Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Hanukkah Meme

Thanks to Homeshuling for her Holiday version of the Jewish Mommy Meme. My answers below. Post yours in comments!

One menorah, or several? Hillel or Shammai? (just kidding about that part)
We have three. Oil for Abba, Candle for Imma, Stuffed for Chamudi.

Do you buy your children gifts for every night of Chanukah?
Yes, but many are small, and some are from grandparents.

Do you and your spouse/partner or any other adults in your life exchange gifts?
Yes, either we buy each other a gift or we go in together on something bigger for the family.

Special family chanukah traditions?
Abba makes latkes and sufganiyot, and we have at least one Shabbat meal that is unrepentantly fried.

Latkes or sufganiyot? If latkes, sour cream or applesauce?
We love both! We're more of an applesauce crowd for latkes, though.

Favorite chanukah book?
Runaway Dreidl

Do you actually play dreidl? If so, what do you use for counters?
We spin, but don't count with Chamudi yet. If with cousins, we use candy.

What relationship, if any, do you have with Christmas and all things Christmas-y?
None! Though I like the songs...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Women's Work

So I've been working on a book chapter about Fordism/Taylorism (as in, the assimilation of immigrants through assembly line labor in America) and labor poets. So I've been thinking a lot about 1. what is "American" about certain systems of production and 2. why gender roles in America create so much grief for working women (that is, women who receive compensation for their labor by working outside of the home, as opposed to women who do not receive compensation because they work in the home).

The two concerns dovetail for me this week with the Publisher Weekly list of top ten books of 2009. Forget that we've still got 1/6 of the year to go before 2009 ends. What caught my eye is that there were no books by women listed among the top ten, and only 29 were listed in the top 100. This is the year when our poet laureate is a woman, the winner of the Man/Booker prize is a woman, the Nobel Prize in literature is a woman, and I could go on, but shabbat comes in early today, so I won't right now.

The reviews editors say they were "disturbed" by the lack of women, but they wanted the "best" books, without regard to gender. Susan Steinberg has an interesting and funny meditation on disturbance here.

But what I've noticed is that in recessions years, The New York Times Best-of list seems to exclude women, too. This was the case in 2001 and 1991. (In 1988 women were also excluded. This was the year of Stephen Hawkings and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, so okay, maybe).

I know there was a backlash after WWII, when women had to return home from factories when the men came home from war. And I know that men are disproportionally losing jobs in this year's economy. Especially since health care and education are relatively stable (despite the recent firing of 200 teachers in the DC district. Boo).

But I was surprised at the venom that has been poured on women who are protesting the PW picks. Maybe it has to do with the value we place on women in general. This is a country that has been listed as the second worst placeto raise children in the developed world, better only than Great Britain, according to UNICEF in 2006. It has the shortest maternity leave for women, and men don't have paternity leave unless their companies give it to them. Pregnancy is considered an illness, actually, in terms of maternity leave and health insurance. Ovaries are, in some states, considered "pre-existing conditions" in terms of insurance policies. Which is why women are more expensive to insure in some states.

I'm not sure why all this is true. But it seems to have something to do with our work ethic. This week's post is really just inquiry. I'm still thinking about it all.

I should also note that I do not dislike my America. I am only thinking about how it can be made better for women and children.

Monday, November 02, 2009

This probably isn't legal in America

I love, love this wildly verbal stage my nearly-three-year-old daughter is in.
But it’s sometimes pretty weird. Like the time she asked me, “do you know how much I love you, Ima?” No, how much? “Twenty dollars!”
Uh… okay, then. But let’s not mention it out and about. It sounds like I’m employed in the oldest profession.
[note to the reader: she did not get that from me. Except the “do you know how much I love you part.”]

She did ask me once why I had to go to work and (sob) leave her alone. And I explained we needed money so that we could buy food and clothes.
The next day she asked me if I was going to work to get some money, and when I said yes, she explained, “Ima, we have enough money today. Please don’t go to work.”

