Friday, May 29, 2015

A Shabbat Home : Home for Shabbat

As we've been packing, moving, having the new owners come in to take measurements, inspections, etc. it's seemed like our home has become less and less ours, and more and more just a place to stay.

As I walk through my beautiful living room and into my kitchen I don't feel the warmth of my household- I see the debris of a life half boxed away.  Despite the warm onion soup on the stove, despite the clean bibs hanging from the handles, despite the cup of milk drunk by my daughter on her way out the door this morning.

It's in this home, or not home, if you will, that I'm struggling to make a Shabbat worth having.  We don't have to many Friday's to spend here in this home, and despite it's lack of homeyness, I'm going to try.  So I give to you my tried and true tips for making a home ready for Shabbat.

1. Tidy Tidy Tidy.  The best thing about Shabbat is that cleaning is off the table, and if you are anything like me it's barely on the table on a given Tuesday, let alone among the craziness and hecticness of a move.  But tidying is much easier.  Clean off those surfaces, put away all the laundry, and ensure that all the shoes go back where they need to.  Put toys in the kiddos' bedrooms, and then it will feel clean, even if the spilled onion soup is still on the floor.

2. 7 minute Rooms.  I realize this is sort of funny, but I have a 7 minute bedroom policy.  I walk through the house with my small supply of cleaning (broom, dustpan, windex, general household spray, sponge, and paper towels) and set my timer for 7 minutes.  This also includes any tidying for these rooms as well.  That way I know I've spent some time in each room making it a little bit nicer.  I make the beds, I put take away things that don't belong, and believe me even though it doesn't seem like a lot of time if you really invest in it, it's totally enough.

3. The Shabbat Table.  I have some linens and napkins, etc. that we only take out for Shabbat.  When everything else feels crazy if the table is set and looks nice then at least the place where you spend the most of your time will feel like a wonderful respite from the week.  Regardless of the rest of the house, a nice Shabbat table can set you worlds apart for the evening.

4. Plan some conversation.  One of the nice things about Shabbat is that it's away from the drudgery of the everyday.  We are so so very stressed in our lives, all of us are.  In our family right now the move, the logistics, the new house, all of it are eating away at the fabric of our family.  So I like to plan a few conversation starters that might lead us away from the drudgery and into the light.  I always start with reading the torah portion for the week.  Sometimes I click over to to read a few headlines.  It's nice to get away from the usual work/chores/daily life conversations.

5. Just enjoy!  The best thing we can do on Shabbat is to give ourselves a little rest, peace and be a bit nicer.  To ourselves, our husbands, our children, our kitties...  Sometimes we put to much pressure on ourselves, and we have to remember that Shabbat is a gift.  A gift of time to spend relaxing, enjoying, pausing to reflect on our wonderful life.  Even if there are shoes and toys everywhere.  Even if you're serving shrimp.  Even if the table is covered with sticky fingerprints made of strawberry jelly.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MIA: Sorry

So in the past week since I've last posted we've had Shavuot, Yitzkor, Memorial Day, Society for Creative Anachronism war, and we've sold our house.

Yup, you read that right, we've sold our house.  That's what's been keeping us up at night.  Our home is officially in escrow, and we leave the lovely and amazing South Bay at the end of June.

No turning back now.

You may think that we've got it all worked out.  That we are ready to rock and roll and pack and move.  And that would be awesome....

Except we aren't.  We haven't gotten a place to move into.  We were thinking about moving in with my dad, but a trial run of us being there resulted in one kiddo waking the other continuously throughout the night and my cat deciding to viciously pee all over the place.  Did I mention that EG also decided it would be a good time to stop being potty trained and she pooped all over herself and her bed?  Did I also mention my dad just got new carpet in the whole house...?  Lovely...

So we are figuring it out.  And I'm trying hard not to freak out to much....

Monday, May 18, 2015

Shavuot- Crafts for Kiddos

Wow- it's already time for Shavuot!  This year it coincides with Memorial Day weekend, which can make it an even more exciting holiday for all of us.

The holiday of Shavuot is celebrating that giving of the Torah to on Mt. Sinai.  The official moment when the ten commandments were given to the Jews of the world.  There is a precept that all Jewish souls that were ever going to be on earth were present when the 10 commandments were given.

In temples and congregations around the United States people everywhere are perfecting their cheesecake and blintz recipes.  It's the moment for the ice cream party of all ice cream parties, and while that's awesome, it's not exactly what I want my children to focus on when it comes time for Shavuot.

