Monday, July 31, 2006


Iyyar nursed pretty much all night long last night. He had an upset stomach, or something, last night, and the nightly screamfest, which has been as short as 15 minutes recently, went on for HOURS. By the time I went to bed I didn't even make an attempt at putting him down--I just took him with me and let him have fun. Around 6 am, I woke up and realized that he had literally been at it all night. He was soaked, I was soaked, etc.

The plus to this is that if your baby nurses all night, it does very good things for your supply. Wishing to take full advantage, I eased myself away from him and sneaked off to the back bedroom to pump. Halfway there, I heard him wake up. "He's fine," I called to MHH. "Just give him a pacifier. He should go back to sleep."

Nuh-uh. I could hear him howling for the next ten minutes, and finally couldn't stand it anymore. Put the milk in the fridge. Got back into bed. Started nursing Iyyar. Two happy minutes on one side and then


Two happy minutes on the other side, then--you guessed it--


Back and forth a few more times. Pacifier? Fat chance. I'm STARVING, Imma!! Don't you understand! Piteous wails, mouth open, desperate for FOOD. Okay, fine, maybe I was wrong, maybe you really are hungry. I hauled myself back out of bed, took the pumped milk out of the fridge, put a couple ounces in a bottle, handed it to MHH--he can do this, right? and went back to sleep.

Baby attacks bottle like his life depends on it.

For thirty seconds. He took a QUARTER OF AN OUNCE.

Then he went to sleep. For two hours.

And now I have to throw all that milk out--can't freeze it once he's drunk from it.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

The wall

is what I have hit.

I can think of a few things I should be doing less than I should be writing this blog post, but not many. Messing up the kitchen further would be one. Maybe knitting would be another. Eating the chocolate chip cookie dough that I got as far as mixing, but not baking, would be pretty high on the list. At least I'm not doing that.

I am starting to realize that something in my life is going to have to give. I have, B"H, a bright and active kid and a vocal and active baby. They need me. I have a home, which needs to be at least moderately tidy for our health and my sanity. Everyone needs to eat, and they should have vegetables a heck of a lot more often than they're currently getting them. I have a husband, on whom I am taking out way too many of my current frustrations. And, oh yes, there's that job. From which I just took twelve weeks of leave, with no one really covering my absence.

Right now there simply are not enough hours in the day even for the very basics. I cannot take care of Iyyar and Barak, keep the house running, and do my job. Even if I did nothing else, I couldn't do everything that's being asked of me at work--and I am not willing to do nothing but work.

What's going to give? Well, I'm going to be looking for cleaning help again, that's one thing. Even though it's expensive and we can't really afford it; even though I dislike, philosophically, the idea of hiring someone else to clean up after me and my messes. The reality is that I can earn a lot more in an hour than I would pay someone to clean; I'd rather spend an extra two hours working than six cleaning, because it gives me more time with my kids.

And I'm going to have to have a talk with my boss. I'm sort of dreading this, because I know that a big part of the reason I'm valuable is that I always come through. But I just can't. There are only so many hours in the day, and I'm about to have to waste more of them with the commute and, oh yes, pumping.

I don't know what else to do. I already barely knit, I don't waste time on the Internet unless I'm multitasking (pumping, usually), and socializing is now strictly a Shabbos activity, unless combined with Barak time. We had friends over for dinner tonight who are in for the summer from Israel, and it just torpedoed my day (not to mention my mood). It's after 10 and I have a trashed kitchen, two overtired (but finally both sleeping, B"H) kids, and almost nothing done on the speech I'm working on. Speech #1 of 14. Oh yeah, and I'm supposed to be making a meal for a friend with a new baby, and there are so many things, just random things, that I need to do, like go to the post office and write that letter to the hospital and deal with Iberia and, and, and...

And finish that speech that's open in another window on this computer right now.

This about says it

I haven't been saying anything about the war, because frankly, I can't deal, and if I started writing anything it would turn into a major rant and just get me unproductively upset. But if you want the kitzer version of how this war started--well, you aren't going to get it from the
NY Times, but you can find it here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Guess what just showed up in the mail?

Hint: it wasn't an underexposed photo of whole-wheat gomasio bagels.

Hmm. Maybe this has something to do with the pile of laundry on the bedroom floor. Oh, no, wait. I can blame that on the Nine Days!

First week back at work

It's Friday and in one short week of part-time work (and working at home at that!) the entire house has fallen into ruin, I haven't cooked one decent meal, and Shabbos is officially up to MHH. I'm realizing now that my leave consisted entirely of childcare and housework; the time that was once devoted to housework is now going toward paid work, and nothing--but nothing--is getting done. And Marika neni is gone.

How does anyone do it with two kids and a full-time job? How??

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wishful thinking

I'm sitting at my computer (duh) where I should be writing a speech, the first of not one, not two, but FOURTEEN speeches that need to be written by mid-September (that's two a week, folks, and I'm part-time, plus there's that video script and, and, and...) but I cannot resist mentioning what happened this afternoon.


