It’s a Safety Issue

I am a subscriber to a number of blogs. One which I particularly enjoy is A Teachable Mom ( The writing is top notch and the subjects are diverse and interesting. I highly recommend you check out the blog.

Today, I present to you a guest post from A Teachable Mom.  Thanks so much to ATM. Read this post about ATM’s thoughts on cleanliness and you will see why I speak so highly of the blogger.

Despite what my children, husband, friends and family members enemies may tell you, I’m a fairly sane and even-tempered person. Mostly.

I also may be a teeny, tiny bit anal in my need for order and tidiness. It’s a lovable quality. Mostly.

Unfortunately, my aversion to messiness is a repeat lighting rod in my marriage; the cause of many arguments. My husband, Mike, and I are clear we’re not really fighting about clutter, chaos and crayons. We’ve been told dozens of times that we’re really fighting about power: who has it, who wants it and who’s going to keep the other from getting more. Sound like fun? I agree!

Unfortunately, I’m the one who pays good money for a therapist to remind me that I can be right or be happy. Not both. Not fair.

My therapist also is adept at pointing out that control is one of my flaws. As much as I prod and push him, he refuses to point out Mike’s flaws. That must cost extra.

We can all agree that my therapist’s reluctance forces me to point out Mike’s flaws for him. Today I’ll focus on one of his biggest: obliviousness.

Mike is oblivious to messes. He can look at this room and think, “You know, I think we could use a ceiling fan in here. I’ll head over to Home Depot now and get one.”


Photo Credit: evelynishere Flickr/Creative Commons

I look at this room, and I can’t breathe. I must sit down. But wait! There’s nowhere to sit. Even though it is only a picture of a messy room, I must sit down. Hyperventilating here!

Mike is able to walk over piles of clothes, underwear and toys in a single step and never look back. Every night he reads numerous books to our four year old daughter, Rhys, and doesn’t mind stacking the books on the floor in makeshift piles instead of putting them back on the bookshelf.

Here’s a typical interaction between us:

Me: Mike, can you help Rhys pick up her weeks’worth of underwear and clothes off the ground and put the books back on the bookshelf when you’re finished reading them.

Unspoken communication: I really mean right now. Who do you think comes and restacks the books on the bookshelf? The f**king library fairy?

Unfortunately, our marriage doesn’t flourish if I repeat every nasty thought I have in my head. I tend to come across as controlling and bitchy – even though I’m just being helpful! Truly.

So I have a new strategy. A wise friend recently reminded me that as long as I couch any request as a “safety issue,” I’m good to go.

Here’s my redo:

Me: Mike, honey, I’m concerned about your and Rhys’ safety. With all those books around, you could trip and twist an ankle. I hate the thought of you not being able to run or play basketball if you tripped over all those books. Would you put the books back on the bookshelf when you’re done reading them? It’s really a safety issue. Thank you.

Should work like a charm.

Occasionally, my anal tendencies desert me. A few weeks back, my husband took the girls to visit his family in Michigan. I enjoyed our house by myself for a blissful 29 hours. During this time, I noticed something odd. Messiness is comforting. And so much easier. I left dishes in the sink overnight, left groceries on the counter and newspaper and books strewn across the kitchen. Relaxing!

Apparently, when it’s my mess, I’m perfectly happy to ignore it. When a loved one’s mess is added to mine, I go postal. Curious, don’t you think?

My friends tell me I’m nuts lovable. Every parenting expert, book and blog warns that children and neat homes have never co-existed peacefully on this planet. Even though I believe this is true, I’m insanedetermined to be the first. Here’s my plan:

No matter what it takes or the fallout that ensues, we will get our house organized once and for all. And then we’ll keep it like that. We won’t touch anything. Our house will be a museum. That sounds so fun! To me.

Unfortunately, our daughters have other ideas about order and organization. Apparently tidiness is not fun. Who knew?

I have failed in my quest to teach my girls to put away things they take out. This was my sole reason for desperately wanting them to go to Montessori school. In Montessori, kids learn to return one toy to its designated place before taking out another.

For this reason alone, I think Maria Montessori was a genius! She also may have been a tad anal. (I love her for that!)

Unfortunately, we weren’t accepted to any Montessori schools. (Perhaps the school administrators were so awed by my organizational abilities, they didn’t feel worthy of teaching my progeny? Something like that.) Either way, Montessori was not our fate (apparently the universe prefers to give me repeated practice with letting go of my anal tendencies) and the messes continue.

I’m also one of those people, the sane few, who straighten up the house before our housekeeper comes for her monthly cleaning spree. While my husband cannot comprehend this, I want you, dear reader, to hear me out. I refuse to pay someone to clean, only to come home to a clean, messy house. I want a clean, neathouse. And I make everyone miserable making sure I get one. Once a month.

If you are one of those people who straighten the house before a housekeeper comes to clean (or would if you had a housekeeper), please raise your hand. Thank you. I count, hmmm, let’s see … everyone? I’ll consider that scientific proof that everyone sees the wisdom in this practice. I believe we have a consensus: to not straighten up before a housekeeper visits is, in fact, insane. And a safety issue.


Together We Ride

We all want those big moments. The “aha” moment, the moment when we see the light, and the moment where everything makes sense. To quote Bruce Springsteen, “some people spend their whole life waiting for moment that just don’t come. Don’t waste your time waiting.”

Recently I wrote a post entitled “The Fearful Rider.”  The post focused on the challenges I have been facing as I try to teach my son, BR, how to ride a bike. It has not gone particularly well. He is struggling, and I am struggling with teaching him. I have not ridden a bike for years – just a couple of times since I was hit by a car as an 11-year-old boy.