So, to celebrate the more religious aspect of the holiday, I present to you this 10 commandment craft for the kiddos:

Step 1:  Get one piece of white card stock for each child that will be doing a project.  I chose 12x12, but 8.5x11 is totally fine.  12x12 is scrap booking paper and I have a ton of it hanging around the house.

Step 2: Allow each child to choose one paint color- brush on hand to cover all the palm print.  Apply hand to paper.  Repeat with the second hand.

 Step 3:  Read off childs version of the 10 commandments, and assign each finger to a commandment.  In this case I also let EG choose which color pen I should use for each finger.  She really enjoyed that part.

The commandments for kiddos are very close to what they are in the Torah, except a bit simpler to explain and understand.

1. There is only one G-d
2. We should not make pretend G-ds
3. G-ds name is special
4. Remember Shabbat is a day to rest and say thank you.
5. Listen to your parents and take care of them
6. Do not hurt people
7. Love and look after everyone in your family
8. Do not take things that belong to other people
9. Do not say things that aren't true
10. Be happy with what you have.

I really like this version, because its simple and it re-enforces things that we want EG to do anyways.

I will be framing this and putting it up on EG's wall, a constant reminder of the top 10 commandments from G-d.

Do you have any shavuot crafts you'll be doing?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mayim and Mourning- Sharing an experience

If you are a regular Kveller reader you may have noticed that Mayim Baylik's father passed away recently.  Maybe you read it on People or some other site.  I haven't written too much about the Jewish laws of mourning here on the site. Certainly I've mentioned my mom, and if I'm honest, I have a sad and scared post about Mother's Day that I haven't posted.

Nothing in life prepares you for mourning the loss of a parent. The idea that the person who gave you life is no longer in the world is incomprehensible. It is an existential divide between the “regular” world and the one occupied by mourners.
Becoming a mourner and living without a mother is an uncharted emotional territory.

For me this is a bit of my happy place- a space that lets me just be okay.  Sometimes, even though this is an anonymous blog in a lot of ways, it's also a very public place. People who know me and love me read this, and sometimes my thoughts make them worried.

But Mayims post about saying kaddish for her father really moved me.  For those of you who don't know Kaddish is the prayer a mourner says for a specific period of time to note the passing of a loved one.  Jewish law states a certain relationship of person you are allowed to mourn for.  That sounds harsher than it is, but with this I've honestly found it helpful.  I say 'allowed' because Judaism believes that your relationship to the person is deeply important.  We mourn deeply for mothers, fathers, spouses, sisters, brothers, and children.  It acknowledges the deep and profound connection we have with these individuals- those who have been in our lives for almost all of it.  That special relationship.  Anyone can sit shiva, but technically, only those who fit in these categories are required to sit shiva.  Neither myself nor Judaism is saying that we don't mourn other people who die in our lives.

But back to Mayim and saying the Kaddish....

We didn't sit a traditional shiva for my mom.  I'm saddend and disappointed by this decision, which was dicated more by my father and practicalities of work, etc, rather than for our need to mourn.  Judaism gives us these clear guidelines, and if you embrace them, I believe they will help you through.  Even now I wish that I had spent more time living and feeling that deep depression that comes when you loose a parent.

Kaddish is the daily prayer you say to acknowledge your mourning.  In an odd way it's not a sad prayer about loss, but rather an affirming prayer about your believe in G-d. 

Exalted and hallowed be G-d's great name
in the world which G-d created, according to plan.
May G-d's majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime
and the life of all Israel -- speedily, imminently, to which we say Amen.

Blessed be G-d's great name to all eternity.
Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded
be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing,
praise, and comfort. To which we say Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel,
to which we say Amen.

May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace to us and to all Israel.
To which we say Amen
It's said every day for the first 30 days for anyone who is required to sit Shiva, then for eleven months in the case of parents.  It's said for eleven months because it's believed that you can honor your parent and help raise them up in the eyes of G-d for this time after death.  It's thought that G-d sits in judgement for a year over the wicked, and that by saying the Kaddish for eleven months we acknowledge that our parents couldn't be wicked.
Once a parent dies, you enter into a new realm of mourning and loss. Just as the mourner assumes a central position within the prayer community, Kaddish assumes center stage for the mourner. It provides a meaningful, repetitive and concrete activity that focuses the mourner on his or her loss, providing an anchor that grounds the mourning process. 

