Thursday, December 28, 2006

I am not worthy

I went back to work today after five days off. But was I sad? Did I drag my feet? Did I mope, did I moan, did I sulk, did I sigh? Did I throw myself down on the covers and cry? (What children's book am I quoting? Two points to those who get it right. )

No, I did not. I did not even try.

Instead, I veritably skipped back to my cube farm of employment. Because I knew that on my desk, I had a box. And inside that box was this, for Iyyar:

And this, for Barak:

Courtesy of Sarah.

Pictures are also courtesy of Sarah; the blankets are currently in a dark room being slept under. Pictures of the rubber duckies will have to wait till Friday--they're still on my desk.

I have no idea what I did to deserve this. But I am not complaining.

And now I'm humming a certain song from The Sound of Music. Sing it with me, please:

Somewhere in my youth, or childhood/ I must have done something good.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Backhoe loader tragedy

Before I type anything, I should point out that Barak right at this moment is in his high chair telling himself soothingly, "Chanuka, 's over, right? right. Chanuka all done, right? Right. Iss okay. Chanuka all done, kay? Kay."

I mentioned that we got a new backhoe loader at Target last week. Barak has been inseparable from said backhoe loader to the point that when it was time to go to gan yesterday, he wanted to bring it. "Okay, Barak, you can bring it. But either you're going to have to put it in your cubby, or you're going to have to share it with the other kinderlach, okay?" Yesterday passed without incident. Today he came home with a broken backhoe loader, and reports of a Time Out.

"Barak, what happened?"

"Broke it backhoe loader."

"How did it get broken?"

"Gotta share it."

Oh dear. A call to his ganenet confirmed this: a fight broke out over the backhoe loader, Barak hit the would-be operator, and got a time out. The backhoe loader is now just a backhoe, sans loader.

Maybe next time the toys need to stay home.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A little late

Some of you have requested Chanuka stories. I am not one to deny my readers, so here you go.

My husband, as I have mentioned, is a rebbe in an MO yeshiva that has limmudei kodesh in the morning and limmudei chol in the afternoon. He gives shiur in the morning and also teaches a couple of sections of Jewish history in the afternoon. Tenth grade, so up to the second temple.

Got that? Good.

So, candlelighting in our house: after a mad scramble for wicks and those metal thingies, and where are the matches, we light. Barak gets a number of M & Ms ("Two M's! More two M's please!) corresponding to the number of days of Chanuka we're on. One the first night, two the second, etc. He also got a little present each night--a little car or something like that. We sing Ma Oz Tzur.

Then my husband sits Barak on his lap and tells him about the meaning of Chanuka.

"Okay, so, Barak, let me tell you about Chanuka. Chanuka is not about the Greeks versus the Jews. No. Chanuka, it's about the dangers of assimilation. It's about Hellenization, and--well, let's take a step back. So, Alexander dies, and he's succeeded by--well, actually, it depends on whom you ask, how many generals. It depends on which history book you look at. He's succeeded by his Diadochi, by Ptolemy, and Seleucus, they're the most important, and also Lysimachus, and also Cassander, and... one of them gets Macedonia, but... okay, never mind that. Let's talk about Antiochus. It's Antiochus the Fourth, and before him Seleucis the Fourth, but he's not so important. Do you know about the Hasmoneans? Okay, so, the Hasmonean dynasty and the Seleucids..."

"More Ms please!"

"No, that's enough. The Seleucids...."

"Issa forklift! Heavy loads!"

"The Seleucids, they weren't very nice, okay?"

"Vrooom.... heavy loads! Backing up! Beep beep!"

Maybe next year.

Mine. Mine. All mine.

It's all a lot more fun when you can sit up by yourself.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Barak's best day

Next post: our shabbos with the DSIL family. First, though, let me tell you the tale of Barak's Best Day.

Thursday. I had a work-at-home day, and Barak did not have school. When our babysitter arrived, he was still asleep, so I disappeared into my office--to discover that the notes I needed to write the speech I had to do had not materialized, and since it was midnight in the country they were supposed to be getting faxed from there was not much hope of their arriving. (Yeah, I do run-on sentences like that in my speeches too. They go over great. That's why I get paid the big bucks.) I'd already worked enough hours for the week, so I didn't really need to work. But our babysitter was here. What to do? I ran through my options. I could do some work anyway. I could cook for Shabbos. I could do some laundry. I could give the babysitter the day off. Or...

I came out of my office. Barak was sitting in his highchair grumpily eating breakfast.

"Hi Barak!"

Suddenly, breakfast is much less grumpy. "Imma go to work?"

"No, I'm all done working."

"Imma all done go to work?"

"Barak, do you want to go on a trip?"

Barak stops in his tracks.

"Go onna trip? Go onna trip wit' Imma?"

"Yeah. Do you want to go on a trip with Imma?"


A Trip, by the way, means that we are going somewhere by means of a mechanical conveyance--bus, car, or plane. Right before I went back to work, I decided to take Barak in to my office. He, MHH, Iyyar and I all took the bus 25 minutes to where I work, I picked up what I needed, we went to Ben and Jerry's, and we took the bus home. It was a memorable trip. For weeks afterward, whenever he saw a bus, he'd ask to go onna trip.

So, we went onna trip. It was raining, so we got our raincoats on, his with the blue frogs and mine without. I got the big orange backpack and the umbrella. I asked him to hold my hand, and we said bye-bye to Ada and Iyyar, and we went out the door. First stop: the ATM. I used the wheelchair-accessible kiosk and let Barak push all the buttons. "Help Imma! I help Imma!" Then we went to the bus shelter. "I go innair!" He climbed up on the bench and sat there, very businesslike, while we waited for the bus. The bus shelter is at a pretty busy intersection, and we saw many exciting things--trucks, tow trucks, schoolbuses, even--wonders!--a concrete mixer. And then the bus came! Oh, the joy and excitement!

"Go innair schoolbus please!" "Yup, we're going on! Hold my hand please!" He climbed up the big stairs all by himself, got up on a seat, and looked around with absolutely enormous eyes. In the bus. I'm in the bus! "Barak, do you want to sit in my lap or sit by yourself?" "Sit by myself." "Okay, but if you sit by yourself you can't see out the window. You can't see all the trucks." Pause while Barak considers this. "Sit in my lap please."

