Post Purim Notes for Next Year

Post Purim Notes for Next Year

Sitting down at the computer now, it’s been a busy and beautiful day. One aspect of this blogging platform that I’m particularly enjoying and coming to appreciate is the journaling aspect of jotting down my thoughts and knowing they’ll be there to reference in future years, to grow and to learn from. After each chag, we have those recurring thoughts regarding what went well, and what we’d like to remember for next year. Well, here’s my report. Perhaps it’ll enlighten more readers than only myself.

1.     First Thoughts

Aka, my gut reaction. Purim this year was beautiful. The mishloach manos were delivered, cards sent, megilla heard, matanos l’evyonim given, and seuda had. However, I. Did. Too. Much. Purim is a time with so much potential. We can involve our young children in the preparations, affording them a deeper appreciation of what each mitzva symbolizes. However, in today’s age of social media, where so many of us are looking at others’ themes and family costumes on facebook, pinterest, or instagram, or even just passing on the street while wishing one another a “Freilachem Purim,” we’ve got to get back to basic. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have themes. I’ll continue to do so as it makes the preparations even more exciting in our house. However, I’ll scale it back im yirtze Hashem next year so that we can focus on what’s important; our relationships with Hashem, with each other, and with ourselves. Lesson 1: Tone down the details – it doesn’t have to be perfect.

2.     Choosing My Kids’ Costumes

This year, while on vacation I found the cutest costume for my son. It was great, it was perfect, and it was all Boy. However, I knew our theme had been chosen for the wrong reasons when my son was at shul, saw someone dressed as a clown, and said “I wish I were dressed up as a clown.” Puzzled, I reminded him that we’d had a clown costume that would have been just his size this year. He answered me saying “I didn’t know that was an option.” Lesson 2: Let the kids choose their own costumes – it’s their fun. Don’t get me wrong, he enjoyed and had a good time in his costume, but we have to realize that as our little ones get older, kids must be able to express their identities through their own imaginations and ambitions – and on Purim, the costume is their form of expression.

Another aspect of the costume thought process that I’ve noticed in recent years, is that (at least the little ones) are being asked to bring their costumes into school on Taanis Esther. Particularly on years when I’ve put a fair bit of DIY effort into a costume, I’m hesitant to send it in knowing that it may get dirty of damaged before Purim. In lieu of this, I pull out a dress up costume from the dollar store that my little one can wear to school that day. saving his real costume for Purim itself.

3.    Planning Ahead

I’ll write down the following deadlines now, so that perhaps I might remember for next year.

  • Rosh Chodesh Shvat – Have a theme chosen.
  • One week into Shvat – Place eBay orders (I’ve become a huge fan of ordering aspects of costumes extremely inexpensively on ebay. However these can often take more than a month to ship.).
  • Rosh Chodesh Adar – Have a list of card mishloach manos / card recipients completed so I’m ready to go shopping and place card orders. Have all DIY costumes DONE. Take pictures in full costumes if using for mishloach manos labels / notes.
  • 7th of Adar – Have cards filled out, stamped and sealed, ready to mail. Mishloach maos shopping should be completed (possible exceptions if food items might spoil). Have mishloach manos labels / notes designed and printed. Have seuda menu completed. Have all seuda decor bought, including paper / plastic goods.
  • 12th of Adar – Have mishloach manos packed, and ready to go. IF making real food MMs that need to be assembled last minute, purchase easy to close packaging with no fumbling, tying, or curling aspects. Open gift bags are ideal.

 Lesson 3: Plan ahead, and stick to the plan. In short, I may or may not actually stick to these by the book next year, because life happens. But I do know that I’m going to try my best. There’s got to be a game plan. A game plan was soarly missing this year, and I felt it in my exhaustion leading up to Purim.

