Purim: Time to Dress Up and Bond

Some people know how to enjoy themselves.

One such person is my neighbor Stacey.

She is a mom of three.  Stacey says her motto is “’never grow up’!” and that “Peter Pan is my role model.”

She is a very creative person who enjoys acting, scrapbooking, creating, and counted cross stitch.

Gru, Minions, Despciable Me

Gru, Minions and Despicable Me – comes to the Jersey Suburbs (2014).

Stacey and her family have utilized that creativity as part of the celebration of the Jewish Holiday of Purim. Check out her story below.

Purim has always been my favorite Jewish holiday.

It tells of the near destruction of the Jewish people as decreed by Haman, the advisor to the king of Persia, Ahashuerus. However, newly crowned Queen Esther, is secretly a Jew. Due to her courage, she saves the Jews from evil Haman’s decree.

We celebrate Purim by giving extra charity, going to synagogue to hear the retelling of the story (and getting to shake noise makers whenever we hear Haman’s name), putting on costumes, giving and getting baskets of food, giving charity to the poor, and having a Purim feast.

I like everything about Purim.

As a kid, the Purim story was fun to hear. During my teenage years, I loved having one day a year where I got to see all my loved ones- friends and family.  And now as a mom of three boys, it is the perfect bonding time for my family.

The holiday gives us license to regress a bit and be a kid. My boys tell my husband and I that we neither look nor act our age (they say this as a compliment) and on Purim we get to let the child within us, out!

How do we do this? We take our dress up SERIOUSLY. In fact, my boys start thinking about our theme a year in advance!

It began when my eldest, was just 18 months, and we already had a lion costume. At the last minute I ran into a store and bought a teenager size Dorothy costume to ‘match’ my baby. I begged my husband to dress up but he adamantly refused. The night of Purim, as we were getting ready to go to sleep, he relented. “Fine, I’ll dress up.”

At the last minute, I scrambled and found old maternity size overalls, and an old broom. We managed to pull together a scarecrow costume which he wore for our Purim day. And so the tradition began.

Through the years we continued dressing up as a family, usually sticking with Disney themes. I always got ‘stuck’ with the girl role; my husband, with the ‘villain’ role.  And my boys continue to up the ante.

Toy Story 2 - Purim 2012

Toy Story 2 Purim 2012- Woody, Buzz, Jesse, Zurg and Jesse

Occasionally, I got off easy- store bought costumes- like when we were all the Incredibles – but usually my boys have more complicated requests…. like when we turned our teenager into a plastic army man from Toy Story (he needed help getting out of those duck taped pants— good thing we did a dress rehearsal or the kid would not have been able to move, let alone breathe!).

Then there was the year that I created a magic carpet to go for as part of an Aladdin costume for my then 5-year-old. I had an old tv tray- used posters and markers and drew a replica of the magic carpet that Disney created and then hung blue streamers from the table to serve as the ‘sky’ (and hide the table legs). However, a rinky dink tv table could barely hold a cup of juice let alone the weight of my son and Aladdin ‘needed’ to be flying on that carpet, so I proceeded to fill a pair of white pants with stuffing and glued them down on to the ‘carpet.’

Purim 2006 - Disney's Aladdin

Disney’s Aladdin- Purim 2006- Aladdin, Jafar, Jasmine and the Genie

As you can imagine, getting the costumes ready is occasionally stressful, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Disney's Monsters INC Purim 2013

Disney’s Monsters INC Purim 2013- Randall, Sulley, Mike Wazowski, Boo, CDA (child detection agency)

Dressing up as one theme and then trying to squish into our mid-size car fills my family and me with laughter. It gives us pictures and memories that will last a lifetime.

Yes, that’s Purim! What’s not to like?

Disney's Beauty & the beast- Purim 2011

Disney’s Beauty & the beast- Purim 2011- Belle, the Beast, Chip, Cogsworth and Lumiere

Mattress Buddies

That’s what SJ and I have been calling each other for the last few days. Actually, he came up with the name. I like it. So, I’ve been repeating it.

Mattress Buddies

SJ & Me: Mattress Buddies

Last week, I had an idea. I asked SJ if he wanted to have a campout. We would blow up the inflatable mattress and put it in the basement. I knew he would enjoy this.

SJ had asked many times if he could play on the mattress. And no matter how nicely he asked, he got the same answer. NO!

He said he would sleep later if someone else was in the bed. I wonder if this need will lead to issues when he reaches his upper teens. Great. Another worry.

Anyway, the blowup mattress had many benefits. SJ would be happy and my wife would have a shot at sleeping later.  Thinking of others – aren’t I swell!

Filling up mattress

SJ filling up the mattress

However, I haven’t told you the whole story.

I’ve been yelling at SJ – a lot. He’s darn cute and can be very funny and sweet, but he pushes my buttons – even more than his brother.

After a day of school and talking to kids who don’t listen, are rude, and act disrespectfully, I am out of patience. I come home and want my children to behave. The last thing I want is more issues with kids.

So, I end up yelling.

