Category Archives: homemaking

bulk freezer food

Why cooking in bulk will make your life easier

Have you ever felt like you’re constantly cooking and struggling to keep up with the meals that need to be served?  I have!

This year I have five boys ages 11 and down home all day, and not having any teenagers who are homeschooling means that there are fewer older children to delegate tasks to. That means that the younger boys are learning to step up and help more, which is good, and also that I do more.

Having meals ready on time makes our home run much more smoothly – there’s nothing like kids asking again and again for food and not having anything to serve them makes everyone irritable!  Nutrition is important to me but I can’t spend hours in the kitchen – I try to stay home as much as I can, but I still have homeschooling, shopping, regular therapy appointments and extracurricular activities for the boys to attend to. Not to mention my work – sessions with clients in the evenings and in a couple of weeks I’ll be adding workshops back in to my schedule.  Oh, and I try to get some sleep, too. :)

I make meals from scratch three times a day.  It’s rarely fancy – we have hot cereal or eggs for breakfast just about every day.  There’s nothing wrong with scrambled eggs and rice for lunch or dinner but when I get busy that becomes too frequent and it doesn’t feel like a meal to sit down together over!  Since having a sit down meal with our family is an important value for me, I try to make a satisfying dinner.

With all of the holidays, I had been caught up in the cycle of cooking, cooking, cooking but never getting ahead.  This week I’ve been able to get back into a cooking routine that makes my life much easier – cooking in bulk!

What I try to do is plan ahead so that I can double whatever I’m preparing for dinner.  I then can serve some for dinner and ‘feed the freezer’ a meal that I can pull out at a later time.

Here’s a list of dinner meals for the last few days:

Mon – black bean vegetable soup and rice

Tues – baked chicken, chickpeas with sauce, salad, baked sweet potatoes

Weds. – chicken tangine with chickpeas

Thurs. – Brunswick stew

Here’s what my cooking schedule looked like the last few days:

On Sunday we had leftovers from Shabbos for dinner (chicken, potato kugel, roasted vegetables). I didn’t need to do any cooking for that night, so on Sunday afternoon I prepared a large pot of black bean soup.

I went out with the boys on Monday afternoon and before I did, left the soup on a very low flame to heat up. We walked in at 6:35 pm – I try to serve dinner at 6:30 pm – and were able to sit down to eat dinner as soon as we got inside.

Later in the evening I soaked a pan of chickpeas.

On Tuesday I cooked a pot of rice, a pot of buckwheat, ds10 baked a large pan of sweet potatoes and I asked someone else to put the chickpeas on to boil.  I also baked a pan of chicken – all quick and simple things to prepare.

On Wednesday I did a big shopping trip and got a bunch of chicken on sale (including chicken wings for just 4.90 shekels a kilo so I got twelve kilos!). Since the chicken was fresh, I made peanut butter/honey chicken with sesame seeds for Shabbos and plain roasted wings to use for two other dishes I planned to make that day.  I also cooked a few kilos of chicken gizzards.

(The buckwheat cooked on Tuesday was intended for a dish but the boys asked if they could eat it for lunch, so I let them have it.)

While the chicken was cooking, I prepared two chicken dishes: a double recipe of chicken tangine with chickpeas (using chickpeas I had cooked the day before), and Brunswick stew (using white beans I had also cooked in advance).  I also made some quinoa black bean burgers using some leftovers I had in the fridge that I served for lunch the next day.

We had the chicken tangine Weds. night for dinner. Later in the evening I boiled a large pot of potatoes and soaked a pan of lentils.

On Thursday morning ds10 mashed the pot of potatoes and I cooked the lentils.  While they were cooking I prepared two lentil mixtures: lentil meatloaf and lentil-rice-mushroom casserole.   I made 2 large 9 x 13 pans of each. We had one pan of lentil-rice casserole for lunch; the other three pans of food went into the freezer.

I then had an unexpected furniture delivery that took a lot of time and energy to organize (looks great now, though!), and it was later in the afternoon before I could take a nap. Before I lay down, I put the Brunswick stew on a very low flame to heat up. I got up at 6:10 pm but dinner was ready on time thanks to the advance preparation!

Thursday evening, I prepared the filling for shepherd’s pie, chopping up the chicken gizzards I cooked the day before, then topped the chicken and vegetable mixture with the potatoes ds10 had mashed that morning.  Once the two huge pans were baked, they went right into the freezer for two different meals.  (In case you’re wondering, I also made some chicken soup and roasted chicken for Shabbos.)