So what I’m getting in the verbal torrent is that my daughter is negotiating work and home life. Which isn’t really weird, since that’s what I’m doing now that we have childcare 5 days a week instead of 4.

My daughter’s favorite game is currently “I’m going to the office, I’ll pick you up when you wake up from your nap.” Which is sweet, because I'm an academic, and having "the office" to go to makes me sound like I have a job with lots of power and prestige. She’ll shut the door of whichever room I’m in, take my purse, and disappear. Then she’ll reenter the room and announce, “I’m back!” at which point I’m expected to run into her arms and give her a big hug.
Why is it that a child with such a short attention span can play the same game for, I don’t know, an hour straight?

Sometimes I act like she does when I drop her off from work, and I’ll beg, “don’t leeeeeave me!” and she gets a really concerned look on her face, and, with a tone of voice that mimics mine to a T, she will say, “I don’t want to, baby, but I have to go teach students.”

Of course, this is also the stage at which my daughter considers “why why why why why why why why why, why why why why why why whywhywhywhy” a legitimate conversation. Indeed, I asked her, “Darling, are you trying to drive me crazy?” and she answered “no, Ima, I’m trying to talk to you.”

Thank goodness for the Nobel Book of Answers. If 22 Nobel Prize winners can’t answer the questions my daughter is asking, then I can’t be expected to answer them either. She can answer them herself and get her own Nobel Prize.

Of course, sometimes she is trying to drive me crazy: Ima? Mami? Mima? Ima? Ima!!!!
And I’m like, “what? What? What? What? What? What?”
And she’s “Ima! Mima! Mami!”
So then I go, “light of my eyes, love of my life, my pride and joy, mi vida, mi cielo, mi amor,”
And she laughs and says, I’m not your cielo!”

But if you plan to use humor to derail the mind-boggling repetition, it’s important to get in there before your brain goes numb. Which is always a danger in my house.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

No Halloween Conundrum Here

Last night I took my son trick or treating. I imagine that many of you will rightfully censure me because of my reluctance to take a hard-line against such an open embrace of goyishe culture, and it's not that I don't agree with you. I say no to treif food, to TV on Shabbat, to all kinds of things. For my family, I draw all kinds of lines. But this happens to be one line I am not willing to draw.

I grew up being sent trick or treating with friends while my house remained dark. For some reason, I see this as a compromise that is more stigmatizing than a real choice. To me, it said, "We will let you celebrate this ridiculous holiday, but don't want to be seen as endorsing it ourselves."

But today, I choose to let my son celebrate Halloween because I don't want to live in that divide, and I don't want to raise a child to be doubtful about where he stands. In this world of being able to be both and both, of whatever category that is, a little bit this and a little bit that, I want to make a clear statement that it is excellent to be a model of integrity regardless of what kind of Jew you are, what kind of community you belong to, and what kind of person you are.

So we gave out candy that was all hechshered, we went only after Shabbat was over, and we did not dress up in any way that would glorify death or violence. If I'd have been gutsy, I would have handed out little UNICEF boxes or something to help kids collect for UNICEF (but I'm not sure if that's done anymore?). We also ended the evening at a special Halloween havdallah complete with spooky incantations (brachot) and a flaming kos yayin (wine cup).

I see it as my job as a parent to help my son live a life of integrity. Sure, he's only a few months shy of 5, but if he smells any whiff of hypocrisy, he'll make sure to say it aloud. We make our compromises where we must, and others we embrace. It's this one that makes me feel good that I made it possible for him to be a part of something bigger, something fun, and kept it consistent with my values.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

An exciting thing happened...

...while I was on vacation. I got a phone call for a placement! I was in Miami at the time, and the little girl in question is younger than my license allows, so I had to say no. Nevertheless, excitement.

Perhaps someday soon there will be a little one in my life?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Signs and Wonders & sorrel soup

All during Yom Kippur I prayed for guidance--what should I do this coming year? Should I accept the tenure-track offer at an Israel University, or shall I stay here in the States?
Let me tell you, signs are not for the thin-skinned or the weak of heart. I got my sign, all right. We're moving.