Sometimes Barak will make a reasonable request that is not grantable right at the moment of its asking. For example, I won't give him granola at dinnertime, or take him to the park at naptime, or change the baby's diaper because I just did it and Barak wants me to do it again. In these instances, I usually say "We'll do it later," or "We'll do it tomorrow." So, for example, it'll be bathtime, and Barak will start talking about what he'd really rather be doing (for example, eating ice cream.) The conversation will go something like this:

Barak: Ikeem?

Me: No, sweetheart. It's not time for ice cream now.

Barak: Ikeem pish potty?

Me: Sure, you can pish on the potty, but you don't get ice cream for that. You get a chocolate chip for pishing on the potty, right?

Barak: Ikeem shabbos?

Me: Right, we have ice cream on shabbos.

Barak (being as winsome as possible): Ikeem shabbos? Ikeem?

Me: No, it's not Shabbos now. It's Shabbos tomorrow.

Barak [considering this acceptable]: Shabbos tomorrow.

Got that? Good. So, today, Barak figured it should work both ways. I picked him up from camp and we were walking home, me holding his hand and with Iyyar in the sling. Barak's lunch (PB on leftover homemade whole-wheat challah, a cheese stick, a banana and juice) had gone over very well, and he was telling me about it. "Sammish! Sammish lunch! Cheese! Cheese juice!" He also told me about his day in general. "Water! Water splash! Water swimming! Water giraffe! Giraffe innair! Sammish! Cheese! Camp fun! Fun house! Sammish juice!" Then, a block from our house, he slowed down. He remembered what was about to happen. What happens every day after camp--the Dreaded Nap.

"No night-night."

"Yes, Barak, it's time for night-night. Then after night-night maybe we'll go play in the sprinkler."

"No night-night."

"Yes, night-night."

"No night-night now. Night-night tomorrow."

Monday, July 24, 2006

First day back at work

Well, it is, but not really. I'm still in my two-week work-at-home grace period. Tomorrow I have to go in for a few hours, which will be my first real period without Iyyar. I did go to Target with a friend last weekend, leaving him with MHH and a bottle, but that was just a trial run to make sure he would actually take the bottle. It was only an hour and a half, and this is likely to be at least four hours if not more.

I got SO MUCH WORK done this morning. No one stopped by my desk to schmooze. I could pump right at my computer while reading through things I needed to look at, without wasting half an hour in the lactation room. No going down to the cafeteria to look futilely for something kosher to eat that isn't junk. I just worked while Iyyar kicked on the blanket on the floor, and then I nursed him and handed him off to MHH, who put him down for a nap (after loading the dishwasher. Honestly, if we'd never so much as washed a dish in that thing it would still be worth what we paid for for it. It is the best baby-soother ever.)

Right now both Iyyar and Barak are napping, and when they wake up we (MHH and I) are planning on a Very Exciting Family Outing, involving taking them on the bus to go to Whole Foods. The destination is not the exciting part--what is exciting is the bus, which Barak does not remember he once took every day under major protest. These days, when he sees one he points and exclaims, "Bus! Bus fast! Bus zoom!" So we're all going to zoom to Whole Foods and get, I don't know, some organic butter or something.

And as you may have noticed I've been playing with my template and the profile and stuff. No real reason, just time for a change.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Iyyar is not a colicky baby. Barak was not a colicky baby. But both of them, like all babies, cry when they're tired or overstimulated. I took Barak to one wedding and that was it--a night of hysterical crying taught me not to do it again. Iyyar can handle shul if it isn't too crowded or noisy, but I wouldn't try taking him to, say, a bar mitzvah unless he was already asleep in the sling.

This afternoon I took him to an afternoon open house that some friends had for their son and daughter-in-law, here for a few weeks from Israel with a new baby. Iyyar slept on the walk there, and then woke up feeling hungry. So he cried, and I went upstairs to a bedroom and fed him. He was still out of sorts, and when I went downstairs to a small living room full of too many people eating and talking, it didn't go over well. He wanted a nice quiet place to sit on Imma's lap, and although he did spent a few minutes quietly in the sling staring intently at the goings-on, he had clearly had enough very shortly. So he started to cry. I should have just turned around and left, but I was waiting for MHH to come with Barak and I didn't want to miss them.

Why, why, why, do people do such totally unhelpful things when someone has a crying baby in public? Like, you know, getting in the baby's face to ASK THE BABY WHY HE'S CRYING. Or informing the mother that "he's not a happy baby, is he?" Why, my goodness, he isn't, and thank YOU so much for making it worse.

