Monthly Archives: September 2010

Sukkos menu

It’s been a lovely Sukkos so far!  Here’s a list of what we’ll be making for the last two days of Sukkos and Shabbos.  Since I’ll be mixing and matching for meals, it’s easiest to just list the dishes.

homemade challah


Side dishes:

  • potato kugel
  • creamy noodle kugel
  • broccoli onion quiche
  • squash-apple bake
  • curried lentils
  • kishke


  • cauliflower salad
  • jicama and avocado salad w/Thai vinaigrette
  • colorful green bean salad
  • tri pepper salad
  • fresh salad (lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, etc)
  • beet salad


  • vanilla ice cream w/ crumb topping
  • lemon ice cream
  • caramel chocolate nut bars
  • peanut butter squash brownies (flour free)
  • cherry cake
  • gingersnap cookies


  • techina
  • maynonnaise


Roasted Squash and Pear Soup

Thanks once again to my fantastic crew of children, the sukka is up and decorated – it looks beautiful!  I took ds3, ds4, dd9, and dd14 to make some Sukkos crafts yesterday.  The littles made some smaller decorations and both of the girls made a new large poster.  Ds11 really wants to make a poster tomorrow but I don’t know if I’ll be able to let him spend so much time on it when there’s so much to be done, and then go to get it laminated – I’m going to try, though, since it enhances the holiday for the kids to look around and see their artwork adorning the sukka walls.

This afternoon the kids harvested some pears from a neighbor’s tree, and though they could easily eat them all fresh, I thought it would be nice to use some of them for a dish in honor of Sukkos.  After all, Sukkos is the ‘Festival of the Harvest’, so it seems particularly appropriate to use food we personally harvested. :)

Last week I also got these fantastic huge winter squash – I don’t remember what they’re called, but they look kind of like butternut but much larger with long crooked necks.   I want to use at least one to put in the sukka somewhere as a decoration, but fortunately I have enough to do that and still have plenty to cook with!  Here’s my adaptation of a soup recipe I found at an online recipe site:

Roasted Squash and Pear Soup

  • 2 1/2 lbs winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into large chunks
  • 3 pears, quartered and seeded
  • 1 inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 6 c. chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste

Put the cut up squash and pears on a large roasting pan with most of the fresh ginger slices.  Brush the mixture with 1 T. coconut oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake about an hour at 425 degrees or until tender, stirring periodically to be sure it roasts evenly.  If there are any pan scrapings left, save them to include at the end.

Saute onion in oil until golden. Add pears, ginger, squash, and any leftover liquid from roasting pan.  Add stock and coconut milk; bring to a boil, and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Blend with immersion blender until soup is velvety smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

** It also occurred to me that following the instructions up through roasting the vegetables would make a very nice side dish of roasted squash, pears, and ginger.  Yum!

(This post is part of the Real Food Sukkot Carnival and Real Food Wednesday.)


Ds17 is home!

Oh, the excitement!  You’d think ds17 has been away for months rather than just four weeks, and that we hadn’t seen him 2.5 weeks ago when we went to the airport together to see dd15 off to Israel.  But when he called this morning to say he was on his way back, I felt so excited, and I heard the same thing in his voice.

Everyone was thrilled when he got home.  I didn’t expect ds16mo to really remember him, but he reached out to be held by ds17 right away, and then when he was passed to someone else while ds got his suitcase out of the car, kept trying to touch him.  We had a late lunch soon after he got home and then the kids all went out to put the sukkah up together.  I just sat on the patio in the middle of all of the action, enjoying the feeling of having so many of the kids working together and enjoying each other.  It was really, really, nice.

I’m not quite sure how long he’ll be home, but at least for two weeks.  We’ve changed our routine so it isn’t glaring on a daily basis that dd17 and dd15 aren’t here (which it would be if our routine had stayed the same), but now that he’s back, the empty space that we weren’t really noticing consciously feels full again.  Ahh.  :) :) :)


A lovely Yom Kippur

I had such a nice Yom Kippur!

