Browsing Tag

large families

Uncategorized November 16, 2011

Dinner, Again: How I Keep My Family Fed

Sometimes I get asked: “Do you cook dinner EVERY night?”  Well.  That’s a rather personal question.  The question is predicated on the fact that I have a lot of peeps to feed, that I keep strictly kosher, and that I work. So here’s the answer, for posterity.


Here’s my system.  Please bear in mind that:

  • As confessed previously, I am not a foodie (that’s code for “I don’t like to cook”)
  • I am not a health nut, though I try to upgrade my food wherever possible, like using brown rice and Barilla plus pasta
  • I only cook things that are very, very, very easy.  
  • I also serve some kind of salad/veggie at every meal so I’m not listing that, plus the occasional soup when I’m feeling domestic.

Sunday is mac ‘n cheese.  We usually have some leftovers from Shabbat, but most of us don’t want to even look at them, including myself so I can’t even get annoyed.  We usually run around on Sunday either doing stuff with the kids, catching up on home jobs, and/or chauffeuring the kids to various activities, so it’s gotta be quick and easy.

Monday is always dairy night or pareve (neither meat nor dairy).  Since we keep kosher, the menu plan always breaks down to either meat-based or dairy-based.  I usually serve fish on Monday too, so like salmon and quiche; lasagna; tuna casserole; sushi salad (basically unrolled sushi).

Tuesday is chicken night.  Baked chicken; drumsticks in the crock pot; Asian stirfry.  Sides would be couscous, rice, quinoa, or potatoes.  I have a rice cooker.  It rocks.

Wednesday is meat night.  Usually ground beef cuz it’s cheap and everyone likes it.  I usually mix it with ground turkey (1/2 and 1/2) for health purposes, to the chagrin of my unhealthy children.  Some choices would be spaghetti and meatballs; unstuffed cabbage (the lazy girl’s way to pretend you know how to cook Hungarian); beef stirfry.  I don’t buy roasts or anything fancy, aside from a special Shabbat or holidays.

Thursday is pizza night.  Usually we order it; rarely we go out; occasionally I make it myself.  Thursday night I am already prepping for Shabbat so I go the easy route.

Friday night is… Shabbat!  I pull out all the stops.  Well, for me 🙂  I still only make things that are very, very easy, but I have lots of yummy food.  Shabbat gets its own blog post, so stay tuned.

Saturday night we are all full from all the Shabbat delicacies.  I usually retire without eating any major dinner; my kids might fix themselves grilled cheese or something, and my hubby always enjoys leftovers!

And of course there’s always the occasional night when everything is crazy.  Then either my kids fix dinner, or it’s laissez-faire dinner… which my mother never, ever did… no guilt there or anything…

Uncategorized October 6, 2011

Is Your Dog Orthodox?

Why are Orthodox kids scared of dogs?

I have a better question:  Why do dog-owners get offended when Orthodox kids are scared of their dogs?

Here’s the answer to the first question; dog owners will have to supply the answer to the second:

Orthodox kids typically do not grow up with dogs as pets.  Their relatives and classmates typically do not either.  Therefore, they are not used to them.  Therefore, they don’t know how to read their signals or distinguish from pit pull to golden retriever (did I get that right?).  When a huge doggie leaps up and is larger than said child (or not), it can be frightening.

Which begs an even better question:  Why don’t Orthodox people typically own dogs?

Some hypotheses:

1. They have more kids instead of pets.  Me, if I ever thought I had the time and mental energy to handle caring for an animal, I’d say to myself: Self!  What is stopping you from bringing another child into this world?

2. For kids of Holocaust survivors, dogs were a no-no, as the Germans used them for crowd control, and worse.

3. There are some Halachic issues with caring for a pet on Shabbat and holidays.  Yes, yes, I know that they can all be surmounted, but some people would prefer to avoid this issue in the first place.

