Thursday, September 25, 2008

For the sin which I have committed before you...

I was on the subway on my way to work this morning wearing my headphones and listening to New Order. I was running late and not interested in distractions.

Then a man started shouting from the other end of the car. I usually ignore it, as this happens a lot. Sometimes it is a speech, other times it is singing or passing around the hat. But I was in a kind of teary mood for some reason, and so I was listening both to New Order and to the yelling man. The subway car was quietish: the commute to work is usually much quieter than at other times of day. I guess it's because most of us are still asleep.

This is roughly what the man said.

"Sorry to bother you, ladies and gentlemen. But I'm really hungry and I hope you can help me. Do you have any extra food? Some food, a few pennies. I'm sorry to do this, but I made a lot of mistakes, I really messed up in my life, and I don't have anything to eat."

Then, he said loudly, but kind of plaintively: "God, I'm sorry. I really messed up."

By the time he reached me, my eyes were pooling with tears and I had reached into my bag and handed him the container which held my lunch.

I got off the train moments later feeling a deep sense of sadness.

This year, just like every year, I will read the Al Cheit and know that I have committed at least (if not more than) 90% of those sins...the sin of pride, of speaking ill of others, of running to do something wrong, of having haughty eyes, of eating and drinking too much. And all the rest.

God, I am really sorry. I messed up.

Every year, I cry on Yom Kippur. I have messed up in so many ways, I have so many people to beg for forgiveness. I have done so many rude, crude, hurtful things and I have really messed it up so many times. We all have; this is why Al Cheit is in the plural, because as a human collective (and as a Jewish people) we've done all this stuff.

But today I know that although I have a lot to say I'm sorry for and about, in all the ways I messed up, that I have a long way to go before I can make that public, heart pounding confession on Yom Kippur. I need to spend some really meaningful time (between driving matchbox cars around the living room and making applesauce as a project, and oh, working and preparing for the holidays) considering how I've missed the mark and how I'm going to work towards making it in the future.

It was easy to give away my lunch. It will be harder to do real teshuva.

Shana tova u'metukah.

And Now A Word From My Sponsor

We all have our moments when we question our ability to parent.
Where we are sure we are focusing on the wrong issues.

I am having one of those moments right now.

I started writing about all these things going on…how it was my daughter’s birthday party, how my son just started smiling, how it makes me so happy that my children have fantastic Uncles and Aunts, while I grew up with none. I could write up something, slap a couple of penis or porn references in there and badda boom badda bing , I will have blogged.

But I can’t. I can’t write about all the things I should write about.

I’m too distracted thinking about what is going to happen with Derek and Meredith tonight.

And then I get all distracted knowing that I won’t be able to find out in tonight’s 2 hour Grey’s Anatomy season premiere.

Nope. I’ll find out in the Stretched Out Over 6 Hours and 2 Days season premiere.

Darn fresh child getting in the way of my vice.

I really have a problem. I am totally and completely addicted to the television. I find it soothing and funny. I don’t have a problem setting up an evening around a favorite program. And while I do tend to get up and out and do things with my life nowadays, it’s really largely due to the advent of Tivo.

And you know what’s worse? I don’t see a problem with it. Not at all. I surround myself with people who suffer the same addiction so I don’t have to feel guilty about my struggling. I try to go a few hours without looking at the screen, but then I will turn it on. Just for a moment. Just for a second. Just to check out that new ridiculous PC commercial. Just to watch the Bonus Round on Wheel of Fortune. Just to watch that movie on Lifetime with the really lonely woman who falls in love with a man who turns out to be her brother’s identity thief. That’s it. And then I’ll turn it off. I swear.

And it stinks because I love my children but sometimes I find myself longing for Sex and the City reruns on TBS (I mean they don’t even show the good stuff!) in the middle of dollhouse play time. I get bitter about having to wash dishes at the end of the day instead of sitting in front of a new Project Runway (which is probably why there is a pile of dishes 6 feet high in the sink right now). And I swear, I think the hardest thing about the new baby isn’t the lack of sleep or the lack of control or the lack of puke free clothes, but the lack of TV face time I get.

That’s not right.

And I can’t even defend myself. I need a support group. There are definitely better things I should be doing in my free time and weekends. But I LOOOOOOOOOONG for television. I need it. If I play too long with my daughter I have to sneak a peak on youtube just to catch a glimpse of something moving on a flat screen. And heaven help me when it is the holidays and all that good Orthodox brainwashing keeps me from turning on the new House on the second night of Rosh Hashannah.

Now let me do what all good addicts do and try and rationalize.

