Thursday, September 29, 2005

today's cuteness

Barak knows that he is not supposed to fling things out of his stroller or off his high chair tray. I have always been very unforgiving about this with the stroller, because we took the bus every day and if a toy or sippy cup rolled under a seat six rows away, it wasn't easy to get back. I don't like him chucking things off his high chair tray either, because a) it's a waste of food, b) it's not polite and c) it means I have to clean it up. So he knows, full well, that things that get dropped do not come back, unless the object in question clearly fell by mistake.

So yesterday, when he dropped his banana on the floor in the midst of trying to peel it himself (he insisted on making the attempt--why not?) he looked up at me in great consternation and said, very slowly and clearly, "Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Oh no!" Meaning, "It was a mistake, Imma! I didn't mean to! I get my banana back, right?"

Which, of course, he did.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Squirrels from Gehennom

All right. I know they're squirrels. I understand this. I understand that they are (sort of) wild animals who are foraging for food in an urban landscape. And so while I was, to put it mildly, put out by the challah-roll-in-stroller-canopy incident, I understood. Kind of.

But this was totally gratuitous.

Yesterday, I came down to the stroller to find what looked weirdly like blue confetti sprinkled all over the seat. Closer inspection revealed that the seatbelt buckle was actually chewed off. Completely. No possible way to use stroller seatbelt.

Now, what was the point of that? There was no food on the seatbelt buckle. There was not, to the best of my knowledge, any food inside the seatbelt buckle, unless Graco has taken to hiding challah inside their molded plastic.

There's no other explanation for it. It was sheer squirrelly malice.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The contents of my freezer

So, as many of you know, the yomim tovim (holidays) are fast approaching. Being fortunate enough to have both a kid and a job, my time is not exactly plentiful, and since I am going to have guests to feed at no less than sixteen (count 'em) festive meals, there is no way to leave this to the last minute. What's an uberimma to do? She cooks ahead and freezes, of course, in a time-honored tradition dating back through the generations as least as far back as the founding of the Frigidaire company.

The freezer, I am happy to say, is filling up. It now contains two roasts, two chickens, six quarts of chicken soup, a hundred and something meatballs (I made a hundred and fifty, but we ate some), six dozen chocolate chip cookies, two pans of three-layer kugel, a pan of potato kugel, and probably some other stuff I forgot. Last night, I made nine pans of kugel (three different recipes), two chickens, challah, chicken soup, four dozen cookies, and, um, I think that's it. But a lot of that is getting eaten over the course of the next day, since we are having guests tonight and tomorrow.

So, what is my current dead-of-night fear?

A power outage.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

hum dee dum

We got the new stroller in the mail yesterday, but it is still in its box, since Barak is so utterly fascinated with said box that I feel bad depriving him of it in its current exciting state (i.e., full of stroller pieces and therefore very solid for climbing purposes.) I haven't gotten the bike lock yet, so wouldn't be using it until then anyway. And there's no snow yet, obviously, so it isn't all that pressing. His babysitter said today that both he and the other little boy who comes here during the day were so enthralled that when she proposed a trip to the park--a suggestion that usually has the two of them waiting by the back door in seconds--they both looked at her, said "no," in chorus, and went on playing. She just spent the whole day sitting in the living room watching them climbing on and off the box. It made her job easy, anyway.

Oh, and I saw an interesting sign on the way home. Remember Fraidl? Well, she's showing an open house two blocks from me on Sunday. I think we'll stop by and check it out. Further bulletins, as always, as events warrant.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

This week, chez Uberimma

It has not been a good week for strollers.

We used to have two. The first was a Graco stroller that I bought a month or two after Barak was born, when I had no idea what I would really need--it's the kind that comes with a car seat that you can snap in. It's unmaneuverable in snow, as I discovered with the first flake, so last December I bought a second one--a big, expensive (in my book--you can easily spend four or five hundred bucks on these things if you are so inclined) jogging stroller that I got from LL Bean, with a weather canopy inside the sunshade that you can zip out and clip on for when it rains or is really cold and windy. We don't have a car, so my stroller really is the car--I shop with it, take Barak everywhere in it, etc. We kept both strollers in the bottom of the inside stairwell in our old apartment, and have been keeping them at the bottom of the outdoor back stairs here. I didn't lock them--who's going to steal my stroller out of my yard?