This morning I read the Book of Jonah with ds8 and the littles – I’ve read it to them three times before this and they really enjoy it.  It’s great since it’s part of the afternoon service but is easy to read/tell as a story.  I have an illustrated children’s version, which has all the text of an adult version but the pictures definitely help them stay interested (though the first couple of times I read it, it was a version that had only one picture, and they requested that I read it a second time immediately after reading it the first time!).  Then we read some of Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers – also illustrated version), which ds4 chose when I told him he could bring a book for me to read with him. I spent some time reading through the machzor (Yom Kippur prayerbook) in English – very inspiring and beautiful.

(On a side note, we attended our first co-op classes on Thursday and dd9 and ds11 made maps from biblical times that included Nineveh.  Very interesting to see it on paper and then read about it in the story of Jonah a couple of days later – I love watching things tie together like this in such a seamless and integrated manner!)

For lunch, ds11 and dd9 led the meal for ds8 and the littles.  Ds11 made kiddush and hamotzi for them all, then the two of them served all the food.  (We prepared regular Shabbos food for them, since for children under bar/bas mitzva, it’s a holiday to be observed with traditional meals even though adults are fasting.)  Ds3 was initially perturbed because I wasn’t sitting with them, and upset that ds11 was filling the roles usually filled by adults, but I sat with them for a bit and explained to him that I wasn’t eating today.  They sang together (I added my voice a bit, too :)), and at the end they put all the food away and cleared the table.

Dd14 enjoys being in synagogue WAY more than I did at her age – or even when I was older than her….I was one of those who did it because I was supposed to but not infrequently was counting how many pages were left and estimating how much longer services would take.  I’m sure none of you ever felt like that.  :)  So she went for the Friday night services, then back first thing in the morning until 3:30 pm.  Then she came home, took a short nap and offered to stay home to watch the littles so I could go to mincha (afternoon service).  My dh was the chazzan (cantor) for that service and she’s heard him a number of times, and thought I’d enjoy it.  So I happily agreed, and dh came home for the fairly short break so we could walk back to synagogue together.

I haven’t been in shul for Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur for four years, and that year was the first and only time since my first child was born, so it’s not exactly something I get to do regularly!  I told a friend on my way in that I hoped I was mentally up for it, since you have to have the right mindset to appreciate it, but I need not have worried.  It was SO nice being in shul, particularly since there weren’t many people there at that time – I find it easier to focus on my prayers with fewer people around.  It was especially nice hearing my husband’s voice leading the services, and I felt very connected with him as I listened to him.

My mother’s seat was next to mine, and it was interesting to be together in shul after all these years.  My mother didn’t grow up Orthodox and when I was younger didn’t have a very high comfort level in synagogue – she often was unsure about what page to be on, or when to stand or sit. So I’d clue her in and point to my siddur (prayerbook) if I sensed it might be of help.  But as helpful as that sounds, I had some judgment and negativity toward her for not knowing all that I did (even though it was thanks to her that I had the educational background that she never got, and knew things she never learned). I felt like everyone else’s mother knew what to do and it bothered me that my mother didn’t.

Today out of habit I put my finger on my place in the siddur (prayerbook) in case she looked over, when suddenly I realized – I don’t need to do that anymore! I’m no longer a kid who thinks her mother’s imperfections are some kind of reflection on me.  I had a nice sense of inner peace to stand/sit next to her and not care if she stood or sat at the right time, and was truly able to accept and appreciate her for who she is.  And then I suddenly realized, she doesn’t need my help anymore!  I was concerned when I stood during parts that most people sit that she’d unnecessarily follow my cue and stand when she didn’t need to, but I needn’t have been even slightly concerned – she’s comfortable in synagogue now and knows what to do and when to do it.