When I visited my grandmother with Barak, aged then six months, he had been on a really good schedule that of course got blown to pieces by the trip. He would nap every morning on the bus out to my grandmother's (she is in a nursing home and I stayed in a hotel that was 15 minutes by car, 45 by bus) but then, two hours into the visit, would get tired. And he'd start to kvetch gently, and I'd nurse him, and he'd kvetch a little more on his way to being asleep when some little old lady would get in his face and shout, "WHY ARE YOU CRYING! STOP CRYING! IT'S NOT GOOD TO CRY! HERE, HAVE THIS CANDY!" Which would, of course, make him wake up and cry. Oh, and don't even get me started on the Snugli. Barak loved the Snugli. He'd either watch the world happily or go right to sleep. But every little old Hungarian lady had to cluck disapprovingly and inform me that he was either a) definitely hungry, b) certainly shivering, or c) undoubtedly not getting any air (even though his entire face was nakedly exposed to the elements). After a few days of this, I crossed the street whenever an old lady approached and informed my grandmother grimly that I planned to attach a sign to the Snugli stating, in Hungarian of course, "He's not hungry, he's not shivering, and yes, he can breathe in there!"


And while I'm on the subject...

Oh, never mind. I just don't feel like ranting any more.

Stupid people annoy me. Let's just leave it there.

(But I will put in a sentence, on the other side of my annoyance, about my neighbor who still seems to be allowing her barely-three-year-old daughter to play up and down the sidewalk ALONE. Even though we live on a street with, you know, cars, and there have been several attempted abductions in our area in the past year. Now THAT, my friends, is stupid.)

Friday, July 21, 2006


There's no easy way to say it, so I'm just going to come out and say it:

This is what I get for gloating too much.

I killed my Bosch.

I didn't mean to. It wasn't another, er, stove incident. I used a recipe that worked last week, involving five pounds of whole wheat flour. But I was baking with Barak. I wasn't paying attention, and didn't put in the cup of oil. And the dough was just a little too stiff. Frankly, I was asking the Bosch to mix concrete. And it tried. It tried so hard, in fact, that it keeled over and died.

I thought that there was supposed to be some safety mechanism to prevent it from burning out its own motor, but if there is it didn't work. I was left kneading ten pounds of concrete by hand, and calling the dealer to cry.

To their credit, they are sending me a new base today, and a mailing label to ship the dead one back postpaid. It doesn't help my current challah crisis, but it's better than $319 worth of nonfunctioning mixer.

And I also bought the bigger stainless steel bread bowl. And was admonished to add the flour gradually next time, instead of dumping it all in, even though the sheet that came with the mixer SPECIFICALLY SAID you could do this.

Oh well.

Off to bake cookies. Mixed with my old hand mixer. Good shabbos, everyone.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Possibly the strangest thing I have ever seen


The bounty of the Bosch

Because it's been too long since I posted a picture... here's one of a big glob of challah dough. Enough for l'hafrish challah and then some.

Shanna, you're still invited for Shabbos... I'll even roast garlic for you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cheese doodles and immortal words

It was really hot today, but not as horrifically hot as it's been, so after Barak woke up from his nap I proposed that we go outside to sprinkle. He thought that this was a good idea, but first wanted cheese doodles. Fine, I said. Let's make cheese doodles.

Doodles, by the way, are noodles, but Hungarian noodles. For me, Hungarian noodles, paired preferably with finely grated cheese and, um, a very traditionally Hungarian Diet Coke, are the ultimate comfort food. Barak will probably feel the same way about them when he grows up (I hope minus the Diet Coke part). The formula is one cup of unbleached flour to one egg to one teaspoon of salt to 1/3 cup of milk; if you want to make them parve, use two eggs and enough water to make the dough soft. Then you put a noodlemaker, which is a sheet of metal with half-inch holes punched in it, over a pot of boiling water, and you use a bench knife to scrape the dough through the holes into the water. The result are soft, chewy noodles of many many shapes, Very Entrancing to small children (and to me).
So I made Barak his doodles, and informed him that he was about to have a Fine Restaurant Experience as I grated kashkaval (sharp goat's cheese) directly onto them. He thought that this rocked, and informed me periodically that his doodles were SO GOOD!

Once we were done, Barak got me his dinosaur hat and his shoes, and I put Iyyar in the sling, and we went out to, ahem, water the lawn. I let Barak water by spraying everywhere with the sprinkler; I stayed out of range. Iyyar fell asleep, Barak was having a riotously good time, and just as Iyyar started to feel a bit peckish, MHH came home. I unburdened him of his gemaras and went inside. About fifteen minutes later, I heard someone ring the back doorbell. It was Shimon, my friend and neighbor's second-oldest son. He's five, and was very, very wet. "Can I use your bathroom?" he asked. "Sure," I said, surmising, correctly, that he had happened upon the sprinkler festivities (they don't have a yard) and joined in. His mother, Chana, is my best friend in town, and Barak and I are over there a lot. Her kids like Barak and my husband, who, because he's a rebbe in one of the schools here, they call Rabbi H.

I decided I wanted to see this and put Iyyar back in the sling and got up to go out. "Should I go watch?" I asked, as he struggled to get his feet back into the sopping wet sneakers that he had (impressively) taken off on the porch without being asked to do so.

"Yeah!" he said enthusiastically. "Rabbi H is as wet as my pants!"

Three months

So, my boss just called. "We bought you three months," she said. I get two weeks to work at home to sort out my childcare, and then three months of three days in the office, two at home. The three days in are five-hour days, so that means three days of 6.5 hours away from Iyyar and Barak. And somewhere in the week, I have to find another 7.5 hours of quiet time to work, but that's going to have to be in the evenings.

