The Voice Inside My Head

We’re on time so why do I feel like we’re on the late side?

The dog is out of the car and peeing on the driveway. Does dog pee stain asphalt? I might need to hose that down.

The kids left the car doors open. As usual.

I forgot to pack the jackets. What is wrong with me? For crying out loud. What does that even mean?

I hope it doesn’t get cold. Oh, perfect: rain.

Dinner is going to be Chinese food. No one wants to cook the night before The Big Meal. Continue reading “The Voice Inside My Head”

What I Know For Certain

Trio11-26-14I love my kids. They make me wonder what life would be like without them, but I love them anyway.

I have no interest in ever learning how to play Minecraft.

When you have a three-year-old, you absolutely believe in the Tooth Fairy, unicorns, talking snowmen, mermaids and ghosts. Continue reading “What I Know For Certain”

Is Going to Israel with My Kids During Conflict a Good Thing?

Parenting in IsraelIsrael. It’s where I feel most connected to my Jewishness. It’s where a cherished piece of my heart comes to life. Right now, it’s also where missiles are landing hour after hour, deep in to the country, sending people running for cover in shelters and staircases, at the base of palm trees along the open beaches, on the shoulder of the highway.

It’s where I am planning to go with my husband and three kids in less than two weeks to celebrate the bar mitzvah of a close friend’s son.

Or am I?

Every inch of my maternal self recoils at the thought of deliberately bringing my three children into what amounts to a war zone. Yet, that piece of my heart that belongs to Israel yearns to be there, to show her my love and unwavering support, to defiantly go about daily life in between running for cover as sirens wail.

For days now I’ve been playing out “if-then” scenarios in my head: if there is a ground war, then we won’t go. If Hamas accepts a cease-fire, then we will go. If I were planning to go on my own, then I would definitely still go. Finally, we told the older girls about the situation and the possibility that we might not go. The 12-year-old sat silently, head bowed, her dirty blonde hair falling like a curtain around her. She understands more than I give her credit for. The 9-year-old’s eyes filled with tears.

“Why would anyone want to bomb Israel?” she asked.

How do you answer that incredibly complicated question? That’s when I realized how much I haven’t taught my children about what it means to be Jewish. They live in a beautiful Jewish bubble where they go to Day School and Jewish summer camp, where we celebrate Shabbat every week. They wander through the house humming tunes from the morning tefillah followed by Iggy Azalea and Ariana Grande. For them, being Jewish means being part of a loving community with the freedoms, rights and protections of being American. How can I explain to my children that not everyone in the world likes Jews and, in fact, a good number of them would like to see us, and Israel, wiped from the face of the earth? The conflict is very real. Is taking my children to the center of it an acceptable learning lesson?

People act in unacceptable ways all the time. I’ve seen the photos on the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) blog of a mother gathering her infant and toddler to her, hunkered down on the highway between her car and the concrete dividers, cowering in fear and resignation as the sirens blare and missiles fly. I’ve seen footage of the rubble in Gaza and think of the Palestinian children left homeless or worse because their political leaders are gambling with their lives and are losing.

Deciding whether or not to travel to Israel right now is a wrenching decision for us to make. Part of me wishes we had left before the current conflict escalated so we wouldn’t have to decide: we’d be in it and we would’ve stayed. The piece of my heart that belongs to Israel is tugging at me with all its might. My mama heart is telling me to keep my girls out of the line of fire. I don’t want them to flinch, like my Israeli friend’s child does, every time a motorcycle whizzes by or a car guns its engine or a truck door slams. My three-year-old already claps her hands over her ears when she hears a dog bark close by or a dish clatters in to the sink. I don’t want my kids to look at me and say, “Mama, is that a rocket coming?”

I don’t want them to be scared. Maybe that’s naive of me. In some ways loving Israel is about being there when it is scary and standing fast. I want my kids to love Israel deeply with determination and ferocity, but without the fear. I don’t know if or when that will be possible, but I do know that I want Israel to own a piece of my children’s hearts forever. That’s something I’m not willing to compromise.

X is for XO

xo: hugs and kisses.

X and O. Two simple letters. I use them when signing off on emails or texts, in Valentine’s and birthday and thinking of you cards, on little bits of notepaper tucked into school lunchboxes. XO. Hugs and kisses. I love you.

And I do. I mean it. Every X and every O is considered. I don’t take the sending out of love lightly, not out loud, not in print and not on screen. Lately, though, I’ve been relying on the XOs more than usual. I’m tacking them on to all sorts of simple communications, like mundane texts to my daughter about the extra cream cheese that’s in the garage fridge and in response to my friend back east when she emails me a book recommendation. “Thanks! XO.”

Expressing love is all well and good and even great, but I wonder if I’m not using XO as a substitute for the real thing. I’ve been feeling a lot of love lately, both for and from a lot of magnificent people. Writing everyday has coaxed me into close proximity with my emotions, something I’m not always comfortable with. Love is one of those big, booming symphonies that fills me up and yet leaves me breathless.

