Monday, December 31, 2007

Let the record note

that yesterday, for the very first time, Iyyar called me Imma! He says "Amma" just like Barak did.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


1. Iyyar has moved from being obsessed with balls to being obsessed with the cat. Whenever he sees her, he points at her, looks at me, and crows, "Cah! Cah!" Then he points again and looks at me again, meaningfully, to check that I got it. The cat is pretty predictable in her habits and is usually to be found sitting on Abba's side of the bed. This morning, she wasn't, and when Iyyar came looking for her (direct from crib release) he was perturbed. And started picking up the blankets to peek under them, in case she was hiding in there.

2. Barak does things with toys that I can't even pretend to understand. Yesterday, he had all the Little People animals carefully arranged on the xylophone, which was attached to a dump truck by the xylophone's mallet. The dump truck had a few dinosaurs in it. When it was time to clean up, he carefully brought the entire apparatus back to the toy boxes, and explained to me, "Dey can come off now because dey went to da hospital and dey got medicine and now baruch hashem dey feel better." Okay then. Baruch Hashem.

3. The house is still moderately clean. I'm trying really hard not to let it slide, because it's just so nice like this. My favorite part: the nakedly exposed top surface of the triple dresser, on which I can now fold laundry.

4. I washed sweaters last night. I do this in the washing machine, but stopping and starting the cycle by hand (the reason why I bought a top-loader). My original intention was also to wash the fabulous maternity-sized Rogue my friend Cecilia made me. Then I realized that it would in fact require a load all of its own. Even though we have an extra-large-capacity washer.

5. I would just like to announce to the whole world that my husband rocks. Yesterday he put back two light fixtures and assembled Iyyar's new stroller (our seventh, if anyone's still counting). This from a person whose un-handiness was once legendary, and who still deeply resents the need for anything to be fixed, assembled, reassembled or otherwise, you know, dealt with on a physical plane. But he does it. Last night I told his father that he (my husband) had caulked the bathtub. There was a short pause of disbelief. "Caulked the bathtub?" Another pause. "Are you sure?"

6. Last night I took a foray into amateur shoemakerhood and fixed MHH's broken Crocs with a tapestry needle and about ten inches of silk noil. It worked, and hardly even shows. More reasons to knit, or at least to marry someone who knits.

7. The LL Bean sale page is up, which is usually the mainstay of my year's clothing shopping. Not much appealing this year though, at least to me--no women's skirts (!) and no heavyweight fleece pajamas in toddler sizes (although they did have boys' small, which I got for Barak).

Back to work. I think the whole office has taken this week off--it's the middle of the morning and I still haven't had a single call or email, which must be a first.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Please tell me it is normal

for three-year-old boys to be obsessed with all things scatological. The poopy humor ("humor" here being extremely loosely defined) has gotten to the point where all mention of things poopy has been banned from all parts of the house other than the bathroom (for obvious reasons) and the kids' room (where diapers are changed). If Barak starts shrieking about poop while, say, at the kitchen table, he is asked to relocate his one-person conversation to one of the permissible sites of poop discussion.

It's a phase, right? Right?

Still no new babysitter--T minus about a week and a half. I'm off today, but Barak and MHH are at school, so I have a rare quiet morning with Iyyar. We ran some errands this morning (in our 'hood, hardly anybody cares what day today is so almost everything is open, except the Russian stores of course), came home and played a bit, then made carrot pancakes for a mid-morning snack. Said pancakes will also serve as dinner for Barak and Iyyar; right now, Iyyar's napping, and I'm about to make some chicken soup for dinner tomorrow night and Shabbos. MHH's parents are scheduled to arrive tomorrow evening, and I want to have something ready for when they arrive. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A brief shining moment

There are no dust kitties under any of the furniture.

There is nothing in any of the dishracks.

All the toys are in their proper bins.

There are no little fingerprints on the walls or doorframes.

There are clean sheets on all of the beds.

All of the laundry is done, folded, and put away.

All the closets are clean and organized.

So far as I know, there is not one dirty tissue hiding anywhere it shouldn't.

It hasn't happened since erev Pesach 2006. Who knows when it will happen again?

But for one... beautiful... moment...

My house is clean.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Further to the subject of food, can anybody think of anything I can cook for dinner that Barak is likely to eat? It seems like we are eating doodles cheese about four times a week, which, given that two other nights a week are, practically speaking, Shabbos, means an awful lot of doodles cheese. It's seeming a bit much.

There is nothing wrong with doodles cheese. I use whole-wheat noodles, I add a lot of spinach, and the only other ingredient in cheese. But... enough is enough. Sometimes I make carrot pancakes. Sometimes I make carrot muffins, which, ingredient-wise, are the same thing, with walnuts. Sometimes we have parve chicken nuggets and corn, and sometimes I make pizza, but since Barak won't touch it if it involves anything but dough and cheese, I might as well make him a grilled cheese sandwich. When I make doodles cheese I also make a big pot of vegetables, which he is required to leave in front of him but I do not force him to eat. Whatever I am cooking, he has a plate of sliced cucumbers/peppers/carrots to munch on while he waits, so it's not like he isn't getting anything. Still.

On Friday nights, Barak will happily eat chicken soup with knaidlach, and I tell myself that some of the nutrition from the vegetables must surely be in the broth. Saturday night, it being Shabbos and all, I usually let the kids have cereal and yogurt.

Suggestions, anyone?

In other news, Iyyar has an appointment with an allergist on Thursday. Twice after eating a certain brand of hummous, and then twice on subsequent Shabbosim, he's broken out all over with a bright red rash. He eats just about everything with no problem, so I'm thinking the problem must be legumes, which we tend not to eat much of during the week. He never had a problem with cholent before, but the last couple of weeks I switched from beans to lentils--maybe that's doing it. Anyway, we'll see. We've got major allergies on both sides of the family so I'm hoping we're not in for anything major here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Trying not to panic

Asnat called last night. She is not coming back from LA. Too sunny there.

And our new babysitter called this afternoon. She has found a new job, with more hours and relevant to what she wants to do as a career.

So, that leaves me with eight hours a week of childcare (when I work twenty-five hours) for the next however many weeks of work (possibly as many as eight, although given precedent probably more like six). And then, IY"H, eight hours a week of help at home when I'll have a brand-new baby, a 21-month-old, and a currently rather volatile 3.5-year-old. MHH gets three personal days, which will probably get used up between my actually having the baby and being in the hospital. So chances are very high that I will walk in the door with the new baby and immediately be on my own with everyone for every waking minute, less the eight hours of the week that our original (fabulous) babysitter will be here.

I need to get something else figured out. Really, really soon.

Observed reality

As I've mentioned here before, one of Barak and Iyyar's favorite walk destinations is the mat room. The mat room is located inside the J, which also houses, among other things, a gym for grownups. Last Sunday, we were talking (we being me and Barak) about all going to the J so we could go to the mat room, but Barak opted instead to play in his pajamas all morning, and letting him do so seemed to me an option infinitely preferable to forcing him to get dressed so I could go push a stroller for a mile in the snow and freezing cold. Abba, however, wanted to go work out, so after davening he headed out to the J on his own. After the door closed, Barak felt a pang of regret.

"Where's Abba going?"

"He's going to the J."

"Hiss going to the J by hisself?"


Pause while Barak considers this.


"He wants to go to the gym."

"He wants to go to the gym by himself?"



"He likes going to the gym."

Another pause.

"I sink iss not gonna work."

"What do you mean, it's not going to work?"

"I sink Abba is too big."

"He's too big? Why is he too big?"

"I sink hiss too big for da tunnel."

Ohhh. The tunnel in the baby play equipment in the mat room.

"No, sweetie, Abba's not going to go play in the mat room. He's going to the gym. That's in the J, but it's different. You've never been in there."

"What's Abba gonna do dere?"

"He's going to work out. He's going to..." How do I explain "work out"? "He's going to lift a lot of heavy things, and then he's going to run around a lot and get hot and tired."

Barak stared. Then he burst out laughing, because clearly I was just messing with him, because Abba NEVER runs around. Abba sits on the couch. With books.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I love it when Barak explains things to me. He goes into earnest toddler mode, with lots of expressive hand gestures and much brow-furrowing. "Because dis, Imma, dis one goes dere," he informs me, punctuating his sentence with an emphatic point.

Yesterday, he closed his hand in his pajama drawer. I could tell right away he wasn't badly hurt, despite the full-volume howl--I asked him a question mid-wail and he stopped to ask, "What?" Then he came over and showed me his hand, upon my request.

"Where does it hurt? Show me."

"It hurts here. Dese ones hurt. See, dis one and dis one and dis one and dis one. But not dese ones. Dese ones [indicating un-squished hand] are okay. But dese ones [indicating hand of Tragic Drawer Injury] are all pinchy."

* * *

Lately, Barak has taken it into his head that he wants to sleep in underwear, not a pullup. This would be fine with me if he a) made this decision sufficiently prior to bedtime for me to enforce a fluid intake limit, and b) could actually stay dry during the night. He did really well one time, but the other two or three times--not so much. Last night he woke up at about 10 soaked and howling. "Imma! I pished in my unnerwear! IIIIIMMMMAAAAAA!!"

I got him up and changed, putting him in some plaid flannel pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt (the better, I thought, for unaided nighttime potty trips.) Barak was not immediately convinced. "Imma, dose are not pajamas," he informed me. "Dose are for dressed in da morning."

"Sometimes," I said. "But they can also be pajama pants. Like Abba wears. Abba doesn't wear fuzzy pajamas with a zipper, right? Abba wears pajama pants and an undershirt. See, like you're wearing. Abba wears pajama pants just like that." Barak considered this and decided he agreed. And went back to bed with no problem.

This morning, though, he woke up again soaked, and smelly. He definitely had to have a bath before school, so I herded both boys into the bathtub as soon as they woke up. I helped Barak peel off his wet pajama bottoms. He dropped them on top of MHH's pajama bottoms, which were slouched in a pile in the corner of the bathroom floor. "Imma, look!" he exclaimed. "Dose are Abba's pajama pants and my pajama pants! Dey match!"