With some advance thought and a bit of extra effort, I now have four different dishes/6 meals in the freezer. It didn’t take much extra work but ready to go meals in the freezer are my ‘fast food’ for busy days!

Avivah

clarity

How To Get Clarity About What You Really Want

I think much of the inability to teach others how to respect you stems from a confusion as to what our needs really are or where boundaries should be. How can one achieve that kind of clarity? How does one teach others when one often cannot articulate one’s needs to oneself?

What an insightful comment on my last post!  Yes, this is completely true – so often we don’t know what we want and therefore we can’t communicate it to another person.

The six foundational principles of my Leadership Parenting approach are:

Connection, Compassion, Clarity, Courage, Calm and Correction

Every one of these are critical in parenting effectively.

Let’s talk a bit about clarity. Very, very often when parents ask me questions about how to handle different situations, I’ll ask them what they want.  “What is your goal in the situation?  How would you like this to play out?  What do you really want?”

That might seem simple, but knowing what you want often isn’t simple at all.

I recently had my first Supernanny stint, when I went into the home of clients to watch their family dynamics and see firsthand what was happening.   During our session that followed, I told the mother that she wasn’t clearly communicating to her child what she wanted of him.  In the privacy of my office, I was able to ask, “What do you want?”

She explained and explained and explained, and I finally told her: “I’m a mature adult sitting here listening to everything you’re saying, and I still don’t know what you want!  We can’t expect a child to be able to figure it out – we have to make it easy for him!”

You know why it wasn’t clear to her child or to me?  Because it wasn’t clear to her!

It’s okay not to have clarity. It’s not a moral failing. It’s understandable to feel ambivalent and have conflicting feelings about what you want. But lack of clarity can lead to unnecessary pain and frustration in our lives. To get the most out of life, you need to be able to clearly articulate to yourself what you really want.

Why is it so hard to get clarity?

  1. Sometimes we’re afraid to admit to ourselves what we want. It feels too big, too unreasonable, too hard to attain. So we readjust what we want to what we think we can have, and then we tell ourselves that’s what we want. However, there’s often a residual niggling discomfort that remains of the subordinated original desire that will keep poking at you.
  2. Sometimes the lack of clarity is because you’re living life based on what others expect of you and doing what everyone else does.
  3.  Another reason for the lack of clarity comes from having competing agendas – for example, someone who wants to be a stay at home mom and also wants career success. I recently experienced a conflict of competing agendas, which I shared at a seminar with the person leading the sessions. His feedback was that I have to be honest with myself.  That was not the answer I wanted to hear.  I felt like screaming in frustration when he gave me that answer, because (I thought) I was being honest with myself and that’s why I felt conflicted!

But when I thought it over afterwards and didn’t feel so defensive, I realized he was right. There was something I was saying that I wanted because I felt I should want that – and part of me really did want it and felt excited at the thought of taking on that role – but there was something else that I wanted more which I was giving my available life energy to.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “What do I really want?”

To tune into the answer, choose a quiet place when you can be alone with your thoughts. It can be helpful to lie down with some beautiful relaxing music playing in the background, or to sit outside in nature. I like sitting in my garden – you don’t have to go far from home! The main thing is that it feels peaceful to you.

Take some deep breaths and try to quiet your mind.

When I start this process, I initially get mental noise, like the static when you’re not tuned into an official radio station. “I don’t know what I want! I want this and this and this and I can’t have it and it’s to much and I’m completely overwhelmed!!!!”  While I consciously may say I want clarity, there’s part of me that likes being able to be ambivalent because then I don’t have to change anything I’m doing.  But if I keep sitting with myself and giving myself space for the response to come, the answer gets more and more clear.

Your inner self really does have all the answers.  However, sometimes you’ve gotten so used to habituated responses that aren’t in tune with that inner self that you can’t distinguish what is the healthy voice of truth and what is the voice of fear or habit.  It can be helpful to get feedback from someone you trust who is outside the situation; those people can often see things more clearly than you can.

Being a parent is such an amazing opportunity because it opens us up to incredible possibilities for growth and awareness that we wouldn’t have had otherwise!  Seriously.

Having to be clear with your child forces you to think more about what you say you want and why you want it. Let’s say you’re battling a child to take a bath every night or eat dinner. What do you really want? Do care that much about the bath? Is there something else that you care more about that you’d rather be investing your time in?