He sat in my lap and we pointed out all the heavy machinery we saw going past. Look, a dumpster truck! A garbage truck! Another concrete mixer! We got off the bus. Barak looked around at the intersection, got a thoughtful look, and said, "Ice cream cone please."

Unbelievable. We have been on two city bus trips with Barak. The one where we got an ice cream cone was in July. He remembered. "No, we're not getting an ice cream cone today. But we can get a present for Chanuka, okay?"

It was the sixth day of Chanuka, so I thought a present or two was reasonable; we got some new Play-Doh and I let Barak pick out a Caterpillar backhoe loader. (Total cost: $7.) Then we crossed the street to the grocery store--the one that has shopping carts with cars. Meaning, the carts are like those big Little Tykes cars, but with a shopping cart on top. Barak saw them and gazed in wonder. "Go innair car?" "Sure, go in!" He raced over, got in, and I don't think he stopped giggling and laughing and screaming with joy the whole time I shopped. He climbed around in the seat, stuck his head out the rear window (bad driving practice, as I told him), and turned both steering wheels in opposite directions (another safety hazard). When the climbing around got to be a bit much I told him I couldn't move unless he stopped playing and drove already. I stopped the cart whenever he wasn't driving. "Imma go please!" "Barak, I can't go! You have to drive! Otherwise the car doesn't move. " "Iss notta car. Issa forklift!" "Okay then, could you drive the forklift please? I want to pay for the groceries in this lifetime," "Yeah. Drivea heavy loads!" The grocery store delivers, and we were having Shabbos guests, so I did indeed have a heavy load; Barak noted with pleasure the addition of orange juice and Chex ("I gotta Chek! I gotta two Chex!") to the cart.

On the way out, I decided to get a smoothie. We paid, and I stuck the straw in the smoothie and asked Barak if he wanted to share. "I'll take a turn then you take a turn, okay? It's my turn, so I'm going to take a sip." I took a sip. "Now it's your turn." I handed it over, he took a sip, and a look of I-can't-believe-how-awesome-this-is spread over his face. I was crouching down by the car door, waiting for him to pass it back. "Iss my turn. Imma stand up please." Nice try, buster.

A little gentle persuasion and the turn-taking was reestablished. On the way out, Barak remembered the backhoe loader. "I holda bag please! Hold it!" "Do you want your backhoe loader?" "Yeah!" "Okay, you can hold it, but we're not going to open it until Abba lights the menorah tonight, okay?" "Kay." I put the bag down and he opened it up and rummaged around for the backhoe loader. "Chex please!" I had relinquished all my groceries to the delivery service at this point--my cartload of groceries was gone and all I had was the orange backpack. "Barak, look, I don't have the groceries anymore. They're at the store. " "Chex please!" Did he really think that all the groceries, or even just that huge box of Chex was in the backpack?

We took the bus home, with much rejoicing, and there were Ada and Iyyar, waiting for us in the kitchen. "Barak, do you want to tell Ada what we did?"

"I go onna trip! Go onna trip onna bus wit Imma! Drive car inna store! Heavy loads!"

It takes me an hour to write a post to say what we did. Barak, he can tell it in four sentences.

Not the post I had planned

I wrote a post on motzai Shabbos. I did. I know I did, because my husband read it over my shoulder and said, are you really sure you want to post that? Because it was about the hardest week we've had since we've been here--the fevers, the ruptured eardrums, the mean lady at Meuchedet, the miserable kids, the fun visit with Shanna that happened without me, what happened with the dining hall and why we can't really eat there anymore, and every other thing that went wrong, at intervals of five minutes or less, all last week.

Apparently, Blogger decided I really didn't want to post that, because it ate the post. It's not even saved in drafts. Just gone. I only realized when I sat down to post today.

So... I was going to post today about how things have gotten a little bit better, but since you don't know what happened all of last week that wouldn't make much sense. But when digging through my drafts folder I found a post I started writing about four years ago, and thought I might as well just post that instead.

Original title:

Do not read this post if you are my sister-in-law.

Don't read it, Sara.

Really. Don't. I'm going to talk all about how badly behaved your kids were and how we don't ever want you to come back. It won't be pretty. You'd better step away from the computer (careful though--don't step on the baby).

Why are you still reading when I told you not to read it?

Are you gone yet? Good.

(Isn't it nice to have such a cooperative family? I think so too.)

So, my sister-in-law and her family were here for Shabbos. Let's call them the Vintshelves. Barak loves the Vintshelves. He loves their kids. The oldest, Nephew #2, is almost six; they also have a four-year old (Niece #2) and a two-year-old (Niece #3) who is eleven days older than Barak. There's also the baby, otherwise known as (hang on a minute while I figure this out) Nephew #5, who just turned one. The Vintshelves live a goodly ways away; when we go there, we fly, but since the Vintshelves would need quite a few plane tickets to do this, they drive here in their very frum eight-seater minivan. We love it when they come; for a few days, there is lots of noise, lots of toys, lots of treats, lots of chaos, lots of staying up way too late schmoozing, lots of hanging out and feeling happy. I like it especially because, as I may have mentioned, my DSIL (Domestic Sister-in-Law, as distinct from my Israeli Sister-in-Law) is eerily like me in many ways. Barak likes it especially because of the toys, treats, and chaos part.

We expected them late on Thursday night. It's a long drive, and they usually pull in at around ten or eleven. I was running pretty well on schedule; the shopping was done, the house was clean, and both kids were in bed. I was in the process of taking out the trash, heading into the kitchen with an empty garbage bag in my hand, when I heard the doorbell ring. I thought it was one of our neighbors. It wasn't. I heard my husband calling me.

"Imma! Guess who's here!"

It was the Vintshelves, three happy kids and one hysterical wailing two-year-old who'd been awake the whole way until the last fifteen minutes. They all poured in with their stuff. And Barak wasn't quite asleep yet. There was nothing for it. I went into his room. "Barak," I whispered, "Come see who's here."

What's this?! Barak looked up at me with the face of a prisoner in the Bastille when told of a certain beheading. "Come out? Imma come out please!" I picked him up, red pajamas and all, and carried him into the kitchen on my hip. I really wish we'd had a video camera--his look of shock, bliss, and incredulity was not something you see every day. He started giggling, and they all started giggling, and I started making macaroni and cheese for everyone.

