Mini Pretzels & Cheesy Whale Crackers

One of the things that I loathe about my Passover cleaning is cleaning my kids’ car seats. If there is one place that is a leavened product-magnet it is my kids’ car seats. Whether it is Popcorners, or rice cakes or a bagel on-the-go, it seems that those things can never get cleaned. Without Passover, their seats might always be gross. Are you with me?

So the other day, after removing all of the padding and shifting the buckles and straps, as I was vacuuming their car seats outside on a beautiful, warm day, I saw a half of a mini pretzel and a cheesy whale cracker stuck in a tiny crevice of the little one’s seat. Lovely.

But no problem here because…

My mom just won a new Dirt Devil as a door prize and she passed on her winnings to me, just in time for Passover.  (Thanks, Mom).  I took out the smallest attachment and put it on the vacuum. I was excited to suck up the food pieces with it.

dirt devil

But no such luck.

Even the smallest vacuum attachment could not reach those pieces of hametz, leavened snacks.

I immediately began to worry. How would I sleep at night during Passover knowing that a half of a mini pretzel and a cheesy whale cracker was stuck in her car seat? Would my declaring all of my leavened products like dust in the earth be good enough when these snacks were much larger than a speck of dust? Since I cannot own leavened products on Passover, would my temporary selling of it to someone who was not Jewish satisfy, even though I can see it?

I tried to get it with my fingers. Nothing. Maybe my small pinky? Nope.  That didn’t work either. I ran inside to get a handful of Q-tips. Surely that would do the trick. But even the Q-tip could not dislodge the hametz from its hiding spot.

The fact that I was so concerned about this made me feel – for a slight second – righteous, as if God saw my determination as even a little bit worthy. Do I get an “A” for effort?

I moved to my other daughter’s car seat, as if taking a break to clean the second car seat would loosen the hametz from the crevice of the first one. It didn’t. Because after cleaning the second seat, the half of mini pretzel and cheesy whale cracker were still there in the first one.

I became frustrated and so I decided to bang on the side of the car seat, as if to use force to dislodge the hametz. I thought of my kids singing “Bang, bang, bang, dig your hammers low…” – that kids’ Passover song that describes the slaves in Egypt. But the banging didn’t work either. And then, in a last ditch effort, I decided to do something a little different. I turned over the car seat and shook it a bit. And then…out popped the half of a mini pretzel and cheesy whale cracker onto the blacktop of my driveway. Uh-mazing!

I took a moment to celebrate and then I paused to think about my methodology in getting it out.

I had been pushing and pulling, picking and prying at those things, all to no avail. I had used all sorts of instruments to suck it out, pull it out, and poke it out. And then, when I finally took a completely different approach – turning the entire car seat upside down, something finally shifted – and it didn’t even happen by force.

Isn’t that true of life, too?

I instantly thought about areas of my life where I tried to control, force, or push my own agenda, thoughts, feelings and hopes. Sometimes this was at the detriment of my family members or my co-workers, and other times, I realized that I was the only one that lost out.

Sometimes to get rid of the hametz, of that which bogs us down in life, we have to shift our perspective or our understanding. Sometimes to remove the schmootz, the goop of our lives, or to move on from a problem, we just have to see it with new eyes, or try not to force that which cannot be pushed.

And when we do that, we are blessed with showers of mini pretzels and cheesy whale crackers that pop out, completely on their own.

Isn’t it amazing how things just fall into place when we don’t try to force them?



There was a time when I would cry over spilled milk.

There was a time when I would cry over spilled milk.

I remember the time when I literally cried after pumping breast milk for dozens of minutes, only to spill the entire bottle on the plastic, laminate countertops of my then-Long Island home. Even though I was blessed with enough milk to donate to babies in the NICU – and I needed to purchase a large storage freezer for the sole purpose of storing my milk – those mere eight ounces of breast milk felt like gold to me.

Or there were the times when I would get my kids ready for bed at night, pouring milk into their sippy cups and accidentally knocking the cups over before I sealed them. Somehow, at the end of a long day with two young children, this would push me over the edge. I would cry over spilled milk.

And then there were times when the spilled milk of my life was dumped in other ways – like the times I lost sleep at night over something that happened at work or the time when I internalized, while still nursing baby, that I would soon be a single mom.

With Passover soon upon us, I just began my lengthy to-do list of my pre-Passover insanity. This year, because my head happened to be in my storage freezer searching for frozen bagels to consume (or rather, to feed to my kids), I found a bag of random stuff. When I opened the bag, I noticed two items inside: frozen cheesecake from last Shavuot (I know) and plastic bags of pumped breast milk. I looked at the dates on the breast milk bags. They were two years old. This means that I didn’t get rid of them last Passover.

It doesn’t surprise me that I didn’t throw them out last year. Back then, I was still hanging onto the baggage in my life – the stressors of work and single parenthood, the woes of relationships, the pain of one more loss. And although I believe that muddling through our pain is the best way to get beyond it, at least back then, dumping my expired breast milk down the drain just felt like one more loss and one more dream unfulfilled. They would stay in the freezer next to the frozen corned beef.

I thought I would always have at least three kids. Then life happened. Needless to say, it was difficult for me to stop nursing my second child. As beautiful as it was to see her become more self-sufficient, I enjoyed the bonding, the comfort and our time together. Selfish, I know, but I did not want it to end, especially knowing that she might be my last.

When I stopped nursing my baby, I began finding other ways of clinging on to my dream of another child. I kept every article of clothing, all the baby toys and even my pumping parts, should I be blessed with another pregnancy at some point.

But one day, in the middle of a yoga session, I realized that I already had everything I needed.

Before I was a mom, like Hannah in the Bible, I found myself praying for a child. After years of infertility, countless rounds of fertility injections and IVF, I would finally have a baby. And then, years later, another. I was blessed with not one, but two healthy children.

Just last night my daughter said to me, “Mommy, do you like being a rabbi?”

“Yes, honey. I love being a rabbi.”

“But do you love being a Mommy even more?” she asked, with a slight reservation in her tone.

“Yes, dear. I love you two more than anything else in the whole, wide world.”

And the truth is, isn’t that enough?

Two nights ago, I put my old breastmilk on the counter to thaw and just last night I poured it down the drain. I didn’t even shed a tear. As I looked at the golden milk swirling around my stainless-steel sink, I noticed residual pieces of soggy broccoli from last night’s dinner. The juxtaposition of the leftover food and my milk was powerful, as the green residue enveloped my milk with a mundane sanctity.

breast milk down the drain

“It’s just spilled milk,” I told myself.

And then, I moved on.

This year, as I continue my Passover to-do list, I’m feeling a bit freer than last. I’m free of the “should-be’s” and “must-haves.” I’m learning to live with the spoils of the spilled milk of my life. In fact, in addition to getting rid of my hametz, my leavened food, I’m also ridding my home of bags of baby clothes and heaps of toddler toys. I will drop them off at a local women and children’s shelter, where my hametz will be someone else’s treasure.

Sometimes pouring your own milk down the drain is a deeply liberating feeling.