* * *

When Barak was Iyyar's age, and up until pretty recently, he really wanted approval. If I asked him to do something, he would do it more or less immediately, with a big grin on my "Good job!" If he saw that I was annoyed, he got upset, either inwardly or outwardly. By eighteen months, his response to "Barak, no!" was "ooh--busted."

Iyyar's response to "Iyyar! No!" is, "Hee hee! Gonna make me?"

It doesn't help that Iyyar has a partner in crime, but I think most of it is just his personality. Yesterday, Barak and Iyyar decided to make a mess. I was in the living room listening to them play in the bedroom, and heard, "Iyyar! Let's make a mess! Let's make a mess, Iyyar!" I came in to their room to find that they'd completely emptied the whole bookcase, other than the unreachable top shelf, of all books and toys. "Barak, did you make a big mess?"


"Okay, so now we need to clean it up." I helped, but I made Barak pick up all the toys and all the books, put together all the puzzles, and get everything back on the shelves. So far, so good.

Until Iyyar remembered how much fun it was to make a mess, and with a gleam of determination in his eye headed back to the bookshelf and started ripping all the books off the shelves. At 31 weeks, I was not so into the idea of crawling around the floor picking things up again, and he was about to undo all of Barak's hard work. "Iyyar!"I shrieked, in a serious "DO NOT DO THAT!" tone. "Iyyar, NO! No, no, no!" Iyyar just laughed, and pulled them all off the shelf until I grabbed him away.

He completely ignores most no's and also all requests to come here--I remember that at this age Barak didn't come reliably, but he did come most of the time. (Do not compare children, do not compare children, do not compare children... ) Iyyar only comes if he thinks I've got something good for him--lunch, for example, or a ball, or socks. Did I mention that Iyyar loves having his socks put on? Sometimes he'll even take socks out of the drawer for himself, and try to put them on on top of his existing socks (and shoes). It doesn't work so well, but he'll never know if he doesn't try. If he starts dropping things off his high chair tray and I say no, he'll look me right in the eye and drop one more thing--now, the first time he drops, I just take his whole tray away and that's it. Ditto with hitting--one hit and he goes in the crib alone for a minute, which sometimes he minds and sometimes he really doesn't. Would it be mean of me to take all the blankies out of his crib before putting him in?

* * *

I think I may have mentioned here oh, forty or fifty thousand times that Barak has never been a good sleeper. Last night, he had one wakeup because of a wet bed, which was understandable. But he also woke up, at 1 and 2 and 5, with much less urgent requests. "Imma! I needa book! IIMMAA! I need you to get a book for me!" I told him to go back to bed, of course. "I don't wanna shluff. I needa book!" I refused to get out of bed, and tried as hard as I could to sleep through his pleas. Eventually, I got up and put him back in bed, where he stayed, howling.

I don't remember what the problem was the second round, but it involved Barak screaming in his room and then coming into my room to scream some more. The third time, he started out screaming about needing a truck or whatever it was, and then segued into screaming that his eyes hurt. MHH really doesn't like it when he does that, because he feels it's crying wolf--one of these days, he really will be hurt and we'll ignore it. "IMMA! IMMA! IIIIIMMMMMAAAAA!" He screamed and screamed and screamed, and this time did not wake up Iyyar. I started to get worried, not about him, but about Iyyar--how could he possibly be sleeping through such volume.

I nudged my husband. "He's screaming for me, so I don't want to go in there, but can you make sure everything's okay? I don't know how Iyyar can be sleeping through this." MHH heaved himself out of bed and trudged in there. "Barak, it's late. Imma needs to shluff. If you wake Imma up at night, she'll be grumpy tomorrow and nobody will have any fun. Go back to sleep." I was asleep again by the end of the sentence, and the next thing I knew my husband was back in bed. "I told him to go back to sleep. Iyyar was snoring."

I guess he's adapted.

Monday, December 10, 2007

For the record

two of them turned up; the tractor kippah, which was under the couch, and the excavator one, which mysteriously appeared right in the drawer where it should have been all along and categorically wasn't half an hour earlier. Not that I'm complaining.

Still hunting for the firetruck and the aleph-beis. Speaking of aleph-beis, last night Barak identified all the letters on the dreidel, even distinguishing between a gimel and a nun without prompting--not so easy, especially with the fancy type on that dreidel.

And I'm almost afraid to ask this question, but, um, how long does it take for small boys to stop gleefully inserting the word "poop" into almost every sentence? For a while Barak was shouting "Vayishlach tummy!" which I never figured out at all, but now he's returned to the liberal scatological references. Right now he is running around yelling "Iyyar! You poop! Iyyar! You poop!" Which, while technically accurate... anyway.

Iyyar's new thing is trying to attach his toothbrush, which has a suction cup on the bottom for sticking the toothbrush to the sink, to every possible surface (and some that really aren't possible at all, but he'll never know if he doesn't try). He was amazingly cooperative during yesterday's pre-Chanuka-party latke-frying marathon (ten pounds of potatoes, one borrowed food processor, and one--ONE--frying pan, capacity six latkes. It took three hours.) Toward the end, MHH came into the kitchen and saw Iyyar yelling gleefully at the top of his lungs while banging my entire set of milchig measuring cups and spoons (which are steel) on his high chair tray. "Is he supposed to have those?" he asked. "I gave them to him," I said. "What do you think goes on here every afternoon you come home to find I've actually cooked dinner? "

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Barak has four kippot. FOUR. He has an excavator kippah, a firetruck kippah, a tractor kippah, and an aleph-beis kippah. Kippot one through three were custom made for him by my friend, with his name and favorite heavy machinery. Kippah number four was bought from the man with the truck. As of this moment, ALL FOUR of them are MIA. I am pretty sure they are all in the house somewhere, because I would have noticed if Barak had left the house with a kippa and returned without. Wintertime is hazardous for kippot, I know, because they get stuck in hoods and the like, but I really do think they're in the house. ALL FOUR of them. But where?!

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Iyyar, these days, still eats just about anything. The only things he doesn't really like are raw fruit and vegetables, and I think that's a texture thing--he'll put them in his mouth, suck on them for a minute, and then spit them out.

Barak, on the other hand, is still a pretty seriously picky eater. I don't worry about it from a health perspective, because he eats a wide enough range of nutritious food that I know he's getting what he eats, but it would be nice if he'd branch out a little--and it is a little difficult that he will hardly eat anything at your average Shabbos table. If there's some noodle kugel or apple kugel or pumpkin kugel, he's good, but otherwise, it's challah, grape juice, and off to play. But he'll eat just about any fruit I give him (he doesn't like peaches or kiwi, but other than that he'll eat it all). He happily eats whole wheat or brown rice pasta, plain brown rice, all of our sugar-free whole-grain cereals, granola with unsweetened yogurt, whole-wheat and natural peanut-butter sandwiches without jam--etc. Of course, he'd rather eat strawberry yogurt and waffles, but he knows that those are treats.

Vegetable-wise, he'll eat plain sliced cucumbers without the peel, carrots when grated and inserted into carrot pancakes or carrot muffins, and spinach when mixed into doodles cheese. I can't ever give him doodles cheese without spinach, because if I do it once it takes ten mealtimes of misery and struggle for the spinach to be acceptable again. But it's been such a long time since he's had the spinach-free variety--since early September, I think--that we've now gotten to a point where there's almost as much spinach in there as there is noodle, and he'll eat it perfectly happily.

In general, Barak and new foods don't really get along. A teaspoon of tomato sauce gives a whole pot of noodles the cooties. Latkes? Forget it. The only way to eat a potato is French fried. Meat? Straight-up bologna or hot dogs, or never mind. Pizza? Cf. "tomato sauce" and "cooties," above. Anything with any ingredient he doesn't immediately recognize is immediately dismissed from consideration.

So I was a little bit surprised when, while cooking dinner and munching on carrot sticks earlier this week, I got a request. "Imma, c'I have a carrot stick please?" Um, okay. I handed him a carrot stick. He ate it. "C'I have another one?" I handed him another one. He ate three.

Tonight, I was making dinner, which consisted of brown rice spaghetti with, you guessed it, spinach and cheese; peas; and a pot of zucchini and red peppers with garlic. Barak watched me slicing the peppers. I thought I'd try. "Barak, do you want a red pepper stick?" "Umm, yes please." I handed him a pepper stick. He ate it. "C'I have another one please?" I handed him another one. He ate another three. "I like pepper sticks. Pepper sticks are the best!"

Hmm. What else can I slip him while this phase lasts?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Seven things

1. The kids, for 90% of this afternoon, were great. This is highly notable because Barak's behavior for the last, oh, month or two has been really, really challenging. As in, really REALLY challenging. This morning was OK, and apparently he had a rough start at school (I got two phone calls) but once he got home he was just great--as in his old/normal sweet self.

He was being so cooperative, in fact, that I wanted to find something fun for him to do, so I found an empty Sterilite box (I use those to store most of their toys, so I always have a few extras around), filled it about a quarter full with the odds and ends of pasta that were hiding out in my cupboards, along with a couple of handfuls of rice, and put it on the kitchen table along with his box of Matchbox trucks. I told him that he could bulldoze and build what was in the box as long as he kept everything on the kitchen table and didn't make a mess. Could he do that? Yes, he could.

So I closed the baby gate into the kitchen and went to clean up the living room with Iyyar. Barak not only spilled next to nothing on the floor, he entertained himself happily and quietly for at least an hour and a half. During which time Iyyar enjoyed a rare spell of undivided attention, and I got to put away laundry, organize toys, and do all that fun stuff. Wow.

2. I have a tichel storage solution! Thanks for all your suggestions. I checked out the links and pondered the possibilities, but being as I didn't want to spend a lot of money on this didn't really want to buy 10 scarf hangers for my hundred-tichel collection. But they gave me an idea. As I may have mentioned here I think that the best investment ever created on the baby toy front is the $2.99 package of plastic linking rings I got Barak at Target. Well, as of now they have a new role in life. I linked them all together, hung the chain from my closet rod, and threaded a scarf through each hole. Presto--nearly instant tichel storage. All I need is another 3 packages of them, and I'm set.