Hmm. Why didn't I finish and post that? I don't know. I remember that evening and I even have pictures of it, which say it all--Barak in his high chair, the Vintshelves grinning with their mac and cheese (this was before the days of dairy allergies). Family is good. My ISIL is now my DSIL, and the SIL formerly known as my DSIL is now my CSIL (Canadian sister-in-law). Hopefully they'll join us here someday too; we miss them.


Deb, a cartissia is a bus pass. You buy a pass with ten punches for an adult and 20 punches for a kid under 18; either of these punches also carries the right to bring one additional child 5 and older, but not an open stroller, which counts for an additional punch. I have a monthly pass, but there's no such thing as a monthly youth pass, so I buy cartissiot (plural of cartissia) for Barak.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The granny chronicles

I have a granny.

Technically, she's not my granny. No biological link--she is my father's father's second wife, whom he married in Hungary after the war. She isn't Jewish. She doesn't speak English. We live in totally separate worlds these days; most of the people I know can conceive of her world as little as most of the people she knows can conceive of mine. But every so often, I go and visit her, and step into a completely different reality.

Every summer, until I was thirty, I went to a house with orange nylon Communist Modern furniture, a two-hundred-year-old coffee grinder still in use, a Stalinist commendation (third class) on the wall next to a moth-eaten needlepoint of a cat over a Soviet-built refrigerator that had to be moved out of sunlight in the summer because it couldn't keep up with the additional warmth. When I arrived, my bed was made up with sheets that had been washed by hand, bleached and starched. If I arrived at a time when I needed sheets that weren't so nice, she would bring out the old sheets--linen sheets woven by hand, of handspun thread, made from flax seed to sheet by her own grandmother.

After my grandfather died, she crocheted. For two years. She crocheted a bedspread and drapes--a bedspread that reached the floor on every side of a king-sized bed four feet high, and drapes at least twice the width of a window that went the whole width of her living room. She crocheted them with pearl cotton, on a hook so small you can hardly see it. When I asked her how long it had taken her to make them, and she'd told me two years, she paused for a moment and then added, "I wasn't just doing that. I was also doing other things." When she had gas heat installed, a few years ago--until then she'd been heating with a wood stove--the curtains couldn't reach to the floor anymore because it would have been dangerous with the radiator there. She took a pair of scissors and cut off the bottom foot.

Her house was her world--four rooms, plus a small hall and a pantry. A few small outbuildings, where there were chickens and geese and ducks, and where there had once been a cow and a horse and rabbits. Behind that, a garden, a vineyard, the corn she grew to feed the chickens. She also fed them wheat, but she bought that. She made her own wine and sold it. She had an eighth-grade education. When my grandfather died, she went out to work in the laundry of the local bauxite mine--when already in her fifties, an age, she points out, at which other ladies where already retiring.

I can smell that house. It's the smell of dust, coffee, chocolate, old linens. I remember sitting in the living room with a book. I remember feeding the chickens and drinking new wine, and hearing horses clop by my bedroom window in the morning. I remember the blue plastic crates with glass Pepsi and Fanta bottles stacked on the concrete steps of the grocery store. I remember the smell of that store, and the chocolate wrapped in cheap blue newsprint, and the way the light fell on the dusty shelves of pots and postcards and plastic colanders. When I was in college, in the south of the country, I came on the weekend, and I remember saying hello to some ladies on the street as I walked from the train station to my grandmother's house and hearing one say to the other, "That's Auntie T's granddaughter. She studies in Pecs and comes home on the weekend."

In a strange way, a house where I never really lived is the only house where I ever really belonged.

Anyway--I didn't start out to write a post about that. I started out to write about two funny things that happened lately. One was that my friend Cecilia--who feels about her granny, zt"l, the way I feel about mine--made her a lace shawl. It was blue, and exactly the kind of thing my granny would love.

My friend Cecilia is Australian-Chinese. She does not speak Hungarian. When she told me that she'd made the shawl, she was wondering about the best way to mail it--knowing that my granny couldn't read English and might reasonably be confused by the arrival of a mysterious blue lace shawl. I said, don't worry--just tell me in an email what you want to say, and I'll translate it into Hungarian, and write the letter out with all the diacritics, and send it to you as an attachment. You can print it out and sign it, and send it with the shawl. So that's what we did.

The next time I talked to my granny, the first thing she said when she picked up the phone was,

"Your friend sent me a package!"

"I know!" I said. "Do you like it?"

"It's a beautiful lace shawl. It's blue. It came from your friend Cecilia. That's your friend who knits, right? She made that?"

"Yes, she made it."

"Well, it's very nice. And such a letter she wrote with it! In beautiful Hungarian. She said she didn't speak Hungarian and you had translated it but she certainly wrote it nicely!"

"Well, I helped her."

"Yes, but she must have written it herself. You're in America and she's in Australia! That's very far away. You couldn't have written it for her. And she has the same wonderful kind of typewriter you do! With the very big letters that are so easy to read, I could read it all in a moment!"

"Yes, isn't that great?"

"Maybe her grandmother couldn't see so well either."

"Maybe that was it."

"She does write nicely. She must know some Hungarian."

"No, I wrote it for her. She sent me an electronic letter through the electronic postal service to my computer, and I translated it into Hungarian, and then I attached it to another electronic letter which I then sent back through the electronic postal service to her computer."

[dead silence during which I realized how totally futile this was and my grandmother waited politely for me to start saying something comprehensible]

"She's very smart."

"And talented!"

* * *

This just happened today. Background: I had intended while pregnant to go visit my granny with baby Iyyar at the end of my maternity leave. But for the first six months he screamed so much it was completely out of the question; then MHH was working and there would have been no one to take care of Barak while I was gone; now the dollar is in the toilet and airfares are astronomical. I'm hoping to go next year, but she was hoping to see me this year, and I wanted to go. I felt bad, and I wanted to do something, so I sent her a big box full of all the things I would have bought her if I were there--toiletries, antacids, hairpins, cookies, all those things. I decided to send it express mail, which comes with package tracking. This morning, I got an e-mail from the US Postal Service informing me that my package had been signed for. I couldn't resist. I picked up the phone.

"Hi, Grandma!"

"Hello, my little angel!"

"I hear you got a package at 2:47 this afternoon that had cleared customs at 4:12 this morning!"

[Dead silence while my grandmother tries to figure out how I could possibly know this. And fails.]

"Who told you that?"

