Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

We were away for four days visiting MHH's parents, who are lovely people who inhabit a slightly different earthly realm from the rest of us. Barak got the full grandchild treatment (impressive, considering he is very far from being the first grandchild) replete with a trip to what is possibly the best playground ever, a ride on an actual steam train (yes, E, we thought of M the whole time--I'm sure he would have kicked the engineer out of the driver's seat and driven the thing himself like he did in England), a visit to the pizza shop, fascinating new toys and lots of love and attention.

Oh, and did I mention we went to the pizza shop?

First, some back story, for those of you who like such things...

In general, according to Jewish law, when you eat pizza as a meal (not a snack), it counts, blessing-wise, as bread. This matters a lot. When eating a French fry, a piece of chocolate or a hunk of cheese, the blessing you say after you're done takes about fifteen seconds. The blessing you say after a cookie or a piece of cake takes maybe forty-five seconds. The blessing you say after bread, however, takes three minutes if you're fast and five or six if you're not, and is so long that many people prefer to read it out of a little book of blessings commonly known as a bencher. Kids learn it to a song, either at home or at camp, which makes it much easier to learn. I sing it to Barak after we eat and sometimes at bedtime, which occasionally makes me wonder if I am dooming him to a life of falling involuntarily asleep in a Pavlovian reaction after every meal containing bread. But I digress.

All right, back to the story at hand. We're at the pizza shop. My father-in-law has finished eating his burrito (because there is no kosher pizza shop in the world that serves only pizza) and has his bencher and is saying his blessing. Barak starts writhing around yelling Ma! Ma! Ma! which means, I want something! In this case, a bencher. Since the benchers belonged to the restaurant and they probably wouldn't appreciate having them shredded by a toddler covered in pizza and other unnameable substances, I went and found a stack of flyers for tae kwon do lessons, folded one in half, and handed one to the ever easy-to-please Barak. He took it with a happy ha!, hunched over it just like Zayde, puckered his lips out, stared down intently, and started moving his lips with great concentration, also just like Zayde.

Anyone else notice a pattern here?

Monday, August 22, 2005

The best sweater ever

And it's mine, mine, mine, all mine. I'm almost looking forward to cold weather.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Things Barak Did Today

1. Made interesting scrunchy faces

2. Said "oh no!" in a way that even someone who isn't his mother would understand

3. Walked down the street holding both my hand and MHH's

4. Stacked blue and yellow plastic cups, unstacked them and restacked them. Repeat.

5. Discovered that Lego are good for things besides banging and sucking

That last was the most fun. He'd hand me a piece, I'd attach it to another piece and hand it back. He'd cackle, head off to investigate his treasure, and it would promptly fall apart under the force of his interest. Much brow-furrowing would ensue, and Barak would give me the look that means, "you can fix it, Imma, right?" I'd ask for another piece, he'd hand me another piece, I'd put together a new little structure and he'd cackle with more glee. This went on for most of the morning. This afternoon, he decided to nap from 3 until well past 5, meaning that bedtime was postponed till after 8, and I took him with me to shul when it was time for MHH to daven mincha. Of course, he found a sink plunger in the shul kitchen (at least I fervently hope it was a sink plunger, being as it was in the kitchen and all) and wandered around the social hall with it, getting headed off by mean old Imma every time he tried to get into the sanctuary (even though I didn't think it was a toilet plunger, I still didn't really want him dragging it into the middle of krias ha'Torah, just, you know, in case.) He made it as far as seudat shlishit, then showed his first signs of meltdown (an hour past his normal bedtime, which wasn't bad) so we went home and he went to sleep really nicely (kein ayin hara).

Anyway, so, that was our Shabbos. Tomorrow is my first solo outing since Barak was born--going to a fiber show with a friend. I'm leaving at 6 am and coming home at 11 pm, and the boys are on their own. I fully expect to return to find them both asleep on the living room floor surrounded by empty tubs of ice cream and sticky spoons. But don't tell them I said that.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Oh, my goodness me

Okay, so, I know already that Barak is an observant little person. He seems to figure out something new every day, or pick up something that we hadn't realized we'd taught him. A couple weeks ago, for example, I brought him to shul, for the ten minutes of mussaf that he can sit through with reasonable degrees of decorum. I got there during the chazzan's repetition, in time to answer amen to the brachos. Barak was cool with this, peeking around the mechitza to the men's side with interest. The chazzan got to kaddish. Again, everybody answered amen. Including the little person in my arms. "Ah-mennnn..."

