Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lekh L'kha Baby

Well, it happened. Chamudi started walking in the course of a week. Big changes! And today he got a brand new pair of fancy European big-boy shoes, courtesy of Savta.

Choosing shoes for my child turns out to be almost as stressful as choosing choes for myself, and no less complicated. "No we can't get that pair," I explained to Abba and Savta when disqualifying a trendy ankle boot." "They're too sleek and European--we'd have to redo his entire wardrobe."

It took me at least a half hour to choose between two pairs--I actually made a 14 month old try on the same pair of shoes 2 or 3 times--and only made a decision after all sorts of reverse psychology had been applied. But I did indeed decide, and Chamudi is as proud as can be, as are we.

For me, walking has been an easier milestone, emotionally, than any of the others. Maybe because the fact that he is big boy is such a foregone conclusion now. Is it possible that I'm done lamenting the end of his babyhood?

Or maybe it's because walking will open up so many worlds to him. Maybe you haven't noticed, but we as a culture are extremely bi-ped centric. The things he already loves are about to reveal whole new levels of fun and adventure.

Or maybe it's just that amazing adorable look of self-satisfaction.

Yasher koach Chamudi! May you go from strength to strength.

We’ve Secretly Replaced This Mommy With An Insane Woman, Let’s See If Anyone Notices

I’m not what you would call “tidy.” I am not gross. Or refuse to bathe…I just think it’s not a big deal for a Cheerio or two or six to roll under the couch and I get to it, well never. My vision of a perfect evening is when my husband and I watch a movie and eat pizza…in bed. I have piles for piles in the office. I am just not a spic-and-span kind of gal. I am fortunate enough to have a little cleaning help so that forces some tidying up and helps remove a layer of filth every now and again.

This laid back approach to clean has been quite helpful since the arrival of the child. She is MESSY. When she was a wee nubbin there was the random puking, the cleansing of the neck crevice, the laundry and the diapers. When she began eating real people food the mess spread to the kitchen, the den, the carpet, her room, her face, her clothes, her diapers. Now she enjoys creative time-so that involves paint, glitter, markers, crayons, glue, feathers….everywhere. Now I can easily say my house is coated in a lovely layer of child.

If this was something on the things I’m going to freak out about list, I would be FREAKED.

But nope. I’m cool. Me and the mess are as one.

Well until late last week.

Then I snapped.

It’s not the diapers or the feathers or the crevices or the Cheerios. It’s the toys. The mountains of toys. All of the sudden they are everywhere. Overflowing the toy box. Eeking out of the den. Sneaking their way up the stairs into my bed. That’s where the pizza goes you Cork Sucking Toys!

I think it started with her birthday. A lot of toys there. Then she started doing all the fun new developmental tricks, so we had to get her “educational” toys to support the learning. Then it was Chanukah. Then our nephews outgrew some great fun toys so we went ahead and adopted those. And of course there is the possibility that they were all crammed so tightly in together that they began reproducing amongst themselves.

I started cleaning the toys up at all hours of the day. She’d put one down, I’d pick it up. But it was a losing battle. The tea set pieces were where the peg board should go and the pegs were hidden in the hidden picture game and I can’t remember where I hid the memory pieces.

I needed to unload and reorganize. So I began by going through the toys and gave away garbage bags FULL. I used the extra stretchy magic bags so I crammed them full. But that was just a pee in the ocean. I tried making sure all the boxes were stacked neatly in the various toy boxes. Then I tried to put all the toys in Ziploc bags of various sizes and shapes to keep them contained.

But it’s not good enough. I honestly don’t know what to do. I am at my end. I need to build on an addition to support the toy growth. She plays with her toys. She loves her toys. She’s only going to get more toys because that is what we do as parents- we give our kids fun stuff to play with. But man, I need a fashionable storage solution. Until then I’ve taken the liberty of liberally applying spermicide to the inside of all the bags…just in case.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

End of Year Charitable Giving

So here's a plug for giving some tzedakah as an end of year charitable contribution. Do it. It makes you feel darn good and jeez, it's a mitzvah.

Forgive me for shamelessly promoting the causes I believe in. But sometimes you can get a good idea by hearing about how others do it.

Here's where I give (outside of my shul and my son's school). Lest you think I am a bazillionaire, some of these are pretty small donations!!

This list is in alphabetical order.

American Jewish World Service
American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. Through grants to grassroots organizations, volunteer service, advocacy and education, AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people,
while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship within the Jewish community.

Ansche Chesed's Shelter
The men’s homeless shelter at Congregation Ansche Chesed (100th Street at West End Avenue) is open seven nights a week, 365 nights a year, thanks to the efforts of volunteers. The shelter serves 10 men every night.

City Harvest
City Harvest, a non-profit organization founded in 1982, is the world's first and New York City's only food rescue program. Millions of pounds of good, edible food are thrown away each year by New York City food businesses. At the same time, more than one million people are hungry, including nearly 350,000 children and more than 140,000 senior citizens. City Harvest is the link between those who have so much and those who have too little.

Coalition for the Homeless
Coalition for the Homeless is the nation's oldest advocacy and direct service organization helping homeless men, women, and children. We are dedicated to the principle that decent shelter, sufficient food, affordable housing, and the chance to work for a living wage are fundamental rights in a civilized society. Since our inception in 1981, the Coalition has worked through litigation, public education, and direct services to ensure that these goals are realized.

DOROT's mission is to enhance the lives of Jewish and other elderly in the Greater New York City Metropolitan area through a dynamic partnership of volunteers, professionals, and elders; to foster mutually beneficial interaction between the generations; and to provide education, guidance and leadership in developing volunteer-based programs for the elderly nationally and internationally.

Our vision is to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community -- as a step towards a healthier and more sustainable world for all. Our vision is of a renewed Jewish community: one that is rooted in Jewish tradition, engaged with the world around us, radically inclusive, passionate and creative. Our vision is of a community that fosters people's journeys, that engenders compassion among its members, and that recognizes that there are shivim panim l'torah - seventy ways to understand the Torah. Hazon engages in environmental education and education about food as the centerpieces of their vision.

Heifer envisions a world of communities living together in peace and equitably sharing the resources of a healthy planet. Heifer works with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth and their strategy is to “pass on the gift.” As people share their animals’ offspring with others – along with their knowledge, resources, and skills – an expanding network of hope, dignity, and self-reliance is created that reaches around the globe. This simple idea of giving families a source of food rather than short-term relief caught on and has continued for over 60 years. Today, millions of families in 128 countries have been given the gifts of self-reliance and hope.

Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
JFREJ engages Jews to pursue and win racial and economic justice in partnership with Jewish and allied people of color, low-income and immigrant communities in New York City.

Kehilat Hadar
Kehilat Hadar is an independent, egalitarian community committed to spirited traditional prayer, study and social action. We meet for Shabbat morning services on selected weeks, and offer holiday services and educational programs throughout the year.

MATAN: The Gift of Jewish Learning for Every Child
MATAN is a multi-disciplinary team of Jewish educators, special educators, and mental health professionals committed to designing and implementing modifications that enable Jewish day schools and supplemental schools to serve all children regardless of ability.

The Neediest Cases Fund
The Neediest Cases Fund, administered by The New York Times Company Foundation, raises millions of dollars to help thousands of individuals and families in distress. The assistance is rendered by seven New York City social service agencies. The Times pays the Fund's expenses, so all contributions go directly to provide services and cash assistance to the poor.

The Susan Komen Foundation
SKF is a foundation started in memory of a woman just like you and me. A woman had a sister, Nancy Brinker, who promised she wouldn't stop till she found a cure. Twenty-five years ago that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested nearly $1 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.

West Side Campaign against Hunger
West Side Campaign Against Hunger provides food to 7,500 hungry households in New York City through a grocery-style food pantry. WSCAH alleviates hunger and in turn creates self reliance. It is the original grocery style model and provides education and training for other food pantries around the country.

WNYC New York's Public Radio Station
WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 are New York's flagship public radio stations, broadcasting the finest programs from National Public Radio and Public Radio International, as well as a wide range of award-winning local programming

The Ziv Fund
Danny Siegel's Ziv Tzedakah Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to the collection and distribution of funds to various little known Tzedakah projects. It provides money and support for individuals and programs that offer direct, significant, and immediate services with a minimum of overhead and bureaucracy. Ziv is also involved in bringing the educational message of Tzedakah to communities and Jewish schools throughout the United States, Canada and Israel and empowers ordinary people to become Mitzvah heroes.

Shabbat Shalom/Merry Xmas

This Christmas morning was just like any other. My 3year old cries from bed. I go get him. I change his diaper (that is for another very long post) and then I take him into bed with us.

This morning, he lies down for a few minutes, then perks up.

"Ima, is it Shabbat?"

I am befuddled.

"Why?" I ask, knowing why.

"Is it Shabbat?"

"No, it's not Shabbat. Why?"

"Can I watch TV?"

So yes, my son got the sense that it was a special day, a day off, a day to play and be goofy and relax. Ahhh, a special holiday. Not Shabbat. Christmas. Oh well. Being a New York boy, he thinks that Christmas trees are something that you can only find in building lobbies (which is FINE with me).

And so, we were treated to an extended viewing for the zillionth time of Dan Zanes and Friends on video.

What a way to wake up.

