You are approaching the finish line. In fact, if you are reading this article before Pesach has started, that is a good sign that you are conscious, are still able to formulate words and sentences, and haven’t experienced permanent damage from inhaled bleach fumes. Therefore, we can move on to thinking about chol hamoed. Because just when you think you can’t cook one more thing, your family will wake up the morning after a beautiful two days of Yom Tov and want … more food. Oh, and they also expect to do fun things, like trips that involve planning and directions and food that needs to be packed. This is all very real, especially because your kids will be forced to answer their friends’ intense scrutiny after Pesach,when they receive the inevitable “What did you do on chol hamoed?” questions from their friends.
Many of us will invariably have to experience an airport shortly, either because you are getting away for yom tov, or having friends and family come to you. I am here to give you three simple strategies for managing chol hamoed airport-style:
The Arrivals and Departures Monitor
The bigger the airport, the more intense the board is. A small airport may only have a few gates and times to list. The Atlanta airport’s boards, however, take up a huge wall with countless gates, arrivals, and departures. Same thing with your chol hamoed schedule.
What do I mean by an arrivals and departures board? A schedule. Something posted (I am serious) with times and places that give a semblance of order to the loosey-goosey type of week that this yom tov can be. Gone are the whines of “Where are we going?” “When are we leaving?” and “When will we come home?” Use the kids’ chalk board, or a dry-erase board, or the calendar on the fridge. Just make sure it is specific enough to give clear expectations of you — and them. List davening times, what time meals will be served, clean-up times, when the kitchen is closed (yes, you can do this and prevent 15 different breakfast shifts as long as they are given notice), what time the van is pulling out, what the activities of the day are, return time, dinner time, etc.
Do you have many kids and extended family members that you are responsible for feeding and entertaining? Big board needed. A quiet week with your immediate family still needs a board, just much smaller and lower key.
Yes, this takes some planning. However, it is well worth the effort if the flights leave on time and the passengers give high marks on the survey at the end of the trip!
They Don’t Serve Meals in Coach Anymore
It’s all peanuts and pretzels — or, on Pesach, macaroons and Bazooka gum. Unless you are going to a Pesach hotel (equivalent to the meals in first class), you are doing it all yourself. Nothing turns a smile into a frown more quickly than getting home from a great day in DC or at the park than starving kids (and husbands!). You need a plan at the beginning of the day for lunch and dinner. It doesn’t have to be hard or fancy, just a plan. Email me for some great and simple ideas, but a crockpot is your best friend this week. So is timed-bake on your oven. Ensuring that you have all of the ingredients on hand each morning before your departure will make for a more pleasant arrival. Don’t forget to mark on your Pesach lists what worked and what didn’t so you can repeat (or reject) for next year.
Frequent Flyers Get to Board First
Kids that help out during the week off can earn special things too. Children (and adults) tend to do better with structure. Ten days off from school does not lend itself well to structure, let alone the extremely late bedtimes, lots of sugar, and spending time with siblings and cousins. Airlines design their websites to entice travelers to fly more to achieve a higher status. Parents can do the same thing with their kids with a simple chart. Make a list of the daily activities (such as davening, cleaning up toys, sweeping, playing nicely with baby brother) and list all of the days the child is home from school. Give a check, a sticker, or anything else to mark off that it was completed. Children can earn their “status” by getting a pre-determined number of jobs completed. There is often no need for any elaborate prize. Sometimes a later bedtime, extra minutes on the computer, a family game, or a trip to the Dollar Store works. The achievement and pride can sometimes be more valuable than the actual prize if you start young enough!
Back to the question of “What did you do on chol hamoed?” The answer can now be, “Who remembers what we did? It was just so nice to spend time with my family.”
This is the termination of our flight. We hope you come back and travel with us again soon!
Next column: Spring has sprung! Time for sports… and more carpools!