Often parents admit that they don’t really care that much about the things they’re fighting with their children about, but they feel these are rituals or activities that everyone should do so their child should also do it.

Well.

Doing what you think you should do because everyone else does it doesn’t align well with being happy!

Sometimes it becomes clear that yes, the bath or meal or whatever else really is the priority. In that case, it shouldn’t be set aside but there might be some more effective ways to go about achieving your goal.

There’s no one right way to parent and there’s no one right way to deal with a given situation. It depends so much on what you really want – you can have two very happy and healthy families who have chosen completely different ways of living their lives.

When you get clarity you can create healthy boundaries and teach others how to treat you, as you align what you say with the actions you take.  That’s a very empowering place to be!

Avivah

apples-honey[1]

Rosh Hashana menu 2017 – gluten free, grain free

This year we have a marathon of cooking for the next three days, since this year Rosh Hashana leads directly into Shabbos!

I usually like to do baking and cooking in advance so that there’s not as much to do in the busy days leading up to the holiday itself, but I no longer have a full size freezer and my fridge isn’t very big.  So yesterday and today are busy cooking days!

Here’s a list of what we’ll be preparing for this Rosh Hashana – everything is gluten free and grain free except for the challah:

Breads:

  • cinnamon raisin round challah
  • regular challah
  • paleo dinner rolls (gluten free option)

Dips:

  • parsley pesto
  • black olive tampenade
  • eggplant salad
  • tomato

Protein:

  • baked fish
  • roasted chicken – savory/sweet (date-parsley-onion blend), paprika garlic blend and cumin garlic blend
  • roast meat with carrots and onions

Symbolic foods for Rosh Hashana (simanim):

  • simanim salad – I serve this on the two nights of Rosh Hashana – it includes apple, pomegranate, date, leek, cabbage and carrots
  • baked fish
  • baked fish head and baked whole fish
  • black eyed peas
  • roast pumpkin
  • roast beets

Salads:

  • green bean-olive
  • pomegranate
  • Israeli cabbage
  • hearts of palm-corn
  • red cabbage-apple

Kugels/vegetable sides:

  • apple kugel
  • vegetable kugel
  • potato kugel
  • carrot apple kugel
  • spinach nut loaf (using roasted sunflower seeds)
  • sesame green beans
  • roast potatoes
  • pineapple beets

Desserts:

  • brownies
  • chocolate chip cookies
  • apple cake
  • almond joy bars
  • pumpkin muffins
  • chocolate pudding

Wishing you all a year of blessings in the year to come!

Avivah

 

wedding graphic

Wedding plans, post high school plans, birthdays…busy, busy!

Yesterday someone asked me how I find time to write so often.  Funny how others can look at the same situation completely differently than me – I feel like I hardly am able to find time to write!  It was good to be reminded that there are always two ways to view a situation and that I can choose a more positive interpretation.

It’s a busy, busy season of life right now!

First of all, the wedding!  Less than a week to go with a list of things still to do, but it’s all getting done calmly and without stress.  After seeing friends whose tension level was seriously racheted up when their children were engaged, my goal for this engagement period was to be emotionally present, calm, and to enjoy the joy of this time.  Thankfully that has been the reality and we are so grateful and excited as we prepare for our first wedding.  So often I’ve wondered who our children will marry, and it’s beautiful to see how perfectly our daugher-in-love complements ds23; they are a lovely couple!

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Ds18 will be graduating soon, and has spent the last few months considering his post high school plans.  Since he’s in a yeshiva high school (that includes a full secular curriculum versus yeshiva ketana where no secular subjects are taught) people say it makes it harder (and even impossible) to get into the selective post high school yeshiva he’s interested in, but I don’t believe that these kind of things need to be issues – yes, it sets the bar to jump over higher but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

He went to visit several yeshivas and it was clear to him that this particular yeshiva was the best fit for him.  But they didn’t get back to him quickly about setting up an interview and it looked like it wasn’t going to happen.  (They extensively check out the student before inviting them to interview.)  It was very exciting when he was invited to test there – they’ve never interviewed a student from his high school and it was significant to be invited.  The interview seemed to go well but he was told there was more testing to follow.

I was in the supermarket two days ago when he called. When he told me he was accepted, I got choked up and couldn’t respond.  After a minute of silence and no sound on my part he was sure I didn’t hear what he said.   “Mommy, did you hear what I said?  I was accepted to ‘Blank’ Yeshiva!”