BR had been bicycling around the block showing halting progress. He was mildly interested at best.  After a week of practice, he spent a week at his grandmother’s house. Upon his return home, he had no interest in practicing again, and I had no interest in fighting him.  Things were at a standstill.

Then, I came up with an idea.  And BR bought into it. I suggested we ride a tandem bike together when we were on vacation. I figured that when this ride went well, BR would feel comfortable and confident to ride on his own. It was my intention to get him to practice as part of this upcoming ride. That, unfortunately, did not happen.

When we got the Jersey shore, BR asked me about when we are going to go on a bike. His fear seemed to have completely evaporated and was replaced by excitement. I was thrilled. I had grand visions of BR and me gliding along the boardwalk.  We would be basking in the ocean breezes. We would engage in intermittent chatting about how great it was to be together on a bike.

On Wednesday morning, after we woke up, we had breakfast (we skipped the PED’s – save ‘em for the Tour De France). It was a beautiful morning –humidity free and cloudless. We got to the bike rental place at just after 8:30, paid for and received a bike, and strapped on our helmets.  By this point, I was nervous. Yes, I was nervous about BR. However, I was even more nervous about myself. After all, I had not been on a bike for years. Now, not only was I getting on a bike for the first time, but I was putting my own son’s safety at risk. Maybe I could not ride a bike anymore. Was the saying you never forget how to ride a bike true?

Well, BR and I were given the green light to ride away. It was not steady going. We decided to walk the bike up the slope to the boardwalk. We got to the side of the boardwalk and got back on the bike again. We wobbled. Each BR shake or jerk shook the bike. We almost fell. But we didn’t. We stayed upright and bumped along.  We struggled on the turns.

As BR and I rode, I realized that I felt comfortable. I enjoyed riding. I did not forget. What about BR? “We should do this again, this is easy,…”    Later on after two stops, BR was ready to hand the bike in early. “My legs hurt, I’m tired, sorry for jerking the bike.”

So, BR and I rode a bike together. It wasn’t perfect. The ride didn’t change everything and make BR  eager to ride a bike himself. However, he enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it. We both conquered some of our fears. That is a moment worth savoring.

Vacation Enthusiasm

Vacation is all I ever wanted. Vacation — have to get away.

The Go-Gos

We like to wait till the last week of summer for our vacation. It gives us something to enjoy before the return of the routine. Anyway, my family and I are on vacation at the Jersey Shore (no television cameras in sight).  Family vacations with young children are judged by different standards. Relaxation is out.  Get real. Go, go, go is in. That going has been lots of fun.

I have a confession. Please don’t go to the authorities. My children are destroying our environment. Not very The Lorax of them.

My children are responsible for beach erosion. BR, in particular, is a mobile sandstorm. He, along with his cousin, built a mountain by the ocean. By the time he left the beach he was covered in sand – so much in his ears I don’t know how he heard – and erosion was occurring.

The oceans are receding. And I know why. SJ loves the ocean. He dives into the waves. He ends up swallowing mouthfuls of water (despite my repeated objections).  It leads to him burping like a frat brother and the recession of the seas.

BR wallowed in the sand. He did not care that it got in every crevice of his body. He did not pay any mind to the itchy annoying feeling created when sand sticks to one’s body. When the water came up and knocked down his mountain of sand, BR neither complained nor yelled. He surveyed the situation and moved back further on to the beach. Shovel in hand, he got to work with a smile on his face.

SJ got knocked down and pushed around by the waves. Each time he got back up, turned around, and headed right back in to the water. The salt water swished into his eyes. He squinted his eyes and rubbed them against my shirt (which was also wet). He prepared for the next wave and smiled.

Isn’t youthful enthusiasm great? The children don’t accept no. Whether it’s their creations getting destroyed or their bodies knocked down, they get back up. They don’t allow anything to stop their fun.

Determination, resilience, and joy. Great, isn’t it! I could certainly learn a lesson from my boys’ youthful enthusiasm.

Couldn’t you?


I’m nervous. I don’t want to make a fool of myself.

On Saturday morning at around 9:00 a.m., I will be chanting words from the weekly Torah portion. Well, chanting is what I am supposed to do, but with my voice, that is an optimistic thought. Anyway, I will be doing this in front of a small group, maybe 20 (my wife and children won’t even be there). The portion I am doing is tiny – less than 100 words and will take me (should at least) less than two minutes.

So, there is no real reason to be nervous, but yet, I am.

What’s the worst that could happen? I could butcher the words, sweat profusely, or choke uncontrollably.  Or, I could feel embarrassed and disappointed in myself.

Why am I putting myself through this? Am I a glutton for punishment? Maybe, but I have a reason for wanting to chant the Torah. I’ve never done it before. My bar mitzvah was nearly thirty years ago. I did not read from the Torah but instead read the haftorah. I was nervous. While sitting in front of the congregation, which included all my family and friends, awaiting my moment, I got the hiccups. That helped my nerves. I used to get the hiccups all the time as a child, and they could last for up to an hour. Somehow, I overcame the hiccups and got through the reading. The reading went pretty well, though I could have been louder, if I do say so myself.

Since I became a regular synagogue goer about 15 years ago, I have wanted to read from the Torah. It is an honor and a privilege. I have been especially thinking about taking the leap this summer. I had some time to put into study, and I am not sure when this spare time will come again. So, now I find myself anxiously awaiting Saturday morning. Till then, I am practicing and practicing. Well, at least unlike my bar mitzvah, I don’t have to worry about my voice cracking though I do still get the occasional zit and hiccups.

Uggh, more things to worry about.

Wish me luck.