It's not the perfect resolution I hoped for--the "your position is now a permanent telecommuting position"--but it's a whole lot better than it could have been. I'm very grateful.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The nursage chronicles, from Barak's point of view

Iyyar did not want to nap this morning. He fell asleep, woke up, fell asleep, woke up, cried, nursed, etc., etc. He finally conked out at 12:30, half an hour before I had to go get Barak. So I stealthily picked him up and slipped him into the Snugli. I wasn't stealthy enough; he woke right up, and of course, despite having nursed only about an hour and a half earlier was STARVING. I didn't have time to do anything about it, so we headed out, me pushing an empty stroller for Barak and Iyyar absolutely livid.

It wasn't the most fun walk--you get a lot of looks when you're walking very fast and, apparently, oblivious to the malnourished infant you're carrying. Some are sympathetic. Some are not. I should be less sensitive to this, but, well, I'm pretty sensitive to it. Anyway. We got Barak, who wanted to walk, not go in the stroller, and was promptly informed that Imma was going to start counting. That worked, fortunately--I have no idea what I would have done for a timeout in Morah Esther's backyard. We got home, by which time Iyyar was bright purple and totally, completely hysterical.

I usually put Barak straight down for a nap but today clearly Iyyar's needs trumped his. I slipped Barak a juice box--BIG treat--and sat down with Iyyar. Ahh. Silence. Barak watched all of this from behind his juice.

"Baby crying."

"Yes, he was crying, huh."

"Baby loud."

"He sure was."


"Baby nursing."

"Yup, he's nursing now. He's not crying anymore, right?"

"Baby happy!"

Monday, July 17, 2006

The nursage chronicles

Nursing, in case you have never tried it, is not always easy. Before I had kids, I had no clue about this. It never occurred to me while I was pregnant that I might bottle feed. In the hospital, when the nurse asked, "breast or bottle?" I blithely said, "breast." It's natural, right? How hard can it be?

With Barak, it was pretty awful for quite a while. When he was born, he got whisked off to the NICU without ever getting close to the Source of All Good Things; the first time I saw him, he was twelve hours old, lying on his back in a warmer, bright purple, screaming at the top of his obviously healthy lungs, being totally ignored and with a pacifier right next to him, spat out amidst the hysteria. "I hope you don't mind that I gave him a pacifier," the nurse told me, apologetically. "He was just beside himself." Well, yes, so was I, and you don't see ME sucking on a piece of green plastic, do you? Perhaps you might have PICKED HIM UP AND SOOTHED HIM? But I digress...

The internet doesn't need to know the details of my anatomy, but suffice it to say that most women are not shaped like pacifiers and neither am I. So when Barak was introduced to what was supposed to be in his mouth, and it wasn't shaped like green plastic, he had no idea what to do. It smelled good, but he just couldn't get his mouth around it, and he definitely couldn't latch, and he just cried. And cried. And I cried too. And there was the evil evil nurse floating around behind him, intoning "Weight loss... formula... hungry..."

The hospital lactation consultant was worse than useless, and the list of lactation consultants I got at his pediatrician's was composed almost entirely of out-of-service numbers. (I'm not making this up. One of them was supposed to be something like "Gentle Wings Lactation Consultants" or whatever. I called it, and got the voice of a very manly-sounding man on the other end. "Um, is this Gentle Wings Lactation Consultants?" I squeaked. Amidst the sounds of grunting and banging, I heard, "What? No, this is Big Burly Guys Construction and Destruction." "Sorry, wrong number...")

Anyway, I finally did get a hold of a lactation consultant, whose fee nearly made me faint, but it wasn't even close to what I would have spent on formula. She showed me what was wrong, and gave me a little piece of silicone to make me more pacifier-shaped. Barak needed it for five months. Five months of losing it in the middle of the night, needing full light and wakefulness to nurse, sterilizing the thing a million times daily. Yecch. When I finally got around to calling the LC to ask where I could get more, she sounded shocked that I was still using it. "And you're still nursing?" she asked. Um, yeah, obviously, or I wouldn't be needing more. "I've never had a woman make it more than two weeks still needing one. It's just too much of a pain." Tell me about it. And then when Barak finally could latch without it, we got into the yeast infections...

Well, anyway. He did, in the end, nurse for almost 19 months. And I know now that there are some babies who just cannot do it. I couldn't do it. He couldn't do it. I could never have done it without a whole lot of very expensive help. Which makes the current "nurse your baby or else" campaign all the more enraging. But I digress. (I do that a lot, don't I. Well, what can I say, it's my blog, where else can I digress if I feel like it?)

When Iyyar was born, I knew what not to do. He didn't get a pacifier until he was a month old. I made sure to nurse him right away and had the nurses plaster his bassinet with "I'm nursing, NO FORMULA, NO PACIFIERS!" signs. He caught on immediately, and it was all good, although excruciatingly painful for the first couple of weeks. Who knew it would hurt again? Not me. It hurt more than it did the first time. Unfair, unfair...