I managed to get out a congratulations through teary eyes.  It’s a huge accomplishment and it happened because of the person he’s built himself into and the efforts he’s made day after day.  Oh, my, so much emotion.  I’d better get some bulletproof makeup for the wedding.  :)

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Dd16 has been considering her plans for the coming year, and last week told me she’d like to go to seminary next year.  While it’s not something we had talked about previously, I completely support her and told her it sounded like it could be a very good choice for her.  She has a specific seminary in mind, and called them two days ago for an application – and was told that day was the deadline!  She sent it in and went to visit and sat in classes yesterday, which she very much enjoyed.  She needs to interview there and it’s preferred that parents come, but I simply can’t go to an interview with her until after the wedding.  They have hesitations about accepting a student her age so we’ll see how that goes.

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Since Rafael joined the family three months ago, I’ve been busy working my way through a list of medical appointments for him.  Yesterday I spent hours in Jerusalem at a hospital having his hearing tested.  It was a very unpleasant test for him and he screamed for 45 minutes before falling asleep when his response to sound stimulation could finally be monitored, but I was very grateful to learn that his hearing is good!

Another project that has taken ongoing effort is getting mother’s milk for him.  I am so grateful to the many women who have donated to him!  He was obviously reacting badly to dairy formula when in the hospital and mother’s milk has been very important in building up his immune system. He’s been almost exclusively on mother’s milk for the last 14 weeks, which is a huge amount of donor milk that we’ve had to get.  For the times that we’ve run out, we’re fortunate that our pediatrician generously gave us sample boxes of a hypoallergenic formula.  I’m in the process of having him officially approved for a different formula (since he’s reacting even to the hypoallergenic formula he’s been getting) and once that happens we’ll be able to purchase it ourselves; hopefully that will be completed this week.

I’ve also been in the process of getting Rafael evaluated for early child development Ds9 and Rafaelservices.  My experience in Karmiel with this for Yirmi wasn’t pleasant and I was dreading going through this process again.  Just reading through paperwork for Yirmi (which I needed because we are opening a new file for him here and they needed it) gave me a sick feeling in my stomach.

The meeting with the physical therapist and social worker was very pleasant, completely different than my past experience.  The physical therapist said Rafael’s development is impressive and that it’s obvious that we’ve been working with him.  Yes, we do invest time and effort into supporting his development but in line with my educational approach, it’s integrated into daily living rather than therapies that we stop our lives to do.  Rafael is delicious and we just love him to pieces!

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Can you believe Yirmi will be turning five soon!?  He’s doing wonderfully and I’ll update on him closer to his birthday.  We’ve been given an appointment with a developmental doctor so he can be evaluated comprehensively as part of the process to get speech therapy services.  Since he has apraxia, a clear and obvious speech delay, I hope services will be easily approved.  We’ve worked on his speech extensively at home and it’s exciting to see how beautifully it’s coming along.  He’s such a cute and smart little guy!

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We are in the middle of birthday season here.  We started the season with ds11 in April, followed by ds8 and then dh in May.  Ds14 will have a birthday the day after the wedding, then Yirmi two weeks later opens July, ds23 two days after that, dd20 a month later and now our lovely daughter-in-love joins the birthday line-up for August!

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Everyone is growing up so quickly!  Time seems to speed up more as the years go by.  As I feel the days flying by I have such a strong desire to be emotionally present for every moment  (which isn’t possible but it’s a direction to shoot for!).  Life is so full and it’s easy to get caught up in what needs to be done on a daily basis, so it’s really a conscious choice that I’m trying to make each day.

Avivah

kids outdoors

Kids enjoying outdoor time without gadgets

Over three years after first hearing about it, I’ve just read the book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.

There were a number of points made, but the overall message that I appreciated being reminded of was that nature is an important contributor to the quality of life to a child, and something to consciously nurture.

I also appreciated when the author pointed out that being in nature isn’t about taking your kids to a distant national park or walking through a forest, which is what you might mentally picture when reading the title (I did!). Nature is all around us, every day and everywhere we go.

My kids who were raised in the US had different opportunities than my children do now, but they’ve all had a lot of nature/outdoor experiences in their lives.  Volunteering at a sheep farm for several years, trips and classes at the nature center, hikes with a naturalist, enrollment in Junior Rangers summer programs at a state park, sailing lessons, bee keeping, treehouse building…

When I got into gardening, my kids joined in.  We incubated duck eggs and raised the ducks.  We did family projects that were mostly done by the kids  – outdoor renovations like building a platform deck, a brick patio, raised garden beds and a wooden six foot security fence.  They participated in 4H activities for years.

