Monday, June 30, 2008

Where are we???

I have noticed that two of us have gone back to full time work outside the home lately (me and ImaShalom). Ugh. It's not that (OK, I'm speaking for you here...) we don't love our work AND it's not that we don't love our children...but this is very difficult. Intellectually stimulating. Emotionally draining. Time consuming. Plus it amounts to a decidedly fewer number of posts.

I had a phone conversation the other day with a colleagueish type of person. She used to run a fabulously successful tutoring company and now does coaching. I've never met her, but she's an old friend of my husband's. She was at home, with her two kids running around in the background, telling me about how she adores herwork and how stimulating it is, how it's opened new horizons for her and for her clients, etc. She has an office but a flexible schedule, works FT, and I'm sure makes a very decent salary (not working for the Jews, of course). I am seething with envy.

Needless to say, I was imagining the layout of a magazine article that combines an article about a mom who can do it all while effortlessly looking hip and polished (and CLEAN) and design friendly housewares/decor for kids (again, house is CLEAN). I was fantasizing. But she sounded for sure like she had it all. And I was totally jealous.

I have my dream job. It's hard to say that out loud. But that dream job comes with pretty rigid work hours, surprisingly limited vacation, and an equally surprising intolerance for children in the workplace. It comes with an FMLA only maternity leave policy (should I be lucky enough to have a 2nd child, I'd like to spend more than 6 weeks at home. Who ever dreamed of wanting to have a c-section so that you could stay home a few extra weeks?) and a culture of Blackberries. I worry endlessly about what that is doing to my child. I see things shifting to my husband that I wish were still mine and know that come September I am going to have to work hard to carve out sacred parent-child space so that we can still know each other the way we used to.

So in case you wonder where the posts went, well, I'm at work. And I am afraid that someone is watching me post, so I won't. Oh, and if I do post, then I don't have time to eat lunch, go to the bathroom, check my personal email, make an appointment for the pediatric dentist, etc. Plus I just cooked dinner tonight at 11pm for a meal that I'm likely not going to make it to, when my husband and son have some friends over at 430, and there's no way I'll be home till 615, but I did do the cooking anyway.

See you all soon, I hope!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I have a confession to make: I've been a bad Jew. Landing in Prague last week I wanted to kiss the ground. Returning to Israel I clenched my teeth and muttered "one day chag!" "kosher stinky cheese!" "eruv!"

All my grandparents were born in Czechoslovakia, and I'd grown up hearing stories (of happy times) all my life. I'd worked there when I was 25, and I'd been back many summers to keep up the language. Maybe you just feel at home where you spent lots of time in early adulthood.

Just how foreign Israel is to me was made clear the day before my trip, when I went to the university to pick up my travel allowance after our wonderful department secretary phoned to say it was ready.

I walk into the administration building and am told I am not a professor; therefore I cannot receive travel allowance. Why am I not a professor? Because they don't have the paper saying my allowance came through. I go upstairs. There is the paper. I bring it down. I'm still not a professor. Why not? It's a mystery. They won't say. I should call the head of my Department, the secretary, and ten other people to verify my existence. Finally it's clear: My passport spells my name with a vov sound, and the paper spells it with a yud. Therefore, Professor Yud can have her travel funds, but Impostor Vov doesn't exist.

What, am I a freaking Torah scroll that a single mis-written letter invalidates my existence? Why did I just spend two days grading two sets of final exams?

I'm freaking out. What should have taken 10 minutes is taking two hours. And I'm paying a babysitter for this. And it's also my last chance to finish the final edits for Prague. And I have to pack. And a friend is in town for a play date.

Luckily, I receive a phone call and I'm speaking on my cell phone at the administrator's secretary's desk as she's trying to help others. I refuse to move. And she gets angry. And then it dawns on me: I must annoy her. I must get angry. Or I won't get helped.

I explode. I probably play my role a little too zealously; looking back I'm ashamed of myself. Did I need to include that choice language?

Three minutes later I have the travel funds and an apology.

I don't like getting angry. I don't know how to raise my voice and retain my dignity. I'm a method actor. I can't pretend.

No, there is no ervu in Prague, thank goodness my baby can walk now. But we can daven in the Old-New Synagogue (though the women's section looks like the outside of a castle wall with those thin slits used to shoot arrows through. That's the amount of access one gets to the Torah). We have terrific hospitality: delicious food, fascinating company, and a gorgeous walk along the Vltava River.