3. If you have been expecting a package for me and have despaired of its ever showing up, take heart. There is a stack of packages like you wouldn't believe piled up on the bed behind me, and if all goes well I intend to mail them all tomorrow. Stay tuned.

4. A few years ago, when I first started toying with the idea of selling my loom, I asked my knitting buddy Cecilia what she would do with a $1000 yarn purchasing allowance. I wasn't seriously intending on using all the money from the loom to buy yarn (because as I may have mentioned I do have some already) but I felt it would be reasonable to put aside some portion of the proceeds of a loom sale for future unjustifiable purchases of a woolly nature. I don't remember her initial list, but a lot of Noro and a complete set of Clover needles were involved.

I did sell my loom in August, and set aside half of the money for future fiber-related purchases. I thought this was reasonable; I was selling the loom because I needed the space, and using the proceeds to fund more fibery stuff was not actually purchasing anything, just trading, right? Anyway, it went into my PayPal account, and there most of it stayed through the autumn--when I got into my third trimester.

I don't know about anyone else but I now have a three-pregnancy track record of serious fiber activity in my third trimester. As in, nonstop obsessive knitting, and yarn acquisition completely out of proportion to any hope of knitting time. When I was pregnant with Barak, I remember several sizable Webs orders; with Iyyar, it was and sock yarn. Well, this time around, I actually had a budget to do some damage with. And... well. I now have an Ott-Lite, a greatly expanded stash of Socks that Rock mediumweight, a pretty good collection of Opal (already diminished by recent knitting activity), some new sock knitting bags from my favorite Etsy shop, and, um, quite a lot of new knitting needles.

5. And speaking of knitting needles--well, I could try to blame Grandma E for those, but that wouldn't be quite fair. She did, it is true, turn up on her last visit with a set of the new KnitPicks nickel-plated Options needles. She did sing their praises and tell marvelous tales of the smoothness of their joins and the sharpness of their tips. However, she did direct several pointed looks at the open closet door on which is hung my entire admittedly expansive collection of circular needles. And perhaps, when I murmured something about possibly wanting some Options needles of my own, her seemingly straight-faced reply of "Because you don't have enough needles," might have had just a touch of, oh, I don't know, sarcasm. Probably not though. Right?

Anyway, I did buy some of the Options needles in the laminated wood, along with some of their DPs in size 0. And I must say that they are now my favorite needles ever. They are smooth, they are sharp, they are warm and they are light. With a few sets of tips and cords, you suddenly have almost any size circular needle you could need, other than the 16" ones (which I don't often use anyway, since I prefer DPs.) And speaking of DPs--their DPs come in sets of six. Six!

AND, so far at least, they do not bend. Usually after a mere two pairs of socks my bamboo DPs are C-shaped. I've had these for a few weeks and they have been in pretty much constant use, and there is nary a sign of warping. Plus, they are very lovely to look at. I only bought them in the 0s, and now I am eyeing the full set of sock needles in sizes 0-3. But I will resist. Really. I will. Even though Cecilia already bought them and had them sent here for me to send on to her in Australia, where KnitPicks does not ship, and I have been gazing at them longingly for quite a while now. I will resist, because I have completed my fiber shopping for this pregnancy--even though Grandma E is right, and I don't have enough needles.

6. Iyyar is talking more and more now. He is quite fascinated by Emese and points at her with exclamations of "Cah! Cah!" He also is very into socks, for some reason, and not only sticks his foot out for me to put socks onto, he occasionally gets himself more socks out of his sock drawer and tries to pull an extra sock or two on top of his shoes. It doesn't work so well, but he enjoys it, and that's what matters, right?

7. I had been gaining weight faster than I wanted to so a few weeks ago decided to banish white flour and white sugar from my diet during the week. I'll eat it on Shabbos (which includes Saturday night, because otherwise how would I eat pizza?) but have been pretty vigilant about not touching it otherwise. No white pasta, no white bread, no trips to the bakery, but other than those two banned ingredients I eat what I want. Tonight, dinner was brown rice spaghetti with spinach and cheese, a big pot of onions and mushrooms sauteed in butter, and latkes. Clearly, I am not starving myself or anyone else around here. Yet to my shock and delight, at my last prenatal I found out I hadn't gained any weight all month! Baby, B"H, is growing fine, but I didn't gain any weight. Woohoo! So far I've gained 20 lb, with officially 10 weeks to go (although I've never gone past 38 weeks before, so it's probably more like 7 or 8 weeks to go) so if I can make it through Chanuka without tripping up too badly, I might actually have this baby at the same weight I was when I had Barak, even though I started out this time about, oh, 15 lb up from my starting weight then. Even if I gain close to a pound a week, which right now I'm not doing. That'd be nice, wouldn't it?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tichel storage

Does anybody out there have a good way of storing tichels (headscarves)? I currently have a pretty large drawer crammed with them, courtesy of my friend who spent the summer in Israel, found a place that sold them for 8 shekel each, and brought me back thirty--that's right, thirty--of them. (But as I like to point out, my entire expansive tichel collection still costs less than one good sheitel. Or even one cheap one.) When my tichels live in my drawer they a) get wrinkled and b) hide from me when I'm looking for the only one I own that matches whatever it is I'm wearing. Besides that, they're pretty, and it's sort of a shame to hide them all in there. I googled "tichel storage" and, oddly enough, came up with nothing.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hard day

Sometimes, Barak has a hard day. A hard day means lots of counting, lots of misbehaving, lots of Imma mentally counting to ten, lots of time outs. At night, when I'm putting the kids to bed, I'll ask him if he had a good day or a hard day. Usually, even if he had a good day, he'll say he had a hard day. Then he'll sigh an age-old sigh and tell me wearily, "I don't like having a hard time."

Yeah, well, Imma doesn't like it either.

I could give a recap of the day, but I'd rather just let it be water under the bridge. Three and a half is the hardest, right? Right? Right? (Don't start telling me about the teenage years. I'm not even thinking about that yet.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

And he's frum too

My husband and I occasionally joke about what will and won't be mentioned in his Artscroll biography. I'm not sure where this came from, but I think it started with his sister, who likes to tell her kids Uncle MHH stories (like the last time their family ate in a non-kosher restaurant--the cheese pizza they ordered had a piece of pepperoni hiding under the cheese and my husband, aged ten or so, apparently flipped out magnificently). "That's going to go in your Artscroll biography," she tells him.

Anyway, here is something that isn't going in anyone's Artscroll biography, but should: to wit, what a serious yirat shamayim does when a woman starts nursing her baby next to him in an airport.


I am beginning to find out just why it is that discipline is hard. Because I am used to being the center of my kids' universe; because I want them to like me; because I want to be their friend; for all those reasons that, sometimes, you just have to get over.

We tried the sticker chart, and it worked great for the first three days. Yesterday--not so much. It was not entirely Barak's fault; I'd been out all afternoon helping out a friend, and he and Iyyar had been with Abba, which meant lots of fun but not so much structure. When I came home, after bedtime, they were all still eating dinner (peanut butter and crackers and yogurt). Baths weren't happening at that point, and Barak was starting to get his post-bedtime hyper-wound-up look. The one in which he squinches his whole mouth over to one side of his face, and you know you're in for it. What I probably should have done was move Iyyar, who is generally really easy to get to sleep, straight into bed, and taken my time with Barak. Instead, I moved right to bedtime with both of them, which in retrospect was a mistake. Barak did not want to go to bed. He refused to go to bed, in fact, and even after I'd put them both in bed, turned out the light, and left, he came out and screamed. I put him back, calmly. He came out. I put him back again and counted, giving him time between counts along with plenty of reminders that there was going to be a sticker tomorrow morning if he could go to bed nicely but if he continued screaming he would lose the sticker. I got to three, he lost his sticker, he didn't CARE about his sticker and didn't WANT to go to bed. I closed the door.

And he did what he hasn't done since the last time I got scary in his face--picked up the biggest, heaviest toy he could find and started swinging it against the door. Hard. That I couldn't ignore, because a) he'll break the door if he keeps it up and b) if he ever does that with another child behind him, we could be heading to the emergency room. I had to get him to stop. So I opened the door, got in his face, and calmly but forcefully (I hope) told him that what he was doing was NOT OKAY and he had to stop it and get into bed. He said no. I said it again. He said no again.

What now? I couldn't think of anything good, so I said, "Barak, if you do not get into bed right now I will take your whole sticker chart and put it in the garbage."


I think it was a combination of the scary face and the incredibly mean threat but he fell apart sobbing and got into bed. Once he was clearly getting into bed, I went over, gave him a kiss, and tucked him in, as he told me, hiccuping and mostly unintelligible, that he didn't want me to put his sticker chart in the garbage. He went to sleep. I went back into my office feeling like the Worst Mother Ever. How mean was that to say I was going to put his whole sticker chart in the garbage? Um... very? But I couldn't think of anything else.


Today has been great, though. Barak was fun, Iyyar was fun, Barak played nicely with Iyyar and not only that, he spontaneously cleaned up a couple of times. He also did a couple of things I thought were so cool. One was display again the fact that he has a memory that borders on what a certain friend of mine would term "freakish." To wit...

Last year, just before Chanuka, I bought a big box of Clics, meaning them for a Chanuka gift/activity for the boys and their visiting cousins. Once I took the box out, though, it was clearly a mistake; six kids, three of whom were still putting things in their mouths, and the pieces were instantly going everywhere. I tried taking them out a couple of times and then just put them away. They've been on top of the armoire ever since, never mentioned, barely visible. Today, since Barak was being so cooperative and Iyyar was being so mellow, I thought I'd try it again. I took down the box and f0und an empty plastic box, and sorted the pieces into choking hazard/non-choking-hazard sizes. While I did this, Barak cleared up the rest of the toys. Then I put away the box of little pieces and set the big pieces down on the floor for the kids to play with. Barak looked at them. "Clics are for Chanuka," he informed me. "They're for Chanuka when Tanta Sara is here." Which was a year ago.

And tonight, while I was cuddling with Barak in the rocking chair at bedtime (striving desperately to avoid a repeat of last night) we talked about the sticker chart. "How many stickers are on your chart?" "Three!" "And how many do you need to get a treat?" "Five!" Then I asked, "How many more stickers do you need for your treat?" "One, two!" Mental math! Wow.