Our yearly family camping trips were such special times for us all – activities included hiking, fishing and boating but mostly was about just enjoying being in nature together.  There is something so centering about being outdoors, hearing the birds begin to chirp as the sun rises, sitting around a campfire at night…

Even our monthly shopping trips were an opportunity to experience nature, as we shopped in Amish and Mennonite farming communities.  At one supermarket I would park our van right next to the horses in the field, and when we bought our raw milk from the farmer we would sometimes go into the barn to see the cows. When I got our free range eggs, we visited yet another farm where we got to see their horses, dogs, turkeys, chickens and ducks.

When they went to sleepaway summer camps, we sent to programs with an outdoor focus where they learned canoeing and archery along with other activities.  Membership in Girl Scouts included hiking the Appalachian Trail (and coming upon a rattlesnake) and a yearly group camping trip.

Now we’re living in a different part of the world with different opportunities.  The specifics look different – we don’t have a car and that has drastically cut down on going places like national parks and campgrounds.  But wherever we’ve lived there have been opportunities to get outside.

Something I really appreciate about living here in Israel is that  It’s a culture in which it’s safer and more accepted for kids to be out without adult supervision. In the US I closely supervised my kids when they were outside, and wouldn’t have been comfortable with things that I now routinely allow.

Our boys spend lots of time riding bikes and scooters, rollerblading, creating hideouts in bushes in the public parks, and playing with friends outside.  Two of our boys participate in a weekly survival/fire/knives/hiking group and that allows them to explore areas beyond our residential neighborhood.

I still love gardening and am grateful to have a yard (albeit much, much smaller than in the US!) where my kids plant alongside me.

We don’t have family camping trips (due to not having a car to get there) but for the last two summers, we’ve set up our large family sized tent on our porch and the kids spent weeks sleeping there in the summer.  My husband has found some local hikes that are accessible by bus and has taken the kids there – one of their favorite hikes happened when they didn’t quite find the place they set out to get to.  But on the way they found animal bones and picked almonds from trees they discovered and had a great time – they plan to go back this year when the almonds are in season and do some serious picking!

It’s really about awareness and looking for opportunities even in the small moments – seeing the interesting bug or bird and taking the time to observe it, sitting quietly on the grass together and listening to the trees rustle in the wind…you don’t have to go far from home for your child to be able to experience nature.

While parents will sometimes say that kids need to invest in their technological skills so that they aren’t left behind, I feel that’s very overrated.  Kids today are inside much more than in the past, on screens and devices and that takes away from the time that they’re outdoors.  Kids need to be outside, to move their bodies, to feel sun on their faces.

I enjoyed these photos taken by a mom of four children who has chosen to limit her children’s access to television and electronic gadgets – she beautifully captured the ability of kids to just be in the moment, to entertain themselves, to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

You know what motivated me to buy this book?  I wanted to read something inspiring, something affirming, something that focused on something that isn’t achievement oriented but is about letting your kids have room to grow and just be.

That’s a big value for me – to give our children the space and time to be kids, to grow at their own pace, to have a sane and enjoyable pace of life.  It’s something that I sometimes feel is getting lost in our society’s ever increasing pace of life, the drive to accomplish and get things done…as people are getting more disconnected from one another and from themselves.

Nature and outdoor time is part of the answer to shifting away from that driving pace and getting recentered with yourself and your family.  It can be intimidating for parents to get their kids away from screens but it’s worth the effort – there are so many benefits to the individual and to the family!

Avivah

 

 

This is not the mother you want to be!

Pesach is coming – are you taking care of yourself?

As soon as Purim ended, there was a palpable sense in the air that Pesach was on its way.  Going into a major supermarket just a few days later, one could already sense the atmosphere shift and as Pesach gets closer, you can feel the tension and stress and anxiety building.

A couple of weeks ago I co-led a workshop on how to go into Pesach without stressing yourself out.  The point about planning ahead won’t be of much value now, a few days before Pesach. But the other ideas are still applicable.

1) Perspective – what does Pesach mean to you? What kind of atmosphere do you want to have in your house? A person can get so busy doing the preparatory work that they don’t even think about why they’re doing it all!

My goal is to go into Pesach calmly and pleasantly. I want my family members to have positive associations for this time of year.  I want to be awake and fully able to enjoy the seder along with every other person in my family. I want to remember the spiritual messages of this time of year and feel inspired and connected to myself and to G-d.

