Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Empowerment at every age.

Kol started acting up yesterday afternoon while we were on our way home from school.  It has been a month since his last serious tantrum and I kept chalking it up to the fact that he loves school and is doing so well there.  At first I assumed he was really tired, but then I took a minute to watch my son cover his face and kick his feet in the air while he screamed and I realized he is trying to tell me something. At 3 1/2 years into this job,  I am seasoned enough to know that though sometimes the  screaming and yelling are just because he can, most of the time it is an expression of emotion, and clearly Kol was having some serious BIG emotions!

Before getting Nava out of the car, I went to Kol's side and asked if something happened in school today that he wanted to tell me about.  His eyes filled with tears and he choked out that his friend punched his project. Following mommy protocol, I asked him to tell me about it instead of yelling out "that F***in a**hole" which is what I really wanted to say.   

I heard the story. It sucked. His friend ruined his project. This little punk made him car and Kol's teacher sat with him to make a new project to take home.

This specific kid has been an a**hole, oops I mean "problem" for Kol last year too. I would hear stories of Kol being hit,  of toys being taken away from him in the classroom and bike's being taken away from him on the playground.  Doing what all moms do, I alerted the teacher, often.  She kept reiterating how sorry she was and how this child was a bit of a problem child and they were working with the parents to try to fix things.

Every time there was an episode Dov and I would talk to Kol and after reminding him to always find a teacher to help and to speak up for himself and tell the boy in his loud voice, "Stop it, I don't like it." Or, " Don't hit me, it doesn't feel good."  We would practice using those words and practice empowering him.  Most of the time we would end up in giggles after yelling inside with our "outdoor" voices. 

Before we had kids, Dov and I discussed what we would do if our kids were ever bullied/bothered by others. Dov believed in the power of speech and how talking to the parents or the mean child himself could really change a situation.  On the other hand I always expressed the wonders of intimidation.  After all, when my baby brother Cobe was in 3rd grade, there was a kid who would bully him in the yard and after a week of Cobe coming into my car crying, I decided I had enough and the next afternoon I went into the school yard and took matters into my own hands. I had Cobe point out the kid,  I went over to him, and with my 18 year old confidence I looked him straight in the eye and said "if you ever both my brother again I will have bring our older brothers here to beat you up" (I am not entirely proud of this, yet I am also not ashamed).  Needless to say the kid never looked Cobe's way again so from my calculations that method worked really well! 

And up until recently Dov was against this approach.  But there is something that happens when you become a parent. There is a deep overprotectiveness that comes with creating a child.  As of late, we have both had enough.  My gentle loving husband keeps saying he is thinking of using my method on this kid.  We both know he is only joking, but there is a natural urge to do everything in your power to stop anyone from bothering your kid.  Stop pushing him, stop being nasty, stop ruining his projects and making Kol feel small and sad.  

We are in touch with Kol's teacher and we are so proud that he does not hit back, he does not push out of anger or take revenge and destroy the other kid's work.  Rather, Kol's emotional reaction is directed at me. It comes out in tantrums and I am grateful that I am in tune with my son enough to know to ask what happened in school today.  Every time there is an incident, I remind him that he can stand up for himself with his words. He can empower  himself to say "NO" and that at the same time it is ok to cry. Because honestly it doesn't matter if your 3 or 33, we all still cry or want to cry when someone destroys our work, or is mean to us for no good reason.  

I have a fantasy of walking into the school yard, staring down this 3 year old and scaring him just enough to stop bothering my son.  But I will not do it. Firstly because they may kick us out of the school and I ADORE my sons school and teachers! And secondly,  because unfortunatly this is part of life.  We have bullies in every aspect of our childhood and adulthood.  As a child it can be anyone on the schoolyard or even a teacher or principle (that story is for another time).  As an adult in can be anyone from family members, co-workers or unfortunatly sometimes friends.