Now, happily, it doesn't hurt at all, which is good because Iyyar spends a LOT of time nursing. It is his favorite activity at any hour of the day or night and he is, fortunately, very very good at it. He can do it while I'm completely asleep, and as I recently discovered I now don't even need to get him started. I can put him next to me in bed and wake up a few hours later to find him still happily at it. I have to assume that he did stop, sleep, and start again, but who knows? All I know is that unlike Barak, who at this age was in something like the fifth percentile for weight, Iyyar is cruising past the fiftieth.

It's funny to watch him nurse. This morning, he was obviously done eating but not done with the comfort part of it; he was still latched on but his eyes, peering over the top, were darting around with interest, busily taking in everything going on in the kitchen. I let him do that for a little while, then, needing to get Barak's bag ready for camp, took him off. Squawk of outrage: "EXCUSE ME! Can't you see I was USING that!" Sorry...

Nursing is about so much more than food and antibodies. For me, it's knowing that there is one thing that nobody but me can do for him. It's making me sit down and pay attention, making me ignore the laundry and dinner and the million other things that I need to be doing. For him, it's love, comfort, and All Things Imma. When you watch him nurse you can just hear him humming, "mmm, so good, so good, so goooood." It's absolutely my favorite, most satisfying part of mothering him. It's doing the right thing and making both of us happy.

He's asleep now, in his favorite spot next to the dishwasher, which is currently sterilizing pump parts. I don't know yet what will be so far as work, but I can't wait until I do to get started building a freezer stash if I'm going to need one. So I'm pumping, which I did for Barak. And today I went out and bought bottles. It's the next best thing. I know that. He'll still nurse all he wants 148 hours a week, and he won't ever get formula if I can help it.

But it won't be the same.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Last Sunday; Or, How We Went Out for Bagels and Ended Up Buying a Couch and a Car

So, last week MHH was in New York. A few weeks before he went, I put out a piteous plea for visitors, which was doughtily answered by Deb and her daughter Isabelle. They came by train, and were scheduled to arrive a bit before lunch last Sunday (a week ago now). MHH's flight was at around 10, and he had to leave for the airport at 7. Having the morning free (well, sort of--I hadn't cleaned the kitchen, gotten the guest room ready, washed the new sheets intended for guest room beds, or anything else, but I wasn't going to get any of that done with Barak and Iyyar to take care of anyway) I decided it was a good morning to go for bagels. I also had to tovel the parts to my new Bosch. So I piled Barak in the stroller and Iyyar in the sling, and off we went.

Halfway there, Iyyar realized that he hadn't nursed in 22 minutes and was therefore STARVING; we stopped off in the JCC bathroom for a nursing break. Then we went to the keilim mikva and toveled everything, including the new milchig chef's knife, which of course I dropped to the bottom of the mikva. Ever tried to retrieve a very deadly knife from the bottom of a keilim mikva with a little baby strapped to your front? No, I thought not. Barak, who had not yet had breakfast, tried very hard to be patient with all of this, but it was well past 8 and he was getting hungry. By the time we got to the bagel store, it was nearly nine. And what did I see in the parking lot of the shul across the street from the bagel place but--a rummage sale. With two couches visibly for sale.

A digression: my friend Cecilia says that you know you are an adult when you live in more than one room, do your laundry without quarters, have your address printed on your checks and own furniture you neither inherited nor assembled yourself. In that last category, we have very little; I don't think it makes a lot of sense to spent a lot of money on furniture when we have kids and a cat to destroy it and are hoping to make aliyah, which will require ditching most of it anyway.

Our living room, as of last Sunday, had, in the way of furniture, many many bookshelves, some kitchen chairs, and one small couch that sits two uncomfortably and sags under the weight of anyone heavier than Barak. I have been scoping for a new couch for quite some time. I did not want to spend much money on it (see above) but did want something clean, not smelly, and comfy. Clearly, I had to check out the rummage sale.

So, within feet of our destination, I asked Barak to be just a little more patient, and went over to the parking lot. They had couches. They had two. They were both nice. I found someone who was working the sale, told her I wanted one of them and agreed on a price ($75). Just then, Iyyar woke up AGAIN and demanded nursage AGAIN, IMMEDIATELY. So we went inside and nursed, and soothed the savage baby, and came back out, at which point there was someone else agreeing with a different person on a different price for that very couch. Oops. He looked rather distraught when this was made clear, and I looked at couch #2 and decided it was okay, so I let him have couch #1 and took couch #2.

Of course, not having intended to buy a couch, I had no checkbook and no idea how to get it home. But I guess I looked trustworthy, so I was told to leave my name and phone number and get it out of the shul by Shabbos. And then, on the way out, I saw the toy section, and one of those Little Tikes cars that Barak loves so much at other people's houses, and it was five dollars, so we bought that too, and a new-in-the-box toy jigsaw for good measure. I gave Barak the saw, and we went and had our bagels, finally, and Iyyar slept through the whole thing so I actually got to eat.