Maybe I just liked Prague so much because the apartment had a washing machine. Not that I needed it. It was summer. We went South and hung out in former colleague's back yard, baby naked as the day she was born, playing in water and running with the pet turtles. That and seeing castles. We got a babysitter for the Jewish Prague tour. And IT RAINED. I was so happy. Poor baby didn't know what rain was.

Maybe it wasn't as relaxing a vacation as it might have been trying to tour around with an 18-month old. But since grandparents are in Texas and she refuses to be weaned, there wasn't really a choice. She held up pretty well. We took lots of time feeding swans, chasing pigeons and rolling in the grass. That had its charms, too.

Back to making Israel feel like home.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Muddled Mommying

Today Chamudi took a dive off our bed while I was checking my work email on our home computer. Ack. He was fine, no harm done, thank God. But it was yet another example of sloppy parenting in a week that's been riddled with it.

Let's take last Wednesday for example. Chamudi decided he didn't want to sit in the bath, so I said okay, you can take a shower. And turned the shower on him. Needless to say, chaos ensued. And now bathtime is super-extra-fun...and he may never sit down in the bathtub again.

Even as I was comforting him I wasn't quite reacting the right way...the whole thing was so absurd--what kind of parent does that?--that I was almost laughing.

This past Friday I took him to the pool. He cried from the first minute but I kept him in for over 20 minutes nonetheless. Eventually he stopped crying, which felt like a victory at the time, but as the hours passed I began to wonder--what had I sacrificed in the process?

There are so many ways in which going to work is making me a better mother. The hours that I am home I am a much more affectionate and enthusiastic parent and playmate.

But I'm also just so very slightly off my game, which is being demonstrated nearly daily in dramatic and guilt-inducing incidents that compel me to confess to anyone who will listen.

I'm hoping that this is just temporary. I don't think either of us can take another week of my muddled mommying.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Spicy peanut sauce

One of the great things about this Friday recipe series is that it's motivating me to rediscover recipes I'd almost forgotten! This one used to be a regular for me, but a husband who doesn't like spicy things and kids who don't yet eat peanuts has pushed it to the back of the mental recipe files. It's quick and delicious and works well as a dip for veggies or on hot or cold noodles.

1 Tbs coarsely chopped yellow onion
1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1 or 2 red jalapeno chiles, seeded
1 Tbs peanut oil or light veg. oil
2.5 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp lime juice
2 Tbs light brown sugar
1 tsp molasses (I've never used this)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Place the onion, garlic, chiles, oil, soy sauce, and lime juice in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a bowl. Whisk in remaining ingredients.

Enjoy, and Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Behind the 8 Ball

I am about to confess a lot of personal stuff here, so reader beware.

I just started a new full time job a few weeks ago. This is transitioning from being a full time student and full time parent with a few part time jobs that added up to like 2 full time jobs, now into one full time job. You might rejoice with me and say hooray! I am happy. The new position is extraordinarily intellectually stimulating, challenging, and I get great benefits. I was made aware right from the beginning that it was not a 9-5 position, and that flexibility was inherent in the makeup of the job, which is good because, as the mother of a small child, I need that. Cool. Given that the year my son was born, and until he was 1.5, I worked about 50 hours a week, I am pleased about this.

But I am having an internal fit. I need to work often from 9-5, which means I barely see my kid.

I know this sounds spoiled, but I was on the bus on the way to a meeting today and saw all of these moms that were taking their kids to the playground and I literally turned green with envy. Let's not talk about the fact that I often find the playground boring and that there are so many preening, entitled mothers and so many nannies who refuse to speak to the moms there that I feel suffocated and isolated (was that a run-on sentence or what?). I was just jealous. I wanted to be with my little boy. And I know he misses me, he's been really clingy of late (since I started this new job) and we haven't seen each other as much as I would have liked.

So today, in my 40 minutes with my therapist--why on earth does she not ever apologize to me for being 10 minutes late with a previous patient?????? And yes, I am in therapy, more confessions--I talked about this. I realized that I associate time with my son with leisure time, and that when I see these moms with their kids I want that leisure time with my son. It is NOT that I want to be a stay at home mom. I do not want that at all. I just want the leisure time with my son and I am confusing the work of a stay at home mom with the leisure time I perceive it to be. All because they look like they're having fun, they get to wear casual clothes and hang out at the playgrounds like I do on the weekends.