4. Part of Jewish philosophy is the stressing of the distinction between human and animal.  I don’t know if or how that relates, but I sure find it interesting, especially as society as a whole tends to humanize animals and animalize humans.  Think Curious George all the way down to the Berenstein Bears, to the zoo telling us we are simply cooler primates.  Jewish philosophy disagrees.

5. Due to the above and possibly reasons I’ve never thought of, it has become culturally unusual for Orthodox people to own dogs – which drives its own resistance.

Nevertheless, I want to stress that it is not AGAINST Halacha (Jewish law) to own a dog, and if an Orthodox person wants to, he most certainly can, and all the power to him, and that’s awesome.

And if it could please not lick my face, I’d be decidedly grateful.

Any other hypotheses out there?

Uncategorized September 25, 2011

The K9 Hora Club

Fascinating how, no matter how secular a Jew may be, there are some things everyone knows.

Like, Jews don’t have baby showers.

Has your Jewish grandmother ever done odd things like spit when someone offers her beautiful grandbaby a compliment?  Or say stuff like, “poo poo poo!!”  Or tie a red string around the crib?

If so, congrats. You are part of the K9 Hora club.  And, uh, no relation to the “hora” that you dance at a bar mitzvah.

Let’s start with some ulpan.

The phrase K9 Hora actually stems from three words smushed together (is smushed a Yiddish word too?  When I was little I always thought “smorgasbord” and “farfetched” were Yiddish) – and I’d like to credit my source – a very cute kenohora article right here.  And just try to google kenohora – there about 613 ways to spell it.

Which is why I like my way: K9 Hora. It almost looks English.

So the three words are: kein, the Yiddish word for no or negating, ayin, Hebrew for eye, and hara, Hebrew for Evil.

What is an Evil Eye?  Are Jews superstitious??  Is God out to get us?  Why does Madonna wear a red string?

In order:
I’ll tell you.
And  on principle, I don’t speak for Madonna.

What’s an Evil Eye?
Jews generally earn the Divine Protection of G-d – by default.  Not necessarily because we earn it, but because He loves us.  However, there are some ways to invalidate this protection, and one of them is by flaunting our blessings in a way that makes others uncomfortable or envious.  In a way that is excessive.  Then G-d pulls out His ledgers and checks us out.  Audits us.  And may very well say: “Hey – if you don’t really deserve your blessings, but no one’s getting hurt… OK.  But if your being in-your-face with My gifts, I may have to retract them.”

So this is called the Evil Eye – of other people in our lives, viewing our gifts with a negative eye.  Now, if there’s anything smart Jews want to do, it’s protect their assets.  So us Jews have gone completely extreme with protecting ourselves from Evil Eye – in some interesting ways.

Like when someone compliments your beautiful granddaughter, to spit and say, “Ew!  She’s so ugly!” which is code for “Get your evil eyes far away from me!”

This is not really my way.

The Torah states that if you buy into being victim to this whole dynamic, you will, indeed become susceptible to it.  And if you don’t, if you trust G-d, act normal, don’t flaunt your blessings, and share your goodness with others, you will continue to merit G-d’s Divine Protection.

It’s might seem easier, though, to just omit the baby shower, hang up a hamsa, wear a red string.  But those are shortcuts – not accessing the real state of faith that offers protection from the Evil Eye.

By the way, this is also why some people won’t share news of a pregnancy till it’s obvious or say how many kids or grandkids they have, and why some will otherwise downplay their blessings.

Me, I prefer to say “Thank G-d.” It’s positive – and focuses on my gratitude.  With Divine assistance, this will be the protection I need.

Uncategorized September 16, 2011

Cultural Oddities: Simcha Celebrations

So as I venture into ever more diverse segments of the Jewish community, I have come to the conclusion that there are some fascinating cultural differences and similarities in celebrating bris, bar and bat mitzvah, and weddings.

Here are a few:

1. “Making a bar mitzvah.”