"The post office. When you send something express they give you a number for the package. Then you can put that number into your computer and find out exactly where your package is that day. When it arrives, it tells you what time."


"You picked such a cute box! With the baby on the side. It's a perfect box. Where did you find such a nice box?"

"It's a diaper box, grandma. I got it at Target. That's the big store I told you about where they sell everything."

"Well, it certainly is a cute baby. But the pictures you sent of Iyyar are even cuter."

My granny? She is the best granny of them all.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


They're done, and oh my are they lovely. Colorjoy by Lynn H, in pinks and purples and turquoises, with a Latvian Twist cast-on a la Lucy Neatby. Ribbed leg and foot, German heel, grafted toe.

What's that you say? You're asking where the picture is?

I can't post the picture, because they're a present for Grandma E and she reads this blog. I'm planning to mail them tomorrow. (Don't think dark thoughts about post office lines. Post office lines, they are obsolete, unless you're mailing something internationally. Do you all know about Click 'n' Ship? You do, right? You know you don't have to go to the post office to mail things domestically anymore? Just checking.) She might even have them by Friday.

And maybe she'll even take a picture, because I can't find my camera.

Now it's time to make myself some gloves, I think.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Linguist boy

Although my husband and I speak to each other almost entirely in English, there are a lot of other languages floating around our household. When Barak was about one and a half, and still in daycare, he was hearing not only English but also Hungarian, Hebrew, Yiddish, Spanish, Romanian, Russian, and Urdu. On a regular basis.

One day that summer, MHH came to pick him up at daycare--I don't remember why. Then they came to my office to get me and as we were all leaving, ran into my boss at the elevators. I remember Barak in an orange polo shirt and little gray cargo pants, not yet able to walk on his own, industriously pushing a mail cart along the hall and talking very seriously in what sounded to me like normal baby gibberish. My boss thought differently.

"Do you speak a language other than English at home?" she asked.

I didn't really feel like getting into the answer to this question. "Not exclusively," I said vaguely. "Why?"

"Well, it's just the way he's babbling."

"What about the way he's babbling? Isn't that normal babbling?"



I listened a little more closely. It seemed fine to me. The next day, I listened a little more closely to the other kids at daycare. And then I realized it--they were all saying things like "ma ma ma" and "ba ba ba." My kid? My kid sounded like he was coughing up hairballs.

Maybe because she is used to us and our linguistic, ah, variety, our babysitter gave Barak, as a Chanuka present, a Baby Einstein book with sentences about various animals in various languages. "Bonjour, chat!" and that kind of thing. They also have transliterated Hebrew (which is a little confusing if you are used to the genuine article. I read the English, which of course Barak understood. I read the French, which he didn't understand at all. Then I read the Hebrew. Barak understood me--sort of. He just thought I was getting it wrong. So he corrected me.

"Shalom, chatul!" I said.

"Issa cat!" he said.

"Shalom, parah!" I said.

"No!" he said. "Iss not parah. Issa cow!"

After the chagiga

I heard Barak talking to himself in his crib. Imagine this with his pronounciation: "kooh-kie." (K, you can tell me how I would write that in the dictionary...)

"I ca' have one cookie, kay? Kay. Ca' have one cookie. Ca' have one cookie, kay? Kay. One cookie, kay? Yeah. One cookie."

I think he was practicing for the ask.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Another language post. This one is too good to keep for the next list.

MHH is having his boys over tonight for a Chanuka chagiga. I was in the kitchen baking cookies for this event, with Barak in his high chair eating lunch, watching, and waiting. He wanted to make sure there was going to be a cookie coming his way. Transcript of conversation follows.

"Imma, wassat?"

"They're cookies. Is Imma making cookies?"

"Imma make a cookies?"

"Yeah, I'm making cookies. I'm making cookies for the boys."

Pause while Barak considers this.

"Make a cookies Hakim?" [Hakim is our upstairs neighbor, also aged 2 1/2.)

"No, I'm making cookies for Abba's boys."


"I'm a boy!"

Sentences. Real sentences. More of them every day. The baby talk is fading and real talking is taking its place. It's good, of course, but also just a little bit sad... today for the first time, I heard Barak pronounce "in there," not "innair" as he's been saying for months.

Bit by bit, he's growing up.

This morning

I slept the latest I've slept since I had Barak. Seriously. 9:30!! Iyyar woke up a bunch of times to nurse, but went back to sleep every time. MHH scooped up Barak when he woke up and let me sleep. Till 9:30!

The man, he is a saint.

So when I got to changing Iyyar's diaper, it was a little... heavy. Actually, it weighed more than he does and was full of green poop. I was standing there changing him in our room, with Barak driving "heavy loads!" (like the plastic Emese-the-cat) around with his bulldozer on the floor behind me. Imagine the tableau, if you will. Imma stripping clothes off baby, toddler on floor. Off came pair of pajamas #1. Off came pair #2 (it's chilly in here at night). And then I saw the full-to-capacity diaper, and said,

"Ohhh... myyyyy..."

And from behind me a little voice piped up,


Saturday, December 16, 2006


If you are reading this blog, it's probably not the only one you read. You might read it because you know me, or, more likely, you found it somehow--you clicked on a comment, or followed a link, and wound up here. And for whatever reason, you've been coming back, every so often or even every day.

There are lots of reasons to make a blog a regular stop. The blogs that are bookmarked on my computer are all there for different reasons. There are the blogs of people I know, and the crafty blogs--the people who share my fascination for all things related to sticks and string. There are Jewish blogs and infertility blogs and mommy blogs and aliyah blogs, or blogs that are some of each. Each one I like because the person writing speaks to me in some way--either because we share some set of experiences, or because I feel like we could be friends, or because I feel like I have something to learn from them.

I check MO Chassid's blog every day. I read it because I think I can learn something about parenting there, and I read it because he and his wife are foster parents for Ohel.

Ohel does lots of important things. One of their services is foster care. What this means is that if a Jewish child in New York City is removed from their home by the city administration for children's services, and requires a Jewish placement, the city will first call OHEL. OHEL has 24 hours to find the child a Jewish foster home. If you're not Orthodox, this may not seem like a big deal-but imagine the trauma any child being removed from his or her family already feels, and then imagine that child, used to Shabbos and kashrus and tznius and shul, winding up in a family where lunch is ham and cheese and there is church on Sundays.