Oh, and I didn't mention Iyyar's time out. This happened on Thursday, I think. I took out the box of what we call little Lego, which is actually the medium-sized Lego--between "choking hazard" and "little baby" sized. Barak built what was an actual recognizable crane, using pieces of fence for the crane's arm. Iyyar saw it and started stalking it. We had a few rounds of Barak howling no, Iyyar lunging for the crane, and Imma running interference. Yes, we share our toys, but Barak is by no means expected to allow Iyyar to come destroy his Lego creations. I talked to Barak about how to tell Iyyar no, how to make a "no no" face, etc. There was no question that Iyyar knew perfectly well that he wasn't supposed to grab Barak's crane, but he kept grinning and trying it anyway. Again, and again, and again.

Eventually, Barak sat building with his Lego pieces between the wall and the dresser and his back to Iyyar, while I tried to keep Iyyar distracted with other things. Then, over the space of just a minute, Iyyar found a toy plastic orange section and started tossing it around; Barak got interested; the orange section went in the air, both of them went for it on all fours, and Barak slammed his head hard into the corner of the armoire, giving himself a big bump on his forehead. Ohhh.

I sat down with a wailing Barak, while Iyyar squatted on the floor with his trophy (he'd gotten the orange wedge) and watched. And then remembered the now unguarded crane. And went over, grabbed it, and broke it. Gleefully, while looking right at me. Ha ha, Imma! You weren't fast enough and I got it!

Barak, naturally enough, started howling at an earsplitting pitch. I went over, picked up Iyyar, said "NO! Iyyar, you don't touch that! You're going in your crib." I picked up the remnants of the crane, went into the hall, and beckoned to a suddenly silent Barak to come with me. We went into the kitchen while Iyyar screamed his protest, and reassembled the crane.

"Iyyar broke my crane. Dat wasn't nice. He's not sposeda do dat."

"I know, sweetie. You're right. That's why Iyyar's having a time out. He didn't listen to Imma, right? And when you don't listen to Imma and you keep not listening, then you get a time out."

"Also Iyyar gets a time out?"

"Right, also Iyyar."


The day had been a little bumpy until then, but after that point I had a magically transformed happy cooperative little boy for the rest of the day. Oh wait--there isn't a double standard where Iyyar gets to do whatever he wants and I get time-outs! Iyyar gets time-outs too! How about that...

And since this post has been mostly about Barak, I will mention that yesterday, when I came back from my friend's house, I came back with her eight-week-old baby in a car seat. We were only a few blocks away, she'd had to take the car seat out of her car, and it was faster for me to walk back with the baby than it would have been to put the car seat back in. So in I walked with a tiny little baby. Iyyar stared. "Ba," he said. "Baby," I said. "Ba ba," said Iyyar. "Baby," I said. "Bah bee!" he said, grinning and pointing in total, obvious delight.

Let's hope he's still as excited about bah bees about two months from now...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On screaming and hitting

You already know it's going to be a good one, right?

So, Barak is three and a half. He has tantrums. He tests limits. He does a whole lot of things he shouldn't do. I remind myself, through gritted teeth, that this is a normal developmental stage. I try, very very hard, to be patient.

Iyyar is one and a half. Mostly, he's still a baby. He's way easier than Barak in a lot of ways. He's mellow. He's happy-go-lucky. But now he has a temper. He's starting to experiment. And he wants to do everything Barak does.

When Barak was Iyyar's age, if he did something like hit me, I would just say "no hitting!" very sternly, put him in his crib, walk away, and close the door. I'd come back a minute later, say "no hitting" again,and carry on. Barak didn't hit much.

When Iyyar hits, I say "no hitting," very sternly. But Barak laughs his head off. And Iyyar sees Barak laugh, and he giggles, and then the two of them reinforce each other. If Iyyar hits Barak, Barak thinks it's funny.

I've tried explaining to Barak that if he laughs, Iyyar thinks it's okay, so he shouldn't laugh when Imma's saying no. But he does. He just thinks it's funny, so he laughs.

To be fair, the only time either of them hits is when they're really, really frustrated or hurt. Iyyar banged his head on the side of the dresser today and got mad enough to hit the dresser. (Both my kids do this--they get mad at inanimate objects. I once saw Barak bite his Lego because they wouldn't stay stacked the way he wanted.)

Now, I know that they are boys and they are brothers, and I don't think any two boys ever grew up together without whaling on each other every so often. My friend Chana has three boys, aged 4, 6 and 8 (or so), and her policy is that she only interferes when she thinks there is about to be a medical emergency. I don't think that that's completely unreasonable, and understand its sanity-preserving attributes, but I also have a deeply entrenched attachment to the "We. Do. Not. Hit." policy that is currently in place.

This evening was pretty difficult. Iyyar didn't nap enough, and both kids woke up way too early. They did pretty well throughout the afternoon, considering, but by bedtime, we had reached meltdown. Iyyar clearly needed to go to bed, and was happy to get into his crib with his blankets. Barak, however, decided that he was not going to bed. He kvetched, he protested, he did everything at a snail's pace, he procrastinated and whined. And when we finally got there, he simply refused, point-blank, to get into bed. What are you going to do now, Imma?

What indeed? He's not in a crib anymore, so I can't just put him in there and walk away. I did not want to get into a situation of trying anything physical. I wanted to stay calm. So I said, Barak, it's time to go to bed now, and I just turned out the lights, closed the gate into the kitchen, went into my office and closed the door, leaving a hysterically screaming Barak in the hall outside his room. I got some chocolate pretzels and started reading the Education section of the Times while Iyyar started wailing too. Barak was howling that he needed a toy (the latest in a looooong stream of bedtime-delaying tactics) and Iyyar was howling because Barak was howling. I ignored it. MHH came home and told me about his day. The howling continued. I asked him to go and make sure nobody was actually hurt. He left. I heard quiet, then the distinctive creak of the glider rocker. He came back. "I gave Barak the stuffed sheep and rocked Iyyar. Why was he so upset?" "He was upset because Barak was upset." "Why was Barak upset?" "He didn't want to go to bed." "Oh."

I wonder if it's time for a bedtime sticker chart. But when he gets like this, there is no motivation or threat that works--he just hates, hates, hates going to bed, and always has, and judging by his father and grandfather's attitude toward bedtime, probably always will.

Maybe we'll do the sticker chart anyway. Can't hurt, right? But I am open to other suggestions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

and yesterday

Asnat turned up looking both dreamy and troubled. I asked her what was going on. Silence. Then, "I met a boy..."

So now she's thinking about staying here instead of moving to LA. Barak was sitting at the table eating breakfast. "Barak, do you want Asnat to stay or do you want her to go away?" Barak, bless him, looked up in alarm. "I want Asnat to stay." Good boy.

So, we'll see. I told her I needed to know for sure this week, so as to give the newly hired backup babysitter enough notice. I think she's staying though.

On the subject of Barak (sort of), what is it about three-year-olds and reality? This morning Barak woke up (too early) and started asking Abba for the Commander Salamander book (otherwise known as Commander Toad and the Space Pirates, by Jane Yolen--probably tied in Barak's worldview with Hershel and the Chanuka Goblins for world's best literary work). Abba, who was finishing up caulking the bathtub and rushing to get ready for work, stopped what he was doing to look for it but couldn't find it. He told Barak he couldn't find it. Barak's response was to remind Abba, again and again and AGAIN, that he wanted the Commander Salamander book. Abba told Barak he didn't have it. Repeat. Then Barak came into my room and told me he wanted the Commander Salamander book. I attempted further reason, which usually works with him (but not this time, clearly):

"You want the Commander Salamander book, right?"

"Yeah. I wanna Commander Salamander book."

"Does Imma have the Commander Salamander book?"


"Does Imma know where it is?"


"Can Imma get it for you, even if you ask lots and lots of times and kvetch a lot?"


"So is it going to help if you keep asking and kvetching? Is that going to get you the Commander Salamander book?"


"Does it make you feel good to kvetch? Does it make Imma happy?"


"Okay, sweetie. So let's stop kvetching and find another book."


"I needa Commander Salamander book please."

Repeat. Eventually, I got up, got dressed, got Iyyar dressed, and started getting breakfast, with Barak still tailing me pleading for Commander Salamander. It was a little too early in the morning for this so finally I said, "Barak, if you really really have to keep kvetching, please go do it in your room. I don't like listening to kvetching." And of course he fell down on the floor screaming and crying.

I know that three-year-olds are not fully rational, and I know that it is a developmental stage to think that wants can influence reality. As in, I want to turn on the light/play the xylophone/listen to Uncle Moishy, so it isn't Shabbos right now, or alternatively, I want to eat cookies/go to shul/not have Imma go to work, ergo it IS Shabbos right now. But, gah! I will admit, somewhat shamefully, that I did see several Commander Toad books on the top shelf out of sight, but decided not to give him one, lest he come to the conclusion that if he kvetches enough what he wants will miraculously appear. I don't think anyone (except possibly Barak) could blame me for that one.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Something interesting

Before we moved to where we are now, we lived in a small community in Massachusetts--a one-shul town with no eruv, no mikva, hardly any kosher food, and barely a minyan. The people there were really nice (hi, Ellen!), but there weren't many of them. About a year after we left, the shul's director did too--except that instead of heading to a bustling metropolis like we did, he decided to go somewhere with even fewer Jews and even less kosher food. Specifically, he joined the Army, and is now the only Jewish chaplain serving in Iraq. He's also really funny. He was home recently for a couple of weeks and gave a talk at the shul, which you can see here. It's kind of long, but really worth watching. The sound quality improves after the introduction.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

From the mouths of the not yet grown up

A month or two ago--maybe more now--I realized that both Barak and Iyyar do much better with a 6 pm bedtime, not the 7 pm bedtime that had been in place for a very long time. They go to bed more easily, they fall asleep more easily, there are fewer evening meltdowns. They even wake up later in the morning, and generally in better moods. The drawback to all this improvement, of course, is that with a 6 pm bedtime they barely see Abba during the week. He leaves just as they are waking up (he usually gets an Iyyar diaper change in before he leaves and that's it) and comes home to kids who are either already in bed or in the last stages of bedtime.