Frum (Orthodox) people generally say, “I’m making a bar mitzvah.  I’m making a wedding.”  What this means is that they are planning the simcha for their child, which is true, but I’ve never heard non-Orthodox people use this particular verb in this context.  Why is this?  Similarly, Ortho-folk will say, “I’m making Shabbos,” or “making Pesach.”

2. “Just come.”

I’ve found that Ortho-folk who come from large families and busy communities are much more “heimish” (homey) about extending an invitation by phone, declining an invitation, cancelling, showing up uninvited, etc.  Clearly, people should be good about sending invitations and reply cards, and not make the “baal simcha” (the one “making the simcha”) call you to see if you’re coming (!) when they’d much rather be at the manicurist’s, but in general, this degree of chilled-out attitude doesn’t seriously bend anyone out of shape.  “Surprising” someone at a simcha is also a totally accepted thing to do, or popping in for part of it if you can’t be there for the whole thing.

3. The six weeks rule.

You know how the “rules” say to send an invitation six weeks before?  I find more secular Jews send them out earlier than that, and I’m not even referencing the “save-the-date” that comes out much, much earlier than that.  In the other corner we’ve got the Ortho-Jews who send them out later.  Sometimes much later.  (See: heimish.) Also, no save-the-dates as far as the eye can see.

4. Gifts table.

No idea why on earth this is true, but at non-Orthodox shindigs, there is typically a gift table.  Ortho-folk bring their gifts to the home before or after.  Truly an oddity to my mind.

5. What time does it start?

Non-Ortho affairs start, well, when they’re supposed to start.  Showing up late requires an explanation.  On the other hand, when an Orthodox wedding or bar mitzvah is called for 6 pm, “everyone” knows it’s only going to be immediate family and the photographer at 6 pm.  Show up at 6:30, for crying out loud.  (!)  The other totally bizarre thing about this is that the further east you travel, the later you should show up; so when my sister’s vort (engagement party) in NJ was called for 8 pm, most folks showed up at 11.  Oh… was that not on the invitation??

6. Kids.

Well, this makes perfect sense.  Orthodox people have more kids… their simchas have a lot more kids! Your typical Orthodox wedding will have multiple nieces and nephews, all decked out in their finest, to the extent that a babysitter (or team of) is often hired at the hall to supervise the kiddies.  There is often a whole “kiddie table” with “kiddie food.”

But as usual, I like to find more in common than not… we all: want to experience nachas, want to be surrounded by family and friends, have spent more than we planned, and want all our guests to be happy.  Oh, and if our kids could write their thank-yous with no input on our part, we’d all be all the more joyous.

Mazel Tov!

Curious to hear your observations! 

Uncategorized September 14, 2011

Your Kid’s Hebrew Name is Yechezkel Simcha Chaim??

I’d like to thank Roni Sokol over at Mommy in Law for inspiring this post!

Every single time we have sat down to choose a Hebrew name for one of our newborns, we’ve had to take multiple considerations into account:

1. Did we have a relative to name after?  (If no, proceed to #2)
2. Do we pick a name related to the Torah portion?  An upcoming holiday?
3. How will this name be spelled in English?
4. How will this child’s name appear on the birth certificate?
5. How will this name sound to people that are unfamiliar with Hebrew or Yiddish names?
6. How do we spell it?

For example (note: some of my kids’ names have been changed):

Child #1: Let’s pretend my daughter’s name is Esther.  She is our first-born, and we decide to name her after my great-grandmother on my father’s side, who was killed in the Holocaust.  There is a custom among Ashkenazic Jews that babies are named after deceased love ones, and that the first name goes to the mother’s side barring a pressing reason to name after the father’s side (like, father has no dad; mother would have to go back 3 generations).

Great-grandma had two names, common among Eastern European Jews, but her middle name coincides with my mother’s name, who is very much alive and well, thank you.  Just as it an honor to name after a deceased relative, it is SPOOKY AND NOT DONE to name after an alive relative.  Unless you are a Sephardic Jew, in which case it is a BIG HONOR.