This is sort of what Mayim was saying. That saying Kaddish represents a moment in time that can be a focus for a mourner.  Having a moment to remember, be sad, feel grief, and be enveloped by those feelings.  It's hard to move forward in life, and sometimes you feel like you are being untrue to the death of a loved one by moving forward.  And it's overwhelming.  Then you get thrown under the waves of grief- saying Kaddish can allow you to sit in the waves for a moment, and just be okay with the loss and the sadness and the movement of the words can become like a foothold to moving forward.
I admire her going into an Orthodox temple to say Kaddish.  I've found it to uncomfortable, since this same community believes that I don't 'count' when I say Kaddish anyways...

Someone once told me that there would come a day when I would pick up the phone having forgotten that my mother wasn't going to pick it up when I called her.  And Kaddish helps make sure that doesn't happen.  It gives a moment for me, for all of us mourners, to learn to live with them, without them.

 Me, and my children. My sister and her children, we are the living embodiment of my mother in the world.  And I can only hope that we are doing her justice by carrying on, living her values and teaching them her legacy in this world.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Baby Friendly Places: Valvoline Oil Change

I realize that this seems like a ridiculous post.  Which has nothing to do with raising children, let alone raising Jewish ones, but it was such an amazing experience that I can't help but share.

My check engine light has been on for a few months now.  Between events/holidays/work/packing/moving/listing the house it's been on the total bottom of my list.  This morning there were a few people looking at the house so I couldn't be there.  After dropping off EG I was trying to figure out what to do. Of course Ocho was exhausted, so anything where I had to take her out of the car seemed a bit daunting.

First I got gas. Woot- one errand down.  Then I thought about Target, but I realized that would involve Ocho out of the car.  So, as I was driving away from the gas station I saw it...

They promised a 15 minute oil change, no wait, and I didn't have to get out of the car.  Wait- did I read that right?  I, and Ocho, don't have to get out of the car?  Can this be true?

So I spin around, follow the arrows and 2 minutes later there is a team of guys working on my car.  They pull me in, line my car up, check my lights, then have me fill out one piece of paperwork.  Yup, that's right, only one piece of paperwork!

There are no upsells.  Okay, let me rephrase, he tells me a few things that might need to be done on my car- such as my air filter, and some of my other liquid levels, but he never even suggests that my car might have issues if I don't do these things.  He asks me which oil I want, giving me prices for a synthetic blend or a more expensive totally synthetic.  He even tells me that he has regular oil, but dosen't recommend it.  When I tell him I think the blend is fine he doesn't try to upsell me- he agrees with me! 

It's like I'm on vacation- listening to the radio, watching guys chat around the car.  They do this thing where they sort of yell around the shop, and it's kind of sweet....

They sent me my receipt via e-mail.  So easy, and so nice.  Here's hoping that if you need an oil change Valvoline will make it easy for you too!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Winner Winner, Easy Dinner

With the house going on the market any day now, it's been a challenge to keep things 'open house worthy' all the time.  One of the biggest challenges is making dinner.  While I wouldn't invite someone into my home during/around dinnertime, using the stovetop sure can make a mess.  And I'm totally not in the mood to scrub my stovetop every single night in order to make it look tip top for buyers.

Enter the Crockpot.

While I usually use my crockpot at least once a week, I've been turning to it more regularly than ever.  It's a one-pot meal.  No worries about much food prep/cooking.  You throw everything in, turn it on, and let it go.

I've still been doing it during the day, but just as easily I could fill it up and turn it on overnight while we're all asleep.  Then I just need to reheat whatever I've cooked.  And since crockpot meals are already sort of cooked to death, there's no problem in reheating them...

So, here's my latest Crockpot meal:

Sweet Potato Quinoa Chicken chili

  • 1 or 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup quinoa (I used multicolored)
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp (approximately) freshly ground pepper
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  1. Spray the slow cooker with nonstick spray. This seems unnecessary, but I really recommend it, since this is a tomato based recipe.
  2. Put chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker, top with diced onions, and chopped sweet potatoes
  3. Rinse and drain quinoa, then add to slow cooker
  4. Drain and rinse the black beans and add those in. Add in the undrained petite diced tomatoes, minced garlic, chili seasoning mix, and chicken broth.
  5. Place on high for 3-5 hours (It took 4 hours on high for my crockpot.)
  6. Using two forks, shred the chicken and stir all the ingredients together.
  7. Add salt and pepper and if desired fresh parsley.
  8. Serve immediately.