Last Saturday, I was about to take Barak to an aufruf (the event marking the last Shabbos before a bridegroom's wedding) and as I carried him (carefully) down the back stairs, it took me several seconds to realize that the jogging stroller was gone. I looked around the yard, and then the alley, and it was pretty clear what had happened--it had gotten stolen during the night. You often see trucks driving through the alleys where I live, salvaging things from the garbage bins, and I guess someone got a little overeager. So, goodbye less-than-a-year-old jogger, goodbye $185. I have to buy a new one--it isn't at all negotiable, since the remaining stroller becomes useless the moment it snows.

But at least I still had one stroller.

Until Friday. When I went to the bakery with Barak to buy challah for shabbos, gave him half a roll, and tucked the other half into the canopy for later. And forgot about it. But the evil killer mutant squirrels who live in our yard reminded me, by chewing all the way through the back of the stroller to get to it. The stroller is still usable, in a pinch, but it looks so awful I'm embarassed to be out with it, and my standards for such things are not particularly high. Besides, it doesn't exactly offer much in the way of sun protection.


B"H I can afford to buy another stroller, though this time I got the least expensive jogger I could find. It should come in the mail later this week. The mangled stroller will go in the basement, for shopping--the jogger doesn't have much of a basket. And tomorrow, I'm taking Barak to Target to buy a bike lock.

Favorite word this week, by the way, is "up." It means both "up" and "down," or maybe both "I want to go up" and "I'm tired of being up," as the situation warrants. Other relatively new words include "hot," "bubble," and "uh-oh," and the sign for "more" has resurfaced after an absence of a month or so. New phrase: "no way!" I guess I say that one a lot. "No way," and "oh boy," are both big these days. Fun activity today was sitting in the glider rocker, looking cute, and playing with Abba's juggling equipment in the living room. He's started stacking the rings on his stacking-rings-on-a-stick toy (you know what I'm talking about, you probably had one) though not yet in the right order. He is starting to get the nesting cups right, though, and occasionally stacks blocks. And he will climb on anything. I'm very glad we got the bookshelves bolted to the walls.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Okay, so, this was weird.

But first, a little background.

When I was looking for an apartment, one of the places I looked at was an awful, awful 60s apartment building that was being rehabbed into "luxury" condos. I use those quotation marks for extremely heavy emphasis. It was the usual quick conversion--mirrored closet doors, granite countertops and maple cabinets, thin doors and walls. It was shown to me by a realtor named... well, let's just call her Fraidl, okay? She looked, for all the world, frum. Long skirt, hair tucked under a baseball cap. She knew the lingo and told me all about the frum families who were moving in, how it was close to the shuls, etc. I was so not interested I didn't even go inside--it was clear from the sidewalk it wasn't for us, and since she had been late I was late to see another place (the one I'm sitting inside now, in fact.) End of Fraidl, Act I.

On Sunday, on a walk with Barak, I passed an open house in another new conversion a few blocks away. Because I wasn't in a hurry and I'm always interested in these things now, I went in. And saw... Fraidl. Except it wasn't Fraidl. It was Fraidl in a very short skirt with no hose, high heels, a very tight green tank top that left the top inch of her bra exposed in back, a lot of makeup and even more hairspray.

Fraidl? Or her frei twin?

I sneaked a look at the cards on the table. Nope, Fraidl all right. Fraidl who appears not even to be married, from what she said to me about where she lives, which makes the fact that she had her hair covered the first time I saw her even more bizarre. She wasn't just wearing a hat--she was wearing a hat with all her hair tucked inside.

Is it possible? Her name is sure convincing. Could she have just dressed the part to show the apartments in a religious neighborhood? Was it actually a costume? Or does she just dress like an, er, not religious person when showing an apartment in a different neighborhood?

Weird. Weird, weird, weird...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Huh. How about that.

It's now been almost exactly two and a half years since I got married, meaning it's been about two and a half years since my hair saw the light of day (outdoors, anyway). I have long hair, and have had since I was six or so. It was too much a part of my identity to cut, so I never did, even when I was really too old to wear it so long. There's no religious need to cut one's hair when getting married, but most married women (who are Orthodox, anyway) do keep theirs short for convenience. I don't, which makes tying headscarves easier (more to anchor them to) and wearing wigs harder (too much to stuff underneath.) Since nobody ever sees my hair, I have to admit that I haven't been taking such good care of it. I don't wash it nearly as often as I used to, I don't really brush it (since it's braided and covered, it doesn't really get that dirty or that knotted) and it spends a lot of time damp, since it isn't really dry in the morning if I wash it at bedtime (and once covered doesn't really dry fully).

I'm quite attached to my hair, but frankly, it was never particularly lovely. It's not that thick and I always had a lot of split ends and frizzies and that kind of thing. Strangely, the other day, while brushing it (which I do about once a month) I realized that this is no longer the case. I have hardly any split ends at all. And it's much thicker than it used to be, and almost as thick at my waist as at my shoulders, which it never, ever was.