Good-bye for now

When your mouth is full of Hebrew-letter refrigerator magnets, it’s difficult to keep that sweet, husky baby babble from becoming garbled. Something funny was happening in the mouth. I could tell because baby couldn’t grin up at me with that “come on, I know you say not to do it, but how wrong is it really,” look as she hung on the opened oven door. No, her mouth was too full of the alphabet of the language that soon, please G-d, she’ll be speaking.

After making sure none of the magnets had come loose and become swallowed, I re-rolled the toilet paper she’d begun unrolling in the bathroom. I picked up the printer paper scattered all over the living room, and then I pieced together the printer she’d taken apart.

O no o no o no o no. It’s the end of the world as I know it. And yes, I feel fine.

I’m moving to Israel for the next 6 months or so, so this will be my last post for a while. It’s thrilling to think that baby will learn to speak Hebrew (not just eat the Hebrew alphabet on the refrigerator) just as she begins to talk.

I promised family that, while away, I’ll start a blog of baby photos so they can keep up. Obviously, this will be boring to anyone besides family, so I'm taking a break from Ima Shalom for a while. I’m also planning to post a literary mapping project I just got a grant for. I hope to do video “tours” of three cities regularly featured in contemporary Israeli literature, by as many and as diverse a group of writers and poets who will agree to it.

In the meantime, I’ll keep reading you all on Ima Shalom.

Before I go, thank you all for the community you’ve shared with me. Ima Shalom, thank you for the generosity of spirit that led you to share your blogspot with us. And for your generosity off the blog.

Gluckel, thanks for your insightful, thoughtful sincerity. Mahotma, it’s a pleasure to read someone who takes such pleasure in her life. Thanks for reminding me.

Joyous Jewess, good luck with your twins; thanks for your inspiration. Mamamia, thanks for your sweet sketches. Ima-ma: best wishes for healthy little ones.

I’ll be a visiting professor this spring, living in Tel-Aviv. I keep pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming (of course, dreaming would be nice, too, sleep being at such a premium these days). Come visit!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

(Don't) love me for my mind

There’s a young woman on the metro smiling at me. Okay, former student. Her name starts with an S. Or maybe a P. I’m certain that either her first or last name starts with either an S or a P. Or maybe an N. She used to come to office hours every week. I’ve asked her about plans for the spring, after graduation, and she pauses for advice. Here comes that look of concentration on her face that says, “I’m trying to follow you. I’m sure you’re going to start making sense any minute now.”

If I’m at all lucky she’ll assume I’ve been smoking weed and not that I no longer have a brain.

I miss my brain. I really do. It may not have been the most brilliant one on the planet, but it was the only one I had, and it wasn’t so bad.

Absent-minded ditziness is expected from expectant mothers. But that’s not really the point at which one needs one’s mind.

Recently I locked my baby and me out of our apartment after shopping for Shabbat. When I phoned the building super, he was in Virginia, an hour and a half away. Neighbors let us hang out in their apartment. Eventually the super felt bad for us and gave us the Secret Combination to the extra key box. The duplicate key to my apartment didn’t work, of course. And, to top it off, my phone battery went dead. The nanny in the suburbs 45 minutes away has the spare.

Oh well, the neighbors had just installed a plasma television, so we watched the 10 laziest animals in the world (sloth is #1, no surprises there, but did you know #2 was the male lion?).

When people ask me if it’s hard to be a mother, I say, so far, not really. I mean, it's physically and emotionally demanding, but it's not hard. Well, it would be nice to be able to put the teething, feverish, congested sweet thing down for two seconds to use the bathroom (not to mention brush my teeth), but this is as bad as it gets. And anyway, the fever has subsided, and she’s almost back to normal.

Right now I get to sing songs like “Froggy Went A’courting” out loud in the street s of our nation’s capitol without looking at all strange. I can spend hours on the floor reading cool books and looking at wild illustrations. I can make weird food and crazy noises. And of course, because of breastfeeding, I get to eat 600 extra calories a day.

What’s hard is doing anything else: writing a book, commenting on student papers. I keep reminding myself that sleep deprivation is a means of torture. It’s okay not to be completely with it when you’ve got a baby. But I'm really worried about giving two papers at my profession's national conference this week.

I don’t blame my brain for deserting me. There is a certain amount of tedium involved with child rearing that might have bored it.

Still, if anyone sees it wandering around somewhere, please tell it that I miss it, I need it, and I love it, and I’ll be here for it whenever it decides to come home.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Well a small miracle has happened this December. I finished reading a book, it’s been about 2 years since I could say that. It took some time-I started it on the plane ride home from my vacation and only had a chapter left before real life took over again.

That one chapter took me about 3 weeks to read.

It was worth the wait.

The chapter was entitled “Naked” in David Sedaris’ Naked. The book as a whole was ok. Not particularly memorable or had me “rolling on the floor” as the New York Times promised I would. It didn’t make me feel smart or engaged. It was supposed to be light and fluffy airplane reading and it did its job.

But this last chapter was quite good because it made me think outside the book. Funny because I could envision everything he described perfectly. Crazy because I was picturing myself in the same situation. I most enjoyed it though because I thought there was a valuable life lesson in there.

I now think everyone should go spend some quality time in a nudist colony.

Not just because I think we would all be better about using sun block if we experienced sunburn in weird places- but because even a description of time spent in a nudist colony made me feel better about me. Some of the tushies Mr. Sedaris describes clearly could NOT have been mine. And while I’m not promoting nudity as a way of life, it has to be good to see that you aren’t the only ass in town that doesn’t look just like Cindy Crawford….even after she had 2 kids….and turned 40.

I think a lot about naked not just because I’m kinky but because I have a little girl and I know she isn’t going to make it another 2 years without worrying about the way she looks. She is growing up in a vain household where even Mahotma Papa plucks the occasional eyebrow. She learned to put on makeup by 6 months because she would watch me as I applied it daily…to get the mail. She hears me complain if my jeans don’t fit just right and sees me walking around with all sorts of weird potions on my face to prevent wrinkles.

And then there is the whole entire universe outside my front door that is self obsessed…and not in that good way. Anorexia should not be something that is now common in junior high. And elementary school is so not the place where I should hear “Do I look fat in this?”

To me she is beautiful everyday no matter what. To me she is perfect. Inside and out.

I can and will tell her that everyday for the rest of my life, but my word isn’t good enough. She has to think that too. And as much as I’d like to think it’s really only the inside that counts ,we all know it’s not. She just has to turn on the tv or pick up a People to learn there is much more that matters. And it doesn’t help things that the rest of us are covered in clothes, so wouldn’t it be great if we could all just spend a week checking out other people’s butts?

It would be wonderful if in our real world we got to experience a little real now and again. So I say, Nude City here I come!

Stop Looking at Me Like That

I'm having a recurring problem with our rabbi, a man I generally like and respect.

Sometimes I make the decision to bring my 13 month old Chamudi into services. Maybe I want to hear the drash. Maybe I think that he ought to see what Shabbat services are like.

Whatever the reason, sometimes I stay, rather than retreating to the children's program or some other Chamudi-rated setting.

And then, it happens. Chamudi gives out a yell. Not a full-on tantrum, but a yell or two because he wants my siddur or to steal my glasses or just to hear his own voice.

And the rabbi gives me a dirty look.

I tried to ignore it the first time, even after an amused friend caught and commented on it. And maybe even the second time.

But the third? Come on.

I'm not easily cowed, and I'm going to continue to bring the baby to shul on Shabbat. But one more look, and Rabbi is getting a talking to. No kidding.

I've already complained to the board--either you are a family friendly shul or you aren't, I said--and the board member essentially said "yes, that is the ongoing tension."

Okay, but I'm not throwing looks of death every time they do something that's NOT child friendly.

Maybe I'm being selfish. I don't really know. But I think I know the boundaries of consideration and good taste, and I'm pretty sure that I haven't crossed them.

So Rabbi...with all due respect...stop looking at me like that.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Zoo at Night

Last night, we all bundled up and drove to the zoo for Zoo Lights - where during the month of December, the zoo is open for business each night - with lights everywhere, hot chocolate, puppet shows, and lots of other treats.

My daughter was happily perched in the Bjorn, my husbands down jacket covering her so that only her little smiling face peaked out.

My son wore his warmest, puffiest jacket and happily sipped his cup of lukewarm hot cocoa.

The highlight of the adventure was the ape house, where we watched the gorillas sleeping soundly. My son was fascinated to see that animals sleep, too, and commented that they must be snuggling with their blankies.

Needless to say, it was absolutely freezing - and absolutely wonderful.

There is something magical about seeing a place at night that normally you only visit during the day.

I feel grateful to be able to experience adventures like Zoo Lights through the eyes of my children.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lex-o-matic reading freak (when I'm with you)

I’m pretty sure the third thing I thought after I discovered I was pregnant was “if I don’t have this baby, who’s going to read all those children’s books I’ve collected?” I like to think that, since G-d finds the written word a pretty good medium for communication, maybe the best efforts of people are also in books. But also, I'm just a book fiend.

I love illustrated books. Those of Maurice Sendak, Adolf Born, Petr Sis, make you feel as if something strange and, if not wonderful, then mind-blowing and beautiful, were about to appear from just outside the frame

One of the biggest thrills of motherhood so far is that my baby loves to read. We often read together, but tonight she sat in my lap and looked carefully through 8 books while I read one of my own. We’ve found some pretty groovy board books. Her favorite by far is Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman. This cleverly illustrated book depicts a sleepy zookeeper putting the animals to bed while a sweet little gorilla steals the keys and ends up co-sleeping with the zookeeper and his wife. Gee, I wonder why baby likes this it?

2. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? illustrated by Eric Carle. Loves the page depicting a roomful of children looking at HER. Carle has also done a cute series for Shabbat and the chagim.

3. “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” Dr. Seuss. Who doesn’t like to make silly sounds?

4. The Bedtime Sh’ma. A Goodnight Book adapted by Sarah Gershman and illustrated by Kristina Swarner. CD companion must have. (NOT a board book).

5. Hug by Jez Alborough. A three-word book, with eloquent illustrations. A little gorilla wanders among hugging animal families, at first delighted at all the love, then sad because he can’t find anyone to hug him, then happy again when he finds his mommy. She laughs and bounces when we get to the reunion scene.

6. Gorilita by Ruth Lercher Bornstein, about a little gorilla whom everyone loves even after he turns 1 and isn’t so little anymore.

There are a lot of ape books in this list. What can I say? Baby’s got this thing for them. We were at the zoo again this week and the orangutan lept up to the Plexiglas, pressed her face against it, spread out her arms, and gave baby a hug and kiss. Baby hugged back. That was Lucy, who is now on birth control. I guess she wasn’t ready to stop having babies.

Some “children’s” books are really for me. I’ve got a warped sense of humor. Maybe it’s just letting off steam. I discovered Edward Gorey’s, The Doubtful Guest in my eighth month of pregnancy, when I felt as if my body had been invaded by a hiccupping alien who was using my liver as a trampoline. This book exaggerates the feeling until it's outrageous and silly.

How Little Lori Visited Times Square by Amos Vogel and Maurice Sendak (reissued). I think it’s funny. Babydaddy and I get into major fights about Maurice Sendak. He feels Sendak is simply too frightening. But I don’t want my child to be the Jewish equivalent of Tod and Rod Flanders.

In a Sendak book there is mortal danger, sometimes imaginary, sometimes the result of the child’s misbehavior (“Where the Wild Things Are,”). Always, as in Brundibar (adapted by Kushner from an opera performed in Theresienstadt), the smart, courageous children rise to the occasion. I used to be terrified by "The Cat in the Hat," when I was small (what if the mother came home before the house was cleaned up?). But Sendak always made me feel I had agency and that the complex world was more beautiful than I ever imagined, because it was fragile.

My parents used to tell my fretful sister if she didn’t wear her sleep sack at night in winter she’d turn into an ice cube and Mama would drink her up, and then she’d no longer exist. Now THAT is frightening.

It’s not like I plan to read her Struwwelpeteror anything.

I was certain baby would LOVE “Olivia” by Ian Falconer, but now I realize that the stories about this strong-willed, energetic little girl piglet are simply written from the point of view of a tired, affectionate parent.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

White Space

When I left the house this morning to take my son to his gymnastics class, it was perfectly nice out, whatever that means in NYC in December. But now it is snowing and I am indoors trying to get work done.

I moved from dropoff at gym to a nearby Starbucks (aren't they all "nearby"?), where I crashed and returned phonecalls for an hour. Since I am currently office-less but not work-less, I take whatever I can get. While I was drinking my coffee, I enjoyed an article by Lisa Belkin about working wherever the spirit moves you, in the "white space" of our world. The snow was coming down, and I was in my very own white space.

Sitting there, I felt kind of sad. Snow seems to me like tahara, purification. Sure, it is nasty and gray once it hits the ground (this is New York, after all), but it muffles our grumbles and softens our blunt edges. The snow is coming down, fairly fast and furiously--we're in for a big storm today and a big storm on Sunday too.

What do children see when they see snow? I am just learning about this through my son's eyes. He wants to eat it (where do they learn this) and we are having to teach the "never eat yellow snow" lesson. He doesn't seem to get cold and I find myself saying "you need a sweater because I am cold" more than once a day. But snow...well, I want him to love it, to be an excuse to throw caution to the winds and go out and play, to drink hot chocolate instead of regular milk or water, to build a snowperson or to just go a little crazy and throw a snowball or two. There is a purity, an innocence that comes with a snowfall, and maybe I just want to keep him a baby just a little longer so we can enjoy it together.

So I'll take the snow, where ever it may fall, even if it interrupts my work and shifts my focus to other, more lovely things. And maybe I can get my son to not eat yellow snow, but instead sit at our window and look out at the snow falling, and hear the quiet. Given that he's almost 3, it is unlikely that this white quiet will last for more than a minute or so, but it's good to still have hope.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bob Barker Is My Mentor

My daughter ran away yesterday.  It was upsetting not just because she is only 3 and has decided that the other girls on the block are more fun than her own mother-but because this is the 3rd time this has happened-this month.

I find her roaming the neighborhood, proud as a peacock until she sees my distraught face, then she run straight to me, jumps up into my arms and tries to get in my good graces by playing dumb. Acts all confused-how did I get here? Why mercy me, I have no clue! THANK GOODNESS YOU HAVE RESCUED ME, MOMMY!!!

Oh please.

My husband and I try to talk to her, play with her, buy her lots of great toys. But does she care? Nope. We let her outside for too long and POOF she digs her way under the fence.

She really is a bitch.

No really. She is.  You see Bella is more of a dogter than a daughter, but I love her just the same.  The girl child is 2 now, which means people have been asking me when I plan on reproducing again for...oh I don't know, 22 months now.  But don't they see? I already have another child!  Bella is a great sister, but she needs just as much love and attention as anything else alive (except for my bamboo plant, I abandoned it months ago yet it lives on). They both need playing with, they both need to be fed and bathed and taken on field trips.

My Furless Spawn of Love brings me pictures she has colored herself and Bella brings me dead squirrels she has killed herself, but I am equally proud of both my girls' accomplishments. (Although Bella's are much more challenging to stick on the fridge). I don't want to be like so many mommies who forget their little furry bundles of joy exist once they bring the ones that don't have butt breath home from the hospital.

It's actually surprisingly difficult. Aside from the fact that I barely have room on my lap for both of them, Little Miss Perfect requires a lot of extra attention.  Clearly a human child and a dog aren't in the same realm, but they both take up a good deal of space in my heart, and I wouldn't want to hurt either one of them.  That's why when Bella runs out I think it's because she is bitter she didn't get as long a bath or maybe her Bow Wow Yum Yums didn't smell as good as the peanut butter cookies at snack time.  I take it personally, and get frustrated even though I know it's just how doggies can be.

But it's that crazy worry that keeps me real.  That makes me a big ball of love for everything alive (again, except the bamboo plant), which I think is a nice thing about me and makes me so thrilled my little girl is growing up not just HAVING a pet, but WITH a pet.  

Aside from Bella being her first word, Bella teaches her responsibility and respect for other living things.  She also learns to stand up for herself whenever Bella tries to snatch away her baby pancakes and she learns compassion when she sees Bella get scratched in the nose by the cat.  They actually play together quite well (but gotta be careful when one of your younglings outweighs the other by 40 pounds) and make my crazy toy and fur covered home a heck of a lot of fun to hang out in.

One day I might consider having another...but right now one fur ball that likes to dig holes under my fence is enough.

Does Harvard Have Pre-K?

Abba recently sent me this article from the NYtimes:

Harvard to Aid Students High in Middle Class

Now all chamoodi (our son) has to do is get into Harvard. No pressure.

It's no secret that university educations are overpriced. And I've even opened up a college savings plan to help cope with the cost.

But I've recently realized that I'm fooling myself. There's an entire industry devoted to ensuring that my child gets a college education. It's good to be prepared--and to take advantage of every bit of help available--but college isn't the problem.

You want something to keep you up at night? Think about the cost of 12+ years of day school.

Abba is convinced that day schools provide substantial scholarships so that all eligible students can attend. But Abba went to Ramaz--which is flush in Upper East Side money and alumni support--and I am not sure that we can count on such largess from our local school.

At best, our financial life will be scrutinized by a committee of our peers, and our decisions to (gasp!) buy a car or go on a vacation put under a microscope. Humiliating.

Lots of ideas have been floated--from a community superfund to homeschooling to charter schools--but so far none have made a real difference. And still, day school looms.

So how will we do it? Some serious sacrifices, no doubt. And for 2, 3 or even 4 children? God only knows.

Hey, at least our rent is controlled.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Red-hot Chili paste and other domestic Channukah Miracles

My baby LOVES Chanukah—When I light she claps her hands and waves hello to the flames. She dances to the blessings. Well, to be fair, she also loves the lights of printers, radios, elevators, bus brakes, and pedestrian crossing signals. Why wouldn’t she like Chanukah lights?

So I was hanging out with my two-toothed wonder, waving at the candles and eating latkes with chipotle salsa, cilantro and a squeeze of lime, when she parked herself at my knees and opened her mouth. No, it wasn’t a yawn or a “Mr.-Brown-Can-Moo,-Can-You?” noise. I was seeing my daughter’s mouth voluntarily open for food.

I gave her a bit of tomato. She made the “this-is-disgusting,-give-me-more” face. I ended up feeding her the entire bowl of salsa. Without a bib. Not a drop landed outside her mouth or on her clothes or in her fists. She stood at my knees the whole time.