I have 0 me time nowadays. None. Even if I find a moment to sit and say-read a book, in the quiet I remember about the laundry that needs to get done. Or how all the fuzzy animals that are in the purple bin in the toy room got shoved in the plastic animal blue bin in the rushed birthday party clean up. That needs to get fixed. But if I turn on an episode of Friends? I laugh. I get engaged. I don’t have to get up and get dressed and out there. I am far too exhausted and busy to spend my free time expending more energy and being more busy.

And you know, I talk to my husband, he makes me laugh. He is engaging. I talk to my friends. I have play dates and date dates. I am not shut out. But when I need to turn myself off I turn the TV on.

Thankfully my addiction is not illegal. Or cancer causing. Or costly -unless I discover the joy of pay-per-view porn (phew-almost wasn’t able to squeeze one in). I’ll find a non TV related hobby when both the kids are in college….by then they’ll have figured a way to implant TV shows in my corneas and I can take them to go.


Thanks to all for your well wishes and support. Just an update: my dad came through the surgery, thank God, and is doing fine. As am I...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Going Back In

I can feel the crazy nippy at my heels.

Today we head to New Jersey. A new cancer, a new surgery, more hoping and praying that Dad will once again emerge victorious.

I've been here before, more times than I care to count. Most recently when I was pregnant, though, and there our story begins.

My dad was in, I think, for emergency surgery to remove a section of his intestines that had become blocks by a hernia. All was going well and then he aspirated something, didn't get enough oxygen, went unconscious, and before we knew it he was in an ICU on a respirator. We needed to get back to DC for some reason...I can't remember we left that day, unsure of what would come.

Days later I was standing in a grocery story with my husband when I got the call from my mom that my dad was off the respirator. I even got to speak to him, a huge relief.

And that's when it happened.

I had had a panic attack earlier in the pregnancy...the first in my life. I had at that moment felt like I was heart rate was like 160 and I could hardly breath. They had done some scans and concluded it was hormones, and I had moved on.

But this time was different. The floodgates had opened, and it would take months of pushing against the rushing water to reclaim my life.

It started immediately with lightheadedness and some fierce stomach problems. We got me home and I spent the next few hours hanging on to my husband for dear see I felt like I was falling, even when I was sitting down.

I didn't sleep that night...and the next day was no better...I was exhausted and ill but my mind gave me no rest. I felt worse than I ever had in my life...I was in so much mental anguish that I just wanted it to go away...whatever it took.

By Saturday afternoon I was still lightheaded, still experiencing bouts of rapid heartbeat. Despite the fact that we had a roomful of people in our apartment we headed back to the emergency room. My husband was, by this time, losing a little patience, I think, but off we went. Another 12 hours, more scans, another conclusion that pregnancy was making me a little loony.

A few days and a few doctors appointments later I was on a few medications, trying to balance the guilt I was experiencing exposing my fetus to powerful medications with the knowledge that they were relatively safe and that the state of high-alert my body and mind was stuck in was not a good environment for him either. These were the first mental health meds I'd ever been on--and I've since weaned myself off--but I remember distinctly feeling like Alice in Wonderland when I took that first pill.

The next few months were an uphill battle. I've read that the biggest problem for people with panic attacks is fear of the attacks themselves and I guess that's what happened to me. Supermarkets were pretty much impossible for me, as was driving. My world shrunk down to a square mile. I worked from home, went, with great difficulty, to the corner store. Suffered through large crowds at kiddush. Repeated over and over to myself that my rapid heartbeat was nothing, that my lightheadedness was nothing, that I was not dying, that it would pass. Called my husband home from school, shul, wherever about a million times. And, except for my closest and most trusted friends, tried to keep the nature of my "difficulties" a secret.

Somewhere during the third trimester the fog began to clear and I started to reclaim my life. Supermarkets were still hard, but aside from that my symptoms were less and less and I was venturing farther and farther afield, pushing myself to do more, praising myself for small but important victories.

The doctors are pretty sure that it was really the combination of pregnancy and extreme stress that brought it all on. That I don't actually have these disorders in my non-pregnant life. And indeed, soon after Chamudi was born I weaned myself off the final medication and have been fine very since, thank God.

Until this summer.

It's been a stressful few months, and more than once I felt myself getting lightheaded for no particular reason. I acknowledged it, pushed on and tried to get more water, sleep, time to relax, whatever. I kept it at bay for long enough, and it receded with the stress itself.

But now we're heading back to the hospital. The scene of the crime. And, as I feel the outer edges of my sanity fray ever so slightly, I can't help but wonder if I'll be able to keep it all together.

When Chamudi was born I promised myself I wouldn't cry in front of him...I'd seen my mother cry so many many times and it was a difficult thing to bear. But I've already violated that about a hundred times over. Okay...children need to realize that their parents have emotions. But they also need to know that their parents are a stable safe place...and they don't need the burden of supporting a parent's emotional life or mental health struggles.