Dd14 wanted to return for the evening services, so I went out to say goodbye to dh before I left.  He came into the lobby and I told him how much I enjoyed it and wished I could stay for the rest of the time.  He encouraged me to do that, but I felt I had given my word that I’d be back and didn’t want to be unreliable.  But I did give in to his urging to stay to hear the rabbi’s talk, and it was amazing how he spoke about exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately!

To sum up, he said that G-d is incredible in His mercy, compassion, and love for us, and it’s unquestionable that He’s forgiven us for our wrongs.  The real question is, can we forgive ourselves for our imperfections and mistakes?  And he quoted a couple of phrases about freedom, and said that true freedom comes from forgiving ourselves.  Really beautiful.

Unfortunately, someone said something to me during the speech that I was bothered by.  As hard as I tried to refocus my thoughts on what the rabbi was saying, I wasn’t able to absorb much since I was distracted by a gnawing sense of irritation.  Isn’t it at times when you feel the best that your biggest challenges come?  So I was sent a very immediate test to my elevated frame of mind, and it was honestly challenging for me to appreciate it as the growth opportunity it was.  Fortunately I had the entire walk home to reframe it and give the person the benefit of the doubt.

When I got home dd9, ds11, and dd14 went back to synagogue, while I played a couple of games with ds8.  I’ve been focusing on consciously spending more time with him, and he really, really loves it.  Ds4 and ds3 sat next to us and played with felt sets, which kept them happily occupied for awhile.  It was a quiet and peaceful evening playing with all of them, and then dh and the kids came home and we broke our fast together.

I hope you had a positive day, as well!


A scary mishap and a powerful reminder

This afternoon the littles were getting a little antsy – they were so busy entertaining each other in their beds that they couldn’t fall asleep for their nap, and they had lots of outside kind of energy to burn.  Ds3 ran outside, followed right away by ds4; ds3 jumped on his little bike with training wheels and ds4 was busy with a pogo stick.  I had just told dd9 that I would make her a French braid when ds ran outside, so I told her to come with me so I could braid her hair while I watched them from the walkway outside.

Ds4 was having fun with the push car and pogo stick, which I was keeping an eye on since it looked like it might not be too safe.  Ds3 started whimpering a little on his bike, but I glanced at him to check that he was okay, and he was just sitting on his bike, looking fine.  Then ds4 went over to him with the pogo stick and right after that the tone of ds3’s crying changed, the kind of change that makes you look up fast.  He was repeatedly moving his hands by his neck and I thought ds4 might have accidentally jammed the pogo stick into him, but it was the way he looked that alarmed me.  His face was turning purple and he was crying hard but not much sound was coming out.

His tzitzis (four corner fringed garment worn under shirt by Orthodox Jewish males) had gotten caught in the chain of the bike, and the strings were wrapped so tightly that he couldn’t move forward or backward, and the garment was tugging against his throat – it literally was choking him.  I quickly pulled it a finger’s distance from his neck so he could breathe while I worked the entire thing off him, then held him for a while until he calmed down.

My ds11 came home just after this happened, when ds3 was still crying.  When he was told what happened, he soberly said, “It’s a good thing you always make sure someone is outside with them.”  He’s right.  I have six boys and this is my fifth to wear tzitzis every day from the time they are three years old, and never in fourteen years have we had anything like this happen.  Oh, sure, the strings might get caught and tear a little on occasion, but nothing that would have led me to think of this as a concern to preempt.

The reason I’m sharing this is threefold: a) to be aware that something like this can happen and to be sure your little boys are well-tucked in when playing, particularly with something like a bike (or take them off when they ride).  b) The  second reason is because it’s a powerful reminder to me: things can and do happen quickly with little kids, things that you can’t always predict or preempt.  Being close by can make all the difference in averting tragedy.