Plus, OK, let me say it here; I want another kid. Then what do I do? Maternity leave isn't going to be good enough. Am I going to want to stay at home then? Unlikely (as I didn't the first time and I am now the primary wage earner). But then it would be double the challenge of being away, harder and harder. Not to mention that it was hard to get pregnant with my son, and I'm going to have to take a lot of time off of work to go to the fertility specialists on a regular basis if I even want to try for #2. Too many confessions. And too little time already spent with my son.

I feel trapped behind the 8 ball. In that dark shadow there waiting to be hit really hard by the pool cue of reality. That cue is chalked up really well and I am ready for the drop into the pocket out of order.... Am I making sense? Unlikely. I suck at pool.

I wonder, bottom line, if we are ever satisfied with our portion. The mishna from Pirke Avot rings in my mind all the time these days: Aizeh hu ashir? Mi shesameach b'chelko. Who is rich? The one who is satisified by his portion. I am totally satisfied. But yet I feel like I always need to be looking at what everyone else has, and judging their portion, comparing it to my own. Coveting what I don't have. Likely, coveting what I don't even want. But the grass is always greener.

I need to get some thoughts of my own and stop with the un-witty apohorisms...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spacing Out

One of the blessings and curses of being a mom who works outside the home is that I seem to have very little time to reflect on the experience.

I work hard, come home, play with Chamudi, fix dinner, do bedtime, spend the evening busy with a variety of household chores and other work, collapse into bed, watch a bit of television and go to sleep. 6 1/2 hours later I wake up and start all over again.

There's really no time for mommy-guilt, which is good. But there's also no time to think about the best way to do things. Is the new nanny the best choice for him? Is Abba getting enough work done working from home? Is Chamudi eating right?


On my best day, I'm happy enough that I was just able to do it...get my job done well, make my son feel loved, keep our household on the happy side of chaos. Etcetera.

Meanwhile I must admit I am far Chamudi seems to be enjoying the parade of caregivers coming to play with him. And when I come home at the end of the day he runs to me, laughs with glee, wonderful expressions of love that I never got when I was just always...there. And I like my job, or what I know of it so far.

But what I really miss are the opportunities to just stare into retreat into my own mind and let the world wash over me.

I'm going to need to pencil that in.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Is it supposed to be this hard?

Imagine if you had no idea that babies don't sleep through the night when are first born. You figured you give birth and go on with your normal life. Then the baby comes and - shock! - the baby is up several times a night, ready to party. How much harder those nights would be if you had no idea that they were completely normal!

I think I need such a reality check with my 3-year old. Truthfully, he has been very challenging from day 1. And I think I have reached a point where I have lost perspective as to what is typical 3-year old behavior and what is extremely difficult-just my kid-behavior. In other words, it would be a little easier to deal with the constant defiance and meltdowns if I somehow knew that they were normal.

My friend pointed out that 3 is the age of defiance and strong will. And that my son just does every stage a little - more. When other kids had stranger anxiety at 1 year, my kid freaked out at every class and each playdate. When other kids were having one tantrum a day at 2, my kid was having 10-15. And perhaps now, while most kids are defiant some of the time, my child is defiant virtually all of the time.

I think the problem is that I was better at handling the intensity before now. Sometimes I just feel like I've had enough. I just want it to get easier already! And truthfully, a lot of things have gotten easier. It's just that the things that haven't are that much harder.

My husband and I wrack our brains and read every book on the subject to try to find something that works. I think that the piece of this that we have the most trouble with is accepting that being defiant is part of our son's job right now. And he does his job with tremendous gusto and dedication!

He is supposed to be defiant, just like an infant is supposed to be up all night. It's funny how so many of these developmental stages clash so perfectly with the needs of the parents. After the exhausting experience of labor, parents need to sleep! And so, the child is up all night. And after the tantrums of the terrible twos, parents need a break. And so the child becomes even more willful.

For me, one of the major challenges of parenting is to give in to stage my child is in - no matter how difficult - while at the same time helping them learn the skills to move on to the next stage.