And so, with a deep breath, I venture back in. Wish me luck.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What's Best for My Daughter

Tomorrow morning I was supposed to be sitting with my lawyer, discussing what is best for my daughter, and then drawing up something that Babydaddy and I could agree upon. If we were thinking about what was best for her today, it would be easy: it’s best for her to nap during the day, sleep on a regular schedule, get plenty of fruits and vegetables, read books, play outside, learn to pick up her toys, hug and be hugged, and laugh.

But how am I supposed to know what’s going to be best for her in 10 years? In 15? As anyone will tell you (and they frequently do tell me, especially Babydaddy) that it’s best for a child to have two parents that love her and are part of her life. Two weeks ago, when Babydaddy came down to discuss these issues with me, that’s what he said.

But it had been 8 weeks since he’d seen her. He wants to stay where he is and he see her every 6 weeks or so (because that’s all he has time for, he said). Is this being part of a child’s life? He realizes that he’s "not been prioritizing her right now, but it’s because she’s too young to need him yet.” Is this being part of her life?

He’s been thinking of moving here, so he can see her evenings during the week and sometime on weekends. Of course, he wants to find a wife first. I know that theoretically, this would be best for her. But this is the solution that freaks me out the most.

There’s nothing wrong with where I am. I have a great job, a great community and a great daughter. But staying here means I have just that: a job, a community where I can’t daven until my girl’s old enough to sit still during services, and a daughter.

As supportive as my university is, I have to continue my current schedule: up at 6, play with baby, give her to the nanny and work till 5, play, feed, clean, read with her till 7:30. Put her down to bed and work till midnight. Up at 6. At least until I get tenure.

What kind of life is that?

Obviously, if I take her to Israel, she’s really going to be far away from her Abba. But we’ll have travel funds (and the research need) to spend up to four months in the States every year. He says that longer periods of time are no so convenient for him as weekends. Do I stay here so he can see her 8 weekends a year? Or do I let her grow up with the man I want to marry and who wants to raise her as his own? A man who davens three times a day and teaches her what I don’t know.

She loves her Abba, though she hardly sees him. We’ve got photos of him, and when she sees a photo she says “Abba!” When he's here it seems as if he really loves her. It breaks my heart.

If it were just me, I’d go. My Jewish education is minimal. There I could learn for myself and for her; I’d live in a Jewish country; I’d have that support. I’d live in a place where everyone has children, and children are valued and loved by society. I’d have a job with half the teaching load, and a teaching load that was in my area of expertise.

In my current city, dogs are loved more than children. Honestly. I went walking with a friend and her dog, and for every one person who greeted my adorable child, 8 greeted her adorable pooch. And it wasn’t even a puppy!

How do I know what’s best for baby? How much do we have to take into account what’s best for Babydaddy?

The lawyer phoned tonight and said we would have to reschedule next week. Honestly, I’m relieved.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's been a while...

First of all, I apologize for being totally MIA for the past few months. I don’t have a real excuse (work, toddlers, exhaustion, blah blah blah). There are topics I’ve wanted to post about, but they’re kind of heavy, and the longer I went without posting, the harder it became to sit down and share something very serious.

But in the spirit of teshuva (which, after all, means returning), I think it’s time. So here I am.

In June, I found out some news that, while not exactly a surprise, has been monumental: I carry the genetic mutation known as BRCA1 that predisposes me to breast cancer. Both my grandmother and my mother are breast cancer survivors, so I knew already that I was high risk. But knowing that the risk is almost 90% is a whole other story.

So what is an Ima to do? I’ve made the decision to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, which will lower my risk of breast cancer to about 1%. Drastic, to be sure. Probably shocking to many. But for me as a parent, a no-brainer. I want to do whatever I can to make sure I’m around to be an Ima for as long as possible, and to avoid putting my kids through what I went through as a child, watching my mother battle breast cancer. I’ve lived with the threat of cancer hanging over me my entire life, and soon I will banish that threat forever. Amazing. I feel lucky.

And of course, I also feel a lot of other things: angry, weepy, self-pitying, scared, anxious, to name a few emotions that course through me on a daily basis. Right now, I’m dealing by focusing on all the complicated logistics involved in having major surgery when you have two toddlers. I haven’t yet decided exactly which surgery I’m going to have (there are various options for reconstruction), and I’m spending a lot of time talking to other women who have gone through this to learn more about their experiences and their recommendations. Though these days my femaleness sometimes feels like a ticking time bomb – BRCA1 also raises one’s risk of ovarian cancer to about 50%, so I’ll have to remove my ovaries before I’m 40 – I also feel incredibly grateful to be able to draw on the strength and support that most women offer one another so freely.