Getting the couch home was too much of a saga to go through here, but it made its way into our living room 45 minutes before Shabbos, and Barak, who did not see the living room with couch until Shabbos morning, greeted the discovery with, "Wow! Couch!" and then, "Wow! CAR!!"

It all looks much more furnished and homey now. I mean, what's a living room without a car parked in it?

Saturday, July 15, 2006


On Monday, baby Iyyar will be eleven weeks old. He's sleeping more and crying less (really, Deb, he is); he's just started smiling in response to a smile, though only when he's in the mood. He's outgrown all of his newborn stretchies. He falls asleep nursing and stays asleep, some of the time; put him in the bouncy seat in front of a running dishwasher and that's usually good for a whole 5-lb bag of flour's worth of challah. Put him in the Snugli and he'll sleep for a while, but only until he wakes up and realizes that his nose is between the places his mouth should be. He's warm and cuddly. He smells good. I love him an awful lot.

Eleven weeks is the point where you usually stop counting in weeks and start counting months. But I'm acutely aware of the number of weeks, because my FMLA maternity leave is 12 weeks long. I've got one week left. And the request that my boss put in for me back in December, to become a permanent telecommuter, has, it appears, just been denied. Meaning that I'm expected back to work, a week from Monday, for 22.5 hours a week--which, with commute, makes 30 hours a week away from Barak and Iyyar. And there is no question in my mind that 30 hours a week is just. Too. Much. Not to mention the fact that my babysitter, who admittedly rocks, can only do 20 hours a week. My boss is able to give me a few weeks' grace to get that sorted out, but that's not going to be good enough. I'm still going to have to leave a tiny baby, every day, for far too long.

So, now what? Could I quit? Well, I could, but that would leave us without health insurance. (The money I take home, after I pay for childcare, is helpful, but not enough to be a major consideration. Basically, I work for insurance and the retirement benefits.) And as MHH pointed out when I went tearily off to work in the first place, when Barak was 7 months old and in a really good daycare two blocks from work, making sure that your kids have health insurance is also part of being a good mother. I could stand it then, because he was so close that the hours of being apart were really only the 4.5 hours I worked; and because he was a bit older, and already so independent. But I can't afford to have both of them in that daycare--it would cost far more than I earn. I'd have to leave them both with a sitter, here. It would mean pumping two bottles a day, and between keeping everyone clothed and fed, and working, and pumping, and maybe sleeping--what would happen to my mothering?

If we paid Cobra, and lived off MHH's salary alone, we could pay our mortgage and eat, and probably still buy the kids shoes. But that would be it. There would be nothing for any unexpected expenses, we would not be saving for retirement, and the ever-looming yeshiva tuition bills would not go away (although I have to assume we'd be eligible for more in scholarships.) We could manage for a while, but not forever; I am not willing to be that poor at this stage of our lives, not with no safety net of savings or family help. I'd have to go back to work eventually, and I'd have lost what is almost undoubtedly the best part-time job on public transport anywhere in the area. I mean, how many people hire part-time speechwriters and give them full benefits and a totally flexible schedule? And supply them helpfully with very intelligent and understanding bosses with senses of humor? Not many. I'm very, very fortunate to have the job I have, and I know it.

But I also know I can't handle it right now. And I told my boss this. "I could tell you I could do it, and I could show up on Monday and try to do it, but I can't. I'd be hiding out in the lactation room weeping into my Medela. I'd be useless." "You'd probably also get pretty tiresome to the other lactating mothers," she agreed. So, we hatched a Plan B, which is that I quit, she hires me back as a freelancer (during which time I agree to behave as though I were still on staff so far as my availability) and agrees to hire me back to staff in three months (at which time I will try to get approved to at least work a third of my hours from home).

She's going to go to her boss with this and call me back next week. There are a lot of questions, like, will I get hired back at the same salary? Will she write me a job offer before I leave, so I can have it on paper? How is all of this going to work with my longevity and the rest of it?

And most important, will he say yes?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Not much to report

I'm looking out my back window at a garbage truck, thinking what I think whenever I see a garbage truck or fire truck or large vehicle of any description without Barak around: "Oh, Barak would LOVE that!" Yesterday on the way home from "camp" we passed a cherrypicker-cum-forklift that was lifting bags of cement onto the top of a building under construction. We stopped to watch, and the guy directing the cherrypicker, thinking we wanted to get by, waved us past. "No, we're just looking," I called over the din. "He loves trucks." "Don't they all!" he yelled back genially. I guess mine was not the first two-year-old to gape at his truck.

MHH has been in New York since Sunday, coming back tomorrow. We could have gone, but I didn't think it would be any easier than staying home by ourselves, and although we miss him I'm glad we didn't go. Instead we had a couple of friends come here to visit, and that's been a lot more fun. Barak, however, has had a cold and an ear infection, and with Abba's mysterious absence on top of that has not exactly been sweet and cheerful this week. And Iyyar has still been having a lot of tummyaches, so it's been, shall we say, a high-volume household for the last few days. And I'm a little on the sleep-deprived side, to put it mildly. But as I keep reminding myself, I had a quiet house once and I'll have one again someday, and I should enjoy the noise while I have it.