I have a long way to go.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Reverse Nachas

I enjoy reading Torah in shul, and do it every few weeks. Somehow, between nap times and an attention span shorter than a tv commercial, Didi was for months never present when her daddy was leyning, and I became a bit obsessed with her hearing me leyn. It finally happened a month or so ago, and sadly, was anticlimatic; she didn't stir, didn't care, showed no signs of recognition. She's only 18 months old, after all. What could I have expected?

Then came Shavuot last week, and I leined on the first day. In the middle of the first aliyah, I hear a familiar voice, shouting excitedly from near the back of the shul, "It's daddy! Mommy, it's daddy!" (Her first sentence!) In between aliyot, I look up, and Didi's mom is standing with Didi in her arms. Didi is smiling ear to ear, waving excitedly at me, still yelling, "Daddy! It's daddy!"

And so I had my moment, better than I'd ever expected. She schepped nachas from her daddy. And I've been schepping right back at her ever since, telling the story to whoever will listen to me.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shabbat on a hot tin roof

This past Shabbat (and Shavuot), it was like a zillion degrees here on the Upper West Side. I literally melted many times into a messy pool of ima-ness. So when it came time for the afternoon picnic on the 2nd day of Shavuot, the prelude to 5 hours at the sprinklers in the park, I made my two favorite Shabbat lunch hot weather salads. I share them with you because they are delicious, and they cool you down!

Neither are difficult to make, and only one requires cooking anything, but they are chopping intensive. I find wielding a sharp knife to chop veggies very satisfying and once done you are done chopping, kids can help put things in bowls and mix everything together.

B'tayavon (and stay cool).


This recipe was something I originally got from a Williams Sonoma Vegetarian cookbook (if you care to look up the correct version). It is super pretty and everyone will think you worked very hard on it. It is also very high in protein and has lots of veggies.

1 1/2 cup french or puy lentils (these are better but plain will do in a pinch)
Boil these till tender, drain, and let cool. These can be made before Shabbat and you can do the rest on Shabbat if you run out of time.

Then chop the veggies and add them once the lentils have cooled.
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
6 green onions, sliced into tiny slices

Then crumble the feta into the mixture.
7-10 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (this depends on how much you like. And please PLEASE use gvina bulgarit, Bulgarian feta and not greek feta. It is softer and much more delicious.)

On top, pour in
olive oil (use how ever much you feel comfortable using, but probably between 1-3 tsp.)
balsamic vinegar (same as above)
20 big leaves of finely chopped fresh mint (I like to use scissors to chop it in)
1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp. ground cumin (just a few shakes from the bottle)

Mix it up. Put it back in the fridge and later, Serve it. Look like a rockin' hostess with the mostest because you are serving a weird looking salad that is yummy and cool.

TABBOULEH (or, Tab OOH! li)

2 cups dry bulgur (the whole grain kind)
2 cups boiling water
Put both in a bowl. Let stand for an hour or so till the bulgur has absorbed the water. Again, can be made before Shabbat.

When cool, add:
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley (again, you can scissors it)
1 cup chopped mint (see above)
2 big tomatoes, diced (keep the juice to put in too)
3 israeli or persian cucumbers (I suppose you can use a hothouse one too), diced
3-5 chopped green onions (sliced into small pieces)
1 can drained garbanzo beans

Mix up. Do it with flair and you will seem French. Or Lebanese, or wherever this recipe came from.

On top, add the juice of 2-3 lemons, to taste (or 1/3 cup of lemon juice), some olive oil (again, however much you want, but probably about 2-3 tablespoons, and sea salt.

Have a nice picnic!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Holy Land, Batman!

I have never been to the Grand Canyon. Or to Mount Rushmore. Or even to one of the Carolinas.

But I have been to Israel 3000 times. Give or take.

I have to say I am lucky, I know many people who have never had the opportunity to go even once. But my parents took the family vacation thing seriously and it was always nice to go, we always had a great time….except the only 2 places we ever vacationed to were Miami or Israel.

I am certainly not ungrateful. Family vacations to Israel were quite fun. We saw relatives, davened at the kotel and best of all got to eat at the kosher Burger King (and let’s be honest, that is the highlight of any trip to the Holy Land).