Okay, very sweet. Very cute. I kvelled.

And yesterday...

Barak, in his blue hippopatomus pajamas, made an escape from his room at bedtime and toodled into the living room, pacifier in mouth, blankie in tow. He found one of MHH's seforim in the living room (Kinos, noch--it was just past Tisha b'Av). He set it on an unopened box, as through it was a shtender. He opened it up.

And he started to shuckel.


(Okay, this is for Jacque. This is what happened, in English. My son went into the living room and found one of my husband's Hebrew books--a very serious, depressing book used in connection with a day of fasting and mourning. He put it on a box in imitation of the way my husband reads such books, opened it up, and started pretending to read it as my husband would read from such a book--i.e., rocking back and forth in classic Orthodox Guy fashion. He does not miss a trick.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

no words

This morning, I woke up early, having gone to bed early the night before. I was up before Barak, and then heard him in his crib, awake but happy, having a conversation with his toes, his sippy cup, his blankie, and the walls. I got dressed. Got my things together. Picked up Barak, who greeted me with upstretched arms and a very contented, "Mama!" Nursed. Changed his diaper. Got him dressed.

We were ready to leave, and I called him to the door. We went outside, and I had Barak's hand in one of my hands and my keys in the other. We were on the back stoop, which is eight steep wooden steps up from the concrete patio in back. I locked the door, and Barak, spying the stairs, pulled his hand out of mine. I reached out to grab him, which should have been easy. He was close, the stairs were a few feet away. But my skirt caught on the door. I couldn't reach him in time. I screamed no, no, no! as he smiled, grabbed the banister, stepped confidently down the first step, missed, and fell, head over heels, in terrible slow motion, all the way down, all the way down to the concrete below.

I watched him fall and heard myself screaming and pulled my skirt free all at the same time, trying to catch him, always a step behind. I only caught up with him at the bottom. A moment of horrible silence. And then he started to cry.

He only cried for a few minutes, while I comforted him and felt him wildly for blood, broken bones. There weren't any. He stopped crying, looked around, held onto me for a minute.

And then wanted to get down to play in the grass.

He was fine. He ate his bagel in the stroller, waved at the bus driver, flirted with another passenger, smiled and played the whole way to daycare. Still shaking, I stayed with him to watch him for half an hour for signs of lethargy, anything not right. Nothing. I went to work, called the doctor, made an appointment for the middle of the morning. Brought Barak in to get him checked out. He's fine, says the doctor. Fine. Toddlers are resilient. They're tougher than they look. And falls down stairs are not as bad as they seem--they're just a lot of little falls, and only the first step is a hard fall. He's fine.

And thank God, he does seem fine. But as I watched him fall, heard the thump of his little body hitting stair after awful stair, I thought I heard another sound as well. The sound I am always listening for, every moment of every day, though I try not to strain my ears, try to fill my mind with other music and other voices. I thought I heard the sound of the other shoe dropping--on this, my life, this strange and wonderful gift I don't know why I have.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ten Things about which I am Moved to Blog, but do not wish to Blog about Fulsomely

1. I took Barak out of his daycare today, effective the end of the month. I have mixed feelings about this, but am pretty sure it is the right decision. There are some weird staffing issues going on there, so I’m not sure who his teachers will be, and I know that they’ve had some really bad ones in the toddler class in the past. It’s getting harder and harder to take Barak to daycare/work on the bus, and once it’s winter and he’s bundled to the teeth and livid about it in the stroller, it’s going to get, well, really not fun. And the kashrus issue is not going to get any easier. And—the kicker, really—one of his current teachers is leaving her job to go back to school to get a nursing degree, so she’s going to come babysit for Barak and another little boy in the neighborhood in the mornings. No more commute with Barak, no more kashrus problems, much less expensive. The flip side, of course, is more than an hour a day added to my time away from Barak. Logically, this is really okay—the hour we spend on the bus now is hardly quality time. Still, it means almost thirty hours a week away from him, which is more than I ever planned on. I know how lucky I am to have an interesting part-time job with good benefits; still, I wish I didn’t have to work.