This is the child who acts as if she’s dying if she sees a spoon approaching her from any angle with anything but applesauce on it. This is the child it takes 45 minutes to get six spoons of anything into her mouth and swallowed. If they made painter smocks for infants, I'd have one for her, because she looks like a Jackson Pollock canvas when she's done eating, normally.

I further discovered, through the course of this miraculous week, she likes barbeque flavor, herb de Provence, and vinaigrette. Eats better from chopsticks than from her spoon. And she’ll eat anything as long as it’ mixed with enough marinara sauce.

Heck, she’s been crawling around the apartment with a Clementine, lemon or lime pressed against her gums ever since citrus season started.

I do feel like an idiot. I had been treating her as if, because she had no teeth, she had no taste buds. And obviously, baby’s got standards.

Have you ever actually tasted baby food? I have. It’s just awful. Especially those jars of lentils and rice, or peas. Really, everything but the applesauce is terrible. They don’t smell too good either.

Well, when I was pregnant I did go through an industrial-sized jar of neon-red Korean chili paste, and a couple jars of schug, so maybe it’s comfort food to her.

Slightly less miraculously, I found a furnished apartment in Tel-Aviv for the spring—I’ll be teaching there for a semester—that is only slightly too expensive for me. A lovely Bauhaus.

A girlfriend urbanely reminded me, “you do realize that 99% of Tel Aviv is Bauhaus? and really neglected Bauhaus at that, sadly. Tel Aviv needs to be queer eyed -- it needs a total reality TV makeover.”

Well, that may be true of 99% of Tel Aviv, but MY building is owned by N. who has, indeed, renovated the entire building.

He’s thoughtful, too. When I mentioned I needed a quiet apartment because I had a baby, N. produced a baby bed. AND a changing table. Without asking. For free. Wonder if he can get me a breast pump? It feels indelicate to ask, though.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Overprotective 3-Year Old

I always thought that my little boy would become jealous and possessive of my attention when his sister came into the world. To my utter surprise, he has shown virtually no jealosy and is wonderfully affectionate (albeit a bit bossy) and sweet to his baby sister.

Lately, he has become very anxious that she will get hurt. When she crawls around our living room (which is a safe, gated area), he often whimpers, "Mommy, pick up J. Feed her. Nurse her. Good mommy - keep feeding her. Hold her. She doesn't want to crawl. Just hold her!"

And if she ever tries to leave the living room? Forget it!

When I ask him what he is worried about, he says that he is scared she will get hurt or fall down the stairs. I do my best to explain to him that I am watching her and that she is safe. Most of the time, he remains unconvinced.

Honestly, I'm not sure what to do. On one hand, it's so sweet that he cares about her so much. On the other hand, the little girl needs some freedom to crawl and explore! I hate to reprimand her for caring about her - but sometimes he just won't stop insisting that I hold her.

For now, I'm assuming this is just a phase - and I'll continue talking with him about it. When it comes down to it, this is a good problem. I am grateful that my daughter has a big brother to look after her.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mourning, Before Death

I hesitate to continue in the vein of the previous post, but time demands certain responses. My aunt is dying of cancer. I read the story of Emily Arndt with such sadness because I am watching a similar but yet very different story unfold before my eyes.

My aunt--she's my father's brother's wife--is in the end stages of breast cancer. She's my only aunt. I was terrified of her as a child, and only learned that she was human when I was about 18 (when I discovered that it was possible for adults to be human). She had a double mastectomy 6.5 years ago and a year and a half ago, just before that 5 year mark, the cancer came back with a vengeance.

She has asked permission, in not so many words, from her family to let her die. She has two fabulous adult children, two amazing children by marriage, and four smart, adorable grandchildren who love her very much. Then there are her nieces and nephews, 6 in total and 4 extra spouses, who love her for being the aunt who always called, who always cared, who always sent cards and gave hugs and understood when our parents never did. And now, 6 grandnieces and nephews. A total of 4 brothers and sisters in law, and one healthy as a horse almost 90 year old mother in law who herself is a survivor of breast cancer.

I ache about this. It is not just that I will be losing a woman who I deeply respect, someone who has truly taught me what being there for someone really means, and someone who was so deeply connected to her Judaism that she literally lived and breathed the fulfillment of hachnassat orchim and bikkur cholim. I ache for children losing their mother long before the right time to lose a parent (which is obviously never, but old age helps to soothe a loss). I ache for grandchildren who will won't make any more memories of grandma and will miss the way she cuddled them on her lap (even the older one). I ache for my uncle, who hasn't been the same since the cancer reappeared and in spite of his tough outer skin, is experiencing a deeper pain than I pray anyone ever has to know.

My resolution is as follows. I will "be there" when I am needed. Whenever that is.

And I will learn to crochet washcloths.

When my son was born almost 3 years ago, my aunt and uncle showed up at my apartment with a trove of goodies, from Baby Einstein videos to board books and toys, all the products of having had 4 grandchildren and learned from experience. But in that trove of real treasure were two hand crocheted washcloths.

No other washcloths will compare. They are amazing for washing, they hold so much water and squeeze out so nicely and they are the loveliest babygift I may have received. They even hold enough to rinse the shampoo out of a little boy's hair. They are the kinds of things that become heirlooms. And when the time comes, I will learn to crochet those washcloths because that is the way I would like to keep my aunt's memory alive.

Now, mind you, I am not a handy girl. I don't bake and I don't do handiwork. I can build an Ikea bookshelf but nothing more complicated than that. However, this strikes me as a vivid way of actively honoring my aunt and helping others understand how special she a person she IS. And somehow, this work of learning to do this, will be a healing process, a chance to honor a truly great woman, and to pass her love to others in a way that would make her happy.

It is crass, beyond crass to mourn for someone before their death. But in a way, realizing the eventuality prepares us to mourn properly. Shiva is meant to lead us through the mourning period with structure, shloshim to keep it going a little longer, and then the entire year to stick with the idea of loss and make it a part of the fabric of your identity. Because I am not obligated to say kaddish, I will mourn for her in my own way, and make washcloths.

The scholar of Christian-Jewish ethics you hadn’t yet heard of

Emily Arndt, the author of “Demanding our attention : the Hebrew Bible in Christian ethics : an illustrative analysis of the akedah” (the binding of Isaac), wrote this study after having given birth. With a newborn she finished her dissertation and won a competitive job. She was teaching at Georgetown University when she gave birth a second time, but she never came home from the hospital, and this weekend she passed away.

She and her husband were so committed to the inter-religious dialogue that is so lacking in our world today that he had put his promising literary career on hold (he’d published a book of poems and the poems from his second manuscript are published in the best literary journals) to help her finish her book about the Akedah and teach in the theology department. There she taught with great respect for Judaism and sensitivity.

Her husband, my friend (we are alumni from the same MFA program and colleagues now), took care of their 4-year-old daughter and intended to care for the newborn son and taught as an adjunct. I remember his excitement when he told me they were expecting again. We used to meet to read one another’s poetry during lunch.

Emily discovered she had cancer in the final trimester of her pregnancy. I suppose she had very little to gain if she were to begin treatment then, and so much to lose. Her 4-month old son is healthy and thriving.

Emily lived guided by the ethics she taught, and so did her family. If I may say so, she was a real Ayshes Chayil, a woman of valor. And it’s a great loss to Jews and Christians alike that her work has been halted by her death.

Should anyone wish to help her husband defray the enormous costs of treatment that insurance did not cover, here is where they can do so.

Emily Arndt Fund
c/o Linda Ferneyhough
Theology Department
Georgetown University
Box 571135
Washington, DC 20057-1135

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ho Ho Ho, Merry Chanumas!

I love Christmas. A lot. Thank jebus I don’t actually celebrate it because man, I’d go Christmas crazy. Tons of lights. Tons. I would totally make my husband line every square inch of the house with pretty white lights (the colored ones are nice, but the white have a certain classiness to them). He might be on pain killers for a few weeks after, but you’d be able to see my house from the space station. I’d get a dancing Santa. I might even rent out real reindeer. Woo…that would be sweet.

I enjoy Christmas, the season, the spirit. It gets tricky though, with Princess Peanut and all. I try and give her everything she needs to make her happy, but a Christmas tree just ain’t gonna happen.

A lot of mommies I know and love don’t even discuss Christmas with their children. Some think it’s forbidden biblically, others just don’t see the need. I’m quite the opposite though. I take her driving through the pretty lights. I tend to turn the radio up when the Trans Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve” is on-it’s AWESOME, and she totally loves to dance to it. I don’t skip over the page in her favorite book-“The Cheerio Cookbook”- that shows how to make beautiful (and I’m sure quite delicious) Christmas Tree snacks using only Cheerios, gum drops, food coloring ,2 bags of marshmallows and a stick of butter.

I talk to her about it and hope in her 2 year old innocence she gets it all. It’s not like she is going to grow up and NOT figure out something’s up. The streets are lined with red and green from Halloween on in most parts of the world. I explain to her that some boys and girls get to enjoy Christmas and some boys and girls get to enjoy Chanukah. I don’t play her Christmas carols or let her take pictures in Santa’s lap. But we do watch the lines of people at the mall as they make their way there. We point and smile and laugh. It’s fun for them, and enjoying other’s happiness? Not always a bad thing.