But now that my first ever “family vacation” next week is ironically a trip to Israel, I have to say I am not as excited as I had hoped.

Part of me is scared. It’s a long airplane ride with my beautiful girl-but my parents are coming too and I know Mahotma Baubie is going to be the most wonderful help. And there is of course the whole 7 months pregnant thing- but we are going fancy shmancy business class (yay frequent flyer miles!) so I’ll be comfortable. The doctor just gave me the all clear. And we’ll take it easy on all of our site seeing (though we tend to focus largely on shopping and eating). So I don’t have a reason to be too scared.

Part of me is kind of bummed. My last babymooon was a trip to Hawaii with just my husband. A trip to Israel with my husband, 2 ½ year old daughter and parents will be nice, but not quite as sexy. Of course my body is not what I would call bikinitastic right now, so it probably is best to not take a trip to some exotic island where I would feel the need to walk around half naked for most of the day.

And part of me must be slightly self-hating as the idea of spending my 2 weeks of vacation with a bunch of Jews sort of scares me. I like Jews and all, but somehow entrenching myself in Judaism (again-with my parents and daughter) less of a fun vacationy treat.

Mostly I am mad at myself for not feeling that sense of excitement and gratefulness and Jewishyness that everybody who goes to Israel feels. Even if I could bend down, I don’t see me bending down and kissing the holy ground. But I am getting to do something for the 3001st time that some people only dream of. And I get to be with my daughter when she gets to experience it for the 1st. But yeah, none of those great Jewgly Mooglies.

Maybe all those trips to Israel as a child spoiled me. Was I allowed to have too much of a good thing?

Well you know, I am 100% certain none of us appreciate food and water nearly enough. Most of us are blessed to have plenty (and if your Shavuot was like mine, too much) of those. But we would be broken and sad and sick without them. So maybe the same can be said about trips to Israel. The sort of “spiritual nourishment” is needed to fuel our appreciation for who Jews are as a people or how far we’ve come or see where we’ve come from.

So maybe if I’m not chomping at the bit to go, a part of me still needs and wants to be there. I don’t have to be like nearly every other person out there to appreciate that good Jewishy feeling. And besides, when I go up to get my second Big Mac I will feel VERY blessed to be in the holiest of lands. And hey, who knows-I might even make the journey down to the ground to kiss the sacred land in front of the french fry station.

Are you new here?

An open letter to husbands everywhere...

Dear Honey (because you are really sweet, and I mean that in an honest, non-saccharine, non-agave nectar but real honey way),

What are you, new here? The pepper is still in the same spot that it's been in since we moved in to this place in 2002.

Welcome to our apartment. I hope you'll like living here. Oh wait, you've been living here for the same amount of time I have! So why on earth don't you know your way around yet?

The frozen food is in the freezer. The milk we keep in the fridge, because it is narsty (and I do mean putrid) when you leave it out ON THE COUNTERTOP. We still keep vinegar in the fridge because I am paranoid; this has not ever changed. And I still get angry when you let the bathmat drop into the tub and by the time I am ready to shower the next morning, it is soaking wet because we have a leaky faucet.

But still, welcome. Oh, did you say you'd make dinner? Mmmhhhmmm. That's a nice welcome treat. But you must be new here still, because dinner is not two pieces of smoked salmon in a bubblepack from Costco (still in the fridge) and a bag of red potatoes on the countertop (uncooked). For me, maybe. But not for toddlers. And better yet, you must really be new here because when you say you'll be home at 530 and you still aren't here by 7, you cooking dinner is automatically translated into me cooking dinner and being in a foul mood.

But now, for the apologies, because while you are newer here (apparently) than I am, it seems that maybe I need a guided tour too. How the $%^&* do you use that darn TV you bought? I can't even figure out how to turn on the DVD player. I used to be good at juggling all of those remotes... and I do prefer to sleep with the window open because I am cheap and like a breeze when I sleep. Sorry about that. And I still do not pretend to understand you when you talk about investments or taxes or whatever. That is not my domain. But I do get that you prefer your raspberry jam with seeds and will never buy the seedless one (I promise).

Honey, you're awesome. I adore you and fell in love with you the moment I met you (sorry it took you a year to figure that out!). You bring me moments of belly aching laughter and profound happiness. You gave me a beautiful, smart and loving son and you fill my days with jokes and compassion, support for my work and real partnership. I love you.