So we try, a couple times a week, to visit Abba at work. He teaches till early afternoon and then he's in the school's beit medrash, where it's considered acceptable for abbas to spend half an hour here and there learning aleph-beis with their kids. So, when the weather is nice and Barak is having a good listening day, that's what we do. Barak sits and learns with Abba for a while, and I follow Iyyar around the halls and try to keep him out of the gym (the gym! the gym! there are balls in there! I can HEAR THEM BOUNCING!)

This afternoon, we went to learn with Abba. On the way out the backyard, Iyyar starting saying "Dai dai dai" in the stroller. I, of course, started singing "Dayeinu" to him. Barak stopped me.

"Imma, what are you singing?"

"I'm singing Dayeinu." I sang a few more verses.

"What's that song?"

"It's a Pesach song, sweetie. You'll sing it at Pesach. You'll probably learn it in school before Pesach and then we'll sing it after the Seder."

Barak looked up me, mildly indignant. "Imma, I don't know that song now. I didn't grow up yet."

* * *

I don't know why exactly but I find it hard to remember the sounds that both Barak and Iyyar have made at various stages of baby- and toddlerhood. Right now, Iyyar is just starting to say words and realize the utility of saying words. He'll come into his room, where one of the all-exciting balls is stuck under the armoire. "Bah!" he'll inform me, and I will promptly pull the ball out and give it to him. He will cackle with delight at his success ("Heh heh heh,") lift the ball over his head, drop it ("Dah pih!") and watch it go bounce, bounce, bounce. Then, of course, he'll chase after it, and repeat from step 1. He'll stand up and say "up!" and then sit down and say "dowww." He says thank you ("ta taw!") and Abba and Barak, sort of ("Ah yah!") Imma? No, not so much. He does, of course, say Bamba, every time he sees it and whenever we go into the Bamba-carrying store. Bamba, as I may have mentioned, is big around here (although neither Grandma E or I really see the appeal.)

He also, of course, carries on long soliloquies in Iyyar-ese. "Ai dai, dai dai dai. Ai dai, dai. Ai dai." And then. "Aye bai bee ba bee! Ah bee! Ah bee bee bee!" Then, when he sees that I am eating something that may look identical to what's right in front of him on a plate but he knows full well is vastly superior, "Ah bee bee be AAAAAAAAHHH!!!!" When he wants to come out of his high chair, if I've taken off the tray but been too slow to remove the actual child, he'll point at his seatbelted tummy with both hands. "Diss! Diss!" Take THIS off, Imma, and LET ME OUT NOW.

If I ask him for his bowl or cup, so as to refill it, he'll usually hand me the requested item. If he's playing with a toy car or bus, he'll say so, with a strangely Bostonian accent. "Cah," he intones. "Buh. Buh." And for some reason, whenever I take him out of his crib, he wails piteously for something on top of the bookshelf (which is next to his crib). But then I can hold him right up next to it and he's not sure what it is he wanted--I think it's just that he was in his crib looking up at that out-of-reach top shelf, the contents of which seemed so much more appealing from a little bit farther away.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


(Just so you know, a feature of Barak's speech these days is that when words begin with "b" he usually turns the "b" into an "m." So basement becomes masement, baking soda becomes making soda, buttons becomes muttons. Etc.)

I think I may fairly say that I am a reasonably accomplished knitter. I learned to knit when I was six, and I got into knitting in a serious way at the age of 20 or so. I spin my own yarn, I design my own garments, and I have done everything from gloves on 0s to a cabled Lopi coat on 10s.

However, these days, my knitting is very stop-and-start, which does not lend itself to serious Thinking Knitting. Since Barak was born, I've made a lot of socks, mittens, hats, and gloves--small and portable bus knitting. I've made plenty of sweaters, but they involve an awful lot of circular-knit stocking stitch. Not a lot of color patterns, unless it's in a yoke. (I did one allover color pattern and it took me MONTHS, arriving to its recipient at least three months behind schedule. Sorry, Sarah.) One lace shawl. A few spiral-yoke pullovers, a couple of raglans. The only cables I've done, I think, have been on the baby hat I made for Iyyar out of one skein of orange Koigu--and that took me months to finish, because I never had the time for any knitting I had to look at.

This doesn't mean that I can't knit the kind of thing that's impressive to non-knitters, just that I don't do it much these days. However, I am fortunate to have knitting friends, some of whom have stepped right into the breach and supplied my kids with some truly stunning knitwear. Tanta Cecilia, particularly, has made my kids unbelievable cabled hoodie cardigans which they wear more or less all the time (scroll down for a picture of Iyyar's if you missed it).

Of course, what happens when I take my kids out in matching cabled hoodies, when everyone knows that I knit? There are oohs. There are ahhs. And then, "I bet you made those, didn't you." At which point I have to confess, well, no, I didn't. But, I try not to add, I could, if I had the time. I try not to add this because although it may be true, it sounds awfully... lame.

And usually, when I say that no, my friend made the sweaters, the response is along the lines of "Wow, that must be some friend" (to which of course I agree,) and then either "Boy, she's a REALLY good knitter," or something along the lines of "Could you knit something like that?"


Which brings me to the topic of muttons. Barak has gotten pretty good at doing his own buttons. Shirt buttons are usually too small and too hard for him, but the big cardigan buttons on his hoodie he can handle. Now, even when I had time to knit I rarely made cardigans (meaning, of the I've-totally-lost-count-of-how-many sweaters I've made I may have knit twenty cardigans). I don't usually wear them, and I like to knit things in the round, which meant that I do more pullovers. I have never made Barak a cardigan. So, one evening this week, I was running a bath for the kids. I had Iyyar on my lap and was getting him undressed as Barak worked on getting his own sweater off. I complimented him on his skillful button-opening.

"Barak, who made that sweater for you?"


"No, I didn't make that one. Tanta Cecilia made that one."

"Tanta Cecilia madea sweater?"

"Yeah, Tanta Cecilia made that for you. Wasn't that nice?"

"Yeah. I like the sweater. It has muttons. Did Tanta Cecilia makea muttons?"

"Well, she didn't make the muttons--I mean, the buttons. I think she bought the buttons in a store. She made the button holes, though, and she put the buttons on there."

Pause while Barak considers this. "You don't make sweaters wif muttons."

"No, I don't usually. I like to make sweaters with no buttons."

"You don't know how to make muttons?"


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Various thoughts I've had today, which I'm sure you'll find endlessly entertaining.

1. There comes a point in every pregnancy, or at least in all of mine to date, where you sort of stop thinking about the fact that pregnancies are designed to produce an actual baby. Right now I am just so used to being pregnant that I feel like this is just how my body is shaped, and it's totally normal to have something wiggling and jumping around inside me after every meal and late at night. I was just looking at my work calendar and realized, wait, by then I should have... another baby. The mind sort of reels.

2. Have I mentioned lately what a stunning difference being tired makes in the behavior of children--at least in my children? In the half hour after I got Barak from playgroup today he had no less than three meltdowns, one of which turned into an out-of-control screaming and throwing fit. I managed it reasonably calmly, but I also decided that like it or not, he was taking a nap. Since you can't (no matter how tempted you might be) tie a three-year-old to his bed to nap, this is a lot easier said than done, but I did get him--and, miracle of miracles, Iyyar--to nap, at the same time, for well over an hour.

The difference was stunning. Barak spent the rest of the afternoon being incredibly sweet, delightful, and charming. Of course, I paid for it later. Two hours past their usual bedtime, they were both standing in their respective beds making each other laugh. Party time in the boys' room.

3. If you have ever been to my house you know that my husband favors bathroom reading that is more cerebral. Me, I like the Patternworks catalogue. This afternoon, Barak disappeared into the bathroom for a potty trip (totally unprompted by me! and this happens a lot now! woohoo!) Then I heard a suspicious thump.

"Barak, what are you doing?"

"I'm pishing potty."

"What was that noise?"

"It's okay."

"Well, what was it?"

"The magazine fell into Emese's poop." Ohhh. Patternworks catalogue in litterbox. Yecch. Mental note to remove catalogue and put it in trash.

Barak comes out of bathroom. I look in litterbox. No catalogue. "Barak, did you put the catalogue in the garbage?"

"No, I didn't need to."

Because the litter-coated catalogue had been neatly returned to the pile of books.

4. One of the house rules around here is that Barak is not allowed on the cooking side of our eat-in kitchen while I am in there cooking. There is an invisible line on the floor that he knows he is not allowed to cross. This afternoon, when they woke up, I had been cooking something, but after both Barak and Iyyar woke up, I finished what I'd been doing. Barak was on his way across the kitchen when he stopped.

"Imma, are you all done cooking now?"

"Yeah, I'm all done."

"Okay. Den I can go on dat side of da kitchen, 'cause you're all done cooking."

I just found that incredibly sweet.

5. Late this afternoon, I took the boys to the grocery store for a long-overdue shopping trip. I told Barak he could pick one Shabbos treat and after much consideration, he picked potato chips. Have I mentioned lately how much I love our local independently owned kosher grocery? I'd called right after I got home to see if they could do a delivery today, and was told yes--but before I got out the door, Barak had had his last and most dramatic meltdown and the trip was put on hold. Four hours later, the person who had told me yes was gone, the owner was on his way out the door, and nobody seemed able to deliver anything. So the the owner went around checking with all the employees figuring out how I was going to get my groceries, asking me when I needed them and when I'd be home, and finally decided that the person who closed the store tonight would drop them on his way home (at midnight! I assured him that someone would still be up.) Can you even imagine that happening at a big chain supermarket?

6. On the way back from my ATM run this morning--I ALWAYS forget, every week, to get cash to pay Asnat with--I ran into the daughter of a friend. I crossed the street and we chatted a little bit as I hurried back home. "You don't know anyone who is looking for a babysitting job, do you?" "Well, I just quit my job. I'm looking for something else, but when do you need?" So she's going to cover us in the short term till we find someone else--at least till winter break, when MHH is here, and maybe even till my maternity leave. Of course, that will still leave me with no help when the new baby comes, but at least it takes care of the immediate crisis--no small thing.