Now we do plenty of Chanukah celebrating at the Mahotmasteins. We have pretty decorations that our little Picaso has made all over. We know every word to Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song.” We have wicked cool menorahs (though the one that the girl made in school is the one we use with the most pride). And to make sure my husband gets to take his personal holiday spirit to his Christmas Wonderland called his office, I plan on spending the afternoon baking dozens of Chanukah cookies with my daughter for him and all his coworkers to enjoy.

Chanukah is great great fun. Fried things and presents and songs and family. But no matter how hard you try, it’s never going to be Christmas. It’s just not how we roll. So I say enjoy Christmas in a way that only a Jew can enjoy Christmas-from afar.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Turning the Pages

Tonight wasn't my son's first Hanukkah, but it was his first toddler Hanukkah. Last year he was less than 2 months old and had trouble staying awake for candle lighting.

I thought he'd be entranced by the candles and the singing, but I was wrong. He wouldn't--couldn't--take his attention from the little siddur I had given him so that he would stop grabbing at mine.

My son loves siddurim. So much so that the main reason that I have trouble davening with him is that he wants to grab mine and play with it, and will holler if I resist. He loves the feel and sound of the pages, and he's respectful and gentle with it, as he should be.

It doesn't stop with siddurim. At benching, he insists on holding a bencher until everyone is done. And I'm told that during Abba's Daf Yomi shiur he most certainly wants to hold a Talmud.

I'm sure that some people are bothered by the fact that we let him handle holy texts, but Abba and I happen to think that it's wonderful. For so many people siddurim and benchers are confusing and offputting. But not our son--he's already cozied up and gotten to know these soon-to-be-old-friends, building a relationship with these books that I hope will last a lifetime.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sleeping in the Hallway

I always thought I would want my children to share a room. They would keep each other company, learn how to share, and hopefully have more fun. I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to put my 3-year old son (who is a GREAT) sleeper in the same room as my 10-month old daughter, who is a less-than-great sleeper.

You always here that kids can sleep through a sibling crying. My son, a very deep sleeper, gets frightened by the sound of his sister crying at night. So inevitably, we have to take one of them out - often several times a night - and no one gets any sleep.

Then one night, my son brilliantly - and a little miraculously - solved our dilemma. Knowing that sleeping in our room was not an option, he began requesting to sleep in the hallway. We would lay down his sleeping bag and the various blankets and pillows and animals that accompany him to dreamland on the carpet in the hall outside our bedroom - and there he would spend the night. He essentially created a third "bedroom" in our apartment, enabling us to finally sleep train our daughter and all of us to get a better night's rest.

I am hopeful that soon our daughter will be sleeping well enough not to disturb him anymore - and that they can finally begin to enjoy sharing a room. Until then, I am very grateful to my little boy for being so flexible and so creative.

He's a great little guy.

What's Wrong With a little Spoiling?

“She’s so spoiled, there’s nothing for me, as a grandmother, to do,” my mother told me daily during my parents’ long-weekend visit. She means that I hold my daughter until she falls asleep, then I place her in her bed and, if she wakes up, pick her up after 15 minutes and try the whole thing again. Plus, any time she wakes up after midnight, I take her into bed with me.

Part of it is pragmatic—we live in a one-bedroom apartment and it’s just the two of us. So what good would it do me to lie in my bed listening to her cry for an hour and a half?

Part of it is—well, why not? I’m not sharing a bed with anyone else, so if that’s what my daughter prefers, I can deal. I’m not doing it for me, as I sleep much better alone.

But the visit made me wonder, what does it mean to “spoil” a child? I’m not talking about being a helicopter parent, doing everything for my daughter so she never learns to take care of herself. I’m talking about co-sleeping, dressing, feeding and being with my daughter attentively, instead of just treating her as a chore to be accomplished. Showing her she can count on others for comfort sometimes; she needn’t count only on herself.

As long as my baby is thoughtful, has a loving personality, and is a good person, as long as she is not self-centered, why not?

My mother says I am making things harder for myself, and I suppose I am. But she had four children, then three more, and a husband, so I understand how she’d need to be as efficient as possible.

And yet, during the day, my daughter doesn’t cry when she wants attention, she pulls up to me and stares at me until I look up. Then she smiles. She’s got great interpersonal skills already.

Yes, I’m independent. I paid my own tuition in college, lived and worked in four different countries. I can change a car’s alternator, the oil, build a table, sew a dress, and speak several languages. I don’t rely on others for much of anything. And here I am, a mother by myself.

I’m not a psychologist or anything, but it seems to me in retrospect, a little interdependence wouldn’t be so bad.

When I look at my girlfriends who profess to have been “spoiled,” I notice a huge difference between my life and theirs. One was raised by a single mother and her grandparents. She slept with her mother until she was about 6. Her husband now massages her every night and tucks her into bed. That’s what she’s used to.

I was telling this to another friend, who became indignant that her husband doesn’t give her a nightly massage, because her parents did. But her indignation was interrupted by a phone call from her husband—would she mind if they took a helicopter to the top of a glacier and then hiked around the glacier during the trip to New Zealand he was booking for her?

Both of these women were very generous, thoughtful, wonderful people. I’ve never heard them say anything negative about anyone. If they are the products of “spoiling,” then sign my daughter up.

Of course, having been spoiled doesn’t guarantee one a happy-ever-after life. But from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t hurt. I’d be thrilled if my treatment of my daughter taught her how to make others want to pamper her a little.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's OK

I don't generally like to share boring tidbits with you about what I read, but I am a big fan of Judith Warner's blog for the NY Times. And one of her last columns really hit a nerve with me, so I thought I'd share it with you. In general I take her writing with a liberal grain of salt, but this piece is a great reminder that we are all always a little off, that it is sometimes genetic or medical or mental or whatever, and that it is OK (even if we make excuses about it a little bit).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Time Management the Jewish Way

I want so badly to write a nice post with tips and recommendations for using time wisely. OK, so I will. But I can't do it well. I have a real problem with time. I run on Jewish time: everything just a tiny bit late, just enough to be really late but just short of being annoying. I thought that I would solve this by setting my watch ahead. No dice. My cellphone and computer have the real time. So then I have just been messed up about what time it "really" is (for help, listen to 880 WCBS and they will give you the real deal. "At the tone, the time is now 10:00pm"). I have always struggled with stuff like this. I think most people think I do pretty well, and I know I put a lot of pressure on myself. However, at this point in life, I have about 10 balls up in the air and all of a sudden, I just realized I don't know how to juggle.

I read something on Real that freaked me out. I wasn't looking at the site, but it was a link from CNN so I clicked. I don't read that magazine. I don't because it makes me feel seriously deficient, kind of like the Container Store (how on earth can we be that perfect). But it made me realize that the little tricks that I've come up with, the short cuts, make it possible for me to be the kind of Jew I want and still pretend to get things done in my life.

So please, dear reader, read on for my solutions for managing your time. Jewishly. Or Jewish time. For Shabbat, too. Whatever.

  1. Use tea lights for Shabbat candles. No mess to clean up. Fulfill your mitzvah the no muss no fuss way.
  2. Although it is not good for the environment, cook your Shabbat dinner in a tin pan. Oh wait, you can recycle it. Who wants to spend erev Shabbat cleaning up when you can be doing other things?
  3. Be a dork and set out clothes for the next day in advance. I know, I know, but it does work. Definitely choose Shabbat clothes in advance. When you're done choosing for you, do it for your kids. Definitely do it for your spouse.
  4. Don't ever bake your own challah. Come on, seriously. Haven't you ever had Zomicks/Bagel City/etc., etc.? Store bought can still be good.
  5. Respect your body and get enough sleep. And don't eat junk food. OK, at least not all the time.
  6. See #4, and stop making fancy desserts. Serve more fruit. Everyone needs more fruit. Then have sorbet. And a storebought cookie won't kill anyone either. (Sorry, ImaShalom)
  7. Make your own Shabbat box. Not the kiddie kind, but the one filled with the magazines, special snacks, etc. that you can break open on Shabbat and really enjoy. That way when you do get 5 minutes to yourself the good magazine (Star?) will be right where you want it.
  8. Stop needing to be the balabusta and get yourself invited over (by anyone) for a Shabbat meal. Or any meal. Don't be picky. Or eat lunch at the kiddush at shul. Or go to the potluck. You might make a new friend or two and you won't have to cook.
  9. Buy a lot of gifts in advance so you'll always have something to take with you. Kids' gifts, fun things for adults, small stuff. Keep it in a big plastic bin in a closet with some nice bags (OK, from the Container Store) and take them with you when you go to someone's house for Shabbat (see #8). Or anytime.
  10. Make a meal for a family with a new baby or a family sitting shiva. And at the same time make the same meal for your family. And then there is the less mitzvah-dik version: cook a LOT in advance and freeze it. Quiches, lasagne, meat sauce for pasta, soups, meatloaf, chili, whatever. Who cares? Just make it in big batches and freeze. Yes, it is OK to have something you defrost for Shabbat.

I'm stopping at 10 because I don't have enough time to write more!!

Shabbat shalom.

Free to be...