Go figure.

So we ask her daughter, my grandmother, if she minds if we only use the one name.  She’s great with it, as “Esther” is the name great-grandma was known by.  Awesome.  Esther is SO EASY.  It’s Hebrew and English and phonetic to boot.  And it’s one name.  That simplifies life.  “Esther” goes on the birth certificate.  Daughter #1 is all set.  Woohoo!

That was the easy part.

Child #2 comes along – a son.  This is a no-brainer, as my father passed away when I was six, so even though name #2 “belongs” to the husband, it’s obvious we will name this child for my father.  Let’s pretend my father’s Hebrew name was Shlomo – one name, but it gets complicated.  For one thing, it’s customary to add a name when you name after someone who dies young, so the newborn doesn’t have exactly the same “mazel” – fortune, sort of – as the deceased.  We need to add a name.  The classical Hebrew names that are added in such a case are Chaim (“life”) and Baruch (“blessed”), but my husband’s grandfather, who, at the time, was alive and well, thank you very much, is Chaim Baruch!  So we choose a name – Nesanel (Netanel), which means “gifted by God.”  So now our son’s name is Nesanel Shlomo.

Second thing: my father was not exactly called by his Hebrew name, but was called by a Yiddish-flavored nickname of his Hebrew name – “Shloimy.”  NOT PHONETIC.  EASY TO MISPRONOUNCE.  And definitely, er, ethnic.

So we wanna call this kid “Shloimy” since it’s what my father was called, which is a very normal name in our community, but what do we put on the birth certificate?  One name?  Both?  The Ethnic Nickname?  We opt for simply (ha) “Shlomo,” which has since been mispronounced by every doctor’s office staff member since.  Ah, well.

Child #3: a girl.  We have a choice of two great-grandmothers on my husband’s side.  Finally, his turn.  Both are Yiddish.  We do some homework and find out that one was a classic Bubbie, a regular saint; and the other was a strong woman who retained her faith out in Scranton, PA.  We opt for “saint.”  My husband is scheduled to name the baby at the synagogue.  I am in the hospital.   It is Shabbat, so we are not communicating over the phone.  After Shabbat he calls: “I didn’t name the baby… I just felt it wasn’t the right name!”  Okaay – who am I to question my husband’s prophetic powers?  I didn’t feel that strongly either way, so we go for name #2 – strong personality, Scranton, PA.

This Yiddish name, Gitty, is at first glance, phonetic and easy.  Ha.  Everyone rhymes it with “pretty” and “witty” when actually the “T” is emphasized.  I would give an English rhyme for her name, except there is none.  Also, living in Israel at the time, my husband is the one who travels to East Jerusalem to the consulate to get the birth certificate, so he chooses “Gittel,” the real Yiddish name, instead of “Gitty,” the commonly used nickname.  Nice.  Now daughter has one name that appears on her BC that no one can pronounce and that no one uses except her younger brother in cruel moments, another name that everyone calls her that rhymes with “pretty” and her real name that is pronounced correctly.  *sigh*

Child #4 is named after someone in the parsha.  We didn’t have any urgent relative to name for and are married long enough that we don’t need to take turns anymore, and name after our Patriarch Abraham.  Great – easy, right??  EVERYONE knows Abraham Lincoln!  Yes, except his Hebrew name is Avraham, and his nickname shall be… Avromi.  So how easy is it to mispronounce “Avromi’?  Answer: very.  It’s pronounced “Av-RUH-mi”  (Ruh as in Run).  But some people, like Jews from more Chassidic backgrounds, like my grandparents, pronounce it “Av-ru-mi” – Ru as in the way a Bostonion would say “roof.”  Or those that are not comfy with Hebrew or Yiddish say Ru like “rah rah rah!  Sis boom bah!”  Ah, well.