The MOC family takes in these foster kids, and has been doing so for years.

Right now they are fostering a toddler, so if you visit his blog you can read about her. Over the last few years, they have fostered a boy MOC refers to as Fosterboy. He's twelve now, and up for adoption. It's not an easy placement; he has emotional issues and learning problems, and right now is in a residential facility where they are being addressed. He needs a family--an Orthodox family--who will be able to deal with that, and take care of him, and give him what he needs: love, stability, patience, and a home of his own.

I don't get into it in detail on my own blog (for about a billion good reasons) but as I've mentioned in passing a few times, I am not (so far as I know) biologically an orphan but for all practical purposes I have no family other than the one I've made with my husband and Hashem. The story is long, complex, and not happy. I'm okay now, because now I have a new family. But back when I was twelve, I was not okay.

That's why, if you or someone you know might be able to give a better home to a different twelve-year-old, I'd like to ask you to read this.


Right before Shabbos went out, someone rang our doorbell. This can only be a mistake (someone meaning to ring the neighbors) or a delivery. MHH went down to open the door and it turned out to be the latter: the mailman (mail lady, actually). She left the package down there, MHH came back up and I thought, hmm, I'm not expecting anything--what could that be.


After Shabbos I went down to get it and it was a present from Wendy! Two skeins of Koigu (mmm, Koigu) and a truck book for Barak, in a Bob the Builder bag. He took it to bed with him (book, not bag), so I think it was well received.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006


1. This is my first post with Blogger beta. I couldn't resist; I switched the language to Hungarian. All it seemed to affect was the dates, and since those are all Latinate cognates it shouldn't pose a problem for anyone.

2. Barak addressed me as "you" today for the first time. I'm always just Imma--he's not big on pronouns. "Imma came home?" "Imma go work?" "Imma go night night inna big bed?" etc. Today, my host family from England sent us a package--they know, logically, that we do not do Christmas but always send us an end-of-the-year parcel with general good wishes anyway, because they like us, I guess. I let Barak open it, of course, and explained to him that it was a present, etc. He had a hard time with the tape. "Hepoo please Imma! Hepoo open it present!" I helped, of course, and he got the present--a book and a memory card game--out. He played for a while and then, later in the afternoon, noticed the wrapping paper still on the kitchen table. "You openeda present?" I did, yes.

3. Iyyar is sitting up unassisted now, for quite a while. If he starts to topple, he doesn't just land on his face (usually); instead, he props himself up on his elbows. It's definitely time to move him out of the cosleeper, since the next step after sitting unassisted is getting into a sitting position unassisted, and I don't want to discover him pulling to standing in the cosleeper in the middle of the night.

4. Barak came home from gan without me yesterday--not by himself, but with his morah, who is a good friend of mine. Iyyar had had a rough morning and finally conked out a little while before it was time to go get Barak. I really, really didn't want to wake him so I called the gan and asked his morah if she'd mind walking him home (she lives across the street). She told me later that he laughed and grinned and giggled the whole way; he probably thought something exciting was afoot for the afternoon. Imagine the scene, then, when he got home. I opened the door to an ecstatic little boy.

"Hi Imma! Hi Imma! Imma came home! Imma..."

Half second pause, as cogs in brain churn and face falls. Home. Home after school. Home after school means--

"I don' wanna go night night."

5. Iyyar is (tfu tfu) on a pretty regular schedule now where he takes a moderate (30-50 minute) nap in the morning, two power naps (awake five minutes after hitting the crib) in the afternoon, and goes down for the night at around 6. Strangely, he doesn't seem to get too tired during the day--and B"H he has been sleeping at night in a manner we are not used to around here. Meaning, um, he sleeps without, uh, um (oh I am going to catch it for writing this--he'll wake up before I hit publish) ... meaning he sleeps without screaming. Most nights he'll wake up to nurse a couple times, going back to sleep on his own each time, and then wake up at around 5 or 6 am to come into bed with me and nurse. Sometimes he goes back to sleep again, until 8. Obviously I have no complaints about this, but it does mean that Abba almost never gets to see him during the week.

Last night, Iyyar woke up a lot after he went to bed. At around midnight, when he woke up for the fifth or sixth time, I decided he was probably cold. I was about to take a shower and go to bed, and asked MHH to put a second pair of pajamas on the baby and put him back down. He agreed. I got in the shower. When I came out, I heard the unmistakable sound of a baby giggling. What's this? This was MHH lying on his back on the bed, lifting Iyyar up into the air over his head, swinging him around, making faces at him and making him laugh. At midnight. Erm.

"He's supposed to be sleeping," I pointed out.

"I know," MHH said sheepishly. "But he's so cute. He'll go back to sleep when you nurse him, right?"

Nurse? No, we're not nursing! Nursing is what we do when we're going to sleep, and we're not sleeping anymore, right Imma? We're playing! We're having a midnight two-pairs-of-pajamas party! Whee!

And the thing is that even when you'd really like the baby to nurse and go to sleep, when he keeps pulling off to look up at you and grin and giggle, I defy any mother not to grin and giggle back. Just a little.

6. Yesterday, Barak saw me knitting a sock in the morning--I sat down to do a couple of rounds while he was eating breakfast.

"Imma make a sock?" he inquired.

"Yep, I'm knitting a sock," I agreed.

"Imma make a sock a Imma?"

"No, it's not for me. It's for Grandma."

"Imma make a sock for Grandma?"

"Right, it's for Grandma."

Pause while Barak considers this. "Wanna call Grandma! Wanna call Grandma onna phone!"

Now, who among us has not been subjected to a phone conversation with a child too small to talk on the phone? Lots of heavy breathing, long silence, occasional giggles. I didn't really want to do this to Grandma, since Barak had never yet actually talked on the phone. "Well, we're not going to call her now." I said. "I don't know if she's home now." Which was true--she could have been home, but I didn't know she was.

"Call Grandma onna phone later," Barak informed me.

"Okay," I said. "We'll call her later." I thought he'd forget. Yeah, right. He did not forget, and when he came home from school reminded me. "No night-night. Call Grandma onna phone please!" "After your nap, okay?"

After his nap I was busy with the baby, and then people called me, and then I don't remember what. Finally I was sitting nursing sometime late afternoon and Barak came up to me and handed me the cordless phone. "Call Grandma onna phone PLEASE!" Well, what could I say to that? I called Grandma onna phone. I explained the situation, and handed over the receiver. As per his usual practice, he grinned, giggled, breathed heavily and said nothing. And then he said,

"I played in the snow!"