I believe the only way to deal with a bully is head on. We must speak up, for ourselves and in turn teach our children to speak up for themselves.  Some days Kol comes back with tears in his eyes telling a story of hurt and I cuddle him as he expresses how bad it made him feels  But somedays, and I hope for these days more often as he grows,  he comes home to let me know that he stood up for himself,  he put his hands on his hip and yelled "stop it! I don't like it"!!  He tells me this with the biggest smile and we slap each other high five.  On those days I know that Dov has been right all along.  The power of speech empowers us and we need to pass it on so our children can empower themselves, because though we may want to step in, we will not always be around to fight their battles or their bullies. 


Friday, November 13, 2015

Healthy by Nature.

Eating healthy has always been part of my life. I grew up in the healthiest, crunchiest hippiest kosher home.  Just so you understand the level I speak of; a treat in our home was a carob rice cake.  Oh yes, you heard me correct, carob rice cakes. I mean, after all, the carob looks like chocolate....right?!!

So of course I did what all healthy children do, I rebelled. I was the junk food queen! I knew every closet, and drawer in friends' homes that hid the arsenal of chips, cookies, twizzlers and my favorite - sour belts.  My mouth even waters now as I type that last treat.  As I get older I have been able to curb the constant sugar craving and only find myself stealing into my kid's treat bag on rare

Though this health conscious upbringing may have had the reverse effect on me, the benefit is that I know how to cook healthy! For the most part I have a healthy home but we are huge lovers of cheese and bread and of course wine (and more wine please.)

As the Fall roles in, Dov and I have decided we wanted to kick our healthy habits into high gear. We have been back at the gym , and it feels so good. And more importantly, I have been trying to keep dinners delicious while still maintaining real nutritional value.  After the usual go-to dinners of Fish, Grilled Chicken and lots of greens, I decided to add to my repertoire and perfect a great tofu dinner.

I'm pretty sure Dov never had Tofu until he moved to LA and met my mother.  Yes, I'll admit, tofu is pretty bland. But, with a little oven top roasting, a great marinade and a poached egg on top (or a flat poached egg, or a half omelet, half poached egg) you really can't go wrong!

[Picture disclaimer: I know you all feel me when I say I was too tired to make it truly instagram worthy.]

Tofu Stir Fry

1 carton of Firm Tofu cut into cubes and drain between two paper towels.
3 scallions chopped up
4 small bell peppers sliced
1 head of broccoli chopped
1 handful of shredded carrots
1 egg

3 Tablespoon honey
3 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon minced garlic

*To make it a more filling meal use one Near East rice box.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Indian Summer

Today was a great day!

Yesterday was a long, exhausting day.

Yesterday Nava peed down the length of my body. It covered my shirt starting at my hip and continued down to the bottom of my white pant leg. This was not the small circle of pee some of us moms are the lucky recipients of when holding our babies on our hips, noticing a light leaking through the diaper. This was Full. On.

I know better than to walk around the house with a naked baby, but this was different, we were at the doctor’s office. Nava has been teething and not sleeping and not sleeping and did i mention yet how she’s NOT SLEEPING. And so of course I assumed she had an ear infection because why else would my perfect child not be sleeping?!?!? The only appointment was for the afternoon, after I pick up Kol from school and so I booked it and shlepped both kids with me.  Juggling two kids when one is crying the whole time and the other decides the Doctor's rolling seat is better used as a race car, is not so easy on the nerves. Needless to say I got frazzled and it took me a little too long to retrieve a new diaper after Nava was weighed.  By the time I grabbed it, it was too late.

If this was my first baby, I probably would have headed home immediately for a much needed shower and a change of clothes, but of course I had already told Kol that we were going for pizza on our way home.  I did what all moms do and calculated the pros and cons in seconds and decided the pros of going for pizza were much greater than the cons of not going for pizza and dealing with a major tantrum.  So I went, urine soaked clothing and all, with both kids, for some f*ing pizza.

My pants dried on the way, ironically while listening to the Police sing “a hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore” 700 times in a row – thank you DJ KOL. Our time at the pizza shop went so smoothly that I cheered my decision in my head. And Nava must have heard the Dr. say ‘it’s only a cold’ and felt relieved because she was calm again. The rest of the night was without incident --until she woke up at 10:30pm juuuust as I was drifting into sleep and she decided to stay awake till midnight.  Have you ever had to take care of a baby just as you are in between the sleep and awake states?  It is really rough!