But oy vey, I must REALLY be from Venus. And you must be from MARS. Otherwise, you'd know that we don't need 3 different places in the kitchen to store plastic cups.

With my everlasting love,

Your wife

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Happiest Toddler

Back when Chamudi was a newborn, I lived and breathed Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block. His 5 S's were pretty effective--they probably really helped Chamudi make it through that "fourth trimester" more peacefully. But more than that, they gave me something to DO, a ritual of sorts to follow--when I didn't know what on earth I was doing.

Newsflash: I still don't know what I'm doing, though I've become much better at making it up as I go along. So I was very interested to hear about Dr. Karp's The Happiest Toddler on the Block in a New York Times article a few months ago.

The basic idea, as I understand it, is this: when your toddler is melting down, get down on their level, name what they are feeling in extremely simple "caveman"-type language and, once they've calmed down a little, explain very very simply why you can't comply.

The amazing thing is, it actually seems to work. Abba thinks that it's just because I sound so silly doing it that Chamudi is distracted out of his tantrum by the hilarity of it all. But I think Chamudi really appreciates knowing that he's being heard...I mean, who doesn't?

Even if it's all a bunch of hooey, it does something extremely important--it pulls me out of the moment and gives me something proactive to do. So I'm not escalating the situation and turning it into some battle of the wills where everyone loses--I'm stepping just outside of the situation and regaining control. Plus I'm getting a daily exercise in empathy.

So thanks, Dr. Karp. Looking forward to the The Happiest Teenager on the Block...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

We will do, then Understand (because I can’t learn Hebrew!)

Shavuot is heartening –not just for all the dairy, but also because Israel said, “we will do” before understanding what it was we were agreeing to. The holiday celebrates the will to do something that you don’t yet understand.

That's fantastic! because I don’t understand anything around me, unless it’s a number, a fruit, or one of the animals in my daughter’s books.

I can’t learn Hebrew!

I quit ulpan because my teacher spoke more Russian than Hebrew in class, and we only learned about ten new words a week—but we were in class18 hours a week. Eighteen hours for which I paid a babysitter and then had no time for studying let alone research, writing or teaching. Plus I don’t like a teacher calling me “mama-le.” As in “Mama-le, why you want I teach you grammar?”

I speak 6 other languages, but let it be officially noted: my ass has been Hebraically kicked.

This is, more or less, a map of my Hebrew-language learning curve.

Week 1
Stranger: Hi, how are you?
Me: Maya, how are you?

Week 2
Stranger: How old is your little boy?
Me: Thank you.

Month 2
Stranger: How old is your little boy?
Me: a year and thirty months.

Month 3:
Stranger: Is it a girl or boy?
Me: No
Stranger: What? I asked if it is a girl or boy!
Me: How old is your little boy?

Month 4:
Stranger: Is it a girl or boy?
Me: A girl
Stranger: How old?
Me: A year and four months…no, five months. Wait….yes, five months! Thank, G-d!
Stranger: blablablabla (fast Hebrew—could be anything)
Me: Uh….No?

Last week:
Stranger: Your little boy looks sad.
Me: Do you speak English?
Stranger: yes, of course.
Me: (in English) —it’s probably because I’ve dressed him a frilly little red and white checked dress and pink shoes, like a girl!

Don’t you think there’s something deeply suspicious about a language with no present tense for the verb “to be”? It certainly explains why Israelis are late for everything. At least then you can say “I was,” which is better than nothing, in a moment of existential crisis.

For example
“So sorry I no here on time.

I WAS in Tel Aviv on time, but I looked for parking for 45 minutes!”

Notice how you just don’t exist in the moment? It’s only when you are excusing yourself that you take on a full verbal dimension.

So I’m looking madly around for a tutor. It’s too late to learn anything really useful. But it doesn’t matter: I’m not doing it to enhance the last few weeks of my life here. No, I’m doing it because I’ll never live down the shame of returning to the States able only to name fruit and animals, sing “nad-ned” and the birthday song, and ask how much it costs.

Friday, June 06, 2008


A warning-while I do say y’all with some regularity, I am from St. Louis, not the deep south. However, I do manage to make some pretty darn tasty sweet potato pie.