First conversation onna phone!

7. This isn't really a first (the previous item, if you were wondering, was Iyyar's first father-son pajama party) but bears mentioning anyway. Barak has gotten to be something of a picky eater. My general philosophy about this is that as long as everything he eats is nutritious and he is getting enough calories it's probably okay; I don't force this food or that food, but I do make him leave even things he doesn't want on his tray and I don't take further requests if he's rejected something. If it gets to be bedtime and I don't think he's had enough to eat, I give him a bowl of fortified cereal--Chex or Cheerios or something--and milk. His new phrase, alas, is "something else," as in, "I don't want it. Want something else please!" Today, as he pondered the carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, cheese, rice crackers, cherry tomatoes and milk all temptingly arrayed in multicolored take and toss bowls--the better to please his toddler sensibilities--he decided that something was missing. But he wasn't sure what.

"Want something else please!"

"Barak, you have plenty of food there and those are all things you like. You don't need anything else."

"Want something else please?"

"You want something else also?"

"Yeah, something else also. Imma openna figerator please. Openna figerator something else!"

(I didn't, because I'm mean that way.)

8. This really is a first. First bracha! Sort of. I went to our local Russian produce store to buy some strange chocolate for a certain gimpy poet of my acquaintance. I also bought a bar of Camille Bloch, which unlike most of the Russian chocolate is kosher. I really wanted a piece when I got home from work today, but eating it in Barak's presence meant sharing. All right then--let it at least be instructive. I broke off two squares and handed him one. "Okay Barak, are you going to make a bracha?"

"Yeah! Make a loud and clear!" (Those of you who get this reference will be humming Oh My Darling Clementine for the rest of the evening.)

So we did. I started with "Ba-ruch, ah-ta" and he said it along with me, more or less--finishing with, "Bidvaru. I gotta chocolate!"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

CSY.3, and a bonus pair from the stash

If you are one of my readers who isn't fascinated by sometime knitting blogs (AM) you can skip this post.

But if you are into the knitting end of things, read on...

Ooh! My first pair of Opal socks, and my first pair where I short-rowed both heels and toes. (Verdict: not worth it on the toes. I'd rather just use a figure-8 cast-on or an ordinary decrease-and-graft). Look fast, they're going in the mail on Monday. (I hope.) I'm not worried about giving away any surprises--the recipient is in Jerusalem without internet access at the moment.

And aah! Ignore the mess in the background, please.

These are Meilenweit, color whatever--ball band is long gone. Knit from the toe up, with a figure-8 cast on and a hybrid heel--I did my usual short-row-and-heel-flap heel, but with the Priscilla Gibson-Roberts backward loop yos instead of wrapped turns. Very nice, if I do say so. These are not CSY socks--it's yarn I had in my stash--but they are noteworthy in that they are going not in the mail, but in my very own sock drawer! Mwa ha ha ha!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

From each according to his abilities

Of all the developmental milestones of babyhood and childhood, it is definitely the talking that is the biggest deal to me. Barak did everything late, but I never worried much that he wasn't sitting up, wasn't crawling, wasn't walking. That he wasn't babbling at eight and a half months--that had me scared out of my skin. I can remember the day he started so vividly that remembering it is like watching a movie. I was sitting at the folding table that served as our living room table, holding him in my lap, trying my best to get him to imitate me.

"Barak! Barak! Ba ba ba ba. Can you say it? Ah-ba. Ah-ba. Ba ba ba ba ba? Ba ba ba?" You can probably picture it. He watched me with interest, his eyes scanning my mouth and face and eyes, smiling at all the attention, but with zero intention of trying it himself. "Come on, Barak, help your imma out here. Babble. Say ba. Repeated consonants! We need repeated consonants! Say ba ba ba.."

"Eh deh."

How's that?

"Eh deh deh deh deh deh. Deh. Deh deh deh...

Yeah, so, like I said, Barak does things his way. I put him to bed that night and he was so busy saying deh he didn't fall asleep for--well, that part was normal.

Iyyar is just seven months and change, so the no-babbling thing wasn't worrying me so much. The day before yesterday, I was in the kitchen trying to get some semblance of dinner together before MHH came home. Barak was in his high chair playing with play-doh, loading and unloading it with a forklift driven by a chicken. (You know, the usual.) "Heavy loads! Put innair forklift! Rrrrr!" Iyyar was in the saucer, which he wasn't too pleased about. I work on Mondays, so I'd only been home for a couple of hours, and he really wanted to be held. I can do a lot of things with a baby in the sling but cooking and unloading the bottom rack of the dishwasher are not among them.

I tried to make him feel like he was getting attention by talking to him and smiling at him while I cooked, but he wasn't having it. He moved from petulant to irritated to seriously ticked off.

"Aooooooaaarr! Adabaraaaaa! Aaaaada!"

Grumpy pause during which Iyyar glares at negligent mother, not believing that silly line that if she doesn't eat, neither does he. What does she think he was, born yesterday? Nosirree. It's been months!


Grumpy pause redux.

"Ah da da da da da da da DA! Da DA! Da DA DA DA DA DA DA DA!"

There he was, like a tiny irate old man, gripping the rim of his saucer with both hands, chin pushed up, eyes squinched, looking huffily up at me and hollering "DA DA DA DA DA!"

It could just as easily if been, "Darn kids! Get offa my lawn!"

* * *

Two years on, Barak's talking is quite different. Yesterday when I went to get him from his nap, we were both wearing zip-neck fleece tops. He noticed this and reached for mine. "C'I zip it up?"

"Sure, you can zip it up." He zipped. "Can I zip yours up?" He giggled, and I zipped his.

"Imma zip it up! Barak zip it up! Barak zip it up Imma shirt!"

Today, before MHH came home, I decided to have a little pizza party with some leftover bagel dough I had in the fridge. I made a little cheese pizza and gave a piece to Barak for dinner. He was not interested; he had his forklift on the job and only wanted raisins and Chex and things that can be, you know, forklifted. I told him that he did not have to eat the pizza but he did have to leave it on the plate, and I would let him have Cheerios and milk later if he didn't want the pizza. "But you have to leave the pizza there."