Asnat just quit, with many apologies. She is moving to LA in three weeks. I now have babysitting only two days a week, and about three weeks to find someone new.

I know, believe me, that there could be many worse things to have happen. But I don't really need this today.

Without getting into too many details, there is an awful lot of uncertainty in our lives right now--we don't know where we'll be next year or where MHH will be working, I don't know how I'm going to manage at home when this new baby IY"H comes in the winter, I don't know what to do about Barak and school for the fall (nothing is within walking distance, and everything is expensive, and deposits are substantial, and cf. "don't know where we'll be next year," above.)

I know that in the scheme of things these are all relatively minor issues. Nobody is sick, we are not bankrupt, we both have educations and are unlikely to get evicted or starve. Logically, I know that we are not in any worse a position than we were in when Barak was born and neither of us had a job and we had a new baby. With two and potentially soon three kids, though, and a mortgage, and the real estate market so in the tank we could not possibly sell if we had to without losing an unthinkable amount of money, it's all a lot more... distressing. I am a planner, and I know all about what God does when man plans, but... yeah. But. It's hard to relax when you're lying awake nights calculating how you would manage various doomsday scenarios.

One way or another, IY"H, it'll all be good. It will all work out for the best.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tantrum management

For the last couple of weeks, Barak seems to have been experimenting with tantrums as a way of either expressing his frustration or getting what he wants. The golden rule of tantrum management, of course, is never to let there be a positive outcome to throwing a fit. I've got that one down. Once you know what you're not going to do, of course, you then have to figure out what exactly what you are going to do with the kicking screaming three-year-old on the floor. That part is more of a challenge.

When I can, I walk away and ignore him. Sometimes he escalates what he's doing so he'll have to get my attention, by doing something so totally illegal that I won't just let it slide. A favorite for a while was, when put in his room for a time-out, picking up the biggest, heaviest toy he could get his hands on and slamming it into his door. I ignored that too until I saw what the inside of his door looked like. Earlier this week, he tried that one. I went in there and told him, scarily, to STOP. I left and he did it again, and I didn't quite lose it but I certainly used more volume and anger than he's ever heard before to tell him "That. Is. Not. Okay." He hasn't done it since.

But I don't like the idea of escalating my response to match his. I try, I really do, to stay calm. And last night, I actually managed it.

We went over to my friend Chana's house last night. She had a baby a few weeks ago and I'd told her kids I would make them pizza this week. So at around 4 we trooped over there with a big bag of pizza dough, a jar of sauce, a bagful of vegetables and some cheese. (I forgot, and had to run back for, my pan and the parchment paper. A manifesto on the fine art of home pizza-making may be forthcoming--stay tuned). A fine time was had by all; much pizza was eaten (Barak held out for the sauceless vegetableless albino version I made last), and Iyyar ate more than anyone else, as usual. Barak spent about two and a half hours making trouble with Chana's three older boys, the youngest of whom is about a year older than Barak. Bedtime around here is usually around 6:15. By six, I realized that Barak was so worked up, and so wound up, that going home was liable to not be so easy. And I had a lot to carry. So I called MHH (this is why we have cell phones) and asked him to stop by and get us on his way home (we live across the street, so this is not a big deal). He did.

MHH got there at around 6:15. I handed him Iyyar and Iyyar's hat and fuzzy suit, and got Barak's coat and hat. And I tried to get them on Barak, but Barak was not interested in anything but running around in circles being silly. Never mind that all the resident children were already in pajamas--Barak wanted to jump around and scream some more, not go home. I managed to get him into his coat, with minimal cooperation from him. Then it was time for shoes.

"Barak, go get your shoes please." No dice. I was sitting on the floor and had no interest in getting them myself, so I asked one of Chana's kids to get them for me (the shoes were behind the couch, where they had been discarded for semilegal couch-jumping activities.) He did. "Barak, come here and put on your shoes."

Barak stopped what he was doing, looked at me, and instantly collapsed into a fit of hysteria. "I wanted to find my shoes! I wanted to find them! AAAAAHHHHH!!!!"

There are a few categories, I think, into which tantrums fall. There are the tantrums of pure frustration that cannot be expressed in any other way. There are the tantrums of experimentation and trying to get one's way--one might call those the manipulative tantrums, although I don't like that word. And then there are the tantrums that happen when a kid is so tired or so worn out or upset about something or not feeling good that the tiniest little thing will set him off. This was one of those.



I gave MHH all the stuff, and he carried it all down to the stroller. Then I gave him Iyyar, and he took Iyyar down as I manhandled Barak into his shoes--the size differential between the two of us is such that I can still do things like that. Then I picked up my coat and walked out the door. Barak, still standing there screaming, suddenly stopped, and a look of alarm spread over his face. "I needa pish potty." Good for you! I thought. Usually when he gets that worked up, he loses control and pees himself. "Okay, go potty. I'll wait for you." Barak went to the bathroom, came back, and started screaming again. "I WANTED TO FIND MY SHOOOOOOOES..."

I started down the stairs, and Barak came after me. "Barak, do you want to go in the stroller or do you want to walk?" "I wanna go in the stroller. I'm a baby." However, being a baby did not prevent him from wanting to buckle the seatbelt himself, which he was too worked up to do. I did it for him.


Barak at this point was kicking and screaming and flailing, but I was pretty sure he couldn't get out of the stroller by himself. We went home. I asked MHH to take Iyyar inside and get him ready for bed. "I'll take care of Barak. Don't worry." I parked the stroller and sat down on the back steps in my coat. And waited.

"Barak, I'm going to wait right here until you're done screaming. You let me know when you're all done."


Then I took my knitting out of my bag. And started to knit a pair of gloves in sock yarn on size 0 needles.

Barak stopped. He looked at me. Clearly, he was thinking, this could go on for a while. And it's really pretty cold and dark out here.

"Imma, I needa find my own shoes."

"I know, sweetie. Are you all done screaming now?"



The power of knitting, right there.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Why is it

that when presented with an extensive tasting menu of woollen hats, mittens, scarves and gloves packed away for the winter in the back of the closet with only herbal moth repellent, moths will ignore everything but the handknit baby hat made in cashmere and baby alpaca (what else do you do with one 50g skein?) with patterning in Koigu? I guess the cashmere didn't taste as good, because they just chewed out the Koigu. In five places.

Sigh. I fixed it, of course, but there's something about a darned cashmere baby hat that just seems... wrong somehow. Especially given how long it takes to knit a baby hat, and the size of my stash.

Friday, November 02, 2007

More knitting

Not mine, though. Check out the green cabled hoodie, courtesy of Tanta Cecilia in Sydney. And the hat. That picture had to get taken fast--I put the hat on and Iyyar turned around, ran a few steps away, and pulled it off. You can see his hands poised for the hat-yank right there.

This sweater used to be Barak's. It was a gift for his first birthday, and he wore it right through last spring. Now, though, it's really too small, and has been passed on to Iyyar. But is Barak hoodieless? No! Because Tanta Cecilia sent another, identical handmade sweater--identical except that it is two sizes up, and in bright purple. (I tried to get a shot from the back of Barak wearing it, but he is too wise in the way of cameras--he kept turning around and posing.) And yet another cabled hoodie (a Rogue, for those in the know enought to be impressed by such name-dropping) in size XXXXXXXXXXXXXL for me, designed for maternity wear. When we all go out together, boy are we styling. :)

Thursday, November 01, 2007


1. There haven't been many posts lately because we just had a lovely lovely visit from Grandma E. Housework was neglected, laundry was left to pile up, and much knitting was accomplished. Oh, and perhaps a doughnut or two were eaten. Iyyar was fairly mellow despite a raging diaper rash that is just now starting to go away after almost two weeks. Barak, on the other hand, was on the worst tantrum hairtrigger I've ever seen. Every time anything went even slightly not his way, he was down on the floor screaming, including his first-ever public tantrum (brief, but still) at Target. He lost just about every treat I had planned--we didn't go to the zoo or even the doughnut store. And in addition to the tantrums there was a significant amount of just general obnoxiousness--like, when he was ignoring my telling him to do something, I told him to look at me, and he turned his face to me with his eyes squinched shut. Charming.

Grandma E was very nice about it and genuinely does not seem to have left with the impression that I have raised a monster, but... when you have a child who is sweet and charming 80% of the time, why does the entire other 20% have to happen when you really would like him to be at his sweetest and most charming? I know that all small children have phases like this occasionally. I know that he is really a great, wonderful kid, that he is not spoiled and not a brat. And I know that it is unreasonable for me to expect him to behave perfectly all the time. Rationally, I even know that he wasn't actually screaming the whole time Grandma E was here, and she did get to see the sweet and charming Barak I insisted does exist. But... sigh.

2. Did I mention that knitting was accomplished? Yes indeedy. Grandma E made a lovely Fibonacci baby blanket out of Plymouth Encore (which, I will note, she felt was too thick for a baby blanket and also noted was hard to weave ends in on). I need to block that before I take pictures. I made the most ridiculously cute spiral yoke sweater I have ever seen, out of a mere 79g of Opal Hundertwasser:

I cannot even tell you how much this picture does not do justice to the sweater. I should have put something in the picture for scale (other than the cord of the iron I was using to block it). It is about a 3-month size, and possibly the cutest thing I have ever knitted. If I saw one that someone else had made I would have to instantly drop whatever I was knitting at the moment to make one for myself (well, not for myself, but for a baby of my acquaintance. You know what I mean.)

Before Grandma E got here, I had just finished a pair of socks made out of the skein of Trekking I bought while on the baby doctor/yarn store expedition with Barak a few weeks ago (because, you know, I don't have enough sock yarn etc.)

And what did Grandma E find in her bag but this very terrifying crocodile scarf that Deb made for Barak. Roar!

While I was taking crappy pictures of lovely knitting, I also took a couple of the Eris sweater I finished a month ago and which I got to wear once before I was too big for it.

Neck detail:

Knitting I can do. Knitting photography... not my strong point. Sorry.