And finally, to remember that we have a Partner in keeping our children safe – it’s not all dependent on us staying constantly on alert.  Even though I was so close by, if he had been riding in the opposite direction away from me or further down the block, I couldn’t have responded so fast, and it’s scary to think about how easily that could have happened right with me there watching and not realizing he needed help.  It would be arrogant to think that we can protect our children from every possible situation.  A parent can be incredibly responsible and something can happen in the two minutes she’s in the bathroom.  But having said that, it helps to set the odds in our favor by guarding our children to the best of our ability like the precious treasures they are.

Yom Kippur is just a hours away, a time when the decrees for every one of us for the coming year are sealed.  May you all be signed and sealed for a year filled with blessing and abundance in every area, a year of joy and growth, and a year filled with increasing appreciation of the protection and care that we merit every day.


Beach trip, history class, PA shopping

I’ve had a few lovely and busy days!

On Monday we had a trip to the beach.  I planned this for May for our homeschooling group but the weather didn’t cooperate so I had to cancel.  I rescheduled it for this week to take advantage of the off season rates while the weather was still warm, and this time the weather was perfect – it was a beautiful day and I enjoyed it so much!  We had five families there with less than 25 kids, so it was a nice group but not huge.  We had the beach to ourselves and I found it soooo relaxing – the sun, the water, the wind – ahhh.  Perfect for kids and adults after the inside energy of a three day holiday.  I was feeling a little uptight when we left the house at the thought of all I had to do this week, and within a few minutes of getting there that had just disappeared.  And as a beautiful bonus, I was able to do tashlich while there, which to quote another mother “totally elevated” the beach outing.

Then on Tuesday we left the house early in the morning for the first history class of the year.  It’s an hour away (without traffic) and I was a little apprehensive about how much longer it would take with traffic, since the highway I take gets majorly backed up right around where I’d be. But we seemed to pretty much miss most of the traffic.  Ds8, dd9, ds11, and dd14 went to the class while I took the littles to the library.  Once there we participated in two different story hours, which helped pass the time (the history class is 2.5 hours).

Just as we were leaving, the librarian gave me coupons for free donuts at Dunkin Donuts.  She said that they were sent as a prize for the summer reading club but they were significantly delayed and only arrived that day, and they were only valid until the next day.  When she explained  she was giving them out because she didn’t want them to go to waste, I asked if I could have coupons for the older four kids; she said dd14 would be too old for the reading club and they only wanted to give to kids who would technically be old enough, so she very generously gave us 6 total.

Then we headed back to pick up the other kids, and spent about forty minutes talking with the historian.  He offers a writing option for kids who are interested, and dd14 discussed this with him.  She is excited about doing this, as she really wants to improve her writing skills, and it’s very apparent that this will be challenging – “the goal of the program is to improve the student’s ability to write substantive, coherent, and precise historical papers. Depending on the student’s initial capabilities, this may include short, medium, and long papers that are informative, analytical, and thesis-based. ” He stresses that each student work to his own ability, strive to improve, and that there’s no competition between any of the students.

While we were driving to the next place, the kids were all talking about how interesting the class was and sharing lots of information they learned.  I’m looking forward to sitting in on the class next week – I don’t know how he simultaneously kept my 8 year old and high schooler interested for 2.5 hours, with only a five minute break!  It seems almost inaccurate to call it a class since that conjures up mental images of forced boredom and note taking, and this was all about engaged learning.   He told the kids that if they need to walk out, just to leave, not to worry about asking permission, very different from school-type rules.  He treats them like they want to be there, and they do!  It’s very gratifying for me that the kids enjoyed this so much – though I expected that they would and I signed them up because I felt it would be a fantastic learning experience, I can’t say they were initially very enthusiastic about it.  Not at all.  So it’s really nice that they now share my positivity about it and look forward to future classes, rather than feeling like I was dragging them to something they’d find boring and hard to sit through.