There is not one time I have served this when I haven’t been asked for the recipe, so I’ll take that to mean it was enjoyed. Now I don’t know what makes it special or different from all the other sweet potato pie recipes out there. Maybe it’s because of the love I put in it. Or all the margarine and sugar.

I thought it would be a great recipe for this week because while people seem to really love it in its parve form, I made it dairy for the first time last week and I have to say it was reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllly good. So for those of you who don’t like Shavuot with all the cheese, or are going to potlucks where there are sure to be a (un)healthy amount cream laden dishes, this might be a fun yummy way to break all that up.

And of course, you can’t ever go wrong serving it for shabbos.

St. Louis Style Sweet Potato Pie
(makes 2 pies)

3 medium sweet potatoes –boiled, peeled and mashed
1 stick of margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon flour
¾ cup coffee rich or soy milk or whole milk (don’t use skim or it will be too watery)

-mush all ingredients together (if you want to be extra fancy you can use a hand blender)
-pour into 2 pie shells (recipe to follow)
-bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until set

For those of you who like to go the extra mile…..

Pain in the Patootie Crust
(makes 2 deep dish pie crusts)

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup COLD margarine
Around 1/4-1/2 cup ice water

-Mix first 4 ingredients, adding margarine slowly (a dough blender works really well)
- add water slowly until just ballable
- chill 15 minutes
-roll out and place in pie pans
-put a few fork holes in the side to keep the air bubbles away
-bake for 350 for a few minutes before adding filling

Add an egg yolk for more rollable dough
Add a splash of vinegar for a flakier crust
Add some cinnamon for a yummy cinnamony crust
Add all 3 and do the pie proud.

Shabbat Shalom, y'all!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tweet Tweet!

I will know I have it made when I can poop on somebody and they will be happy about it because it is supposed to bring them good luck.

Or when my face graces a box of cocoa flavored balls or fruity flavored circles.

Or when people dress in green to match my den sofas and sit and watch me with binoculars as I eat my yogurt.

People just love birds. They can fly, they come in pretty colors, they sing pretty songs (unless it’s this parrot I know that curses like a sailor). No wonder people go insane with Pam spray and silver slippery sticks and metallic tent like covers to keep those nasty squirrels away from the food they provide for them. (Now I am personally of the opinion that birds can get seeds and nuts anywhere, so if you want to feed something that will truly appreciate it, get a cup of ramen and some bread and put it out back and see if the homeless will flock to you.)

And even though birds avoid that whole pregnancy thing and just lay a few eggs and sit around for a while, society has named the “special” period of pregnancy when you are cleaning the couch cushions for the billionth time or relining your shelves or alphabetizing your soup cans trying to get the house ready for your newest edition- nesting.

Me? I don’t nest. I really really WANT to nest. I want my hormones to overtake my body and give me the energy to be cleaning at all hours of the night. Or vacuuming under the couches-though the layers of dirt down there might be too much for the vacuum to handle. But it’s so not happening.

I sat and waited for it to kick in with my daughter and nothing ever happened. She came early so maybe I missed the desire to fluff all the pillows and climb ladders in order to Windex the outside of the windows…. but I doubt it. Most of my pregnant friends have already shown symptoms of Nestitis. They are recleaning pots, organizing their shoes and picking out bedding. At a minimum they are being obsessive about the lengths of their fingernails.

No cleaning or scrubbing by moi, though. I did have my husband paint my toenails the other day. I thought that was good of me. And as a bonus he didn’t mind, and not only because he is wonderful and supportive and understanding and glamorous and just the best man in the universe.
He is nesting too.

He has stayed up past 2am at least 12 of the past 14 nights. And not just cleaning. But doing the Man Work. He moved furniture out of one of the guest rooms to get it ready for our daughter to move into. He went to Lowe’s and Home Depot no less than 15 times. Even though the man is as color blind as they come he put up about 50 different samples of paint trying to decide which shade of purpley of pink would be just right for our beautiful Princess to be a big sister in. He cleaned out the built ins in the den. He reorganized the bookshelf so all the books that belong together would be together (“Bartending For Dummies? Hmmmm. I know! I’ll stick it in the reference section!”).

And get this, the man finished the basement. Painted, got it carpeted, sealed and lined. Bought cubbies and bins and cubes and vats of even more toys and a red sleeper sofa to make it the best playroom in the UNIVERSE.