We're moving although my parents just lost their farm and livlihood and are coming out of cancer treatment.
We're moving although our significant other left us the first week of September (I say "us" because really, my daughter and I were a unit to him).
We're moving even though it might mean having to teach at both universities for six weeks, with me flying back and forth in the spring.
We're moving, though I don't know where we'll get the energy because both my girl and I are slammed with a bad cold? a flu? I don't know. Moving my body hurts...just think about how much it will hurt to move all of our effects.

We're going Israel citizenship route.

Let me just say that this has been the worst 6 months of my life (with the exception of the last six months of 2006). Each week there is some new gawd-awful thing to cope with, and for the last month my only goal has been to make it through each day. Honestly, if it's not part of my calendar or daily routine, I simply forget what I promised I'd do. I think it's a kind of shock.

Though it has sucked, at least the results have been okay so far. The custody case in May was awful, but it turned out okay--I mean, it's great to have the clarity and child support and permission to move out of country; the loss of the farm was awful, but it looks like my family be fine after they adjust. Uprooting from a dreamy community, after we finally got a 2-bedroom apartment this month and a garden plot in May and a place in a preschool my daughter loves to pieces is going to be really hard, but we're trusting that we're moving onwards and upwards.

Soon I'll be reporting from Tel Aviv. Anyway, I already feel like I'm in Israel: at my interview with the Jewish agency the interviewee couldn't help herself and started arguing with me about why I want to live in Tel Aviv and not a surburb, where it's cheaper.

Let me end this with a recipe. The sorrel from our garden inspired this, and our colds have made it useful. This is a sorrel soup, hearty, tangy, and wonderful. I adapted it from Claudia' Rodin. It makes you feel alive, in a good, earthy way.

Sorrel Soup:

1 lb potatoes cut into manageable slices
enough vegetable stock (I use bullion) to cover the potatoes and make it soupy
1/2 lb sorrel leaves
black pepper


Cook the potatoes in bullion until they are tender. Then half-mash them.
add sorrel, once it is washed and chopped. Cook for 5 more minutes

I used my hand blender and half-blended everything.

Rodin suggests you beat two eggs in hot soup, then add it to the mixture, cooking until it thickens, not don't let it boil, because then it will curdle. I did't do the eggs yet because my girl keeps asking for scrambled eggs and we don't have enough left. But it tastes great without the eggs.











But you know what, it's a new year.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dreaming

Last night I had a dream-within-a-dream.

For a reason that I don't recall but that was unrelated to foster parenting (hey, cut me some slack, do you remember all the details of your dreams?), I was at the local child welfare agency. Because I was there anyway, I stopped by my licensing worker's desk to get an update on my licensing process.

In that inscrutable way that dreams have of making complete sense while being completely illogical, I found myself with my licensing worker, her supervisor, and a few other social workers, being told about a little girl, 5 years old and very short (this was the first thing they told me). Apparently, in my dream, I was licensed already, but they just hadn't told me. So I showed up to ask, and it turned out that they had been about to call me with a placement.

That was the inner dream.

The outer dream was me trying to process the fact that they were telling me about a placement when I'm not actually yet licensed. (Update on that--maybe in about a week? Or maybe I'm just being naive. Probably the latter.) I wouldn't have thought that it was a dream except that I wasn't awake yet.

I learned something very important about myself from this dream: I have a hard time saying "no." Okay, I knew that already. But with all of the actual reasons in my life why today of all days I should NOT come home with a kid--Rosh Hashanah being in two days which wouldn't be a great situation for a kid I don't know, my apartment being a disaster area (I am not exaggerating...I have to climb over things to get in and out of the apartment), not having some of the necessities like a booster seat yet (the plan is to buy/find these after licensing but before kid)--I still was having a difficult time saying no. File that lesson away for the first time I get a call!

May the coming year bring you wisdom to know yourself and to say "no" when you need to.

Shana tova.