Our family started 2014 with an adventure: A trip to LA for Brent’s cousin’s son’s bar mitzvah. Oh, how I really wish I could have just typed “a trip to Hawaii just for fun.” But no, Los Angeles is where we headed last weekend. Our destination: a lovely, primarily Jewish, suburb of Beverly Hills.

Brent and I had hesitated quite a bit before we decided to take all four kids down to celebrate with his family down south. As I have explained before, our kids are a handful and we hesitated primarily because we didn’t think we could make it down and back without too much physical, mental, and emotional discomfort.  Initially we said “no” we weren’t going to go, but then the guilt set in.

I have learned that saying “no” is a difficult word for me to say.  I struggle saying it to my children and I struggle saying it to friends and family. And saying “no” to family doesn’t come without receiving phone calls expressing disappointment. Not only did we receive such phone calls, but I also thought about how I would feel if this were my important event. I would want my extended family to attend our daughter’s bat mitzvahs, so it struck home the importance of us attending.

Our plan was to fly down Friday morning from SFO on a quick one-hour-plus flight to LAX. My anxiety was heightened as I packed Thursday evening. Packing for four children even for just a weekend was daunting. In addition to luggage and necessities, I packed each child a backpack with coloring books and activities to keep them busy on the flight. I also packed hand sanitizers, juice boxes, and snacks to minimize “I’m hungry,” whining.

Despite my nervousness, we had minimal issues getting through security, but I must have had a freaked out look written all over my face because a young woman handed me her free drink ticket just after we made it through TSA’s checkpoint. It was very nice of her, but I still hung my head in shame. I felt like a freaked out freak.

The weekend went on with some very nice moments with family mixed with moments of sheer insanity; moments that made me want to hop a flight home a day early. When both Rocky and Harper ended up in our bed and left us with little sleep on Saturday, my husband and I found ourselves calling Southwest to see if we could get a return flight home that day. When we found it was $1,000 to change our flight, I was the only one who seriously considered the cost being worth it.

Thankfully, we saved our money and got a good night’s sleep Saturday night. Sunday we made it back safe and sound with all four of our kids, their dolls, important blankies, and teddy bears in tow.

As we sat at the dinner table Sunday night and looked back on the weekend, Brent and I felt some sadness, as we reflected not on the children’s behavior that made our weekend so challenging, but our own.

Had it been absolutely necessary for him to tell me to relax on more than one occasion? And even if he did, was it necessary for me to get upset with him for doing so, firing back at him in such a public way? Could I have been lighter with the kids during the trip or did I need to be so tense the entire time? As we sat at our kitchen table praying together that our au pair didn’t quit after accompanying us on this trip, I realized that there was much room for improvement from the leaders of our family. There was much room for improvement from me.

Now, with almost a full week completed after our journey, I feel like the trip taught me more about myself than I knew it would. Besides getting to bare witness to an incredibly courageous young man read from the Torah in a way that inspired awe, it gave me an opportunity to see the ways in which I want to change as a mother and a wife. I realized that I can be the great holdout when it comes to my family.

What I mean is that I often expect certain behaviors from my children or my husband and can be so immersed in that expectation that I sometimes don’t check myself. As I figuratively ripped my husband’s face off after he insisted I relax in the airport that day, I could have been the one that smiled or held his hand and just practiced breathing.

Even at home when I am not traveling, I realized that I often get so wrapped up in what we have to do: homework, getting out the door on time, packing lunches, getting dressed, making dinner, baths, bedtime, etc., and I forget to make the little things light and fun. I can be the great holdout of lightness and laughter.

Tonight I played snakes with my children (a silly game I just made up). We stayed up late reading stories. I put down my iPhone and I played My Little Ponies.  Every day this week I have kissed my husband when he came home from work. I have asked him about his day and I didn’t hold out on expressing my love for him or my family. The television has not been on. Sure dinner ended up being a little later, bedtime was a little bit later, the kitchen was a little bit messier, but the result was my full heart getting fuller and my family feeling even closer.

In my hurriedness, in my busyness, I had forgotten that to “be the change you wish to see in the world” one must start at home.

I have a feeling this is going to be a great year.

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