The last thing that I want to say about all this today is that I don’t at all intend to be preachy about this. Surgery is the right decision for me now, but it’s not right for everyone. Everything about this is so personal, even the decision to get tested. Before I had kids, I didn’t want to be tested because I was already under surveillance as someone high risk and wasn’t ready to consider surgical options. My sister, who is single and childless, has decided not to get tested for now. I would never tell anyone that she should get tested or, if positive, should have bilateral mastectomies. But I do think it’s important for women – especially those of us who are of Ashkenazi background, since we are 5 times more likely to carry the breast cancer genetic mutations – to know about the availability of testing, the risks a positive diagnosis carries, the options for dealing with it, and the support networks (such as FORCE) that are out there. Knowledge is power.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fancy-Schmancy Salmon Patties

So last week I had planned an elegant menu for a small group of friends, among whom are some of the best cooks I know. One hour and nineteen minutes before sunset, I realized the fish I’d chosen was bad. No time for more shopping.

Thanks to my friend who recently moved, I had several cans of salmon on hand. I made this up on the fly, and it was wonderful. Obviously, it would taste better with fresh salmon, but you do what you can under these circumstances, no?

Fancy-schmancy Salmon patties from canned salmon

16 oz canned salmon, which I skinned and deboned
8 oz smoked salmon which I cut into little pieces
12 oz spinach, wilted in olive oil and crushed garlic
8 oz fancy mushrooms (shitake, portabella, etc.) chopped and browned
1 small onion, chopped and sautéed in olive oil till translucent
4 oz water chestnuts, chopped fine
chopped dill to taste
salt & pepper
2 eggs
matzah meal (enough to hold everything together)

put your toddler to “work” washing salad (if they need to feel involved)
mix everything up well, pat into little cakes and fry in olive oil until brown

dressing: mix mayonnaise with wasabi, chili paste and soy sauce, squeeze a lemon into it, and stir till well blended.

It’s nice served over arugula, or, for a more soothing contrast to flavor-packed salmon, romaine lettuce.

Serves about 6

Earlier this week I was so busted by my daughter. My child was playing with Ima-Shalom’s lovely son when chamudi’s Abba made a nice bracha over a banana. This sent my girl shooting into the dining room like a little arrow: “chuice! chuice!” Okay, its now obvious the only time this child hears food brachot is over grape juice, wine and challah. And the only time she gets juice is on Shabbat. So starting this week, I’m making an effort to remember to begin teaching my daughter the blessings over food every day. How embarrassing.

Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, September 12, 2008

What's for dinner?


We got an invitation for Shabbat dinner! We are going to our next door neighbor's, but it is an all adults (save my increasingly rambunctious 3.9 yo). And it is at 8pm. Hm. Look on the bright side. It will allow us to go to Kabbalat Shabbat, which we haven't been to in ages, and it's on the roof of the shul, so we're particularly excited!

This is bad news, though, for those of you who wanted a recipe from me for this Shabbat...

Luckily, I was asked to bring dessert and can do that since it is peach season (I don't much like parve desserts, but this one is good. All peaches are good cooked, somehow, and so this works!

Baked Peaches Total time: 45 minutes

2pounds apricots 1/2cup kirsch 4tablespoons sugar or more to taste.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Wash the peaches, cut them in half and pit them. Put them in a baking dish.
3. Sprinkle with the kirsch and sugar and bake them, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

(if you are like me and don't know what kirsch is, just dump some sugar over it and call it a day. they will be yummy)

I also made an optional syrup for this: I boiled 2 tbsp dried lavender in one cup of water and one cup of sugar, all mixed together. Strain the lavender out and drizzle it on top. Use left overs on top of plain yogurt (or icecream if you are desperate).

This is an adaptation of a recipe from the NYTimes a few weeks ago for baked apricots. But it isn't apricot season anymore, alas...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

That Crisp Fall Feeling in the Air

It doesn't matter what I was doing that evening. I don't remember.

But the next morning, I woke up really early, got dressed in my gym clothes, and my husband and I went to vote together in the primaries. I looked extremely shleppy, unshowered and ready to work out. The voter volunteer woman, an overweight Dominican woman, looked me up and down as she registered me. And then said, "Mami, you better lose some weight. Fat girls can't keep husbands." Was she talking from experience? Whatever. 7 years later and we are happily married 12 1/2 years, and damn, I am still fat.

We voted. Went to the gym. After the gym, I went to grab a cup of coffee across the street at Starbucks before I went to go home, take a shower and go to work. The barista and the cashier were talking about how a small plane flew into the World Trade Center, but the reports they got was that it was a small plane and that it was certainly an accident. I got my coffee and sat down at a table.