From there we were only 20 minutes from my dh’s workplace, but since it was too early to pick him up, I took the kids to a fantastic park just a few minutes from him.  I’d never been there and the kids really liked it – it was huge and had lots of different play structures – they felt we didn’t stay long enough to explore them much so I told them we’ll go back soon.  Then we picked up dh from work, stopped at the library on the way home to pick up some books I had on hold, and the kids piled out to look for books.  Dd14 and ds11 both wanted to get books that were mentioned in passing in their history class, Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island.

Close to our home there is a kosher Dunkin Donuts and we stopped there for a free treat before finally heading home for dinner – the six coupons were perfect since the oldest five kids each got one and the littlest two shared one.  It was a very busy day and it was the substantial planning I did the night before that made it a day that everyone (including me!) enjoyed from start to finish.  (Yes, I’m patting my own back but it was a lot of work and it’s good to acknowledge when your efforts make a difference – and you can’t always wait for others to tell you how valuable what you did was!)

Then this morning we had another fairly early start.  We headed to PA for some shopping with the littles in tow (the last few times they’ve stayed with their grandparents for the day, which they all enjoy, but my inlaws aren’t around for a couple of weeks so that wasn’t an option).  I made sure to leave time at each stop for the littles to run around and play – they especially enjoyed when we bought our eggs.  They went down to the pond to watch the geese, played with the 11 week old puppy, went to the barn to see the turkeys (dd9 tried to catch and hold one – she managed to almost get a hold on it before it escaped – she is really good with animals, which is probably obvious since turkeys are kind of intimidating to think of holding :lol:), and then looked at the thirty cows they bought since our last visit.   Our stop to buy eggs took 45 minutes because of all of this!

Ds16months is an easy going little boy but has always had a very hard time with car travel, which was my initial incentive to ask my mother-in-law if she could babysit him when I do my monthly shopping, which involves hours of driving  But today he did great – enjoyed his awake time, slept, and in each directions woke up and started to cry just a few minutes from our destination. And remarkably we accomplished everything I set out to do and were home by 5 pm, which is amazing!  I was even able to be in time for my public speaking group a couple of hours later, something I wasn’t confident would be doable.

Tomorrow we have another full day planned, since our first co-op classes begin.  That won’t be until after lunch, though, so we’ll have the morning to have some quiet inside time.  Which we’ll especially enjoy after three days out of the house!


Weekly menu plan

I have gotten so off track the last few weeks with weekly menu planning!  I’ve been intending to make a menu plan for the year with rotating bi-weekly choices so that I don’t have to take time out every week for it.  The idea was to simplify and reduce the time spent on menu planning.  But I haven’t created that one size fits all plan (I think because mentally I rebel a little at the idea of limiting myself only to 14 basic meals) and as a result, recent meal times have gotten short shift and been inconsistent in quality.   Fortunately, no matter what, I plan for Shabbos (Sabbath) and holiday meals, so those have still been well-organized. :)

Here’s the menu plan for this week:

Monday – breakfast – cream cheese squares; lunch – millet cheese cakes, vegetable sticks; dinner – vegetable-lentil soup

Tuesday – b – quinoa oatmeal squares; l – potato soup with dumplings; d – tuna quiche

Wednesday – b – ginger rice; l – (doing my monthly shopping and will buy something); d – pizza, salad

Thursday – b – quinoa porridge; l – Meditteranean lentils; d – falafel with tahini sauce

Friday – b – polenta; l – leftovers

It’s so nice when the weather starts to get cool and soup can go back on the menu!  Filling, relatively simple, and so many variations.  As the weather moves closer to winter, I’ll be scheduling more soups, but this week is the first time in months that I’ll be making soup for a weekday meal.  I’m looking forward to it!

Though I like using beans, not planning meals has led to not using many legumes, since they take a bit of advance planning to maximize their nutritive value and digestibility.  Beans add so much variety while being a super budget expander!  When I recently saw green lentils on sale for .79 for a box of 1.5 lb (actually, they were double that but some of the boxes were marked .79 so I requested to pay that for all of them), I bought all that they had – about ten boxes.

As always, meals are supplemented by whatever fruit and vegetables I have on hand.