The volume has also been added to in a most satisfactory way by the arrival of my lovely new mixer. It turned up at 2 pm on a Friday and yes, I had a five-pound bag of flour dumped in it within the hour, and warm challah ready by candlelighting. (I read the manual online before it arrived so as to be able to get right down to business. What, me obsessive?) I've already done three enormous batches of dough, one white and two whole-wheat, and only stopped when I ran out of both flour and yeast. More yeast came in the mail today, and my friends and I walked the two miles to the grocery store that sells the flour I like to get more of that, so I'm tempted to fire the mixer up again during naptime this afternoon. But there are six loaves in the freezer, and I should probably do some of the other high-priority household tasks (you know, like changing the sheets Barak pooped all over last night) first. Probably.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


When you spend a lot of hours in the dark holding and nursing a baby, you think up a lot of blog posts that never actually make it onto the blog. Last night, I was thinking (not surprisingly) about sleep, and getting babies to sleep. With Barak, it was simple: you pick me up, I sleep; you put me down, I stop. With Iyyar, it is about the same, although if you swaddle Iyyar tightly (we call it a baby burrito around here) and put him in the bouncy seat, preferably in front of the dishwasher, you can get some good naps out of that. At night, he will generally sleep in the cosleeper, but again only if swaddled. However, this takes some sneakiness on my part.

What Iyyar really would prefer would be sleeping with me, ideally on me, all night. While I am okay with ending the night with him in the bed, the truth is that I don't sleep as well when he's in the bed--I worry that he'll roll into the mattress, or up against my clothes, or something like that. So I cuddle him to sleep, either lying on the bed with him or in the glider rocker, and stealthily transfer him into the cosleeper.

Sometimes this works. Sometimes he just carries on sleeping until he gets hungry. More often, though, he senses that something is not right and starts to wiggle. Then he coughs. Then he wakes up properly and begins to howl with all the righteous indignation of someone who shelled out for a first-class ticket, went to sleep happily in a plush reclining seat, and woke up to find himself ignominiously relocated to a ratty suitcase in the baggage car. "Excuse ME! I did NOT agree to this. I believe I agreed to go to sleep on Imma's delightfully squishy postpartum tummy, NOT on this rock-hard AAP-approved foam rubber travesty of a--a--what do you call it again? A mattress? Well I call it FEH!"

Generally though if he is swaddled it is okay, since he tends not to feel the difference abruptly enough to wake him up. Last night, because it is warm and I don't like the idea of having the central AC on just so that I can wrap a baby in three layers of blanket, I tried to get him to go to sleep unswaddled. I reasoned that I should try to get him to go to sleep next to me, not on me, so that the transition wouldn't be as glaring. I lay down. I laid him down. I closed my eyes. He was about three inches away. I heard snuffling. And shuffling. And wiggling. And scootching. Then I felt warm little puffs of air on my cheek. Then I felt the rustle of little eyelashes on my nose. Then I heard a tiny heave and a moment later had Iyyar's face plastered completely against mine. And then I heard a happy little sigh, and a moment later, snores.

Iyyar 1, Imma 0. But I'm not a sore loser. In fact I kind of like it when he wins.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And the winner is...

This mixer. I got the basic model with the plastic bowl and no blender--I can always get more parts later if I feel I need them.

It's supposed to arrive on Friday. I decided to be prepared, and today went to Target and bought 6 new parve loaf pans, and even toveled them on the way home.

Think FedEx will get in here in time for me to figure it out and make challah for Shabbos?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sefiras ha'Tinok

Both my kids were born during the omer, which lent itself very well to counting baby sefira. As in, Today is fifteen days, which is two weeks and one day of the baby. Etc.

The omer is over, and he's more than seven weeks old--nine weeks yesterday, in fact. Meaning that I have less than three weeks until I have to go back to work. Something about which I am in complete, total denial. Work? What work? I'm a stay at home mother, I am.

Julia posted a week or two ago about working versus staying at home. I have so much to say about this it'll have to wait. Right now, though, I'm trying to pretend that this will go on forever--that Barak will spend the morning at playgroup while I snuggle the baby and run errands with him in the sling, that they'll both nap at more or less the same time while I make dinner, that we'll sit on the floor reading books and doing puzzles until MHH comes home at suppertime.

Iyyar is crying a little less and playing a little more. He's just beginning to show the first glimmers of smiling back at me when I smile at him, but mostly just smiles at windows and lamps and that kind of thing. He likes napping in the bouncy seat, especially when I put it next to the dishwasher--I guess all the swishing sounds familiar. (That's where he is right now, in fact.) He loves being held and spends most of his time either on me or in the sling or snugli. And he loves baths and clean diapers--unlike Barak, who hated water until he was at least one and still deeply resents the indignity of diaper changes, Iyyar is visibly delighted by being clean. He starts kvetching as soon as his diaper is wet, but once it's off--ahhh.