Oh, and we decided to be “smart” and put “Abraham” on his BC so everyone will  be able to pronounce it… now he just seems like a relic from the 1800’s.  Really?  Your name is Abraham, and you’re… 10?  Not 89?  Ah, well.

Also: since we did not reach back multiple generations for a name we had some explaining to do to family members… ’nuff said.

Child #5: girl.  We decide to name after my great-grandmother Mindy.  She also had another name, which coincided with my husband’s grandmother’s name.  (Anyone want to become a Jewish Baby Naming Coordinator?  I’ll send you lots of clients.)  Yes, I know my side of the family is seriously winning, but I already told you, we’re done taking turns.  Also I just happen to have more dead relatives – sorry.  We ask my grandfather (she was his mother) how he feels about us just using one name and he is fine with this since she was called “Bobba Mindy” and that’s how everyone knew her.

Can I just emote for a moment?  I LOVE THIS NAME.  It has everything I need!  It’s named for someone I knew and loved, it’s easy to say, spell, and pronounce, and I can put the nickname right on the BC since we are now living in America and I don’t have to travel anywhere dangerous moments after giving birth to obtain a BC!  The lovely, nice hotel – er, hospital – does all the hard work FOR YOU!!  Yay!  Mindy Koval.  Love.

Child #6: Boy.  He is born 10 days late, on his great-grandfather’s yahrtzeit.  Like, exactly, on the Hebrew date.  Did I say “chose a name”?  I think the name chose us.  This name does not fit the profile of my perfect name.  It’s Hebrew and Yiddish, two names, neither of which are phonetic, nor easy to say, spell, or pronounce.  Yay!  Well, we go mostly with the first name and just plunk that Hebrew name right on the BC.  And if no one can pronounce it… it’s their problem.  Lots of cool people have weird names (Gwyneth?).

Child #7:  Girl.  When you get to this number of kids, my philosophy is you pick a name you just LIKE.  You’ve earned it.  We picked the name first (Nomi) then prayed for her to be born on the holiday that coincided with her name.  And… she was!  Can I just emote for a moment?  I LOVE THIS NAME!   For all the reasons I love Mindy, but one more added bonus: It’s not a nickname but the real name.  However, even this name was not hitchless.  The REAL name is “Naomi,” and is pronounced in truly grammatically correct Hebrew as “Na’ami,” and is still pronounced a variety of ways by my relatives.  Nevertheless, it’s super easy to spell and read, and we love it.  So far, it’s the only low-maintenance thing about the child, so that’s a good thing.

Was it hard to pick out your kids’ names?  What did you have to take into account?  What did you choose for their birth certificates – have you regretted it?

Uncategorized September 7, 2011

I DON’T Need Costco! I Don’t!

People seem to think my family must consume enormous volumes of food.  And that we must need a mini-bus to transport ourselves places.  And buy diapers by the pallet.

I, however, have resisted joining even Costco till last year.  I hate driving a mini-van.  I will not buy things that are designed for dorms, even if they work well for us.

We are a family, not an institution.  Specifically:


I do my basic grocery shopping at Marc’s, our local budget-friendly grocery that never actually has everything you need (actually my teenage daughter usually does it), augmented by quick fill-ups at Heinen’s – our standard garden-variety supermarket.  Costco usually happens every couple of weeks.  I can’t buy produce there regularly since we can’t finish it all before it goes bad.  It’s good for non-perishables like diapers, paper towels and the like, but sometimes I get lazy and just go to Target, which is so much more fun anyhow.  I keep track of what we need via an app on my phone.  Once or twice a week we hit the kosher butcher for dinner and Shabbos supplies, and to supply other “Jewish” food items.  The kosher grocery is a job my husband handles, since he’s in the ‘hood every day, and I’m not.  Usually only need that trip once a week or so.


