have been obvious to me. But I guess my brain has not been working at full speed since school ended and all of a sudden, when lunchtime rolled around, everyone looked at me. I was just going to have to some yogurt, but no, no one wanted to join me. They wanted a real lunch.
Anyway, I am way off topic here.
The point was that it took all of 30 seconds to make this kid a schedule and boy, did it work out well! He loved it, he checked the clock every once in a while to make sure he was on track and he stuck to it. In fact, he did not even complain when he read the schedule and realized that I had him down for three summer homework sessions a day!
I guess it really is all about structure for these kids. I forget that sometimes and I have to be better at remembering how important that is for to them.
Anyway, here is a peak at his schedule:
9-10am: play in the backyard (before it gets too hot)
10-10:15am - come inside, drink, have a snack and relax with mommy
10:15-10:30am - Hebrew reading summer work with mommy
10:30-11:15am - computer time
11:15-11:45 - math sumer work
11:45-12:15 pm - Wii Fit games
12:15-12:30pm - lunch with mommy
12:30-1:00 - quiet English summer homework reading
1-1:30pm - TV
1:30-2pm - board games with mommy
2-2:10pm - snack with mommy
2:10-3pm: free play/lego time with music
3pm - pick up other kids at camp
3:15pm-bedtime - play, fight, play outside, argue, play, fight some more with siblings
8:30pm - Mommy goes looking for a drink. Preferably on ice.
And there ya have it. Who knew reclaiming my sanity would be this simple?
My kids don't really eat pasta. I know, I can hear you gasping from here. I can't even begin to count the number of times people have asked me, so what in the world do your kids eat then?
Actually, if I had a nickel for every time I'm asked that, we could be eating steak every night. But I digress.
I have been feeling extra lazy this week and so we have had scrambled eggs for dinner for a few nights in a row. I had been feeling vaguely guilty about it and so when I thought about defrosting some ground meat last night for meatballs and spaghetti, I forced myself to get up off the couch and take some out of the freezer.
In the light of day, however, the prospect of standing there and making the sauce and rolling the meatballs was beyond me. Even getting a pot for the pasta seemed like a lot of work on this rainy day that had my bed calling my name.
But I needed to make dinner and I knew I couldn't try and pass off cream cheese sandwiches for dinner because, well mostly because that's what the kids had for lunch but also, I really don't like when my six-year-old rolls his eyes at me. It makes me narrow my eyes back at him and that's not a very nice thing to do.
Standing in the kitchen with the ground meat looking at me, I pulled out the big frying pan and made taco meat. You can check out taco night here
. Tonight, though, will not be taco night because that involves cutting many vegetables and also having tacos in the house.
Tonight will be taco spaghetti night. Which brings me back to my original story - my kids don't love pasta. Two of them will eat elbows if there's really nothing else, one will eat spaghetti if there is cheese on it and the other won't touch it at all - except for angel hair pasta and only if it's covered in meatballs and sauce. I can usually get all of them to at least eat a few bites of angel hair pasta if it has meat sauce on it. Only problem is, angel hair pasta is a huge pain the neck. Huge. Because when angel hair pasta is poured into a colander and drained, it gets lost. Angel hair pasta is so thin, it slips right through the holes in the colander - and gets stuck. If it slipped right through, I'd be okay. I might lose a few pieces down the drain, but I would be okay with that. It's the pieces that slip through and then get stuck that really get me. They're impossible to get out no matter which way you turn the colander and no matter how many ways you try to push it through with a fork.
So I hesistated. I looked at the box of pasta for a while and then I thought, maybe I can line the colander with a paper towel and drain the pasta like that. So I did. And you know what? It worked. Not one piece of angel hair pasta escaped. I have beaten the pasta and I'm proud of it.
Just call me the lazy-person's problem solver.