2) Know what is chometz – Differentiate between spring cleaning and Pesach cleaning. Dirt is not chometz.  I’ll repeat that. Dirt is not chometz.  Here in Israel it’s beautiful to see families everywhere getting ready for Pesach but seeing others doing things you don’t do can easily lead you to feel inadequate if you’re not doing the same things on the same schedule.  Remember your goals and choose what to do accordingly.

3) Sleep – don’t think that you’re getting ahead by sleeping less to get more cleaning done.  No, no, no.  At the most potentially stressful times it’s more important than ever to get enough sleep. Everything in life looks better and more manageable with adequate sleep.  When I start to feel negative, it’s almost always related to being overtired and I need to get myself into bed, pronto!

I’m trying to drum this into my older kids in their late teens and early twenties, who are all very busy right now with work and school.  I remind them that when they’re rested they can get much more done the next day.  Do they take my advice?  Well, they tell me theoretically they agree with it! :)  And they also tell me they appreciate my encouragement to take it easy, do less and sleep more.

It’s so much easier to be a nice person to live with when you’re rested.  My priority for this week is to get to sleep at a regular time every day, take a nap daily, and to eat well.  I schedule it into my planner at the beginning of each day and make these things a priority before anything else. Really.

4) Nutrition – if you’re keeping yourself going on caffeine and grabbing whatever quick carbs you can to get through the day, your blood sugar is going to be all over the place and you’re not going to feel emotionally stable.  You’re going to crash. Make time to physically refuel with good quality foods.  I know, you don’t have time for this, right?  You deserve to make time for this because you are worthy of being taken care of lovingly.  And it doesn’t have to take a long time.  An egg with butter and vegetables  will keep your keep you full and your blood sugar stable.

For kids, too, make sure they’re getting protein at every meal and at snack time.  So much misbehavior is because kids get too hungry and out of sorts.  Don’t fall prey to the Pesach snacks that are everywhere – this will almost guarantee that your kids will be more reactive and less responsive to your requests.  Sandwiches with sweet spreads, cookies and chips won’t give your child’s brain the building blocks they need to stay calm and positive.

Keep it simple – hard boiled eggs, some carrot sticks and hummus makes an easy lunch.  Peanut butter on celery sticks, cheese or nuts make easy snacks.  I keep lots of vegetables and some fruits on hand for the kids to snack on as well.

5) Music – music is your ally in creating a cheerful and upbeat atmosphere!  There is so much great Pesach music that will enhance your home environment while getting your kids prepared for the seder by knowing the songs that are sung that night.

6) Connect – Take time to connect with your kids before they misbehave. Being proactive on this front will make a big difference.  Again, I know it seems like there’s not enough time but believe me, your children will make themselves heard and you will need to take time to deal with whatever behavior and conflicts come up.  Investing the time upfront to preempt the issues is a very wise use of your time.

Most of all – be kind to yourself.  Don’t set high standards that will lead you to feel inadequate.  Keep it simple.  If your house doesn’t sparkle, your home can still be ready for Pesach.  If your menus are simple, your family can still enjoy.  When you treat yourself kindly, it transfers to how you treat everyone around you.

This is not the mother you want to be!

This is not the mother you want to be!

Taking care of yourself is the absolute highest priority at this time. Give yourself the emotional and physical support that you need to feel good. A happy mother is a gift to the entire family!

Avivah

Increasing the relaxation and fun in my life – coloring for adults

In the last year I’ve been consciously increasing my level of self-care.  Putting yourself first is something that intellectually I’ve believed in but not put enough focus on in the busyness of day to day living and taking care of all of those around me.

As a result of my increased focus on self-care, my life feels more sane and balanced.  This is despite my week being more full than ever teaching parenting classes and working with private clients, in addition to homeschooling five children and my other responsibilities.

I continue to look for ways to increase my self-nurturing, and when someone mentioned the idea of coloring books for adults, I was intrigued.  Coloring has been found to help people unwind, destress and get into a meditative state that accesses the right side of the brain.  I frequently attach my shaded doodles to whatever scrap of paper happens to be in front of me when I’m on the phone so coloring in detailed artistic scenes sounded enjoyable to me.

It’s interesting to me that coloring for adults has become so popular and yet for children there are many voices who maintain that coloring blocks creativity!  While telling a child what and how to color can be constraining, letting him color as he wants isn’t the same thing.  I see it as a nice way to be quietly mindful and focused on what is in front of you without having your mind racing with thoughts about other things you need to do.  Most kids can benefit from some time to calm down and do a focused activity just as much as adults.