2. Yesterday, late in the afternoon, when it was still hot but most of our yard was in shade, I taught Barak a valuable life lesson. To wit: what you can do with a sprinkler by crimping the hose. Ooh, ahh. Big spray! Little spray! Big spray again! Oh, and is that a newly formed mud puddle? Bellyflop! It’s good to be a little boy.

3. I will never learn to compose in word and paste text into a blogger window. Never, never, never. I wrote this list yesterday and had ten fascinating and entertaining items . Really, I did. Then blogger ate them. Sigh.

4. Earlier this week I was having a conversation with MHH about the colors on the walls of our apartment. Namely, the intensely magenta living room, hellishly red hall, violet master bedroom, glowing yellow baby’s room, carrot-colored kitchen, and neon celery (really, that’s what the can said) loom room. MHH, as you may recall, is somewhat colorblind. I asked him how he felt about the colors. He said, “I may not know just what the walls look like, but I am definitely aware that our apartment doesn’t look like anyone else’s.”

5. It has been over a year since we lived in an apartment with anybody upstairs. It’s been years since I lived anywhere with an upstairs apartment without carpet. I forgot what it was like. Now I am being reminded.

6. The cheaper fresh corn is, the better it tastes. When it’s ten ears for a dollar, like it was today, it’s pretty much guaranteed to taste like candy.

7. Barak is now tall enough to reach the knobs on the oven, and today discovered them for the first time. He got half a knob-twiddle in before I whisked him away. This weekend’s Target run: oven knob covers.

8. There are certain jobs that you can still do even if you are really unfit for them. If you are a bad stocker of shelves, a bad mower of lawns, a bad filler of potholes, even a bad typist, you can still get away with doing these jobs for a living. However, there are occupations that, if you stink at them, you really should just accept your unfitness for and move on to other things. For example, phlebotomists. If you are a bad phlebotomist, please go to culinary school. And if you are a bad manager of payrolls, please get another job, anywhere but in my husband’s school, where his paycheck has just been disastrously miscalculated in the third major way this year.

9. I liked our movers. So, remember the Muppets? The real Muppets, with Jim Henson and Frank Oz doing almost all the voices. Remember the band—Electric Mayhem? Remember the band’s van? Well, that’s what the movers pulled up to our old apartment in. Except I don’t think the Electric Mayhem van had a stuffed rabbit tied to the antenna. I could be wrong, though.

10. What is it with Barak and cleaning equipment? I have already documented his intense fascination with brooms, extending to dustpans and dustbrushes. He’s a tremendous fan of the toy vacuum cleaner at daycare. Today, he discovered a damp sponge on the kitchen floor, found a clean shelf right near it, and began to industriously wipe down the shelf with the grubby sponge. And he doesn’t even get an allowance yet.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging

Well, we've got internet again, and phone again. And I have so much I could blog about, and so much on my mind right now, that I think I will leave you with this--answers to the questions my friend Deb tagged me to post, written yesterday.

Where were you ten years ago?

10 years ago I was 23, writing for a Hungarian newspaper, living alone in a highly fortified Budapest apartment and fending off a completely insane landlady who used to enter without warning to leave stealth offerings of limp pickles on plates in my kitchen. I had started knitting in earnest a few months earlier, and was having my first knitting all-nighters, drinking diet coke, listening to Hungarian radio and watching the sun come up. I was about to return to college with one more semester to go to finish my undergraduate degree. I was about to learn to spin, I wore Birkenstocks with wool socks and my hair in a braid. God had just started knocking on my door. I had the stereo cranked up so I could pretend I didn't hear.

Where were you five years ago?

5 years ago I had finished my second master’s degree, and had just finished teaching my first solo college class (magazine writing). I was one year into my PhD program. I honestly can't remember much about that month--I think I was already starting to sense that it was the beginning of the end of the whole academic thing. I was at that point religiously observant and had been to Israel, was keeping kosher and shabbos. I had just turned 27, was still single, had just had a very unpleasant dating experience, and was beginning to realize that isolated college towns were bad places to make shidduchim. It was not a good time, and about to get much worse.