This recipe is so great for everyone.  It's easy to make vegetarian by using veggie broth and omitting the chicken.  I served this to a vegetarian friend who doesn't mind things cooked with chicken by serving her portion before I shredded the chicken.

It's great for babies, and Ocho really enjoyed it.  Quinoa is good for babies at about 8 months old, but it's also a very non-allergenic food, so there aren't to many worries. Black beans and sweet potatoes are great for babies too.  Lots of people worry about the spices, but there's a difference between highly spiced food and spicy food. This is highly spiced, but not spicy (unless you up the cayenne!).

EG loved it too, and requested seconds and thirds!

Here's to an easy peasy meal that takes no more than a chopped sweet potato and a chopped onion!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Kidnapping Kids

Have you been following the Joey Salads viral video about child abductions?  If you haven't it's likely because you haven't been on facebook today because that video is everywhere.

I am a free-range parent.

I acknowledge that my children can talk to strangers.  In fact, they see me talking with strangers ALL THE TIME.  The person at the grocery store, the guy at Home Depot this morning with the doggies. 

I don't teach my kids not to talk to strangers.

I teach my children that they cannot go anywhere without talking to me. That includes the next door neighbors house (not strangers), the backyard (totally fenced in), and the front yard (no fence) without my knowing about it.  That they can talk to anyone they want to, but they may not leave the area we have discussed without talking to me first. 

I really want to address the statement he makes at the end of the video, about how 700 kids are abducted each day.  This is CRAZY!  There are less than 150 stranger child abductions a year.  Yup- that's right.  Less than 150 kids A YEAR are taken by strangers.  Most of the child abductions that occur are not by true strangers.  43% are by female relatives (aka moms?) and another 20% are by acquaintances (coaches, teachers, babysitters, neighbors).

Want the real truth on child abductions?

PS- back to you Joey, for just a moment. Don't you think it's possible that these kids saw you talk to their moms?  Don't you also think that they looked at their moms, and expected their moms to intervene if there was a problem- as a social 'experiment' this stunk!

PPS- Joey is a comedian who does pranks, so I'm not thinking he's a great resource for parenting advice...

Monday, May 4, 2015

A house- not a home

When we decided to move, our realtor (who is really great) convinced us we needed to stage our home.  I always knew that we would have to declutter, remove some furniture (who are we kidding, we've always had to much furniture), and simplify our lives.

With Working Dad already living full time in Orange County, and me living their almost as much, packing a lot of the stuff we don't use/need daily made a lot of sense.  That way I wouldn't be stuck doing it all alone during the weeks during a rush of time before we need to vacate our sold house.

I never realized how difficult it would be psychologically.  As well as how difficult it would be with a tiny 9-month old who is totally crawling and beginning to stand-up to walk. 

I've worked hard to make my house totally kiddo friendly.  I made the entire front living room a playspace for the kids.  Most people look at this and think we're crazy, but it was a great way for the kids to play while I was in eye view but doing things. 

Add to that the incredible number of projects I'm always working on: Scrapbooking/Project Life, sewing quilts, baby cross stitch, fixing diapers, etc. and it's so difficult to keep it all tidy and clean.

We're at this point where the house isn't really ours.  Where we've gotten rid of so many of the things that makes our house comfortable.  Where I'm nervous to let my children play and enjoy themselves because who knows what might happen to them. 

By by playspace.  Hello dining room.  Also known as by by sanity, safety and roaming around for my poor little Ocho. 

They say that staging a home makes it sell faster, and for a higher dollar amount then not doing it.  I'm hopeful that it's true.  Because I can't wait to feel like I have my house back, and I really can't wait until I don't have this house any longer...

Have you moved with Kiddos?  Thoughts on staging the house?  How do you keep it clean to let people see it? What about naps?  The questions are endless....

Friday, May 1, 2015

Chatting with EG

Sometimes it's wonderful to get a chance to just chat with your kiddos.  That's how you hear things like this...

"When I grow up I want to be a cart lady (someone who puts the carts away at the grocery store) and Super Man.  And a bottle- that way I can be super with wheels and a straw."

"When I get little you can carry me in your other backpack (baby Bjorn) just like you do with Susie."

"My Daddy's name is Uncle Working Dad. "

"I have two babies.  One is Aunt Susanne and the other is Takeo."

"When I get big I can be a Daddy"

"For my birthday I want my own chapstick.  And a stick"

I just can't believe how much she's growing, and changing and becoming a little adult.

These moments are RUNNING full steam ahead....
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