We have a disgustingly boring Toyota Sienna mini-van.  It’s gold.  I hate gold cars.  My husband thought it was my favorite car color, so he surprised me.  It seats 8.  Yes.  I have 9 people in my family, including a car seat and booster, but when do we ever all go somewhere simultaneously?  My son is away at school, so if anything it would be the 8 of us, but when he’s home we take both cars – a similarly boring Toyota Camry.  Honestly, I couldn’t care less about the status of the car I drive, but the mini-van genre to me is so fuddy-duddy middle aged…. *sigh*.  Shockingly, this still bothers me every time I drive it.  I am fanatical about keeping it clean, as though to keep the demons at bay (“She’s let herself go…just look at the car…”).  Thank you, Alpaul Auto Wash.


No, it’s not mess hall.  We have a regular dining room and a regular table.  When we have company for Shabbos, we usually bring in an extra table and have the kids sit there, who usually spend a grand total of 2.4 seconds at the table before heading outside to the trampoline.  I have dishes for 16 – a wedding gift from my awesome grandparents.  Beyond that we are using disposables.  And often well before.  If we have more than two families at a time, this is deemed in my mind an “event” and I hire help.


My kids do laundry.  OK, pick your jaw up off the floor.  If a 16-year-old can operate a motor vehicle, can she not operate a washing machine?  Each child over bar or bat mitzvah is responsible to wash, dry, fold, put away, sort and otherwise manage her own laundry.  When my son comes home from yeshiva, I do it for him as a special treat.  I have cleaning help that folds the rest of the household laundry and irons.


I’ve hopefully taught my kids one of the golden rules of Jewish shopping: Be Allergic to Retail.  My grandmother taught me this well (traveling from Queens to Manhattan on a regular basis to pursue this goal) and my father-in-law reinforced it.  We also have a pretty decent hand-me-down system going.  If I feel my kids need less than they think, they have the option to buy with their own babysitting money.  I used to feel very strained by the errands involved in this until my daughter got her license.  I now feel like a got a “get out of jail free” pass – yay!  My husband and I are super-low-maintenance when it comes to clothing.  We all splurge on the baby – girls are just too much fun.


Growing up Orthodox, I never realized that there were parents whose discretionary time was nearly entirely consumed by their kids’ after-school activities.  Parents sat through play rehearsals?  Soccer was a full-time job?  This was completely foreign to me.  Sure, as a kid I played piano, acted, wrote, and did public speaking, but none of these activities involved my parents aside from paying for it and transporting me there.  There were siblings and jobs and dinner, and I had absolutely no expectation that my mother would sit through a play rehearsal.  Now, why should she want to do that?  She would see the real thing.  It would be a surprise.  So when I found people asking me how I managed my kids’ activities, at first I wasn’t quite sure what the question was.  Now I do, and here’s the answer.  Extra-curricular activities in large Orthodox families look like this: one kids takes drum lessons.  Mom drops off and picks up.  One kid is in the school play.  Stays after and carpools home.  Involves 2-3 months a year.  Sports are usually casual and take place in the driveway or backyard.  Kids occasionally get a gym or lawn to play something slightly more formal.  Again, we carpool.  With budgets and time constraints, no family schedule is working around any one kid’s activity.  Should I feel guilty about this?  Well, I don’t, so I hope that’s OK.


I have two categories of extended family: those that are wired, and those that are not.  By “wired” I mean Facebook, texting, email.  I keep up with my wired family members, and only speak on the phone occasionally to my non-wired family members.  I mean, it’s not like there are awkward silences or anything – it’s like riding a bike – but I have very little phone time.  We forgive each other and laugh about it and catch up when we catch up.  Again, should I feel guilty about this?  Well, I don’t, because it works for me and my family and we all know we love each other and would drop anything for one another in a pinch.

And that’s how I run my family like a family… and not an institution!

But somehow, I just can’t shake that Costco membership.

Uncategorized August 7, 2011

There Was an Old Woman II

I once had the honor of watching a Sesame Street episode where Kermit the Frog was interviewing the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.  For those that don’t recall, she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

I was curious, as was Kermit; how many children did she actually have?  How many, in fact was TOO many?