My kids have been watching me color three different pages of mandalas and it’s piquing their interest to do something similar.  This morning ds8 told me it looked fun and when I asked if it looked like something he would enjoy, he nodded with an eager smile.  I’ll keep my eyes open for something detailed but simpler than what they have for adults.

I purchased a basic set of colored pencils but these didn’t give a strong enough color for me to feel satisfied with the result.  Then I got a set of markers and colored pens, and so far like the colored pens best.  The markers would be great if the tip was finer.  Ideally I’d like a wide range of colors to use but only the artist quality colored pencil sets had that, and I’m not yet ready to invest $100 on them!

This is an inexpensive activity that can take as much or as little time as you have, and I’m enjoying it.  It’s gratifying that instead of my scratching covering little scraps of paper, I end up with lovely pictures instead.

The only downside I can think of is if you feel pressured to finish a picture in one setting and then push yourself to spend more time than you have available to complete it.  But that’s the same issue that comes up with many other hobbies and activities.

Avivah

Making gratitude and forgiveness a daily habit

Lately there has been a lot of focus on the importance of healing our world through love for others.

Last night we were discussing why this love was so important and also why it is so challenging.  I believe it’s because our generation struggles on a massive scale with lack of self-knowledge and self-love, and you can’t love others when you don’t love yourself.

The following process that I’m going to share with you is one that has helped me to be more loving toward myself and others.

1) Gratitude list – First thing in the morning you write five things you’re grateful for.GratitudeJournal-esolla[1]

I’ve been writing gratitude lists for over twenty years on a regular basis and this is a wonderful practice for keeping your mind in a good place.  There are so many wonderful things even on the worst day but you don’t notice them unless you make a habit of it.

Learning to recognize the good makes life much more easier and more enjoyable.

2) Forgiveness list – Next you write down five people/things/situations you forgive; it can be for something small or big.  I determine what goes on the list based on my feelings of resentment.  It doesn’t matter how minor these resentments are; if I keep them inside they’re toxic to me and I need to practice forgiveness for every single one.

ForgiveHeart

Don’t say you don’t have resentments; we all do but we often bury them inside and don’t recognize them for what they are.  I used to think as a pretty positive person that didn’t have many resentments. That was until I learned to recognize those twinges of frustration, irritation and upset for what they were!  Resentments.  Get the resentments out of you and down on paper.

Sometimes I put people down repeatedly on my forgiveness list because if I feel resentment or tension when I think of them after having put them on a prior list, I know I still have negative energy to release.  Sometimes I need to put myself down on the list – to forgive myself for not doing something in the way I wanted to do it.  I think we all have to forgive ourselves for being imperfect in the many ways we tell ourselves we’re not enough.

3) After you write these two lists, read your forgiveness list out loud to yourself.

4) Then you read your gratitude list out loud.

5) Finally, follow the reading of these lists with an enthusiastic verbal declaration, “And that’s why I’m having/going to have a great day!”

This process starts your day by focusing on the good, releasing the negative and giving your mind a powerful message of positivity.

What I’m experiencing as a result of this daily practice is that I’m moving through irritations much faster, even before actively releasing them the next morning!  For example, a few days ago I was loading my groceries into the taxi to go home. When I had loaded half the groceries in the car (it was half of a full shopping cart), the driver informed me he was going to charge me extra above the set fee since I had more than one shopping cart.  I told him I had just one cart and that the cart next to mine was someone else’s but he started yelling at me that I had two.  So I unloaded all my things and got a different taxi to take me home.

By the time I was driving away from this scene with taxi driver no. 2, I was already thinking, “I’m going to put this driver (and the driver of the taxi in front of me that yelled at someone with young children for not getting in fast enough) on my forgiveness list tomorrow” and it took away so much negative emotion.  It’s empowering to have a tool to actively let go of negativity toward someone/something.

This technique is so simple but very powerful – I highly recommend it if you want to become a happier, more peaceful and more appreciative person.  (If you try this, I’d love to hear what your experience is after a couple of weeks.)  

When it comes to feeling love for others – it’s so much easier to feel positively towards others when you make appreciating and forgiving them a regular part of your life.

Avivah

The busy summer season is in full swing at our house!

It’s a busy season of life now and I haven’t done a personal update for a while so here goes!

