One of my children (who shall remain nameless but knows perfectly well who she is!) upended a large tray of cookies onto the living room couch the other night. “Pesach is coming!” I shrieked.

“But the room isn't yet cleaned for chametz,” she pleaded. “What's the big deal?”

I polled my friends. Did I overreact?

“I would have been over the edge if it happened in October,” said one. “Definitely nervous breakdown material,” nodded another.

I calmed down but erupted again when the same child (I hope you're reading this!) sat eating crackers (very crumbly ones I might add) in the aforementioned living room.

And yet I know it's irrational. The house will get cleaned -- even if I have to do it myself! (Oh yeah, I do! No wonder I'm frustrated…) The crumbs will be swept or brushed or vacuumed away. We will, please God, sit down to a delicious meal on Passover night in a chametz-free environment.

The only question is: What state I will be in when we get there (and along the way)?

The real couch is our character; the real crumbs, our negative traits.

If I spend the preparation time yelling at my children, am I really getting rid of the chametz? We are taught that the chametz/leaven symbolizes ego. The real clean-up is a spiritual one. The real couch is our character; the real crumbs, our negative traits.

If I am on edge and testy with everyone as we get ready for the holiday, then I've missed the point. If our home is physically clean but spiritually a mess, then my preparations are incomplete. If I don't sit down to the Seder with a smile on my (tired) face, then my home is still full of chametz.

So I'm regrouping. I'm taking a deep breath. I'm taking many deep breaths (I'm hyperventilating!) I'm focusing on the atmosphere I want to create and the person I'd like to be.

I may still get frustrated (who put the Cheerios in my eyeglass case?!). I may be a little tense (What cabinet did that cup come out of?), but I'm trying to be better. I'm really trying to get rid of my chametz. I haven't succeeded yet but I'm asking the Almighty for help. Maybe this is the year I will truly become free.