I really love him, but King of Kookaburras that man is.

It makes me jealous. I can barely bend down to check if my polish is dry but I want to have the burning desire to clean and prepare and get ready. I want to be part of all the fun neurotic things that other Mommies (and Daddies)-to-be get to enjoy/suffer from.

But no such luck.

You know what I think? I think nests are dirty. They are full of twigs and sticks and other people’s garbage. Maybe that’s why my version of nesting just involves me sitting around in my own filth.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rhythm & Roots

For those of you who are DC locals, I just wanted to share a cool children's event going on this Friday morning at the DCJCC.

Rhythm & Roots: The Afro-Semitic Experience for Kids
Friday, June 6 | 10:00 am | VENUE: Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater, Washington DCJCC

FREE, registration required. Register HERE

The Afro-Semitic Experience will lead a morning of fun for kids and grown-ups with an interactive performance filled with energy, music and rhythm, exploring the music of Jewish and African Diasporas. Pre-K and kindergarteners with their parents, caregivers or teachers are invited to join this delightful morning of rhythm and roots. Bring a box of rice or pasta to the performance so that your kids will be able to make their own music. All rice and pasta will be donated to the Hunger action project with the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service at the 16th Street J.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Child Friendly in Tel Aviv

In Israel, I’m so used to random strangers dropping everything to pick up my daughter’s pacifier, hat, sippy cup in the street, that I actually got peeved the other day when a guy carrying a metal box did not stop to help me (though I didn’t ask).

I’m starting to think Kid-friendly has far less to do with the people and much more to do with infrastructure. The things that get under my skin about Israel—the slap-dash aspects, feeling that everything runs at 70%—seem somehow to contribute to its amazing kid-friendliness. Maybe it’s that people are used to helping each other out.

In keeping with Ima Shalom’s provocative blog about children in shul (and in the spirit of full disclosure: I take mine out after a vocalization of magnitude or duration), here are the child-friendly synagogues I’ve found.

It’s all about movable furnishing. In general, the more permanent and fancy the structure, the less kid friendly. For example, my favorite, is Yakar. It’s totally worth the 45 minute walk because I CAN DAVEN. My daughter can wander into the men’s section, walk around the Torah scroll, pat the diaphanous material of the mehitzah, and everyone in the room knows where she is at all times. I just have to turn my head, and someone points to her. If she feels the need to vocalize, there’s a TOY ROOM about 3 steps from the women’s section. And there is a family with 3 daughters who never tire of carrying mine around or watching her. They’ve got a children’s half-hour during Haftorah, but my girl just wanders in and out of that.

It’s heaven.

The rabbi once pulled me aside to tell me that I’m welcome to come to any weekly shiur. He said he assumes that to open a class to women is to welcome children as well. I tried hard to suppress an image of women spontaneously mass reproducing in class (He was being welcoming, not sexist…..because I’m a single mother and he knows I don’t have a husband to watch her while I go off to learn…).

Another good one is Ichud Olam which is on Ben Yehuda, and is only 25 minutes from me. But here’s what I mean about infrastructure. It’s really better if your children don’t yet walk, or if they have reached 1. the age of reason or 2. the age at which you can let them play with other kids unsupervised for up to 15 minutes at a time. Because, for some strange reason, the d├ęcor consists of wooden boxes FILLED WITH ROCKS.

I spend 3/4 of my time in the courtyard, holding a child convulsed in tantrums because I’m not letting her eat/throw/make pretty music with the rocks, and I won’t let her eat the month-old bamba, bissle, and other delicacies other children have hidden under said rocks.

It’s a pity. The shul is full of young, hip and happening people who have fabulously interesting lives and family backgrounds, lots of energy and enthusiasm, super commitment to the Jewish community, and such wonderful, kind personalities that you don’t hate them. It’s half European, and a quarter American and a quarter Israeli.

A third option in Kfar Saba is the Carlebach Minyan on Bar Ilan Street on Friday nights. Get there early for a seat. Why? Because if you sit on the last row, you’ve got about 20 14-year-old girls who are wearing simple, yet fascinating jewelry, and who’ll take turns holding or playing with your child while you daven. Plus, the beat is nice, and baby can dance dance dance.