I called my mother. All circuits were busy. The only time I've ever heard about that happening was in Israel, after a suicide bombing. That didn't register till later. Finally, I reached my mom. She told me, from her vantage point near a TV 100 miles south of the Pentagon, was that I better get off the streets and home to the TV. And I did.

But when I got to my building, something in me snapped. I went up to the 12th floor, where not too many months before I had gone with my 5 year old cousin as we were walking up and down the stairs for fun. And I looked out the window. And those towers, stark in their angles, industrial and the epitome of 70's design, were burning. I couldn't see the fire, but I saw the smoke. I could already smell the acrid, burning scent that was to be the perfume of Manhattan for the coming weeks.

I went to the TV. I was one with the TV. For the next 48 hours, I slept in cat naps on the couch, and lived in front of the TV. I was paralyzed.

That day, my husband was already out, and chose not to come home from his relatively safe space on the urban campus of his graduate school. So it fell to me to try to find everyone, to find my father in law, who was on a plane at the time, and who ended up, oddly enough, spending the night with my parents because that town was the only place where there was an airport where the plane could safely land. I called everyone; telling them that we were OK, finding out where they were, if they were OK, if everyone was accounted for. One ear on them, the other on the TV.

Later that day, after reports that banks would be freezing accounts and that there would be food shortages on my island, I went to the grocery store. I never had more compassion than for the parents who stocked up on diapers, not knowing if there would be deliveries (ever again) soon The first grocery store, well, the lines were so long that I went to another one. I bought random things to eat, comfort food, thinking that it might be a while before we had fresh food again, and hell, what if the power went out?? Walking back from the grocery store, I went to the ATM and got out all the cash I could. Didn't know what to expect.

One of my very closest friends, a classmate of my husband, was a chaplain with the fire department. That day, while I was shopping, he rushed down and was a first responder. He went another time as well during that first few days, but when it became apparent that there were not survivors. Still to this day, I worry about his health. And I know that he probably suffers from PTSD in many ways, and I know that the experience changed him forever in ways I'll never understand.

I don't know why I am telling you this story. What I do know is that today was a beautiful, crisp almost fall day, with a bright blue sky with no clouds. Just like that day. And what I can also tell you is that I think about September 11 almost every day. Every time I see a plane flying over my head, and I live in the flight path for LaGuardia (so it's a lot). I think about September 11 whenever I see the Vote Aqui Vote Here signs that direct voters each primary and election day to the polls. I think about it whenever I think about first days of school; the kids whose first days of kindergarten were changed forever. I think about two little boys, born just before September 11, whose brises were smaller and more intimate than their parents had wanted, because no one could get onto the island, or because family couldn't fly in. And today, that weather. It hurts inside, honestly, to feel that kind of beautiful glorious weather, because it's ominous, and feels like violence inflicted on my soul.

Those planes flew practically over my head as they made their mad dashes to death. I was inside. I didn't hear a thing. I can't imagine what it would be like had I seen them. Thank God for sparing me that agony.

I think a lot about that Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, when I learned the real meaning of the words in Unetane Tokef, "who shall die by fire, and who by water." And when I went outside to take a walk on the first night of Rosh HaShanah and saw the fighter jets patrolling the skies. And the Profiles in Grief, the tiny piece in the New York Times about each person killed. I promised myself that the way I would personally mourn for each of those souls lost was to read just that tiny bit of text that illuminated their lives for me. Many years later, I bought the book that was made of the entries, as kind of a memorial to each of the victims.

I am not writing this column as a mother. I wasn't a mother then. But I certainly did think that day, and in the days that followed, that I never wanted to have a child. How could I bring a child into a world that was filled with such evil? So many conversations like that took place in my circles...for some, it was a sign to wait. For others, it was a realization that the only way to effectively stare down Death was to create Life.

I write this column as a proud resident of the Upper West Side, a taxpayer in good standing of the City of New York. Someone who smelled that smell. As one indulgent person wallowing in my own sadness. As someone who thinks that calling it Nine Eleven reduces the heartbreak to a slogan. As someone who still feels teary every time she sees a firefighter or firetruck, and who in her heart thinks the world of people so unselfish. As someone whose heart broke on September 11, 2001 and as someone whose heart breaks every day a little bit and as someone whose heart breaks over and over every September 11.

Yehi zichram l'bracha. May the memories of those who were lost be a blessing to all whose lives they touched.

R.I.P. N.A.P.

We all have our things that if we had our way, we would do differently the second time around. Maybe you’d have picked a different shade of vibrant orange for your living room or thought a little harder before deciding to get that perm, or that third husband of yours.