I try to console myself. I play, read, talk, and do homework with my children. I am an active and engaged father. Anyway, everyone yells and gets frustrated. That’s life.

I know that’s true. But, something has been nagging at me. I know there has been too much yelling lately.

I raise my voice or make a sudden movement, and my kids flinch. And it makes me feel like shit! Am I so terrible? Such a beast?

I told my wife, and she said the boys are skiddish. I agree 100%. But still, they flinch. My own kids. It’s not like I beat them or am some raging lunatic. I feel like crap.

A fellow blogger, Penny at Authentic Life Journeys, wrote about her issues with yelling at her son. We have been following each other’s blogs for a while. So, I emailed her about the yelling thing.

After our conversation, I decided to sit down and talk to SJ about the yelling. I was nervous. I didn’t know how to approach him. After all, he is seven and happy-go-lucky. Could he talk about something serious?

I was also embarrassed.

Well, we spoke for a while and hugged each other at the end. I promised him that I would try and do better. He promised he would try to be more understanding and not push.

That was a month ago, and we have had discussions on the Sundays since.

“I think it was a little better,” he told me during our first follow-up meeting.

“Really, that’s it? Only a little?” I couldn’t hide my disappointment. That week, I tried to be extra patient and not yell. While I knew there were slip-ups, I thought the improvement was significant.

I would have to do better.

SJ and I have now had four such meetings. We talk privately about how we think the week went and how we communicated (obviously not his word).  One week he told me it was good, but we needed to talk more.

It wasn’t enough to just not yell. SJ wanted us to spend time together, and he felt comfortable saying that to me. This was progress.

Last week, SJ told me it was a good week. We talked and I was mostly patient. It was the happiest I ever felt after receiving a progress report.

Yelling happens.  I am not proud of it.  I know that there are better ways to express anger, frustration, and disappointment. I’m doing better. And I am determined to keep striving.

I am already seeing the benefits of my reduced yelling. SJ and I are in a better place.

I’m ecstatic to have my mattress buddy.

Mattress Buddy

My Mattress Buddy

What Do We Owe Our Children?

What Do I Owe My Children?“I want a waterpark,” says my seven-year-old son.

“You can’t have a waterpark. Nobody has a waterpark.”

“I want you to build a waterpark in our backyard,” says my seven-year-old son.

“You can’t have a waterpark. Nobody has a waterpark. We can go to one, but we can’t have one.”

He is momentarily pacified.

“I need an iPad and you have to get it for me,” demands my nine-year-old.

“No, I don’t have to get you an iPad.” After several volleys back and forth, accompanied by threats of misbehavior, he eventually calms, though not contentedly.

What do I owe my children? This question has been on my mind since I first read about the Morris County teen who moved out of her parents’ house and then sued her parents in order to make them pay for her college tuition, room, board, transportation, and other expenses. She seems to believe that they have to do this.

Visit the Good Men Project to read the rest of this post

Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening

Lovely Dark and Deep Woods – Makes me want to stop by woods on a snowy evening

“How many of you wanted to ignore your alarm this morning?”

Every student’s hand went up. And so did mine.

“Right. That’s what I figured you would say. I’m sure each of you have your reasons for getting up and coming to class today. However you break it down, ultimately, each of us felt obligated to come to class and get out work done. It’s about responsibility.”

These words were part of the conversation I had with my high school class about Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

While the bed is not the same as the woods referred to in the poem and Frost clearly meant to appreciate nature, the students understood what I meant and could relate it to Frost’s poem. In fact, a number of them noted that Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening was their favorite of the ones we learned this term.

From there we discussed responsibility verses relaxation. They are old enough to understand and appreciate commitments. Many of them complained of being tired.

Did you know this famous American poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening was written in 1922? Why is that date relevant?

Well, how often does it seem that we in our generation are overwhelmed by our obligations?  We wonder why conveniences such as the microwave, computer and cell phone have made our lives more filled, rushed, and stressful. We yearn for a time when things were simpler.

Yet Frost’s aged poem which takes place in the presumably quaint outskirts of a small town, focus on the narrator’s inability to rest and appreciate nature. No, he must move on and get back to town and his obligations. He has work to do.

Is his time period so different from ours?

This poem is on my mind not simply because I taught it to a class this week.  But because I am struggling to feel on top of things.  If only I had 25, 26, 27 hours, maybe then I could finish…

No, that’s not it.

I go to bed after 12 and am up at 5:30 (half the times with my son in my bed but that’s another story). I know I need more sleep, but I can’t get it.

I’ve tried.

The only way I fall asleep these days during the workweek is if I am exhausted. My mind races as I review have to’s and obligations.  If I would spend more time working on completing these tasks and less time thinking…

Yet, it seems completion of one task makes me recognize two more that need to be accomplished. So, I think more. And worry. And concern myself.

I want to stop in those The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   woods [that] are lovely, dark, and deep,

Yet, I have much to do.

In fact, I have miles to go before I sleep.

Photo Credit: Mrs. MMK. Great photographer – isn’t she!!!!