So apparently Ima Shalom and I are on the same page this week (maybe this comes from having kids born just one day apart). In the wake of my babies’ first birthday a few weeks ago, and the 35 birthday of “Free to Be You and Me” – a favorite album as a child and now, which I blogged about here – I’ve been thinking a lot about gender socialization. Having boy/girl twins pretty much pushes my face in this issue all the time (ok, I admit that it doesn’t take a lot of pushing – I DO have a PhD in women’s history), and people love to remind me that I have my own little “gender lab” at home. Of course, I see it as a more of a baby development lab, since it seems ridiculous to me to think that we could possibly draw any conclusions about gender difference from a sample size of one (of each sex), but most people practically role their eyes when I say that. They’d rather point out how “interesting” it is that my son is the one who runs all over the house, while my daughter is more focused on learning to talk. I think it’s “interesting” that people are so relieved to find supposed confirmation of gender stereotypes.

Today I discovered another mommy blog – outside the (toy) box – that focuses specifically on these kinds of issues. I especially love that she offers a resource section of anti-sexist/anti-consumerist children’s books. I had been feeling kind of sad as I considered "Free to Be You and Me"’s movement toward middle age and the apparent dearth of new projects of this sort, and was despairing at the daunting task of counteracting the strong tide of gender stereotypes that still pulls at us (and my little developing people!) all the time. It’s always nice to know there are allies in this struggle. It’s sometimes hard to remember when even your feminist friends buy your twins little matching pink and blue outfits…

Also thanks to "outside the (toy) box," I discovered this great piece about the ways that gender restricts both girls and boys:

For every girl who is tired of acting weak when she is strong, there is a boy who is tired of appearing strong when he is vulnerable. For every boy who is burdened with the constant expectation of knowing everything, there is a girl tired of people not trusting her intelligence. For every girl tired of being called over-sensitive, there is a boy who fears to be gentle, to weep. For every boy for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity, there is a girl called unfeminine when she competes. For every girl who throws out her EZ Bake oven, there is a boy who wishes to find one. For every boy struggling not to let advertising dictate his desires, there is a girl facing the ad industry’s attacks on her self esteem. For every girl who takes a step toward her liberation, there is a boy who finds his way to freedom a little easier.

You can buy or download this poster (with gender-subverting coloring book drawings on the flip side) at Crimethinc. I’m going to hang it in my office, right next to my poster of Emma Goldman, a role model in the project of gender-flouting.

As hard as these gender issues can be in this first-toys stage (and especially at this gift-giving season), I’m anticipating how much more complicated they will be when it comes to certain ritual expectations of the kids. For example, will we require both of them to wear a kippah at the times when Abba does and Ima (sometimes) does? How could we not, I think, and then remember what I just wrote above – that I don’t consistently wear a kippah, and for reasons I can’t rationally justify (e.g. vanity, comfort). I wonder: how can we be honest with our kids about our own inconsistencies and ambivalences, without instilling in them the assumptions we’re trying so hard to overcome ourselves? When it comes to toys – I’m clear where I stand, and the hard work is counteracting the force of culture. When it comes to religious practice, these issues – despite my unyielding commitment to egalitarianism – are somehow murkier.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Tea Set for My Little Boy

We just bought our son a tea set for Hanukkah.

He encountered a pink and purple set over Thanksgiving and he really took to it--had tea parties with his Abba, fed his Panda, etc.

He also had a great time pushing around a toy stroller. Personally, I was really excited about this because I had just bought him a boy doll and had dreams of him pushing around his doll in his stroller and becoming a nurturing, empathic adult because of it.

Hurray for defying gender expectations!! Hurray for us! Hurray for him!

But wait.

Off I went to Toys R Us to get him the toy stroller. To do so I had to enter a scary, scary section of the store--devoted the idea that cooking and cleaning and caring for baby are the sole aspirations of little girls. And the flip side: that little boys have no need to learn about these important parts of adult life.

Ever single thing in that section was pinky pink and purply purple. Toys had names like Little Mom and box after box showed little girls being Just Like Mom. If I was a little boy I wouldn't have set foot in this section--it was so clearly FOR GIRLS ONLY.

So how are little boys even supposed to explore and develop these parts of their identity? Why are toy strollers only made for girls? Can't our definition of masculinity for our sons include cooking and cleaning and taking care of baby? Where is my gender neutral tea set??

The good news is that it's not the toys--or even their colors--that really matter to our children. It's the world that they see around them. And Abba is a fantastic role model for egalitarian gender roles, embracing his household responsibilities without sacrificing a drop of masculinity.

After my son has put aside his trucks and dolls and tea sets and become a man himself, I hope that pushing a stroller and changing a diaper will be as natural to him as hitting a hammer and driving a vroom vroom truck. Maybe more so.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lions and Tigers, Grandparents, Oh My!

My parents are the epitome of goodness—after raising four children, they took in twelve different foster children at various times, finally adopting the last two (brothers). They also adopted the half brother because, at eight, he wasn’t as adoptable as the younger ones.

My parents are also the epitome of youthful energy, and their visit this weekend is making me nervous. They’re here to be tourists and to see their granddaughter. I’m to be their social director and guide, since they won’t take a bus or metro by themselves.

It’s not that I want to be pampered (Okay, that’s a lie. It would be GREAT to be pampered. But that’s not going to happen. And that’s fine). These are the people who, when I was six, told me to “stop acting like a child,” after all.

They came to see me last summer in my first trimester of pregnancy, and in the three days they were here we visited 1.Mt. Vernon 2. all the monuments on the National Mall 3. the Arlington Cemetery, 4. the Holocaust museum 5. the National Gallery 6. Dumbarton Oak Gardens and 7. Georgetown, and more I just can’t remember right now. Oh, yeah, there was Shabbat in there somewhere, too.

Happy as school children on summer vacation, they’d wake me each morning at 6:30, ready for adventure.

My mother and I walked 4-6 miles every day the week before I gave birth. I was proud of my athleticism; I really pushed myself to do a 15-minute mile. The second day my mother woke me at 6 am to ask if I thought we’d take another 4 mile “stroll,” because she wanted to know how much she should work out before our next outing.

My mother worked plenty at home when we were small, and she probably deserves to vacation the rest of her life: there were the kids (us), the vegetable garden, the cooking. She ground our peanut butter and made her own flour. We raised our own animals for meat; she sewed our clothes. You could eat off her floors (unlike mine which my daughter, unfortunately, eats off anyway).

Isn’t she amazing?

But she’s done now.

She's so done my mother will probably wear my winter clothes while she’s here, so she won’t have to pack hers. (she weighs 103 lbs, as she’ll mention repeatedly in the course of the weekend, as in “I just don’t understand: I eat and eat and eat all day and I still weigh just 103 pounds”).

Umm…Thank G-d they’re healthy?

My baby is going to have a terrific time! We can't wait.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bye Bye Baby

I wouldn’t say I am an adventurous person. I don’t go on roller coasters. I find the idea of parachuting out of a plane nauseating. I don’t even drive on the highway.

But I have my moments of grand adventure. I went para sailing. I hiked up a rain forest and swam in a waterfall…when I was 6 months pregnant. I even wore white shoes after Labor Day. Just that once, though.

But what I am about to do. What I am EXCITED to do. What I have been waiting months to do-could shock some mommies to the core. Could frighten you beyond reason. Could make you think things about me that I certainly wish you wouldn’t.

I am LEAVING my daughter.

Well not for long- a week. And not with like social services, but with her Baubie and Zadie.

You see, my husband and I are going on a cruise. A little vacation-just him, me, 4,000 passengers and the Southern Caribbean. And it seems so innocuous, to actually WANT to go some place special with just your husband. The man you married. Fell in love with. Spent every moment of your life wishing you were with…until you had a child. Then that love is there and growing and all, but often you wish you got to spend more time with the bed. You have fights over who gets to change the next poopy diaper. You know he is slightly fibbing when he tells you he thinks you are sexy and you know you haven’t showered in a week or bothered to put on lipstick, let alone deodorant.

Why not spend some good quality time with the Mister, right?

But let me tell you, to some people-it’s poison.

Surprising as it may seem, there is a trend of not actually wanting to spend alone time with the man you married. I’ve been asked, “How can you think of doing anything enjoyable WITHOUT your child?” I’ve heard, “I can’t imagine leaving my child with anybody but me.” I know people who won’t even let their child stay with a babysitter for a few hours so they can go out on a Saturday night. But rarely do I hear, “You go girl!” (unless it’s in relation to how I managed to do 100 sit ups while finger painting at the same time).

I am all about doing special things as a family. You NEED to, it’s so very important. Building a bond with your child as a parent, is fantastic and necessary. But I think that maintaining a relationship that created the child is just as important as maintaining the child.

I also don’t think it has to be a fancy cruise-it’s just my birthday and my husband knows how to pick gifts. I think time alone together is time alone together. And if it’s a movie or sushi or anything that doesn’t involve diapers or boogers or cleaning gum out of the dog’s hair it has to be good. Making that time, that moment, will teach your child things about relationships that she can’t learn everyday and that, unfortunately, not all children are privileged enough to have the opportunity to learn.

We are going to go and have a romantic, stunning, relaxing time. Our daughter is lucky enough to have grandparents we trust. That she loves. That she wants to be with. That she is close to. She is also lucky to have a Mommy and Daddy who are deeply in love with each other. That still cherish and love and respect alone time. I’m going to miss her like crazy. I’m going to buy her way too many souvenirs. I’m going to think about how great it’s going to be to have her with us in our big family trip next June. But I’m not going to feel guilty. My husband and I will be too busy swimming with giant sea turtles to have time for that.

My Son Has Game

I teach music at my son's preschool. One of the perks is that I get to observe him in social situations.