"I don't want it!" he protested. I repeated my position, which he knows very well. You don't have to eat it, but you leave it on your plate until Imma takes it. (Fairly often he'll start eating things he said he didn't want. And come on, this was pizza, not broccoli schnitzel.)

"I don't want it! Put it onna counter!" He kept asking me to dispense with the pizza, and finally, looking right at me, dropped it off the side of his high chair--a cardinal sin calling for immediate time out. I didn't say anything, just took the tray off, picked him up, and deposited him ("I don't wanna go night night!") in his crib. "Two minutes," I said. "You know we don't throw food." And I shut the door.

Two minutes later, I came back, and as is the post-time-out practice, reminded him what had brought him to the dreaded crib. Well, I meant to do that--but he beat me to it.

"I gotta time out," he said mournfully. (He's never said that before.)

"Right," I said. "You got a time out because you threw food, right?"

"Yeah," he said. "Trow it food."

(Okay, a little essential background. House rules: we never throw food. Toys we do not throw in the house, but can throw outside.)

"Do we throw food off the table?"

"No! Trow it outside."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My Very First Haskama

I know from my sitemeter statistics that I have about fifteen or twenty non-Jewish (or at least not Sabbath-observant) readers. So, for those of you who may not know this: in the front of Jewish religious books (of modern authorship), the publisher will often print one or, more usually, several letters of approbation from known authorities--meaning, authorities on the subject at hand or just big-shot smart rabbis. They'll either say something along the lines of, "I read this book and I like it" or "I haven't read this book but I like the author and the book is probably fine." These are called haskamas.

Not being a big-shot smart rabbi or a known authority on any halachic topic that I'm aware of (The Laws of Short-Row Heels?) , I have never had the opportunity to write a haskama of my very own. However, lately it's been occurring to me that really, I do have adequate knowledge, authority, and background to write one on this CD, which was produced by this yid in honor of his father.

So, my haskama runs thusly:

To Whom It May Concern:

I have had the opportunity of listening to the CD, U'Shmuel B'korei Sh'mo produced by Mr. M. O. Chassid. Although I do not know Mr. Chassid personally, I have heard from reliable sources that he is a true ben Torah who can carry a tune. His fine musical taste and love for his father are evident in the quality of his CD.

I have found this work to be ideally suited the ba'alas ha'bayis who is really way too tired to be cooking, but still striving to stay awake and focused on cooking for long enough to make nice Shabbos food for all the how many guests did you say are coming and did you just say that all of them are teenage boys? Many of the songs are lively enough to bop around the kitchen to, so much so that you should be careful your floor isn't slippery with the water you just spilled while checking the lettuce before you start chopping the onions with that really deadly chef's knife you have--you know, the one you dropped to the bottom of the keilim mikva when you had the baby in the snugli and nowhere to put him down. Even in the small hours of the morning, when you regret not realizing before beginning that new recipe that it had to bake at a different temperature from everything else going in the oven, and you are lightheaded with your fourth diet coke of the evening and debating whether or not, as an eishes chayyil, it is better to hide the empty cans from your husband to spare him the pain of realizing how many you drank or just be honest about it and leave them in the garbage where chances are you'll luck out and he won't see them anyway, these songs will inspire you with a sense of the kedusha of your work. They may even keep you alert enough to remember to put salt in the chulent. And the challah! Do not forget to put the salt in the challah! It tastes terrible if you forget it, and you'll be so mad at yourself if after all that work and setting your alarm for 3:30 am so you can put the loaves in plastic bags as soon as they're cool enough not to steam up the plastic you realize that they're inedible and have to send your husband out to the bakery to buy challot at the last minute. Trust me. You will.

I highly recommend this CD to all Jewish women, particularly those with small children who insist on only listening to Uncle Moishy CDs, because Mr. Chassid has the advantage of having a name that could potentially fool good-natured toddlers if you call him "Uncle M. O. C." It sounds a lot like Moishy if you say it fast.

May Hashem grant the producer of this CD health and parnassah, or at least enough parnassah off of this CD to want to do it again so that we can enjoy another one. Oh, and may He also grant Yidden everywhere the sense to realize that pirating a CD with an actual song on it about Melech Rachaman is just... I mean, really, we just shouldn't have to go there. Come on, people! Think a little!

With blessings for a heimishe kitchen,

Rebbetzin Uberimma

Monday, December 04, 2006


I learned to knit when I was six years and a couple of months old. It was the summer after first grade, we were at my grandmother's, and my mother had promised during the school year that she would teach me to knit that summer. We brought those shiny aluminum single-point needles that are color-coded by size, and some acrylic, and the first morning she sat me down and taught me to knit. To everyone's shock, I sat on the couch all day long, knitting away at my garter stitch... thing.

Sometime the next summer, I learned to purl. I learned one way to decrease (k2tog) and one way to increase (knitting into the front and back of the same stitch). I learned a knitted cast-on and a knitted cast-off. And sometime after that, I learned to knit with two colors.

I never learned how to follow a pattern, or do anything else. I realized later that my mother had shared with me all her own knitterly knowledge; she could sew very well and creatively, but knitting was not really her thing. I thought it was cool, but looking back I just didn't have the tools, or the materials, to do very much.

Throughout elementary school, I confused people by taking whatever spending money I had to the five and time and spending it on skeins and skeins of space-dyed Red Heart acrylic, which I would wind into tight balls and stack on shelves. Occasionally I would knit a baby blanket for a doll. My babysitter taught me to crochet, and I crocheted a few more baby blankets. My senior year of high school, at a mall, I went into a craft store and discovered my first all-wool yarn--a couple of skeins of it, in heathered blue and green, hiding among the Red Heart. I bought them, took them to college, and freshman year made myself a scarf in basket stitch-- half of it in blue and half of it in green. It got lost at the beginning of my sophomore year, after I'd transferred to a new college. I haunted the lost and found for weeks, but it never turned up.

The following winter I had an internship at a magazine in the town near my college. I took the bus there and back twice a week, I think. The bus left three times an hour, in theory, but there was no appreciable schedule. It was cold and this presented a problem; I was wearing skirts, nice shoes, and hose, and I still remember the cold, and the pain. I quickly hit upon the solution of walking an extra block from the office to the bus stop that was in front of what was then Woolworth's. I'd walk inside, keep warm, and keep an eye out through the window for my bus. I'd look at the sale table. And sometimes I'd pick up a diet coke. It worked fine.