One year ago?

1 year ago we had just moved to the city where we live now. MHH had gotten exactly one viable job offer (I’m not counting the one in Hong Kong) and we moved 1000 miles to take it. Barak was three and a half months old and in a very high-maintenance phase--too big to want to lie on the floor, too little to sit up by himself, too cool for the bouncy seat (puh-leeze!) I was wrestling with decisions about whether or not to go back to work, which I really, really did not want to do but was coming to realize was not really optional financially. I was unpacking boxes and taking long walks with Barak snoozing in the Snugli, enjoying the time I had with him all to myself. I was happy.


Yesterday I chased Barak around our grassy new backyard and watched him bravely investigate the sprinkler, then took him inside to scrape off the resultant mud. Set up my loom and spinning wheel in the guest/wool room. Went to Target for garbage can and litterbox and new broom, which Barak gleefully appropriated on sight. (He's got something of a broom fetish. Why not?) Covered kitchen counters with plastic and scoured stove, unpacked all remaining kitchen boxes, arranged tchotchkes on kitchen shelves. Did a little spinning of some wool my friend in Sydney sent for my birthday. A good day.


Today I got up before Barak, which is always nice. Rescued him from crib as soon as he woke up, which put him in a very good mood, and we cuddled a little before getting on with the day. There is something especially wonderful about the way clean babies smell in the morning. Watched him toodle around the apartment with broom in hand in his green alligator pajamas. Went to bakery for his morning bagel, got help with stroller on the bus, dropped him at daycare with no tears. Went to the office, wrote a powerpoint presentation, got Barak back at 1:30 and came home after some errands to make macaroni with cheese and spinach for dinner—a baby favorite. Played with Barak, heard some very alarming intestinal noises and realized he was standing in a spreading wet puddle of blueberry-induced diarrhea, totally unperturbed. Screamed for MHH and transferred poopy child to bathtub, gave him an impromptu shower and induced fits of giggles in Barak, who felt just fine, thanks, and found all of this very entertaining. Put Barak to sleep with very little resistance and did some more unpacking. Bed by 10… ahh.

5 snacks I like

Damp cheerios fed to me by Barak
Diet coke (alas)
Poppyseed rolls from the bakery (alas, alas)
Tomato sandwiches with miracle whip (alas and then some, says my husband)

5 bands whose songs I know most of the lyrics to

The Beatles, probably. I don’t think any other bands, except maybe the Grateful Dead, but it’s been a while…

5 things I'd do with a million dollars

pay off the mortgage
pay off my in-laws' mortgage
pay off my SIL's mortgage
buy my other SIL a place in Chicago
(a million dollars doesn't go as far as it used to--it would have run out by now)

5 places I would run away to (as Deb said, all temporarily, before running back home)

Birmingham (yes, I am the only person in the world harboring warm fuzzy feelings about Birmingham)
Meg Swanson's knitting camp
New Zealand, where I've always wanted to go...

5 things I would never wear

a tongue stud or any other body piercing, including earrings
high heels
a bathing suit in public
anything that fit me before I got pregnant (sigh)

5 things I like doing

nursing, playing with, feeding, chasing, and cuddling Barak
being silly with my husband
knitting, in company or alone
emailing distant friends

5 biggest joys

wet slobbery kisses from Barak
my family
our new home
visits from friends

5 famous people I'd like to meet

Elizabeth Zimmerman
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik
Winston Churchill
Lenin (from a safe distance)
John Steinbeck

5 movies I like

The Princess Bride
The Great Muppet Caper
The Incredibles
Roman Holiday
A Tanu (The Witness, a Hungarian classic)

5 favorite toys

my spinning wheel
my loom
my dishwasher
my washing machine
my dryer (I know, I know... but you appreciate it much more after not having one)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

checking in

We moved yesterday, and I'll post about that soon. It was pretty painless, all things considered. But right now we don't have phone or internet, so I can't check my email, so if you've been trying to get in touch with me and failing, that's why--I hope we'll have everything set up again soon.

Stay tuned...