Long, Tiring, Exhausting.  That pretty much sums up yesterday.

And then we got a day like today.

I picked up my nephew Dovid for the day b/c his mom was away for 2 weeks.  He is such a pleasure I did not mind taking him on my errands and to the farmers market. Of course we stopped in at Real Food Daily for a cupcake for lunch.  Yes, that is the only thing we had for lunch. I'm his aunt and not his mother so it is a legitimate mid-day food.

After my errands we went to pick up Kol. Kol and Dovid have become such great friends over the years and their excitement to see each other was so contageous that Nava stopped kvetching and started to giggle with the two of them in the backseat.

The day just kept getting more and more glorious.  First there was the Jam band that graciously invited Nava to participate with a shaker in hand. Then it was outside for bikes, baby pool and hose. It wasn’t long before everyone's clothes (except mine) came off and there were mini naked Olympians doing running lunges into the pool landing on the grass. Dinner. Painting. Bubble bath. Done.                                                                        

I shared some photos of the afternoon activities with my sisters and they reminisced about how we all used to play outside for hours with our siblings. Spraying each other with the hose and riding bikes until the sun would go down.                               


It is amazing how drastically disparate our days could be from one to the next.  I’ll admit that my mood sometimes swings with that of my childrens’. And that I’m well aware that this is a poor precedent. There are too many sleepless nights and tired tantrums to have your feelings dictated by the whim of a 9 month old or 3 year old.  For every pair of pee soaked pants I walk around in I need to remember there are also the Indian Summer days that one day my children will reminisce about with their siblings.

Tomorrow is another day!

Friday, October 16, 2015

I Leave only to Return

I just returned from a 3 day girls weekend in Vegas.
It was a wonderful weekend in honor of my friend Toby's 40th birthday.  It was one of those weekends that you laugh so hard for so long tears spring from your eyes and do not stop. It was the kind of weekend that leaves memories to last a lifetime and stories that will keep you the main entertainer of a party, any party.  I would share it all but, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas...right?!

My baby girl Nava is almost 9 months old. We have been attached at the hip since her birth. I have been doing what all moms do to keep new babies alive, healthy and happy.  Nursing, changing, playing, napping and repeat, and repeat, and repeat!  I also have a 3 1/2 year old who somehow seems to eat less than Nava even though he is twice as tall as her. He also needs to be dressed in the morning for school.  Though he loves to put on his velcro sneakers, that is about all that he can do by himself and his school really frowns upon a 'Sneakers-only' fashion statement. He plays longer and harder than his sister and as of late wants me to join in for every bingo/zingo game and puzzle playing activity. As far as napping goes, it has been a year since I have successfully gotten him down for a nap though I still do try time and time again.

With all this mommy business, I get so much joy from little miss Nava and her big emoji cheeks and sideways smile.  Kol is full of jokes and songs and makes me smile daily and I am consistently fascinated by the way his mind works.  He loves numbers and will drop everything and anything to have a jam session with his dad.  He humors me when I offer to jam and tries not to look too annoyed when I can't seem to get the right drum beat. I in turn thank him for his kindness.

The love between the two of these loves makes me giddy. Every morning Nava gives me a great big smile and as I lift her out of her crib she whips her head around and around until she sees Kol who says in a high pitched voice "good morning Nava", then she squeals and swats at his face.  He squeals back at her in a similar sound and I am pretty sure they are somehow communicating in their own language like seals or dolphins.

Despite all this happiness and love, I was still quite excited to go away for the weekend.  It was time. I needed a break because everyone needs one.  As wives and mothers, we manage to get breaks where we can.  It can be in a cup of coffee, in a square (or bar) of chocolate; while hiding from your kids in a pantry or behind the kitchen door.  In a walk by yourself while the housekeeper watches your napping baby. Even with all these mini breaks, we still need the great big break every once in a while.