4.     Mishloach Manos

So many lessons here. Lesson 4: Buy open top bags (gift bags) if giving real food MMs so that they can be assembled in advance with the fresh food component just being popped in easily on Purim morning. Lesson 5: If making a seuda, cut down recipient list to the bare bones, and send cards instead. Between the cost, time management of making mishloach manos, and then delivering, in addition to making a seuda, something’s got to give. If you’ve got the time, go for it, however if life is particularly busy (and whose isn’t) it’s fine to cut down. Lesson 6: Keep them simple. Lesson 7: Skip the homemade themed baking projects. There’s a good chance they’ll end up not being eaten, and are extremely time consuming. Lesson 8: Remember that we’re meant to spend more on matanos l’evyonim than on mishloach manos – keep priorities in check.

5.     Seuda

OK here I declare an unabashed WIN. I pre-cooked and stored foods in the freezer and was able to meal plan with detailed ingredient lists. More importantly however, I finally convinced myself that I had cooked enough food (Jewish mother syndrome anyone?). Lesson 9: Know when to stop cooking. Ask yourself: is this appetizer necessary? The decor side of things, well, that could have been done earlier. I’m going to give myself breathing space on this one, because had misshloach manos been simplified (see lesson 5 above) decor would have been done much earlier. One aspect of expansion I would like to consider for next year is to Lesson 10: Consider inviting non family members who may need a seuda. There are so many people out there, whether a single parent or simply a single man or woman, or maybe an older couple whose children have moved away, and would appreciate an invitation.

6.    Matanos L’evyonim

This is simply an idea I’d like to share because I love having one less ‘to do’ on my task list for Purim. Lesson 11: Find out if you can prearrange matanos l’evyonim donations. My shul has established a set-up whereby members arrange for our rav to be a shliach of our money, and it’s all arranged before Purim so that I know there’s one less task to be done on this busy day.

7.    Megilla

I really, I mean really like the shul where I heard megilla last night, however it was a very family oriented minyan, which meant there were many stalls in the leining waiting for kids to quiet down, which meant we got home late, which meant my little one was very tired today. In future years, I’m going to reread this post and be reminded to Lesson 12: Attend a leining that’s quick, and quiet if there is one available – again, this applies especially if planning a seuda in our home.

……Till next year!

What lessons did you learn this year’s experience that you’d love to share? Please comment below!

Bedtime Routine Rhythm

The further I come in my experience as a mother, the more I’ve begun to appreciate the rhythm of routine. From the first night home from the hospital, I began establishing a bedtime routine with my son that I’ve stuck with to this day, adding new elements, and adjusting habits as I’ve found necessary along the way. Children, as do adults, thrive in a framework of habit and familiarity. There’s something comforting about knowing what lies ahead, and that’s why, with very little tweaking, I’ve stuck with the same routine now for the past number of years. Want to hear more?

Looking back now, I’m not sure whether I even contemplated the thought or not, but I remember saying Shema with my newborn son, that tiny little innocent steddy-164932_1280waddled infant. These nighttime prayers that Jewish parents have sung with their children for generation upon generation mesmerized me. For years prior to becoming a parent this had been personal habit, and I don’t think I gave a second thought to whether or not a newborn should have Shema said to him – it just felt inherently right.

Soon, teething began waking him up at night, and so tooth brushing joined that nighttime to-do list.

As the little guy grew older, he continued to have that nighttime Shema recited, and as books became part of his day, they became a part of his nighttime as well. And this just felt right.

Looking back into my childhood, I remember the rhythm of a special time before bed being spent with one of my own parents. Whether it was a few minutes in bed being read a story, or have the inner workings of my nightlight explained, or being told about the stars and planets far beyond my windowpane, these memories have become an integral part of my inner child.

My mother, an avid reader herself, had long been helping with building my son’s book collection, and at some early point in time, I began reading to him, every night after PJs had been put on, diaper changed, and teeth brushed – and he was still a very little man.

He grew into a toddler, and snuggled down in PJs, freshly bathed, began picking out the books himself, offering a few words or animated noises to help me through the most familiar stories. Then Shema, and lights out.