As it turns out, 8.


I have 7.

So apparently I don’t have SUCH a big family.

How do I manage with my crew?  I’ve been asked this many times.  Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:
  • In the various “Orthodox” circles where I travel, my family may be considered large, average, or “that’s a sneeze”.  Some people reading this may be chuckling at the notion that I have a lot on my plate.
  •  I am one of 7 kids.  So this feels normal to me.
  • My husband is one of 8 kids… he and Kermit may have something to talk about.
  • Did you ever notice that people think a “large family” is anything with more kids than they grew up with?  Likewise, a “small” family would be… anything smaller than they grew up with.  My, what an objective and scientific group us humans are.
  • Since my sibs and sibs-in-law are all used to this, as are many of my friends, we are not a novelty or a curiosity.  It’s considered normal for me to have a couple of friends’ kids or nieces/nephews for sleepovers or playdates; likewise, my kids would go over to friends, neighbors, or relatives even when they have a houseful.  Multiple pregnancies, nursing moms, and childbirth are all part of the fabric of lives.  We’re used to this and it’s part of the culture.  This implicit and practical support is everything.
  • I am the oldest girl and the second child in my family.  My mom is a very smart woman, and guided us to help in a way that was empowering and also taught us responsibility, commitment, and selflessness.  She let us help in ways that we wanted to by offering me choices (would you like to do the grocery shopping or bathe the kids?).  Contrary to some media reports I’ve seen, this did not make me resentful, neurotic, un-religious, or give me an eating disorder.  It made me a healthy, responsible member of society.  Did I always want to help?  NO.  But the doing when I wasn’t in the mood helped me get out of the selfish zone that many teens live in. 
  •  I loved my younger sisters and brothers.  (Okay, my older brother too.)  I sincerely was so excited each time my mother had another child.  My kids are like this too.  Once would be quite surprised at how kids in large families beg their folks to have more (assuming it’s a healthy household).  When I had six, my kids were literally hounding me: When are you going to have another baby??  So they LOVE getting the baby after a nap, feeding her Cheerios, walking her in the stroller, and…. Well, the diaper changing is still mainly my and my husband’s job. J
  • I hire paid help when I need to and I don’t consider it a luxury.  We don’t go on expensive vacations, and I buy clothes on the cheap, but help in the home is a total priority.  And I DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT.  Healthy mom, healthy kids.  It’s that simple.
  • My big kids totally help me (see #6).  Sometimes they love doing it, and sometimes they don’t, but girls and boys alike help out with: cleaning up, laundry, grocery shopping, various gofer errands around the house, setting the table and clearing away, babysitting, and, yes, even diaper changing.  Despite the effort this involves on my part, I am a firm believer that this is good for my kids (and for me).  Some call it Pyramid Parenting.  My husband and I are at the top, and we delegate to the younger ones to help out with the even-younger-ones.  It needs to be done with sensitivity so the goal is accomplished without resentment and we need to constantly check ourselves that each child receives adequate attention and alone-time.  Do I always succeed?  No, but I think for the most part we do OK.
  •  I pray.  As often as I can.  For many things, but specifically, that God should help me be a good parent, gift me with the wisdom to make the right decisions for my kids and the strength to care for them as they need.  For good health and good influences.  That they might grow up to be spiritual, healthy in body and mind, to do good deeds, be good Jews, honest and upright, marry well, and be a credit to all.
  • My husband and I are an absolute team.  We share the load, whether that load is physical, job-related, kid-related, house-related.  This is huge.
  •  Am I overwhelmed?  Sometimes.  Are parents of two kids ever overwhelmed?  Are non-parents sometimes overwhelmed??  We all get overwhelmed sometimes.  That’s OK.  That’s just life.

And finally, Kermit, I’d like to say that I think we need to get this family into reality TV… An elderly octomom, the whole living in the shoe piece… would you say??