My love these days is mixed with gratitude, which makes it even more potent. I’m thankful for the space my family has given me to write and for all the ways so many stunning writers, both in real life and virtually, have engaged with me over the past few weeks. I’m incredibly thankful for my friend N and that we’re in this together. Forever. I’m grateful to my older two girls who are helping out like crazy around the house and eating cereal for dinner without blinking an eye because they can see I’m in up to my neck in words. The toddler gives me sweet hugs and her soft cheek to kiss, so I love her for that. I have so much love for my husband who has been endlessly patient and ridiculously encouraging. I’m thankful to my parents who have never stopped cheering me on and are now doing so on a daily basis, even though I’m all grown up.

I’ve been signing off with XO every chance I get, but what I really want to say is Thank You and I Love You and You’re the Best. My Xs and Os are plump with love, but there’s nothing like the real thing.

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I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.

My Two-Year-Old Has No Friends

P1040480When Lilah turned one, I realized that she had no friends of her own. Not that a one-year-old really has friends, but moms of one-year-olds are usually friends with moms of other one-year-olds. Not me. I really did want to have new “mommy friends” but I just didn’t connect with anyone in particular at those Mommy & Me classes (music, yoga, kindergym). I even flunked out of the mommy group I joined. It was made up of almost entirely new moms in their mid to late 20s, which meant I was a good 15 years older than most of them. When the babies were all around three-months-old, the conversation turned to monitors and did I have the one with the heart rate monitor, breathing monitor, video or all three?

“We don’t use a monitor,” I said. “We just leave her bedroom door and our bedroom door open so we can hear her if she needs us. I think it’s working. She seems to sleep through the night and the best thing is, so do we!”

The other moms didn’t get it. They looked at me like I was either crazy or too out of the loop to understand the “new” technology. I felt old and old-fashioned and I didn’t like it. I dropped out.

The thing was, I didn’t really need any more friends. I loved the ones I already had, even though they’d all phased out of the baby stage. But maybe hanging out with just me, her (much) older sisters and their friends wasn’t the greatest thing for Lilah. I vowed that in the coming year, I’d make a better effort to meet moms with kids her age.

Cue Lilah’s second birthday. You would think I could have scrounged up at least a handful of toddlers to invite to her party, right? Didn’t happen. I was too busy carpooling, grocery shopping, cooking, walking the dog, managing my marriage, whatever, all with Lilah in tow. I wish I could say it didn’t really matter to me that I hadn’t thrown myself headlong into mommydom in search of friends for Lilah, but I couldn’t. There was a tiny twinge of guilt squeezing my heart every now and then.

P1050563Until we started to sing “Happy Birthday” to Lilah.

There she was sitting at the dining room table at her grandparents house, surrounded by her adoring sisters and cousins, thrilled with her Elmo cake and stack of presents. Loved, loved, loved.

It won’t be like this forever. I know she’s only two, but in a blink of an eye she’ll be 12 and won’t want to hang out with her family so much — I’m already seeing that change with Ella. For now, I want to cradle my baby in the heart of her family. I want to keep her close. She has plenty of time for friends.

Diapers and Drama Queens

The other night at dinner I am the only one actually sitting at the table. Without warning, the 11-year-old runs off to “get something,” the 8-year-old gets up to go to the bathroom and the not yet 2-year-old goes feral, sliding around on the dirty kitchen floor barking. My husband is fed up in a Mad Men sort of way and tries to herd them all back to the table, brow furrowed, lecturing them about respect and permission, drink in hand.

I stare at the juicy grilled chicken on my plate, the steamed broccoli. I want them all to come back to the table, I really do, but I can’t seem to make it happen. Is it inertia? Hunger? Indecision? I am at a parenting impasse: poopy diapers on one hand; a tween with the beginnings of hairy armpits on the other; and a third grader who could go either way on any given day. How is my oldest supposed to take me seriously when I can’t stop the toddler from throwing peas at the dog? Sometimes I just want to give in. Not to the kids, but to motherhood. I want to know how to do it. Pick a path and follow it. My parents seemed to have some kind of plan; why can’t I? When I was a kid, I didn’t dare leave the dinner table without permission, but that’s because I was scared of the consequences — although I cannot for the life of me tell you what those consequences might have been.

My kids know nothing of consequences. They prance and laugh and scowl and opine and whine at will. I love that they are so present, so in touch with their emotions and desires; but I also really resent it. Their multiple winning personalities can suck the air right out of a room, which makes it kinda hard to breathe. I need a little air of my own. At 44, I’m no baby bunny, but no old cow either. I’m ready for it to be about me. Before the hot flashes set in. Before the river runs dry. Before the chicken goes cold.

They all eventually trickle back to the table: My husband with a sigh, the 11-year-old throwing daggers, the 8-year-old in a huff, the little one with peas in her hair. The food is eaten, the toddler bathed, the bigs tucked in for the night. Another day gone by. I fall asleep before my husband; he leaves in the morning before I wake up. Another day of diapers and drama queens begins.