He started daycare, then pre-school. Pretty soon he was wearing big kid jammies, and helping to brush his own teeth. Toilet trained, he would visit the bathroom before bed, have a drink of water, pick out a story, and snuggle down on the couch with me. Then Shema, kisses, and lights out.

That infant is a big little boy now, with after school lessons and playdates. A real social life – not my baby anymore. But he still comes home, has his supper, bathes or showers, puts on PJs, does his homework (!), brushes teeth, and then we snuggle down together for a chapter from whatever the latest book is that we’ve been reading. Recently we finished Charlotte’s Web, saying after each chapter “Mommy please don’t leave me in suspense!” Then he’d go and use the facilities, and head to bed. He’s now asking to say Shema without assistance (tear…). And then a goodnight kiss and hug.

Every night – there’s something comforting about that rhythm.

Please share your bedtime routine or rituals so that other mothers will be inspired. Looking forward to hearing from you!

6 Ways to Teach Appreciation to Our Kids

thanks-418358_640We are constantly trying to raise our children to become thankful little human beings. We remind them of their “P”s and “Q”s and to be grateful for their bounty. How many times (today) have you told your little ones “You get what you get and you say ‘thank you!'”? And perhaps just a tiny little part of you wants to be shown gratitude for the endless efforts you’re putting into fulfilling their every need.

How do we raise our children to be thankful? Model appreciation.

1. Catch Them in the Act

Noticing those moments of growth in our children is essential. The continual reminders you’ve given them have come down to this. It’s the bottom of the ninth, her little brother is grabbing and….. she lets him have the toy. “Thank you sweetie! I know that you had the doll first but do you see how happy you’ve just made Avi? Keep it up and he’ll learn how to share with you!”

2. Give Them Your Undivided Attention

Your time is precious – show them that theirs is too. You’re preparing dinner, overseeing homework, and then the phone rings. “Mommy, please can you help me with this question?”

Think about this scenario for a second. There are two options here. You could whisper to your child that you’ll be off in five minutes – the amount of time it’ll take to hear about the great deal your sister found today – or you could tell her “Listen Sarah, I can’t wait to hear all about it, but I’ll ave to call you back. I’m just helping Benny with his homework.” Let your child know that your attention is focused on him. Granting him quality undivided focus will teach him to appreciate the value of a person’s time.

3. Pull Back the Curtains on Your Efforts

Have you ever gone to see a professional production and marvelled at the product before you? Did you forget, even just for a moment (or for the entire play) how much work and collaboration goes into coordinating all the costumes, music, acting, and special effects? That is, until the production teams were thanked at the curtain call? This is how you kids view you.

Your children accept realities at face value. When they sit down to dinner they don’t wonder how it came to be. They accept as a given that clothes are always fresh and clean (“Mommy, how come your socks are in my drawer?” he giggles).

Well, I’ve started pulling back the curtain and letting little ones in on parenting secrets. My little one asked recently in all sincerity why I had to go to work, as we have the money we need to buy things. He said “the cashier always gives you money when you buy things.” Money? Trees? Anyone? But seriously, I’ve begun explaining how all the neat and tidy ends come to be at home, and that it’s not merely by the swish of a wand.

4. Hone Their Work Ethic

I love chores. Not doing them per se, but rather the habitual nature of them. I’m all for little ones learning to clean the bathroom with you. If you find that a bit much, begin with gently handing over a paper towel when your little one spills the milk. Or have her put a new bag into the garbage bin. And thank them for it – specifically. Remember point #1? The more educated they become on what it takes to run a home, the sooner you’ll begin to receive their expressions of thanks.

5. Mitzva Note Flips

So many schools have implemented the mitzva note system, encouraging parents of kindergarten aged kids to send in notes catching their ids in a good deed. One of the best tricks I’ve found in imbuing a sense of appreciation within little ones is for them to ‘write’ or just voice mitzva notes for other family members. Whether for parents or siblings, having a child focus verbal expression on the good that they see others doing, especially for their own good, creates a world of thanks. Offer suggestions such as “Mommy, thank you for giving me a bath so that I’m always clean,” or “Mom, thank you for such a delicious dinner that helps me grow big and strong.”