So, the secret to beautiful hair? Total, complete neglect.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


So, we are in our second week of having Barak at home with a babysitter and another little boy. I have to say it is going really well, and while he may have had more fun per minute while at day care, his sum amount of fun had per day is probably higher, because, you know, he's not screaming hysterically for 25 minutes each way on the bus, morning and afternoon. I really like his sitter, who was his teacher at daycare (and is now about to start classes for a nursing degree), and we are saving a little money over what we paid at daycare, and I am not facing another winter of pushing the jogging stroller through snowdrifts on my commute. All good, although of course the down side is another hour a day apart.

And although Imma does, admittedly, have a much easier time on the bus without him, it's a lot harder to leave the house with a little boy perched on a box looking out the living room window watching me sadly all the way down the street as I wave bye-bye while walking backwards. I know he likes his babysitter--he gives her a big grin when she comes, even if he would rather I didn't leave. He gets to draw and paint and blow bubbles and do all those fun things, and his buddy comes and hangs out and the two of them converse seriously and trade their snacks (which are, unlike the ones in daycare, all kosher). It's definitely a better arrangement, and I'm starting to feel better about it, even though, well, I miss him.

One of the nicer things about it, while I'm on the subject, is that since Barak doesn't already spend two hours a day trapped in the stroller before we even run an errand, I can take him out for walks and not feel mean about it. So today we went to the post office, where we mailed a thirteen-pound box containing four bottles of anti-itch Neutrogena, two huge bottles of heavy-duty moisturizer, two tubs of really heavy-duty moisturizer, three bags of cookies, four tins of sardines, a bottle of baby shampoo, a small stack of pictures, two packages of tuna and a recent example of Barak's artwork to my grandmother in Hungary. It will take four weeks to get there and cost twenty-seven dollars, which I think is a bargain of the highest order. My grandmother, as you may have guessed, has a nasty itchy skin problem and only daily head-to-toe slathering with moisturizer and hydrocortisone keeps her sanity. So we send a big box of it every four or five months, being sure to keep well ahead of the supplies so as to take advantage of the cheap surface mail rates. It's a good system.

And in the poetic justice category, the two rude Russians who cut ahead of me on the very long post office line got what they deserved. They were too scary-looking to take to task for their line-cutting, or to talk to generally, so I did not say a word to them about the yellow-and-brown package slips they were holding, and let them wait all the way to the front of the line until the postal clerk informed them that UPS and USPS are not the same thing. So there.

In other news, the house is nearly unpacked, with the only room still in a state of moderate chaos being the guest room. Since we are, naturally, about to have guests, this is going to have to change pretty soon. Probably just as well.

All right, time to go make some rice.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

This is not supposed to happen here.

We don't have a television, something for which I am frequently grateful. Right now, if we had one, it would have been on since the beginning of last weekend, when we started hearing about a big hurricane coming, somewhere down south. Every day, there has been something worse on the news, all of which you probably all know about, so what is there left to say?

There's something I'd like to know, though, that hasn't been discussed very much. By every account New Orleans had a narrow escape that nobody was expecting. The storm weakened and turned. They were expecting to be hit head-on with a category 5. That, clearly, would have drowned the entire city. So what were they--"they" in this case being FEMA--expecting? What is the good of a "mandatory evacuation" when 35% of a city's poorest (read: black) residents don't have access to cars, and--in a move that boggles the mind--Greyhound shut down on Saturday? There were something like 100,000 people left in the city when the storm hit, and they almost all would have been dead if not for a last-minute shift in the weather. Plenty of them, of course, already are.

Why was the National Guard not there with trucks, moving everyone who wanted to go out--before the storm? Why were there not schoolbuses and helicopters before the storm? And why, please tell me, were the 700 [white] guests and staff of a hotel moved to the front of the evacuation line at the end of the week, ahead of the thousands of [poor and black] people who had been there since Saturday? Why were so many of those who got out white, and almost all of those left behind--except for the stranded tourists--black?

Race relations in this country will never be the same. And whatever is on the news, I know at least part of what will happen. White people will look at the pictures on their TVs, of the gangs and the thugs and the rapes and the lawlessness. They'll say, see, that's what black people are like, really. And the black people will look around them and see that whatever social contract we imagine in this country, that our wealth and our democracy protects us, is a mirage. It might take some white people a little longer to figure that out, but the truth is the same for everybody.
We think our government will protect us. It won't. It won't protect us at all, in the end, whatever the color of your skin.