Have a wonderful week!


Finding inspiration for the holidays

>>i know it is a crazy busy time, but i was wondering if you could address how to make the holidays more inspiring. i used to listen to Torah lectures on tape while i was cooking/baking/cleaning, but the kids found them really boring. My husband has tried giving the girls assignments and they have come up with some really powerful Torah insights, but i could tell they were feeling like it was drudgery rather than inspiration. i am so busy with the physical needs of every holiday (shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, menus, etc etc) that i feel like the holidays have become about the trappings rather than the meanings. so, knowing your family, and knowing that your kids are genuinely inspired by what they do (at least the ones we know)- how do you set the stage for that??? any insights would be hugely appreciated! thanks so much!!!<<

Tonight, two different people asked me about how my Rosh Hashana was. The first asked if I had any special moments of inspiration, and the second asked how my davening (praying) was.  My answers were: a) I didn’t have any special moments of inspiration, and b) I didn’t do much praying.

On this Rosh Hashana, I can’t say I was reaching great spiritual heights in the way that it’s generally defined.  I was doing what I feel is what I’m meant to do at this stage in my life: to be there for my children, to keep my home running, and to keep the purpose of the day in mind as much as possible.  Although I do have a teenage daughter still at home, I feel this is her time in life to be in synagogue, so I don’t ask her to babysit so I can go to services.  I took the littles for the shofar blowing on both days and was happy to have been able to have done that.

For years I’ve tried to get inspired about this time of year and then felt guilty that I wasn’t on a spiritual high, that my faults were so huge and my desire to improve couldn’t possibly overcome that.  Accepting that I was doing the best that I could seemed like a cop-out.  But now I look at inner growth differently.  Guilt over my inadequacies doesn’t work to inspire me – it just leaves me feeling like there’s no point in trying to be better because I’ll never be good enough.

Growth for me is learning to let go of those well-intended expectations, and accept and love who I am, as I am right now.  I personally find it helpful to think about G-d as a parent who loves and cares about me, who wants to give me good things and knows I’m doing the best I can do – not to intimidate myself with thoughts of all the bad that might happen if I don’t get myself inspired.

I’ve had a challenging few weeks leading up to Rosh Hashana, time that was physically and emotionally taxing.  It was a time that I felt consciously aware that I was being stretched to be more, while making a conscious effort to stay cheerful in the face of pressures that in the past I would have been emotionally reactive to.  I felt it was a gift from G-d – both the challenge of this time as well as the help in growing from the challenges.  This stage has been personally inspiring for me, and whether it happened in synagogue on Rosh Hashana itself or not, or tidily lends itself to answering questions about my holiday experience, doesn’t really matter.

As far as how my children find inspiration, I honestly wonder about it myself!  Here’s something interesting dd14 did with the younger kids for Rosh Hashana – when making shaping the challah dough, they talked about the symbolism of round challahs.  Then they decorated each of the eight round challahs with a different design to correspond to their idea.  It was very interesting at the beginning of each meal to look at the challah and try to guess what the significance of the designs were – for example, one had a sun, a moon, and stars – after we tried to figure out the connection, they explained what their intent had been.

Practically speaking, I think it’s the sometimes the little things that happen in the environment that lead to a heightened sense of the specialness of the time of year.  I bought several new cds that I’ve been playing as much as possible – they are from Rutman Music.  One is tunes of the High Holidays, the other is a double cd set of the prayer service for the High Holidays.   The prices were great and there are wonderful full-length demos of the tunes that you can listen to on your computer.  Since I enjoy music, this was helpful to me in getting into the spirit and also is wonderful to have on in the background to enhance the atmosphere in the house .

Another getting into the spirit item was a gift we received from a friend- a set of homemade soap with a special Rosh Hashana theme of apples and honey.  Little things can really make a difference, particularly when they are visual and tactile – these were beautiful to look at and smell, and useful to boot!