Even though I believe this to be truth I have friends and acquaintances who completely disagree with me. There are so many mothers I know who think, they do not deserve a break.  Or that it is not right for a mother to leave her children overnight when the kids are young.  They get so wrapped up in being the main caregiver that they can not see what a toll caring for others can really take on oneself.  When you are tired and have not given yourself any time or love then your toddlers stories of his class room seem to become dull.  The sound of your babies gurgling at nap time is not cute anymore but exasperating because, "honestly when is she going to fall asleep"??!!

I come from a home of 11 siblings. I come from a home of a mother who understood she needed to take a vacation to keep her sanity in order to keep the rest of us healthy.  So, I went on a 3 day break to Vegas and it was glorious.

I am lucky enough to have an incredible partner who not only sent me off with his blessing but did not call me once to complain how hard it is to care for two kids alone. And we all know that it is really hard!

I returned last night when Dov was in the middle of putting Kol to sleep. I walked in and the feeling that surrounded me was cozy.  Kol was in our bed as Dov was singing songs to him. Kol sat upright when he saw me and a smile spread across his face and lit up his eyes.  I attacked him with thousands of kisses and he never tried to pull away as he giggled into my cheeks and ears.  We spent the next 10 minutes recapping his weekend and he asked me questions about mine.  He glowed when Dov sang his praises for being so well behaved and I glowed from being rejuvenated to really enjoy every word of every story he told me.

Today I woke up to Nava babbling at 6 am. Without a grunt, I got up and gave her a bottle. She gave me a bit of attitude; no smile, no squeal but then as I lifted her up she lay her head on my shoulder and that's when I knew she was glad to have me back since I usually only get a cuddle when she is too tired to keep her head upright.

Today was beautiful! It was full on, no housekeeper,  and with Nava teething and a cold working its way into Kol's system both kids were a bit cranky.  And I was here, I was present. Able to give love and comfort and loving discipline when needed.  My greatest excitement when I go away is the thrill of my return.  To be surrounded by my family is my greatest joy and yet I still need to get away sometimes, and that is okay. The happiness and relaxation that stays with me long after the memory of sleeping-in is gone, is something that I and my entire family benefit from.  And so I leave only to come back as a better version of myself.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Malka Nava

Written 2 months ago.

My daughter is 7 months old. My goodness, my daughter is 7 months old.  Did you know I had a daughter? Well some of you may have seen one of the multiple pictures I have posted on instagram. But really did you know? I have not written about it yet. And in this day and age with every one of us blogging, we ask ourselves, did it really happen if we have not written about it? Well, Yes, this really happened. I had a baby girl named Malka Nava and she is wonderful. With Kol as you know, I could not seem to write fast enough about the trials and tribulations of first time motherhood.  How wonderful and yet insanely difficult it was to be a new mom. And now....nothing.   I have been writing plenty in my head, mind you - just hadn't been able to make it to paper...or computer.

There is a reason I have not written anything about little Nava. Quite simply, she's been an easy baby and who wants to hear how about someone else's wonderful baby?! And then I think - what if one day my children grow up and read these blog posts (I know, I know that will probably never happen).  How will Kol feel when he sees all this drama about him and just butterflies and unicorns about his sister Nava? So I have held back.

Today is the yartzait (the date of the passing) of my grandmother Bubby Martha (Malka), our Malka Nava's namesake. My grandmother was the sweetest, most wonderful human I have ever known.  She and my little Malka Nava have come to show me that although some of us think there needs to be conflict in any great story, this is not necessarily true. There was never conflict surrounding Bubby Martha and yet we have many wonderful stories about her. So on this day, my Bubby Martha has inspired me to write about my Malka Nava. I am sure I will have more trying times, especially in the teenage years, but for now I am enjoying every  moment.

I can't describe the joy I get from this tiny child. From day one she has been angelic, she came so fast and so easy I barely made it to the hospital in time. She is happy and sweet and easy going.  Two kids are definitely hard to balance, but this little love of mine makes it so peaceful!  She reminds me of my grandmother who was adored by all and who I never heard say a mean word about anyone.  I hope she grows to have a long and happy life as my Bubby Martha did. And as Bubby Martha always said to me, "stay as sweet as you are." I pass that sentiment along to little baby Malka Nava.