For the first 2 months of school, he barely interacted with other kids, preferring to be off by himself or in a teacher's lap. Just recently, he is starting to come out of his shell.

Yesterday, I watched him hang back in class, obviously too cool to participate in the group menorah or the tamborine dance to "Oh Suzanna." And then M walked in - his first friend at school - though truthfully, she seems more like a girlfriend.

I watched, amazed, as he smiled coyly and batted his eyes when she entered the room. She promptly went over to him and pinched his cheeks. They pushed each other and ran away giggling. Moments later, he was lying on her lap! I couldn't believe it!

But that's not all. Five other 3-year old babes came over and lay down on top of them! The teacher noticed my expression and said, "Isn't it funny? He's such a ladies man."

Indeed. I felt a glimpse of what it might be like to catch my future teenager making out with his girlfriend. It was particularly incredible to me just how innate the skill of flirting must be. My son is three years old - but he clearly has game. He certainly did not get this from me.

I admit to feeling a little relieved when, as he was leaving class, he annouced that he wanted his blankie. He may show signs of being a future heartbreaker, but for now, he's still a baby.


I’m the eunuch in a harem, the hausfrau with an ankle-length mink coat in the tropics, the Baptist minister with a 1958 Fender Telecaster (the one used in Jimmy Page’s guitar solo for “Stairway to Heaven”), the dog in a field of catnip. I’m a vegetarian from Texas.

Worse, I’m from Houston, where the kosher meat sections take up 4 aisles in grocery stores. What a waste.

Sure I love hanging with the extended family of about 75 on Thanksgiving. Love football. Love arguing with my uncles about politics and oil. But as far as food goes, it’s like listening to couples talk about sex after being stood up at your own wedding.

A typical Thanksgiving meal by us includes: turkey and dressing (with meat in the dressing), chicken, brisket, venison sausage (homemade), It includes meat-based gravy for the mashed potatoes, brisket chips in the green beans.

I was so, so happy when my uncle married a French woman. That felicitous union added salad Nicoise to the Thanksgiving menu.

Vegetarianism is considered a psychosomatic illness in my family--no one would encourage it by making vegetarian alternatives. On the other hand, it's been a carte blanche for me to indulge in small acts of rebellion--of course she's styding literature instead of accounting, what do you expect from a vegetarian?

This year, I’m not flying to my family in Texas, since the only plane ticket under a zillion dollars returns to Baltimore or changes in Orlando, and I’m NOT doing that by myself with a very squirmy infant and luggage. She’s 10 months—she wouldn’t remember anyway. Next year I'll rejoin the carnivores I so love.

Tomorrow I’m hanging with a girl friend, cooking up unimaginable delights (that do NOT include fake turkey--possibly the vilest concoction ever evented), then watching football, like any other American.

Y’all enjoy yours, too.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Thankful Thanksgiving

Like most Americans, I usually spend more time eating turkey than feeling thankful on Thanksgiving. I always wish that I could interrupt the meal and initate a "what I'm thankful for" sharing fest, but I don't.

So instead I'll share with you, dear reader...

Things I'm Thankful For...

My son. He is wonderful and amazing and wild and makes me laugh--and think--every day.

My husband. He's interesting and beautiful and hands down the best Abba I've ever seen.

My best friend. She's been my doula, my psychotherapist, my cheerleader and much much more.

My mother. She's a mirror for me in ways sometimes joyful, sometimes painful, but always illuminating.

My father. He's fought through countless cancers and emerged a strong and active Saba for my son to know and love.

My sister. With five amazing children of her own she's my Mommy-mentor, answering countless questions big and small.

My brother. Having him back on the East coast after almost twenty years has been a revelation.

My health. Good physical and mental health are a blessing that I too often take for granted.

My two-bedroom apartment. It gives us space to be together as a family and space to be individuals.

My job. It allows me to work from home and flex my time, giving me a fighting chance at a work-life balance.

My city. It's filled with interesting people and wonderful opportunities.

Okay, your turn. What are YOU thankful for?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Posts to come

Since I'm busy packing for Thanksgiving, I thought I'd give a quick preview of posts to come...
  1. A girl needs Orthodoxy like a fish needs a bicycle...
  2. Can you love your pediatrician if he doesn't love you back?
  3. Do crying kids make cashiers work faster?
  4. If an educated person can't handle the health care system...
As always, lots to be thankful for, and I hope you have lots too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Not a Chance

I don't bake. Which I think most people find kind of funny, especially given that I'm overweight (she must bake, right?). But I don't. There is something about the chemistry of baking that I hate and never get right, and the need to follow directions in order to get it "right" boggles my mind. I prefer cooking, which is an inexact science. And it usually comes out right.

So, I make cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. This is a sad, sad moment for me, kind of.

The first time I wanted to make cranberry sauce, I called up my mom and asked her for her recipe. Growing up in my house, we often had turkey for Shabbat dinner, and there was always whole berry cranberry sauce, home-made, to accompany it. My grandpa, z''l (may his memory be a blessing), used to insist that the two go side by side and would really rib my mom (his daughter in law) if it wasn't on the table. So I called my mom, and asked for the recipe...and she said....

It's on the side of the bag. Just follow the directions. (and click here...if you need a shortcut like me)

This year, I have a huge project to finish, 2 evaluations of multiple pages to write, and a ton of workshops to plan. I have a 3 year old whose father is away at a conference and parents descending momentarily from out of town. Thank God I am not cooking for this meal. And I am not cooking for ANY meal. We'll be eating out of the freezer.

I wonder if my son will lose out because I am not a baker. There won't ever be home-made cookies or muffins to share with friends or take for lunch. I don't make gefilte fish from scratch (there's a great movie about this) but I do make great home-made chicken soup. I won't bake. No cakes, nothing. Not my thing. I cook a lovely Shabbat meal. I like fresh herbs and weird vegetables from the garden. But there's not a chance I will become a baker.

Our collective image of the Jewish mother is a real balabusta who "keeps house" by baking tasty morsels, like challah, and making chicken soup...and all of the ingredients for a proper Shabbat. Although I feel as though I am channeling Eishet Chayil, she keeps her house clean and her laundry is always done, and her children praise her.

Tonight, my house is a mess, my parents are coming tomorrow, and Thanksgiving dinner is at my in-laws. There is not a chance that I would change this and I hope it happens every year. My image of the perfect Jewish mother is not that woman who kills herself for everyone else and whose own life is left wanting. And here I am writing yet another blog post that is a reminder to me and to you, readers, that it is OK to take short cuts on the little things in life. The big things, no, but who cares if the whole berry cranberry sauce is some fancy recipe or off the Ocean Spray bag??

Last, there's not a chance that I will post on Thursday, but I will likely have some juicy tidbits following the "yom tov." So Happy Thanksgiving to all.

And in case you're wondering, we make parve pumpkin pie husband is an awesome pie maker (again, not for me) and he uses the recipe on the side of the can too, substituting 1/2 the soy milk for the regular milk. Note use of pre-made pie crust and 10 minutes preparation time!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007


After all the bitching I’ve done, I just want to say, this shabbat’s visit with babydaddy was wonderful. (He sees her roughly every six weeks or so).

For the first time since the baby was born he said, “How do you do this by yourself every day?” Of course, he was only referring to putting shoes on the baby, because you can’t really do sock, sock, shoe, shoe; you have to do sock, shoe, sock, shoe. She's a little Houdini when you're trying to dress her.

It may not sound like much, but coming from a man who told me I wasn’t breastfeeding correctly when baby was 11 weeks old because it was different than how I’d done it at 4 weeks—and nagged me for two weeks to double check with a doctor, though baby was gaining 24 ounces a week, until I notsonicely asked him to stop—it was wonderful.

This Shabbat he 1. took care of baby while I went to services both Friday evening and Saturday morning.
2. arranged the furniture and set the table for lunch while I was at services.
3. sent a gift card the week before to cover the cost of the Shabbat meals.
4. washed the lunch dishes.
5. changed baby almost every time she needed it (he only tried the “it’s your turn” on me once).
6. volunteered to babysit while I went out motzi Shabbat! It was the third time I’d been out sans baby since she was born.
7. stayed Sunday morning long enough for me to go to the farmer’s market alone.

Yes, babydaddy does dress baby funny—he put the cover-alls on BACKWARDS, and also the diaper (???????). He put on a sweater vest UNDER the cover-alls. But who cares.

Baby was loved and cuddled and fed and clothed by her abba; she was warm and happy. And it was good good good for both of them to have some alone time together without me. And it was good for me to have some alone time alone.

I complimented him over and over.
Wouldn’t it be great if this were the new status quo?

oh oh oh! last week the staged reading of a book-length poem I'd translated from the Czech was filmed by Czech television!
Good times indeed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Great Grandmas

My son is totally blessed. He has four great grandmothers. 3 are in amazingly good health for being 89, 90 and 93 years old,. They still drive themselves everywhere, live independently, and are feisty and very much alive. The 4th great grandma has middle stage Alzheimers.

We see Grandma H pretty much weekly. She is my husband's paternal grandma, and lives near us, just around the corner from my in-laws. We eat dinner with her once a week: usually I can avoid it half the time--work often interferes as I work in the evenings, but my husband and son go. Every time it is the same. She doesn't know where she is, but she remembers our names. She is in failing health, and cries every time she leaves us because she is afraid she won't see us again...not that she'll die necessarily, but that we will forget her like she sometimes forgets us.