The last few posts have been very Barak-centric, so just thought I'd let you know that Iyyar continues to be sweet and cuddly. And has just outgrown his last newborn stretchie. Milestones...

Monday, July 03, 2006

Barak counts

I've been very good for a long time, but today I cracked. I made chocolate chip cookies. In my defense, I only ate four, and the rest have left the house. And I did get a good blog post out of it. To wit:

I'm scooping cookie dough and putting it on the cookie sheet. Barak is watching, and helping me count scoops. However, he's fixating on the numer seven, so counting goes like this:













"Right! Seven! Seven cookies! What comes after seven?"

"Eat it!"

Sunday, July 02, 2006

More mix!

Barak is a lot of fun to bake with. Last week we made challah and this afternoon we made whole-wheat muffins. I really do let him mix--I put the (stainless steel) mixing bowl on his high chair tray, hand him the measured ingredients (we steer clear of things needing raw eggs, or I add those last), and let him have fun. He's surprisingly good at not spilling, and today, when I handed him half a cup of raisins to add to the muffin batter, even refrained from stuffing them all in his mouth.

"Eat it?" he inquired politely.

"Eat these, " I told him, giving him a few on the side of the bowl. "The ones in the cup are for the muffins. You'll eat those later."

"Eat later," he agreed, downing the ones I gave him--but leaving the ones in the bowl alone.

When we made the challah, it was what my mother would term an "experiment in better cooking"--meaning, no recipe, no advance planning, seat-of-your-skirt cooking. I started Barak off with the basics of flour, water, yeast, and salt, and then he started requesting additions.

"More mix!"

"Okay, do you want more flour?"

"No! More mix!"

"Do you want to put in something else?"


"Okay, what should we put in?"


Sure, why not, here's a spoonful. Mix mix mix. "Butter?" Well, how about olive oil? That'll do nicely. Mix mix mix. And so on, through much of the kitchen cupboards. I did draw the line at the sprinkles, although a friend of mine says that that's fun for Purim.

The challah was surprisingly good, and Barak has a raisin muffin packed with his lunch tomorrow. Oh, and on the mixer front--does anyone have a Bosch? I just discovered that there is an option for a much larger stainless steel bowl with dough hook, and you can get the regular (plastic) bowl assembly separately--so I could use the big steel one for challah and parve stuff and the smaller one for milchigs. But I've never seen a Bosch mixer and I don't know anyone who has one, so if you have one and love/hate/are indifferent to it, please let me know.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

One step back

Barak is asleep. In a diaper.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you will know that Barak is one of the most constitutionally sleep-resistent children ever born. He came that way and has not changed. Sleep is the enemy. It is the devil. It must be fought at all costs.

To be fair, this trait is clearly genetic. MHH hates going to sleep and often falls asleep on the couch over a book, moments after refusing to go to bed on the grounds that he wants to do one more pasuk or isn't tired or whatever. His classic position is slumped on the couch, book on chest, two dirty socks on floor next to bare feet. When his father came to visit last Rosh Hashanah, I found both of them sitting next to each other on the couch, both asleep, both with books on their chests, with two pairs of dirty socks on the floor next to two sets of bare feet. When Barak goes to bed, he takes a book into his crib, and if I am sitting in there with him I see him nod off over a copy of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" or "Olivia." The only reason he doesn't have the dirty socks there is that I take them off before I put him to bed. It's only a matter of time.

Until we came back from Israel, though, he'd been doing pretty well. We had a good bedtime routine, and most nights he went to sleep with a minimum of crying. It took about an hour, maybe, to get him to sleep. When we came back from Israel, though, it was all over--routine disrupted, sleep but a distant memory. And I was pregnant, and then I got put on bedrest, and then I had Iyyar, and... anyway, as of two weeks ago we were at the point where bedtime frequently involved up to three hours of screaming. Seriously. And he woke up during the night a bunch of times, too. Have I mentioned that Iyyar's tummy troubles now have him officially in the "colicky baby" category? Three hours of screaming at least three days a week?

And then Barak figured out that he could cry potty, thereby turning bedtime into an extended bedtime story cum potty trip that only ended when he--get this--actually did anything on the toilet. How much of a disincentive is that?

And the one naptime where, after several false alarms, I actually ignored "Imma! Potty!"--oh, do I even need to say what happened?

So, last Shabbos we had my DSIL and company here. They arrived at 10 pm on Thursday and Barak was--you guessed it--on the potty, reading "Cars and Trucks and Things that Go," so tired that he actually fell off ("Imma! Potty fall!") but then insisted on getting back on ("Potty! Pish potty!") And my DSIL, wise woman with twice as many kids as I have, delicately suggested that perhaps a diaper was in order. So the next morning, I asked Barak if he wanted to wear a diaper. He did, and I put one on him, and put the rugs back where they were.

This is not to say that he does not still make potty trips. He does--the lure of ice cream and chocolate chips is still enough of an incentive. And I do think he'll get there eventually. But right now, my desire to have us all sleep trumps my desire to have him out of diapers. Handily.