If I had to do it all again, I would sleep more. I would just sleep. Have nice steady bedtimes. Focus entire weekends on how much sleep I could muster. Follow around a family of bears for a winter to get some tips on the most efficient way to hibernate. I would sleep until the pillow drool suffocated me.

I miss sleep. I get a surprising amount of it considering I have a newborn and an almost 3 year old. But I don’t get bonus sleep. I don’t get to sleep in on weekends. Or national holidays. Or because I stayed up late the night before doing keg stands.

I get the sleep I get and I can’t get upset.

But what I do get upset about is when people don’t appreciate how lucky they are to get all the sleep their bodies want. Seriously people-is watching that third episode of Golden Girls at 12:30am so important??? Or cleaning the house? Or spending time with your significant other? I think not. That is what dreams are for.

I am especially frustrated currently because it seems as though that my daughter has given up the nap. The sweet delicious midday nap. Ohhhhhh, just thinking about it makes my eyelids water.

I knew it would happen. She is the very last from all of her friends to slap on the awake patch and ditch the nap habit. And it’s supposed to be a sign that she is growing up, but I honestly think it’s a sign that she is losing her marbles. I try to explain to her how important her nap is. That one day when she gets older she will wish she had more sleep. But no, all she wants to do is bang on the drums all day.

I loved naptime. Her naptime was my naptime because we all know I like to vicariously live through my young. And I could nap or fold laundry or just sit there staring into space dreaming about when I could nap but chose not to.

Aside from that, her naptime became increasingly important once I had the newest youngling. He naps it up and if I could get her to nap when he napped, well glory be. But to at least have that only one conscious child to deal with feeling was pretty dreamy.

Now no more. No matter how hard I begged or bribed or drugged her, the napping had left the building.

At least I love her and I know that one day I will wish I spent more time with her when she was young…so more conscious hours helps with that. And at least she goes to bed easier at night. And best of all, at least she is still running around half naked. Ah, memories.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I'm emerging momentarily from the cave (by which I mean my office) to share some reflections. It's hard to believe, but it's been over a year since Ima Shalom began in earnest. When you get the chance, take a few minutes to read back over the old posts--it's amazing to see how we Imas and our children have changed and grown, and the many ways in which we have stayed gloriously the same. I love our diversity and our honesty. It's been amazing getting a glimpse into the inner worlds of such a cool group of Imas, and I look forward to another wonderful year of Ima Shalom.

Meanwhile, a shameless plus for our upcoming children's event at the DCJCC. Hope to see you and your children (and/or their nanny/babysitter/au pair) there!

Tuesday, September 16

10:00 am
Richard Michelson
A is for Abraham

Ages: best for 2–5 year olds accompanied by their teachers, parents or caregivers

Join the 16th Street J's Early Childhood Center for a morning of storytelling, creativity and fun all about A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet. Become immersed in the sing-song rhyming language as the author reads from his beautiful book. Act out some of the stories in the book, create your own alphabet illustrations and join our Pre-K classes in asking Richard Michelson about why and how he wrote this wonderful book for children.

A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet gives children the history of Jewish traditions and customs and explains how they are practiced today. This joyful celebration of family and heritage includes the meaning behind celebrations such as Hanukkah, Passover and Sukkot; important names and stories from the Old Testament; and how modern-day families continue to celebrate their heritage. This book is the newest contribution to a popular children's series that also includes B is for Bookworm, D is for Drinking Gourd, and others.

Richard Michelson is an award-winning poet and children's book author. His books for children have received a New Yorker Best Book Award, a Children's Book Committee Book of the Year and a Jewish Book Council Book of the Month. The Detroit Jewish News cited Too Young for Yiddish as "one of the best Jewish children's books published in recent memory, and one of the top 25 ever published." Clemson University named Michelson as the Richard J. Calhoun Distinguished Reader in American Literature for 2008.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

45 minutes

No matter where you fall on the political scale, the sanity scale, or the bathroom scale, one surprising effect Sarah Palin has had on some of my most awesome fabulous mama-friends and colleagues is existential crisis. “It took me FOUR months to go back to work after the birth of my special-needs baby,” one lamented. Another chops her own wood, but she can’t field-dress a moose, though she can make hysterical photos of plucked chickens that she’s housed dressed (in fanciful garb). Another, a nuclear physicist, is so good at explaining calculus that I didn’t die of embarrassment on my GRE, plus she can do wicked cool stuff like split neutrinos, but she’s not been able to govern a State.