Before each holiday, I make an effort to get reading material for the littles that is connected to it.  Often this is fiction related to the time of the year, not necessarily ‘learning’ kind of books.  That helps them get into the spirit of things.

And lastly, I find that I can enjoy the physical preparations as part of the holiday (rather than as an impediment to spirituality) when I leave enough time to do what needs to be done without rushing. I don’t feel apologetic for having the kids involved with cooking or cleaning – the physical preparations are an inherent part of this busy holiday season, and while I don’t consider it a substitute for any other kinds of preparation, I consider the holidays our primary homeschooling focus for this month!


Early pregnancy tips

>>I’ve also wanted to ask you…..How do you deal with all the wonderfulness of early pregnancy and still keep your household running smoothly? I’m talking about the all-day nausea and the overwhelming tiredness that comes along with early pregnancy as your body adjusts? This time, I’ve just found it so overwhelming to keep everything running smoothly – kids occupied, meals prepared and a semi-neat house…..any tips? It is a most wonderful time and I feel such gratitude for another baby …its just challenging to keep everything going when all I want to do is sleep :)<<

During my last pregnancy at about four months along, a friend who is now a grandmother told me I should write a post about how to deal with the early stage of pregnancy with a house full of kids.  I made a note of it, but with other questions actively coming in that I was answering and no one else who had asked about it, the topic didn’t make it onto my priority list.

With my last pregnancy, I was so tired and I felt like I didn’t do anything but rest.  I would look at things that needed to be done but not feel able to summon the energy to do more than look at them, not even enough energy to want to do them!  It wasn’t a great feeling that things weren’t running the way I wanted them to.  But the real issue wasn’t how the house was running, but how I felt about the house running!

We have to give ourselves some mental acceptance that at the early stage of pregnancy, you are supposed to be resting lots !  Your body is making a huge adjustment from non-pregnant to pregnant, and is expending a lot of energy on this process.  As long as your children are safe, it’s okay for the house to run at your absolute minimum standard.  It will only be for a short time, even though when you’re looking at the mess and it feels chaotic, it doesn’t feel like a short time.

But the reality remains that even if you accept that it’s the time to do less, there still remain other children needing to be taken care of, and a house to run at that minimum standard, so it’s not like we can pull the blankets over your head and stay in bed oblivious to everything else for three months until you’re feeling more energetic.  :)   What I’ve written about the postpartum stage is relevant here – lower your expectations as much as you can, do the minimum, and accept as much help as you can.

Sometimes you can find a teenager that is available to help out which will drastically be of help – my dd14 and dd15 were helping someone in the early stage of pregnancy who has particularly challenging pregnancies almost every day this summer with her children and doing light housework.  The grandmother was happy to pay for it since she saw the house falling apart and the pressure it was putting on the couple.  If you have this possibility, use them to do whatever you need the most help with.  The woman they were helping really needed help with housework but was embarrassed to ask them or for them to see her mess.  I told my girls to just start doing whatever they saw that needed to be done, and gave them a script to convince the woman to accept their help that went something like this: “We enjoy cleaning – we do it all the time at home and we’re happy to do it now.”

If you can’t find a teenager or other paid help, or it’s not in the budget, then look for other areas to simplify.  Can you buy paper plates so there’s a minimum of dishes to wash?  What about making the easiest meals possible?  Cold cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, cottage cheese and hardboiled eggs with vegetable sticks for dinner?  Ask your husband to keep the laundry running by putting a load in the washer before he leaves in the morning and another before he goes to sleep at night (two loads is what I need to do to keep things running smoothly but you probably don’t need that), and sticking each wet load into the dryer at that time.  Have him bring the dry laundry to where you can sit with the kids to sort it, maybe on the couch.

Accept that it’s okay to be an adequate mother. I think a big part of what we beat ourselves up with is that we have these high standards and we feel inadequate about when we don’t meet them.  You don’t have to be doing tons of crafts, baking, or exciting outings to be a wonderful mother.  Take the time to be present with your kids when you are interacting with them, and they will feel loved and secure, even if you’re not up and about like usual.