3. In a general Iyyar update, I should mention that Iyyar is currently obsessed with balls. The box of little balls that usually lives in the armoire has not been put away in a week, and the two playground balls (one blue, one red) that I bought at Target a week or two ago are in pretty regular use. Iyyar's favorite thing right now is to pick up his ball, carol "Upf! Upf! Upf," carry it a few steps while cackling maniacally, drop it, and then chase it to pick it up again.

And as predicted by my babysitter, Iyyar does indeed appear to be progressing directly from nothing to complete sentences. Well, sort of. The thing I hear from him the most right now is "I don't want it!" which sounds sort of like "Ah na wa na!" But believe me, his meaning is clear. We are also hearing "Drop it!" (from his high chair, usually); "Open it!" (regarding the gate to the kitchen); and "Ah yah!" which means Barak. And yesterday, Ada reported a very clear "Abba's books," pertaining to those books which he is forbidden to pull from the shelves in the living room.

4. I mentioned above that Iyyar had the worst diaper rash I've ever seen, caused by a couple weeks of diarrhea that left him happy, perfectly well hydrated, but pooping all night long. I tried the usual--zinc oxide, BRAT diet, acidophilus, multiple nighttime diaper changes, baking soda baths. It helped, but not enough. The second day Grandma E was here he was walking around he house miserably grabbing at his tush and wailing. Desperate times, desperate measures--I took his diaper off and let him walk around the kitchen (linoleum floor, how bad could it be?) commando. The difference was immediate. He was just so much happier. At bedtime, I smeared him up good with zinc oxide, put a clean diaper on him, and put him to bed with just one of Barak's shirts and his diaper, so that I could check if he was dirty without waking him up.

Iyyar, it seems, saw his opportunity and seized it. When I went in to check on him, I found him in the classic sleeping baby position--on chest, knees tucked under tummy, tush sticking straight up in the air. Tush, in this case, completely bare--he'd pulled off his diaper and was happily sleeping naked. Grandma E had just gone to bed but I couldn't let her miss that. I knocked on the door. "Are you asleep yet? You need to come look at something." She peeked in and laughed. "If it wouldn't wake him up, I'd say we'd have to take a picture." I was tempted, but not badly enough to risk a crying baby at 10 pm. Around 4 am, he woke up wet and cold, but not poopy (fortunately). And the rash was much better.

5. Oh, and one more thing--Barak can now tell the difference between a gasoline and a diesel engine by the sound it makes. I taught him that one, which I know courtesy of a friend who has driven a lot of tractors and can imitate a diesel engine with uncanny accuracy. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

You know you are a Jewish mother when

you are standing at your kitchen sink at 11 pm on Thursday night handwashing last week's grape juice out of your three-year-old son's miniature tie, because tomorrow is his turn to be Shabbos Tatty.


I don't think I am an obsessive, unthinking rule-follower type of person who cheerfully follows the path laid out for her by wiser people who have gone before. (Those of you know know me can stop snorting up your sleeves now.) However, I have a healthy respect for sensible rules made in everyone's benefit.

I am not talking about halacha right now, which is in a different category; I'm talking about things like "Stop your car when the light is red, whether or not you can see anyone coming." True, there may not be a car there that you can see. But when you get behind the wheel of a car, I feel that you have entered into a social contract that says that you will stop at that red light anyway. Why? So that everyone else on the road knows that if you have a red light, You Will Stop, regardless of your personal feelings on whether or not it might be necessary.

Remember the mat room, that I mentioned in my last post? It has a sign on the door. The sign has five rules. Five. They are:

1. The Mat Room is for children aged three and under only.
2. Children must be accompanied by a caregiver at all times.
3. Shoes may not be worn in the Mat Room.
4. No food or drink in the Mat Room.
5. Please do not change or dispose of diapers in the Mat Room. Diaper changing facilities are available in the restrooms. [Which they are--both men's and women's.]

What is so hard about any of that? Is it so difficult to see why these rules are in everyone's interest? Think about it, please:

1. A kid over age three is a lot stronger and wilder than kids three and under--and much more capable of accidentally injuring the barely-crawling nine-month-old he didn't notice when he jumped off the side of the slide.
2. Kids are a lot more liable to get wild and crazy when unsupervised--and it is not the job of other parents who ARE supervising their kids to supervise YOUR kid when you go to work out and leave him/her alone in the mat room.
3. Getting kicked hurts a lot more when the foot that kicks you has a shoe on it. And what's that that just fell of your shoe that my baby just put in his mouth?
4. Food makes a mess. Oh, and that nice clean carrot stick your kid is eating? It's a choking hazard when he leaves it stuck under a foam block.
5. I really shouldn't even have to address this one.

To be fair I have never seen a diaper being changed in the mat room (although it is the one thing that I can see being most tempted to do--if you are following all the rules, and have more than one kid with you, you have to pull your older child away from his/her play to accompany you to the bathroom for a diaper change. But I do this anyway--who else is going to go get me the garbage can and love doing it?)

Barak, when he sees other children in the mat room, is thrilled, because he knows there will be wild times afoot. Me, I groan, especially if any of them is over the age of three. Yesterday, there was a (very overweight) five-year-old in there with shoes AND a whole Twix bar (meaning a whole package of Twix bars, meaning two of them). Who gives a kid a Twix bar at 4:30 PM, right before dinner? The last time we were there there was an eight-year-old--not there watching a younger sibling, but trying to tightrope-walk on the roofs of the little crawling houses. While babies were crawling underneath.

Grumble. Grumble grumble.

End of grumble. We like, appreciate, and are very grateful for the Mat Room--it is a nice place to play that does not require me to be anywhere that is a) cold or b) more than two minutes from a bathroom. When people follow the rules, it is fabulous. It would just be nice if everyone who used it--or I should say, everyone who brings its users--could read.

Back to work.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Halachic preschooler

My husband was going to be home late today and I wanted to make sure he got to see the kids at least a little bit, so this afternoon Barak, Iyyar and I went to stop in and say hi to him at kollel. He teaches in the morning and learns in the school's kollel in the afternoon; that way, he's available to kids who need help and can do school prep and his own learning. It's a good deal, and nobody minds if he sits and learns aleph-beis with his son for a few minutes now and then.

Today, we went, bringing along Barak's Gadi Pollock aleph-beis book and the shtender with his name on it we bought in Meah Shearim almost two years ago now. We got there just as mincha was starting--bad timing, but Barak sat in the beis medrash with his sefer very nicely as Iyyar and I rolled his ball around outside in the hall. Iyyar, as I may have mentioned, is obsessed with balls right now. Never has it been so easy to direct him in the way I want him to go--I just kick the ball wherever I want him to head, and off he goes.

After mincha, Barak and Abba learned for a little while, and then we all headed off to the mat room. The mat room is a room at the J where you can take little kids (under-fours, although not everyone reads the sign) to play. It's full of mats (duh) and big foam blocks and a very baby-friendly play structure, and when I'm not up for chasing everyone around the park we go there. Part of the play structure is two little houses connected by a crawling tunnel. At one point, Barak was in one, Iyyar was in the other, and Barak wanted Iyyar to come through the tunnel to his house. "Iyyar, c'mere! C'mere! C'mere and learn in my beis medrash!"

The original plan had been mat room, park, and home for dinner by five, but we'd been derailed by the sight of men laying brick on the way. Half an hour of bricklaying-watching later, the park was scrapped, and then we spent longer in the mat room than planned, so by the time we got home it was already almost six. Okay, maybe we're scrapping baths tonight too. I put Iyyar in his high chair and cut up some cucumbers for Barak while I started dinner. Barak took his bowl of cucumbers over to the table, sat down, and frowned.

"Imma, is dis fleishig?"

"The cucumbers? No, the cucumbers aren't fleishig."

"Dere milchig?"

"No, they're not fleishig or milchig. They're parve."

"Oh." Barak considers this. "Da tablecloth is milchig. Iss da green one. Iss da milchig tablecloth. I can't put it on dere."

"Yes, you can. It's okay."

"No!" he told me, with great conviction. "Iss not okay. Da kookumbers," (holding out bowl) "are parve and da tablecloth" (pointing emphatically at tablecloth) "iss milchig. I can't put it on dere. I gotta move da tablecloth like diss." And what did he do? He did exactly what his father does when he isn't feeling, ah, energetic enough to actually change to the appropriate tablecloth: he folded part of the tablecloth back to reveal the (treif) table underneath. "I just gonna put it on dere, okay Imma? Now it's okay. Now I can eat it."

"Okay, Barak. You can do that. That's fine."

"No, iss not fine. I hafta do it like dat cause iss parve." No, it is not merely muttar, it is absolutely necessary!

Then, of course, I finished making the spinach noodles--which, being hot, could not go on the treif table. "Barak, you need to put the tablecloth back now. The noodles are milchig, so they need to go on the green tablecloth." Barak looks horrified.

"No, Imma! I can't do dat! Da kookumbers are parve!"

"I know, sweetie, but the noodles are milchig."

"But da kookumbers are parve! I can't put it onna milchig one!"

"Yes, sweetie, you can, because now that you're having noodles, your whole meal is milchig. So you put everything on the milchig tablecloth."

Barak's eyebrows are literally crunched together in concentration. He thinks about this. It makes sense. It is good.

"Okay," he said, and put the tablecloth back.

Halachic man, age three and a half.

* * *

As a postscript, I should mention that a couple of weeks ago I called Barak a toddler and Miriam said no, he's a preschooler. And I said no, he's still a toddler--I don't know when he'll stop being a toddler, but I'll know when it happens. And somehow or other, it seems to have happened. I'm not sure what it is, but it's something about the way he talks now--the way that most of the time, you can have an 85% rational conversation with him, and he mimics adult gestures and expressions, and gets himself dressed and undressed, and goes to the bathroom in public restrooms by himself (with me outside the stall, of course). He's not a toddler anymore. He's a little kid.

And this morning

Barak went to school completely without comment or incident. I went to Target last night and bought a box of fruit leathers (if you like them and miss the ones they no longer sell at Trader Joe's, the Archer Farms variety are the cheapest I have found--they work out to 30 cents each). So this morning, I told him that I was putting a school treat in his lunch and showed him. (My poor sugar-deprived child. He thinks a fruit leather is like candy. Let it last as long as it can...) The clothes went on in record time. I took him to school myself, and there was not a peep.