Some of my friends feel inadequate because they had to choose between high-power careers and children. But everyone is a little frightened that if, G-d forbid, something were to happen to McCain—were he to have been elected (the oldest president ever)—congress would expect all women to be as efficient as Sarah Palin. Imagine: “why do women need six weeks maternity leave? Our president gave birth to her eight child while on conference call to Osama Bin Ladin!” (Honestly, the first woman president, if she plans to have a child while in office, should try it. If she was like me, her yells would pretty effectively pair with her threats to kick someone's ass.)

I may have had to go back to work after a C-section when my child was 3 weeks old and no one was with me to help out. But, what with the stitches, blood loss, colic, breastfeeding, and sleep deprivation, I think tax payers would have been better off had I been paid to stay at home for a few months.

Ladies, if it makes you feel better, I offer myself as a humble example of how efficient this woman/mother is when she’s caring for her delicious daughter.

Personal Fitness—I like to think I’ve not cut back on the time I spend working out each week since my child was born. I’ve just made the following adjustment for a one-hour workout.
Before: I ran six miles
Now: I walk 6 blocks with my little future voter. (I’ve not figured out the exact mileage, but if you count retracing steps, climbing up and down neighbor’s steps and paths, it’s gotta be further than it seems).

In 45 minutes I can fold and put away laundry, sweep and mop the apartment if no one else is there.
OR I can choose to devote that time to cleaning the pasta sauce out of my child’s nostrils and ears, hair, belly button and from between her toes.

In 45 minutes I can prepare a 3-course meal for 4 (or, if you count halved grapefruits for appetizers, a 4-course meal).

But unless I’m hosting a Shabbat meal, I don’t use precious babysitting (or baby bed-time)time for cooking, so usually in 45 minutes I can peel 4 carrots and crack and separate 6 eggs with my girl, who pours the egg yolks into a bowl and throws the shells away for me.

In 45 minutes with my daughter’s help I can make the bed—complete with a few games of hide-and-seek, peek-a-boo, and a couple of stories tossed in. But I guess this should be counted as “playing.” And one day, please G-d, my daughter gets a father and a sibling, they can play (and make the beds) together…see, just gained 45 minutes! If that happens, I might look into governing a small state like Wyoming (Just kidding Gov. Freudenthal).

Some things are actually faster with a child. Shopping, for instance. What used to take me an hour now takes me 20 minutes flat. Mostly because I feel guilty about the quantity of grapes my child consumes before we reach the check out. I’ve asked the checkers to add 50 cents or so to each lb of grapes, but they think I’m joking.

Well, for starters, it takes me 15 minutes each morning to find my “tick-tock,” cell phone, and keys, all of which my daughter had requisitioned for toys the night before.

I’m currently calculating how many classes I have to teach until my number of students equals the population of the state of Alaska. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Today is an important today.

Not JUST because it is my Mommy’s birthday (Happy Birthday Mommy!).

Not JUST because it is supposed to be my due date (you showed us didn’t you, uterus).

Today is the day I become self sufficient.

Well it’s not to say I wasn’t self sufficient before. This is just the first time I have to be a Mommy to two children, keep on top of the mess that is our house, try and work off those last few pounds of baby weight AND cook dinner.

Billions of women push out babies every day and the most they get from their friends is a nice card.

But those billions of women weren’t smart enough to be born Jewish. And in the land of Jew, food is what we do best. Food is a Jewish person’s Hallmark card.

I am not all that wonderful a person. I sometimes don’t even tell people if they have something stuck in their teeth. I certainly don’t think I deserve an outpouring of kindness just because my body pushed out a living thing.

But that is what happened.

And I don’t know if it’s because of the town I live in or because I am a nicer person now (I have started letting people know when their skirt is stuck in their undies), but I received FOURTEEN times the meals after birthing the boy child than I did after birthing the girl.

My friends created Google documents to organize the meals that people voluntarily made for me. And from very very close friends to people I knew only fleetingly created amazing meals for me. Some of them gave me dinner AND presents!

It was out of control. I felt like some sort of Maternal God with villagers bowing before me with their offerings of ziti, enchiladas, chicken and rice, rice with chicken and chicken stuffed rice in the hopes that I would look favorably upon them and wouldn’t curse them with flawed birth control methods.

But alas, the party is over. Tonight is the night where I have to cook for my new and improved with 25% more mouth to feed family. I am excited. Really. I kind of missed doing the cooking thing. I was getting jealous of whichever woman’s rice coated chicken my husband was raving over. And you should have seen me when somebody else’s roasted chicken with wild rice got my daughter to actually eat.

So in honor of all the amazing chefs that have made my life so much easier over the past few weeks I present to you my favorite recipe to make for new mommies. It’s really yummy, not too hard, and it is such a family favorite that my own Mommy made it for us so frequently that it wasn’t until recently that I realized that the Bubbie the recipe is credited to is not actually one of my own. And of course, it’s comprised of the two best ingredients to have in any meal: chicken and rice.