6. Model Appreciation

It goes without saying, practice what you preach. To raise an appreciative child, you must exemplify the appreciative person you’d like them to become.

It all begins with “Modeh ani…” Thank You, Creator of the universe, for another joyous opportunity to raise my children with appreciation and recognition of Your good graces, and the efforts of those around them.

From Worker Mom to SAHM & Back Again… and Chocolate

I never thought I could be a stay at home mom. My son wstairs to successas active and sociable from birth, and I started him in a playgroup from a young age. I had just finished my degree and was considering what the future would hold for me. Whatever it would be, all day at home was not going to cut it as my itch for more grew stronger. I had more to offer the world than I could do from inside the walls of my home.

Until the day I finished my next degree.

My son was older, and I had spent months after month away from him, putting in late nights studying on campus. Family members graciously pitched in and took babysitting shifts morning, afternoon and evening to accommodate my schedule. I would come home each night intellectually drained and emotionally spent. Well, the effort paid off. I graduated at the top of the class.

And all I wanted was to know that I could live the life of the stay at home mom, and spend the time with my little one.

What changed? Life circumstances, and the pekel HaKadosh Baruch Hu had granted me. For the first time, I needed  to work to bring in parnassa. It wasn’t a choice, it was a clear message. “You need to go out and impact the world now.” And all I wished for was to impact my family; after all, family comes first, right?

Well, I’ve learnt that we aren’t the ones in charge here, and will continuously share from other examples as they crop up in daily life. No, we aren’t in charge of the circumstances.

We are in control of our reactions.

Remember that old Forest Gump quote? (bring on the twangy accent here!) “Life is like a box o’ chocolates, you never know what’re gonna get.” Well, we aren’t the ones who pick the chocolates. And sometimes the chocolates we’re gifted are the dark chocolates of the bunch. Remember though, dark chocolate is also referred to as bittersweet and to be honest it’s absolutely my preference.

We never know why we’re given circumstances in life. Why are we granted this test, or that challenge? I’ve watched as the money in the bank depletes itself. I know that I have to work. I also know that there is good to be given to the world through my doing so, at the same time as my little guy is needing his mama. So you know what I’m telling myself?

If the Good Lord has brought me here, and given me what seems like the dark chocolate, He will make it bittersweet. If he wants me to work, it is because it will benefit me, showing me strengths and my flaws. I will grow. As a person, and as a mother, I will grow. I will savour the precious moments will my little guy, and appreciate the quality, making each day count to the best of my ability.

I will strive, and I will thrive.

Moms out there, you are doing a fantastic job. Every moment you spend with your family is a chessed. You are growing these little beings, and shaping them by the very essence of your being. Whether you work or you’re home, know that it is what He wants of you, and He has given you the capability and the circumstances to see the situation as sweet.

Note: No chocolate was harmed in the writing of this post. That’s to say nothing of the chocolate that may be consumed after I hit publish.

Life is sweet. Savour the moments.

What Makes a Mother

381861_1172

Have you ever thought about it?

Each of us is created of a partnership: G-d + father + mother = life.

Whether we have grown up with a mother in our lives or not; whether we have had a close, nurturing relationship with our mothers or not; whether we have known a biological mother or not, now is our time. It’s time that we take hold of this opportunity to become the best mothers we can be.

Mothering is not about perfection – it’s not about having doilies on dustless furniture like our Bubbies had, or about having dinner on the table every night at five o’clock before the kids go bouncing off the walls. And let me share a secret, it’s not even about having professional photos of the most adorable smiling faces all in matching outfits.

Being a mother is about being the nurturing woman you are, with the capabilities the Good Lord Above has blessed you with. HaKadosh Baruch Hu has given YOU strengths, weaknesses, talents and shortcomings that make you unique and valued as a member of the klal.

What we hold within us is incredible potential. We are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, friends, and we are changing the world one step at a time. Perfection is not measurable. Perfection is being you.

Now go be YOU and love yourself for it.