Feelings about kids leaving home

So now that ds17 is at yeshiva and ds15 is in Israel, how am I feeling?

It’s a time of a lot of transition for everyone.  I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of shifts happening this year in our family; even things like sleeping arrangements (for four kids!) have changed in the last three days!  Much more significant will be the different social shifts within the family, the way the middles view themselves as they move into the roles of the oldest, and how we all use our time together and as individuals.

I really, really enjoy my older kids, not only as my children, but as friends.  They are very enjoyable to spend time with and talk to.  I particularly love our Friday nights together – we all  enjoy singing together and that’s something that is very special to me during both Shabbos meals when we don’t have guests (guests never get to experience the best stuff!).  Dd15 and I both sing on the exact same key – this is sometimes something we end up laughing about, when we both abruptly stop at the same time if a key is too high or low for us.  Ds17 has a very pleasant voice and carries a tune well, and has some tunes that he taught us that have become part of our usual repetoire.  Even when everyone else is tired and ready to end the meal, the three of us could go on singing for quite a while!

After our Friday night meal, dh and dd14 go to sleep right afterward, the middles fall asleep on the couch or read (the littles usually fall asleep in the middle of the meal), and ds17, dd15 and I very often end up shmoozing about all kinds of things – life issues, thoughts and feelings – it’s a time that I treasure and I think they appreciate it as well.  There’s something about the late hour, the feeling of closeness following the Shabbos meal, the privacy since everyone isn’t there, and that none of us have anywhere else we need to be that engenders the perfect environment for meaningful discussions and honest sharing.   That’s something that I’ll really miss.

And of course, physically I won’t have their help.  So I’m already shifting to how I ran the house a few years ago, when all of the kids were younger and I needed to be more actively involved in a hands-on way with everything.  That’s going to be a change, too.  When we sit down for dinner, it seems like we’re missing people, when we go out I keep having to check that everyone is there since it feels like I’m missing someone, and without the oldest two kids at home, it feels like suddenly the house is filled with little kids.

The reality of any transition, no matter how wonderful, is that there’s always something you lose with whatever you gain.   As such, I do have some sadness as the stage of having all of my children at home has come to an end after all of these years.   However, the overwhelming emotion I’m feeling is extreme gratitude to have raised such amazing children, and appreciation for the new opportunities that are opening up for me with my other kids who are still home.

They are both so, so happy where they are right now.  Ds17 loves everything about his yeshiva – he’s really, really ready for all aspects of it – social, intellectual, academic.  It’s going to be an incredible time for him.  And dd15 – oh, my goodness!  Her reason for choosing this particular program was she wanted to travel to Israel, to learn the language, to meet new people and have new experiences – and she’s already experiencing all of that!  In addition to the girls in her program who come from all over the US and even the world – she has a roommate from Canada and one from Germany, and I believe there is also a girl from Spain and one from Australia – she is also meeting the Israeli girls in the regular program there.  Where else would she get to meet so many people from all these different backgrounds and interact with them on a regular basis?  I can’t even express how she’s overflowing with excitement and happiness and so much loving all the new people and experiences.  I spent a lot of time weighing this option and went ahead despite some hesitations based on my confidence in dd, and it was really, really a good choice.

A friend recently warned me, in a kind of flat tone, that once they leave, it’s never the same again.  I thought it was a negative way to spin it – we can’t keep holding on to our kids so that we stay in our comfort zone as parents.    Of course they have to experience new things, and of course things will change as they grow.  As parents we grow through all of this, too!  By gradually letting go of our children at each stage of increased independence, I believe it makes each coming stage of adulthood easier.

There’s a saying that there are two critical things we give our children: roots and wings.  As a mother, I’m grateful that we’ve been able to give them really strong roots, and now it’s beautiful to watch them stretch their wings and soar.