Bubba Rosa’s Chicken

  • 3lbs of Chicken (with bone. Don’t even try to make it with boneless.)
  • 1 ¼ cup uncooked rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups Coffee Rich or Soy Milk
  • 4 tablespoons margarine
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ package onion soup mix

Sauce: Melt margarine in a pan, blend in flour and salt to create a roux.
Pour in Coffee Rich all at once.
Add in onion soup mix.
Stir over low heat until smooth and thick.

Pour rice on bottom of a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Pour chicken broth over rice.
Arrange chicken on rice ( I like to season with a little garlic powder, onion powder and season salt prior).
Pour sauce over chicken.
Bake 45 minutes at 350, uncovered.
Uncover and bake another 45 minutes.

Serves 4-6 newly added to family members.

Mazal tov!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

An Open Letter to Sarah Palin, because I know she'll NEVER read it

Dear Sarah Barracuda,

I write you this letter today not to congratulate you on the occasion of your acceptance of the vice-presidential nomination (which is super cool), but to inquire about how you handled finding out that Bristol was preggers. I'm so glad you decided to share Bristol's pregnancy with the world. I mean, everyone was spreading rumors about how Trig was her baby...of course you wanted to stop those, so you had to share the one thing that would get our jaws to drop all the way to the floor! Mazal tov, by the way. That means both "congratulations" and "good luck" in Hebrew. And you're going to need it.

I'm guessing you were shocked. Especially since you support abstinence must have thought that Bristol was in school that day. Where did she learn to have sex?? Who taught her how to do that?? Thank goodness they didn't use protection...that is ALL wrong. I mean, it is a huge shock that a 17 year old girl would have sex. And you are totally doing the right thing by forcing her to marry Levi. I am sure that their marriage was meant to be and they will live happily ever after. They're going to have to, because I'm sure you don't do divorce either. Oh, and I think they should name the baby Hensley. That's Cindy McCain's maiden name. She'll appreciate the nod, and I'm sure that it will guarantee you a lifetime supply of beer for the baby to enjoy. Should help Bristol with the breastfeeding, too.

By the way, I love that beehive thing you've got going. You look smokin' hot. And thanks for not wearing pantsuits either. Where do you shop? You definitely got your body back after Trig was born. Oh wait, I'm not allowed to say anything about this, because it would reduce my fan mail to being "all about gender." This totally isn't gender politics! No one is playing that card! Seriously, though. Do you shop at 5-7-9?? That's my personal favorite, although I haven't been a 5 or a 7 or a 9 since junior high.

But seriously, Barracuda, you've got me going. I think I'm going to change my political affiliation just to vote for you and that old dude, McCain. He must have a total crush on you. I mean, a chance to vote for a woman? Not to mention the fact that you are also a hockey mom. I mean, I'm a Jewish mom, and I am sure that means we have TONS in common because we are both moms. And you're such a great mom, too, raising those 5 strong kids with those supercool names. No sense in giving them a boring name like Sarah!! They must respect you a LOT. I mean, when was the last time you sat down with them and talked to them? I am sure they're all behind this "being in the spotlight" thing. Who wouldn't want to be?

I am just pleased as punch that you are the veep nominee. The family values you espouse are just exactly the way I hope to live my life. I have always aspired to be a hunter and know how to use a gun. Not just a rifle, either. Something big that will scare my neighbor next time he trims back the big maple out front just a little too much. Or leaves the roaches from his joints on my sidewalk. I mean, he has cancer, and he says it lessens his pain, but whatever. You know he is some leftie pinko just trying to get a buzz.

Thank goodness, too, you're all for drilling for oil in Alaska. I mean, isn't the whole state kind of like your own personal back yard? Who cares about the environment, anyway? I mean, you're so busy being the governor and worrying about the here and now that you couldn't possibly also be able to think about the future, right? That green stuff is crap anyway. I like driving my huge SUV and I have plenty of money so filling up for $100 a tank is no big deal. Must be the same for you.

OK, I'm signing off for now, but with a special message for Bristol. Please tell her even skinny 17 year olds can get stretch marks. And she can use Vaseline (hey, it's a petroleum based product) to try to get rid of them, but it won't really work. Stay away from that organic baby food (it's all a scam) and make sure she keeps up with her hunting while she's pregnant. And don't bother to do any of that prenatal testing. She's only 17, so I'm sure it will all be fine because she's as wholesome a girl as they come.

I can't wait to have you as my girls' role model. I'm going to hang up your head shot in my living room. I mean, like you said, this is America, and every woman can walk through every door of opportunity.

Thanks for being you, Sarah!