And one day...

There was a Teach Yourself to Knit Kit on the sale table.

I don't remember how much it cost, but it can't have been much if I bought it. There were, as I recall, two sets of aluminum needles, an instruction book and a cable needle. The cable needle was what really sold me. I can do cables? But cables are hard!

They're not, of course, as any knitter knows. I figured them out pretty quickly. I had some yarn somewhere in a closet, bought the previous summer at a farmer's market. I found a pattern for cabled mittens on two (two!) needles (with a seam! a seam on mittens! can you imagine?!) I made them for Anne, my friend from high school.

Then I made a pair for my boyfriend.

Then I made a pair for my father.

Then I... well, I don't really remember. I made a lot of hats and mittens and scarves. But at the time I was also quilting, and knitting had not really become a big thing for me. Yet.

At the end of the year, I moved to DC for the summer, and then to Hungary that fall. The knitting of hats and mittens continued, along with knitting of scarves. But the first sweater, and the beginning of the Serious Knitting Phase, was not until December. It was a rose-colored Lopi with a cream and brown pattern--I must have bought the pattern, needles, and yarn before I left, although I really don't remember doing it.

I made that sweater in seven days. It was my first sweater, my first anything on circular needles, and I was still throwing the yarn, figuring out what the instructions meant, not quite sure about the whole idea of gauge. I'm sure I didn't do a gauge swatch. I just got lucky.

I showed the sweater to my grandmother, and then gave it away. Of the ten or so sweaters I made in Hungary, I still have one; of the dozens and dozens of sweaters I've made since--I must be well into triple digits by now--I think I have ten. I give most of them away. I don't currently have a matching pair of gloves, and my only matching mittens are screaming orange and stretched completely out of shape; I have, of all my knitting of socks, only two pairs of handmade socks (one of which is years old). I don't have a handknit scarf (although I have one that I wove and three beautiful lace shawls, none of which I knit myself).

But all over the world there are people staying warm in sweaters and hats and socks and scarves and mittens and gloves that I made. I made mittens for my Russian teacher in Russia and my roommates in Hungary; I made a sweater for my friend to give her when I visited her in Turkey, and for my former roommate when I visited her in Vienna. There are people wearing things I made in England, Israel, Australia, Germany, Ukraine, Finland, Wales, and I don't even know where else--it's been too long.

For me, giving gifts of knitting is my way of showing love. My gift to my husband when we got engaged was a handspun, handknit scarf. I made scarves for each of his parents before they became my in-laws, and my father-in-law earned my undying love by holding them up for admiration when he spoke at our sheva brachos. I made a scarf for my DSIL the first winter I was married; when we went to Israel, I brought my ISIL a sweater and a pair of socks. I knit for my family, I knit for my friends. I knit for the people I care about. It's just what I do.

These days, I have much less time for knitting. Embarassingly, none of my nieces or nephews have a sweater; not all of them even have hats. My DSIL doesn't have a sweater yet, though it's on the list. And my own kids each only have one sweater that I made them that fits--fortunately, other knitter friends have been taking up the slack.

I just started Iyyar's blanket. It is a Knitting Into the Void Blanket, meaning it will take so long to finish that one doesn't even really think about the conclusion. The last blanket I made like this took two and a half years, off and on; I made it on size 8 needles and it finished up large enough to be a bedspread for a twin bed, reaching to the floor on both sides.

In the hierarchy of knitted goods, blankets are the ne plus ultra. You don't get a blanket unless you seriously rank--I can make a whole drawerful of socks in the time it takes to make a blanket, and if I give you a blanket it is because I expect, or at least hope, that you are in my life to stay. I have lost track of most of what I have given away, but I know exactly who has a blanket. The first blanket I wove, of handspun, went to my host family in England; the second to my grandmother; the third to someone I now wish didn't have it; the fourth, a supremely overambitious doublewoven blanket with a mixed warp and mohair boucle weft, was a wedding gift to a friend who I don't think really understood the magnitude of what she was getting. The only pleasure I got from that blanket was giving it away to a happy recipient--it was miserable to weave, and I don't think I'll ever do doubleweave again.

My friend C has what will probably be my last woven blanket, and I've made two knitted afghans, both while pregnant with Barak: one for Savta, and one for the family in Passaic that stepped in when it was time for me to make my wedding and I had no idea how to do it alone. Both of those were the intensely addictive log cabin afghans, of which I made a smaller version for Barak. One of these days I will make one for Grandma E, but it will be a while--it's okay, because she has a pretty impressive sweater and a growing collection of socks. And she knows we love her and a blanket would only serve to underscore the point.

So, blankets. It's time to do one for Iyyar. I cast on over the weekend, and it is growing; by the time he is big enough to sleep alone in a real crib with a wool blanket, I hope it will be ready for him. I don't have a picture right now, but when I do I will bli neder post photographs of the progress; if anyone is interested in a knitalong, it's a pretty simple pattern with brainless knitting but an interesting color progression with good stash-busting potential. Cast on three stitches and increase one stitch at each end of every other garter-stitch row; keep going until you have the diagonal measure you want, and then start decreasing. For the colors, I am alternating rows of different yarns from my stash, which keeps me thinking ahead and allows me the noble feeling of working through some of the yarn sitting around back here in baskets.

I knit primarily because I enjoy it, but I give things away because I enjoy that even more. I like thinking about the hats and gloves and mittens and scarves that are getting brought out when the cold weather starts; I wish I could have a group picture of all the people who have something I've made, all together, modeling their goods. Old friends, new friends, long-lost friends, my husband, my kids.

Iyyar doesn't care, of course, if he's sleeping under a blanket I've made. As long as it's warm and soft and cozy, he doesn't care if it came off my needles or a shelf at Target.

But I do.

Murphy's Law, Corollary # 387/D

The day that your bathtub drain gets blocked up beyond any hope of home remedy and there is no way you are getting a plumber will be the very day your kid comes home from playgroup with unidentified blue stuff that is neither paint nor play-doh but has the worst properties of both stuck to his face and hair, crammed under all his fingernails, and caked to his arms up to the shoulders.

What's a mother to do? Why, pull a chair to the kitchen sink, squirt in some dish soap, run the hot water and throw in some sandbox toys. And let the kid climb up and play with bubbles.

And take pictures, of course.

He's pretty clean now. The floor, on the other hand...