It's a tough relationship. When she was younger, she was quite amazing (she still is, I know). A college graduate who married a chicken farmer, she worked and worked until they sold the farm. She then returned to her passion, French (her college major), and became a French teacher in a local high school. About 5 years ago, she had trouble remembering where she was every once in a while, and my inlaws moved her to close by their home, and with full time care, so that she could be comfortable and safe.

Grandma H takes tremendous delight in my son. She has one game that she plays with him: Let Me Eat Your Food. She says, "mmmmm. That looks delicious. Can I have a taste?" When he was younger, he would just look at her, perplexed, with his brow furrowed. He didn't understand why she would ask this when she had a plate of food in front of her. Now, at almost 3, he says, "Grandma, you have food. You don't want mine. Eat yours." He has figured out that she has her quirks, and has learned that it is a silly game, but he doesn't really want to play. Ever.

Some day, Grandma H, and the other grandmas, will all die. In fact, we will all die eventually. I hope that my son has some enduring memories of his great grandmas...even the silly dinnertime games. I had only one great grandparent who lived into my lifetime, my great grandfather Max. He died when I was in 4th grade, and I remember it very clearly. I loved him very much and found him fascinating, with his unusual hats, always with a pipe, and just very, very different from little me. I want this generation of family matriarchs to live, to live healthy lives, long enough for my son to create some very real and lasting memories of them to share with his great grandchildren. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by these four extraordinary women and to have their example very much present as I raise my son.

In our living room, we have a picture of Grandma H and her brother sitting on their on their front stoop--she is probably 6 and he is probably about 10. I have pictures, in fact, of all of my grandparents and even my great grandparents, all over my home, because seeing them fosters the sense that they are very much present in our lives. It is so important to me that my son knows where he came from and who loves him. And to always be surrounded by memory.

Hence, dinner with Grandma H. I might suffer through it, but every time I remember what she can't. Memories are made in each of our interactions. Let's hope it lasts until she's at least 120.

Spitting it Out Would Get the Same Message Across with a Lot Less Mess

Decorum should have dictated that I show some modicum of dismay over the fact my 10-month-old daughter was eating off the floor at someone else’s house. More specifically, she was eating scraps her playmate, after licking all over them, mashing them, and dissecting them, threw from her high chair. After all, we were eating with people who didn’t know us well.

Usually I have to trick my daughter into opening her mouth when I want to sneak anything but applesauce and cheerios into her. I don’t hold her jaws closed until she swallows or anything. I just offer her a taste. She needs to keep tasting food—at least that’s what I read somewhere—and then someday she’ll magically like it.

Often she gags as if I were trying to poison her. She’ll make an excellent Shakespearean actress one day.

Now here she was voluntarily opening her mouth, placing the broccoli in, chewing (gumming) it and swallowing. When she saw me looking she grinned triumphantly and waved at us all. Naturally, I didn’t even feign shame.

The next day I made my girl broccoli, carrots, and mushy pasta, sat her in her chair, and handed them excitedly over. She gladly mashed them up and then examined her hand as if she’d just killed a mosquito and was looking at the blood.

I placed her on the ground and put the vegetables in a bowl. She picked up the bowl and dumped them out. I arranged them on a placemat on the floor. She lifted the placemat and shook them off. I placed them directly on the hardwood floor, and she ate one or two.

Placing her food directly on the floor doesn’t work all the time. Some days she just ignores it and goes for a dried leaf near the doorway or bit of paper under my desk.

Food tastes better if you must hunt for it, apparently. My mother has suggested I hide food so that she can “find” it, but I worry that I’ll forget where I put it. I mean, I do have a job, too, so, let’s face it, the housework suffers a bit.

Since she seems to vomit a lot after I’ve had cow milk—in cheese or even milk chocolate, I don’t want to give her yoghurt—which is one of the foods other mothers have suggested. Besides, why should I feed her another animal’s milk when I’ve got far more than enough for one child? I just worry that she should be eating more solids more regularly by now.

My daughter is a charming breastfeeder. She blows on my tummy after I finish nursing her the way I blow on her tummy after I change her diaper. When I’m not paying enough attention to her, she stops and grins up at me, until I laugh.

But solid foods!

I can just see it now, her first day of school. Snack time comes and she drops to the floor, takes apart her sandwich and spreads the filling across the floor.
Her teacher will ask: were you raised in a barn?
And she’ll say: What do you mean? This is how we eat at home.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cork Sucking Melon Farmers

I have a dirty mouth. Foul evil things can spew past my lips. As an added bonus I’m somewhat creative so if somebody wrongs me I can come up with a new set of curse words special for the occasion. When all the old boring ones simply aren’t good enough. I could make a sailor blush. I could make a sailor wet himself.

To be fair, it’s a pretty contained phenomenon. I wouldn’t create a cursing masterpiece in the middle of the grocery store for a woman who cut me in line, stepped on my toe, had 19 items in the 12 items or less line, made the teller check the price on each and every item (including a kumquat and an odd variety of melon) and then made her REcheck her out because she forgot to give her coupons. All 18 of them.

I am a lady after all.

No. I would save the fantastic explosion of evil for my husband when I would tell him the story later that day. I think he enjoyed it. Loved me a little more for my ability to so fully express myself.

But clearly this form of expression needed to cease when we decided to reproduce. Mommies aren’t supposed to be R rated. I needed to adjust my way of speaking and thinking. And let me tell you, it was a big adjustment. If I didn’t have something to yelp out in moments of anger, stress, comedy, romance, guilt…oh dear Lord I had a problem….well what would I say?

The best thing I found was to watch movies on basic cable that were CLEARLY not meant to be viewed on anything but paid movie channels. You haven’t lived until you watch Bruce Willis scream out- bloodied, tattered and torn -“Yippee-ki-yay Mother Lover!”

I might not have gotten the most useful information out of it but at least I was in the right mind set. And when my daughter came along I totally did it. I eliminated all the naughty words from my vocabulary and set a good example. And then there was yesterday.

Wonderful, amazing, made-me-so-happy-my-toes-curled yesterday.

I took my daughter out of her crib and began to carry her down the stairs. Halfway down she cried out, “Oh dear! Oh no! Shoot shoot sugar shoot! I left my blankie in the crib!” Apparently she DOES listen to what I say. And thank goodness I gave her some sugar shoots to lean on.

It’s a wonderful thing not only because my little lady remained a little lady, but because this was one of those rare times that I was able to see what I do actually makes a difference. So much of the example that Mommies and Daddies set can’t be seen until your child is older. When you forget all the work you did for them when they were little. The midot you instill upon them- the love, the generosity, the kindness-you don’t know what they will retain. It’s this great big mystery. But not this. This was great. This was awesome. I’m freakin’ thrilled.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Davening as Modeling

Somehow I have gotten out of the rhythm of davening.

Every morning my husband puts on tefillin and davens with my kids. My daughter loves to chew on the leather and my son holds the empty boxes and opens his own siddur. It is a wonderful way to start the morning.

Why do I leave myself out of it day after day?

Mornings are tough for me. I am always tired and a little out of it. And I am always rushing. I romanticize the idea of rising with the son, drinking a cup of coffee, playing with my kids, and having time to really daven. And each morning, it doesn't happen.

As I think about how to get myself out of this rut, I wonder, should I daven in the privacy of my bedroom while my husband is downstairs playing with the kids, or should I make a point to daven downstairs, so that they can see me - thus sending the message that davening is important to Mommy, too?

And here I get to the heart of the issue.

Lately, I find that my spirituality is utterly connected to my children and their education. Everything is about helping get a certain religious experience - singing zmirot, preparations for shabbat, giving tsedakah, etc. I am constantly "modeling."

Something is telling me that I could use a break from all that modeling and that davening by myself might be the just what I need right now.

Now if I only I could get started!

No Marriages Were Harmed in the Making of This Birthday

This past Sunday Abba and I hosted our son's first birthday party. There were 40 adults and 10 children. 100 bagels were purchased from a far-off suburb and 150 cookies were baked in the late hours of the night. Favors were bought and assembled. And much, much, MUCH more.

By me alone.

Don't get me wrong--Abba was totally willing to help. But deep down I knew that every time we planned and anticipated something together--our wedding, the imminent birth of our son--I made a list, checked off my items as soon as possible, and then hovered hovered hovered and panicked panicked panicked until Abba got around to doing his tasks.

Needless to say, this was never ever fun for me, and I can't imagine it made me particularly adorable, either. And it was definitely not good for our relationship.

This time, without even thinking about it, I just did it all myself. I made lists and ticked ticked ticked. I asked Abba questions and got his opinions but ultimately I was the one who made it all happen.

Boy was it stressful. Then again, program planning is always stressful for me--in an adrelin pumping, stomach knotting kind of a way. But I like the process on some level, and I love the result--bringing an event from concept to fruition.

But what about Abba?

As it turns out, working separately but together we achieved the perfect partnership. The night before and the day of the party Abba kicked into gear, helping to shop and shlep and set up and serve. Because of him I was able to stop working and actually enjoy the party. And when it was all over I collapsed into a chair and let him clean up, guilt free.

Maybe it would be better if I could focus on self-improvement--i.e. get over myself and stop trying to control every detail. But self-knowledge--accepting who I am and flowing with it instead of against it--is a huge stride for this Ima.