Dd20 moved back home several weeks after we moved to RBS while she continues to work in Jerusalem.  Dd18 graduated seminary last week (I’m not supposed to embarrass her and say how she was honored so I won’t) and moved back home this week.  She’s finishing her second year of industrial design and has one year remaining of her college studies.  We now have three girls in the girls’ room and had to add closet space and additional shelving to accommodate the increase in storage needs.  :)  It is SO nice to have the older girls at home again, even though they’re so busy with work and school that we don’t see much of them.

Tonight we hosted a bridal shower for a friend of dd20 and dd18; I simultaneously attended a high school graduation.  Tomorrow afternoon is a petter chamor ceremony locally that I’d like to take the kids to; I’ve only been to one before this and most people have never been to one at all.  Tomorrow morning this is what we’ll be learning about before we go!

Tomorrow night there will be a presentation I’m planning to attend in RBS called “Seeing the Beauty in Those Who Are Different”.  This will be “a one-of-a-kind, fascinating event on how we can all understand better the mindset, capabilities and drives of those with Down Syndrome. But really, the event is about seeing the beauty in those who are different from ourselves.”  I hope that this will be an empowering evening that will open peoples’ minds to the potential and abilities of people with T21.

Family members from the US arrived a couple of days ago to share in the celebration of our upcoming bar mitzva!  Ds12 put on tefillin for the first time on erev Shabbos/Shavuos.  This Shabbos we’ll be having family members with us for all the meals for a total of about 20.  We’re keeping our plans on a smaller scale than our last bar mitzva, to honor the personality and preferences of the son we’re celebrating with.

This coming week dh and I will be celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary.

We have Yirmiyahu’s third birthday coming up a week after the bar mitzva which means we’ll be having his upsherin (haircut for a boy when he turns three).  I can’t believe how big he is already!  The time really has flown by.

Even without all of these milestone events, I’ve been busier than ever since moving!  There are a lot of choices for how to spend my time and now more than ever I need to plan carefully to make room for what’s important so it doesn’t get crowded out.

Avivah

The things I love about my new kitchen – pictures

Last week I shared with you my disappointment about my kitchen counters.  Now I’m moving on to the good things.  The final cosmetic finishes aren’t yet done but today I’ll share with you some of what I love about my new kitchen!

Since I’m constantly cooking and washing dishes, I didn’t want to have a dish drainer on the counter because it’s constantly being filled and it keeps the counter looking untidy.   The solution – hidden built-in dish drainers.  Yep, two of them.  :)

Now you see it...then it's closed and you don't!

Which brings me to the next advantage.  I now have two sinks and they’re both nice and big.  For the first time in many years I have a separate work space for dairy, along with amply storage space for dairy dishes, silverware and pots.  All of a sudden it’s so easy to cook for and clean up from a dairy meal!

Deep bottom corner cabinets are usually very difficult to access, with lots of wasted space. This corner carousel that makes use of all the space and makes it easy to find what I need.

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All of the bottom cabinets except one have shelves that pull out so there are lots of drawers.  I strongly prefer drawers.  Here’s what the pull-out shelves look like.

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Here’s the only cabinet not to have a pullout shelf and it makes it the perfect place for pantry items.  Since it’s a blind corner cabinet, the storage is about double what you can see here.

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Next to the pantry is this cabinet that has a chrome design on the front that none of the other cabinets have.  Wonder why?

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Open the doors and you see storage space for vegetables – close at hand but out of sight!  These heavy duty metal slotted drawers together with the special door opening provide air circulation to keep the vegetables fresh.

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I asked the person who fabricated the countertops to raise them since I’m tall.  That little bit of additional height makes it more comfortable for me to work at the counters.

I wanted a very light, open look with lots of cabinet and counter space.  At the same time that we have so much more cabinetry in the kitchen, it feels more spacious and open than it did before.

Front view of kitchen

Front view of kitchen

Below is the right side of the kitchen.

Right side of kitchen

Right side of kitchen

The left side of the kitchen that was a holding place for unpacked boxes is now a great work area.

Left side of kitchen

Left side of kitchen

I bought the cabinets used and having all the features I wanted, plus everything fitting into my kitchen space so well is pretty amazing!

The next thing I’m going to do is put up one more top cabinet in the space next to the window (just thought of how to do this yesterday!), then tile the backsplash and cover the toekick.  That will hopefully bring the entire kitchen together.

In the meantime, we’re all enjoying our new kitchen!

Avivah