Also, I talked to his morah last night. It was a very nice conversation in which she did not mention last week's trip at all. She said he seemed very happy at school, never cried, did not cause any problems and pretty much just played. He does sometimes want to stay on the floor playing when it's time to do a project or something like that--he is still kind of young for so much structure--but I knew about that. The only thing about school that has changed in the last couple of weeks is that he is now supposed to be walking in with my neighbor--I think that's the problem. If it is I'll be relieved, because it's a fairly minor thing to deal with.

Grandma E is coming on Sunday (woohoo! Grandma is coming! Did I mention that Grandma is coming?) and I think there will be a sticker chart of morning school departures this week, to be rewarded with a trip to the doughnut store when Grandma is here (which we were going to do anyway, but don't mention that part, okay?) We'll see how it goes. Trips to the doughnut store are exceptionally powerful motivators. Next week I have a trip to the baby doctor (aka midwife) and I can take him along on that as another reward if it seems like a good idea.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 22, 2007

This morning

when it was time for Barak to go to school, he point-blank refused to go. "I don't wanna go. I just wanna stay home." I tried for about ten minutes, and then said okay, Barak, but if you don't go now you're going to stay home all day, because I'm not taking you later. He seemed fine with that and I went back into my office. He's here now, hanging out with Asnat and the little ones. I don't hear any crying.

I called his school to say he wasn't coming. The assistant asked me if I'd tried bribing him to go. I said, well, he's always loved going to school and right now I'm more focused on why he doesn't want to go than on how to get him to go. Granted, he is three and it could easily be a one-day whim--but he wouldn't go on Friday either, which was why I was taking him in late. And on the way there he was asking if he could go to Morah Shapiro's school (last year's playgroup) instead.

I think we need to have a talk with the teacher. It could be nothing. It could easily be nothing. But it could also not be nothing, and I need to know if something is going on that shouldn't be.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another recipe

This is my new favorite Shabbos side dish recipe. It keeps very nicely when made ahead and can be made on a yom tov morning without too much mess. I add the walnuts right before serving it, but when I eat the leftovers the walnuts aren't really soggy, so that's not totally necessary.

Black Bean Salad with Corn and Red Pepper
(based on the recipe of the same name in The Natural Gourmet by Annemarie Colbin)

1 14-oz can black beans
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bag frozen corn, cooked a little less than usual so it is still crunchy (I use the cut organic corn from Trader Joe's, which is a billion times better than any other frozen corn I've ever had)
1 red pepper, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped (per the OU, if you are checking for bugs you only need to check 3 in the bunch)
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I used the bagged baking walnuts from TJ's)


1/4 c olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce (I use shoyu, but tamari is fine too)
juice of one large lemon
2T mustard (from a jar, not powder)

This makes 8 cups of salad. The recipe and the finished product look like a patchke, but it's actually really quick to prepare. Leftovers are good on brown rice.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Things Iyyar Has Been Doing Since I Told The Doctor He Wasn't Doing Anything

1. On Friday, a day after I'd asked Iyyar to show me his nose and he did, I asked him again. "Iyyar, where's your nose?" He not only gave me a dirty look, but he stuck both hands under his high chair tray, squinched his eyes shut, and shook his head vigorously back and forth while saying "Na na na na na!" I'm not PLAYING that game now, Imma. Ohhh-kay, I get it. I think you understand me, though.

2. Today, I thought Iyyar had something in his mouth that shouldn't have been in there. I went to check. "Iyyar, what's in your mouth?" I said, reaching a hand toward him. He put out his hand in a "stop" gesture, opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue. Nothing, Imma--leave me alone.

3. We went to the park and Iyyar started climbing the stairs on the play structure. Nothing new there, except this time he climbed them while saying "Up! Up! Up!"

4. This morning, I asked Iyyar to say thank you, for about the millionth time. This time, he did. "Ta ta!"

5. And this afternoon, at the tail end of lunch, Iyyar started reaching for and making noises at some challah on the table he wanted. "Iyyar, do you want some challah?" I asked. "'allah!" he agreed.

He's also developed something of a fondness for that Boynton classic, "Moo Baa La La La." He doesn't identify any of the animals or make the noises yet, but he brings it to me to read at least a couple of times a day. He also has started spending a noticeable amount of time sitting on Barak's train bed reading books, occasionally even right side up. He goes over to the board book shelf, pulls off the books he likes and takes them to the train bed to read. His favorites are the ones with pictures of babies, which he'll just sit there and study for minutes on end.

The rash, by the way, is gone, except for a nasty and, I think, totally unrelated diaper rash that I'm having a really hard time getting rid of. I think tomorrow will be a day for a good long soak in the bathtub with a full box of baking soda in the water. The doctor said it was a virus, and said to expect that he'd get a fever before it went away. He didn't, but he'd felt pretty yucky the night before so that might have been the feeling-sick part of the virus. He was plenty perky today, B"H.

Tomorrow's agenda: trip to Target for new socks for Barak, who has, seemingly overnight, totally outgrown all of his. Maybe also a trip to the park. We'll see. Stay tuned for the further exciting adventures, etc., etc.

Friday, October 19, 2007



I should be working right now but something is really bothering me and I am too distracted by it to write, so I'm going to blog about it instead.

As I have said here before Barak goes to playgroup. It is a very Chassidic playgroup a few blocks from us. I walked by it many times last year and thought, whoa, I'm never sending my kid there, it's just way too unsupervised. A few times I saw kids outside out of sight (it is an l-shaped play area) of any adult. I have heard stories about parents coming to pick up kids and finding them on the swings by themselves, with the teacher having gone back inside. There is a teacher and an assistant, and the assistant, while very nice, seems to have some cognitive issues.

Fast forward to last spring, when I found myself needing to find Barak a preschool or playgroup for this fall. He needs to go somewhere--I know that plenty of three-year-olds are just fine at home, but Barak is intensely social and really needs other kids. He is not part of a big family and gets bored and nutsy at home with me/the babysitter and Iyyar all day. So I explored my options. And my options were... limited. The preschools were all extremely expensive, to the tune of $600 a month, and while that might have been manageable the distances were not. The closest one is a mile away, which means four miles of walking each day, and I am expecting a baby in the dead of winter. The few other local playgroups were, by the time I got to them, full--who knew that people start signing their kids up in January? So I was left with the local Chassidic one.

I called around and talked to parents who'd had their kids there before, and heard generally good things. I called the teacher and said I was interested in registering my son but had some concerns about how the kids were supervised outside. She seemed to take them seriously and assured me that the kids were never outside alone that she was aware of, and she would talk to her assistant. I decided to take her at her word, and I registered Barak, thinking, it's two blocks away, I have a babysitter, I am telecommuting, if it turns out to be a disaster I can take him out.

I did, however, come away with the clear impression that she thought I was a neurotic hovery crazy mother, an impression which was strengthened when she called me back later to remind me that she did have a waiting list, I could feel free to take him out, and--best part--that she didn't want to be "hounded."

Did I like this? No. But I tried very hard not to be apologetic, to say, "It's my responsibility as his mother to make sure he's okay, and I'm sure you respect that, and that we both want the same thing--for all the children to be safe." To which, of course, she had to agree, and the call ended cordially. I didn't pull him out, because, frankly, I had no better options. And the school year started.

So far, it's been fine. Barak comes home happy, he seems to really like it, and I have never seen a child outside unsupervised since I've been there. I was a little surprised to see cleaning products on the bathroom windowsill in easy reach of any three-year-old, but I know that Barak, at least, won't touch them and I decided to keep my mouth shut. She's been doing this for twenty years and nothing has happened yet, so either the kids know not to touch or they are not in there unsupervised (which I doubt, but okay.)

Last week, though, he got a note in his parsha sheet that the kids were going to go on a field trip to a park (Parshas Noach--duck pond and all). The park is a mile and a half away. At the end of the note was "Please bring a booster seat for your child and a permission slip."


Barak is not big enough for a booster seat. Even if he were, I would not put him in one, because a) carseats are so much safer at his age and b) I would not trust him not to wiggle out of the seatbelt. The park in question is huge, unfenced, and known to have unsavory activity going on--there was an attempted abduction there a few years ago. There are 17 kids, the two teachers, and the two mothers who were coming with their 10-seater vans. I don't like this. At all. And I can't take a day off from work to bring him myself.

I told the teacher that I would probably not be bringing him, since he wasn't yet in a booster seat. "Oh, we have extras," she said. "Well, it's that I haven't moved him to a booster seat yet. He's still in a car seat." She said she thought one of the mothers would have. Now, if you know me you know how I am about carseat installations. I do not just clip in the seatbelt and walk away--I treat every carseat installation as though I knew the car was about to get in a head-on collision (okay, if I knew THAT I wouldn' t be putting my kid in the car, but you get the idea.) I said, I'm sorry, but I'm very makpid about carseats and if I can't put it in myself I'm really not comofortable with it. I think I'll probably keep him home.

She looked... displeased. "Well, I'd hate for him to miss it," she said. I assured her that we go to the park plenty, and we left. The issue, honestly, was as much the park as the carseat--I won't go to that park myself without a 1:1 child-parent ration, because it also has a huge adventure playground in which children instantly disappear. And Barak is three. And he is... adventurous. And I did not want him to disappear.

The trip came and went. Today, I took Barak to school. I walked in the door and within seconds the teacher was there, holding a bunch of pictures. "Look, Barak! Here are the pictures of the trip you couldn't go on!"

Now, is it just me, or was that a little....!

I said, rather stiffly, "I'm not sure why you're showing him those." She said "I made a picture for all of the children. Would you rather I not give him one?" I said better not, and left.

Now, it's possible--possible--that she just happened to be standing there with the pictures, and didn't mean anything by it. (Possible, but unlikely.) I know she already doesn't like me, and don't want to a) escalate this or b) have her take it out on Barak. She hasn't done anything where I can justifiably pull him out without paying the rest of the year's tuition. And I'm not sure how I would begin to have a conversation about this, and I'm pretty sure that any conversation I did have would not be productive.

But I really, really don't feel good about it right now.