Tuesday, March 27, 2007


We are, as I have mentioned, planning on going away for all of Pesach, so this may be the last you'll hear from me for a while. The things that need to be happening are, gradually, happening; the laundry is in progress, Iyyar's transition out of our bedroom is nearing completion, and the house is getting cleaner and more organized. I don't need to be cleaning for Pesach, obviously, but I do want it tidy when we leave. I went shopping last night and bought new ties for MHH and two new skirts for myself; the boys are set for clothes already.

I wanted to write up the whole hospital experience, but probably won't do it justice. Things I remember are riding in the taxi in the predawn darkness, pointing out the red and green lights to Barak and asking if we needed to stop or go; helping him put on his hospital gown ("Issa clown shirt!") and socks ("I gotta yellow socks! Iss too big. Iss falling off! Imma help you please!") and, oh the heartbreak, waving bye-bye as he walked off with the anesthesiologist ("I gonna go this way!" as the door closed behind them).

While he was in surgery, I went down to Public Safety to reclaim the cell phone I had left behind on our ER trip; a good distraction. I called Grandma E, knitted a little bit (disastrously, of course--what was I doing bringing Thinking Knitting with me?), and, of course, drank Diet Coke. I had a nervous stomach for the first time since, um, college I think. When the doctor came out, she complimented me on how well Barak had behaved ("He was an angel,") and brought me back to see him just as he was waking up. He was still mostly out of it, but saw me, and the first thing he said was, "I wanna come out!" and then, when he saw the IV in his hand, a wailed "I don't like it!" Who would?

I held him for an hour or so as the drugs wore off, and then we went back to his room--on the same floor where I had been with Iyyar and Grandma E almost a year ago now--and cuddled on his bed for a bit. I tried to get him to take Tylenol, which ordinarily he loves, but he'd had enough of being messed with. "Do you want to go back to the playroom and play with the trains?" "Yeah..." He had a couple of sips of juice, and the IV came out; I held Commander Toad and his new stuffed rhinoceros at a strategic angle so he couldn't see it happen. He didn't like it, but it wasn't bad.

We went back down the hall to the playroom we'd been in for a little while earlier that morning, taking along a box of juice and a melting orange popsicle; he wasn't into the popsicle and, when I suggested it, thought that chocolate ice cream would be a much better idea. We went to the nurses' station to ask, and there was the same nurse who had been there with Iyyar. Two chocolate ice creams in styrofoam cups, and his concrete mixer truck shirt back on, and he was more or less back to his usual self. He found the great big red Radio Flyer wagon, and I pulled him up and down the hall in it a few times (shockingly, those things are really hard to steer in reverse.) There was another little girl there, the cousin of someone who'd just had his tonsils out, and I gave the two of them a couple of rides. Then our babysitter came with Iyyar, who promptly fell in love with the train table himself, and stood there laying waste to the entire yard; we got our discharge instructions, and transport came with a wheelchair, and we headed downstairs.

And this is where our story abruptly lurches into Part II.

As we went downstairs and I had the slightly surreal experience which I am about to relate, I thought, "I want to blog about this, but there is not going to be any good way to make the transition from Barak's surgery to Medrash a la Transport Guy." Well, whatever, it's all part of the narrative of the day.

So the transport guy came up with the wheelchair, and there I am holding Barak's hand, and Ada is holding Iyyar, and our stuff is piled on the wheelchair, with Barak's little backpack hanging off the IV pole. Because I had Barak, I was walking a bit behind, but I could just overhear the conversation. And I could definitely get every one of Ada's, "Get away from me, you weirdo" vibes. Loud and clear.

You can tell, in about half a heartbeat, when you meet an evangelical Christian who sees you as a target. Woohoo! A Jew! A soul to save! They're just a little too friendly. Just a little too interested. Just a little too...

Now, I should interrupt myself here to state that some of my best friends are Christians. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) But I am not just talking about the ambient "I live in America therefore I am Christian by default" Christians. I have close friends who are hard-core born-again Christians. My very best friend from grad school is currently at Texas Christian University. We talk religion all the time when we're together, and it is always with the understanding that you won't try to convert me, I won't try to convert you, and should we put the noodles in the soup or have them on the side? No, I don't think it makes a lot of sense, but I'm sure Yiddishkeit doesn't make sense to Christians, so we're even. In a nutshell, Christianity is fine, as long as you are not trying to a) push it on me or b) use it to justify killing me, my family, or any other Jews.

Where was I? Right. Pesach. So, Ada went to get her car, and I was sitting there with Barak and Iyyar, and I had already overheard the transport guy ask her if she was my sister. (Which, folks, if you saw the two of us together... not so much.)

"So," he said brightly. "When's your Passover?"

Oh, dear. "It starts in about a week and a half."

"Yeah, that's when it starts for me too."

Funny, you don't look Jewish.

"Are you a Seventh-Day Adventist?"

"No, I'm a Bible Christian. I'm cleaning out my leaven. And last year I took the whole eight days off from work!"

For a moment, I thought, wait a minute. Is there some sect of Christians that thinks halacha is binding on non-Jews?

No. No, there's not. I have no idea what this guy's hashkofa is, but halacha was not what he was talking about.

I have to say that while in general I find the idea of co-opting Pesach and sedarim into something not Jewish sort of odd, there are ways of doing it that seem more rational than others. I worked once with someone in New York who had a "freedom seder" at her AME church. That I can see; escape from slavery, God's mighty hand, it's logical. But anyone who thinks that the seder is about the coming of Jesus is either a) on crack, b) incapable of actually reading a haggada in anything but an English translation, c) trying very, very hard to read into the text or d) all of the above.

But what do you say to someone who, completely ignorant of the entire mesora, tries to tell you that really, the seder is not about the flight from Egypt but a Christian prophecy, and tries to darshon text he cannot read and does not understand except in translation? With no idea of the history, background, commentators, or anything? There is just nowhere to begin that doesn't involve some version of, "Get back to me when you can to read the text you're trying to darshon, will you? But by the time you're able to do that, I don't think you'll still think there's anything to discuss."

Oh, well, never mind. I don't think I can tell the rest of that story without ranting, which isn't what I feel like doing right now. So let's just leave that one there, and return to Barak, who, after a brief nap at home, spent the rest of his afternoon recuperating on his bed, where all three of us (Barak, Iyyar, and I) sat eating ice cream and watching Muppets DVDs on Abba's laptop. By bedtime, he was informing me that the hospital had been fun. I don't think he remembered anything but the trains and the ice cream.

I was thinking about posting a picture of Barak, just so that you could all have some idea who you're reading about (those four or five of you who don't already know what he looks like). But I feel a little funny about posting anything that identifying, especially since I might want to take the permissions off the blog one day and don't want to have to go back changing old posts. So here is a little picture of Barak as a baby. He looks pretty similar now, just bigger, and with a backhoe loader yarmulke. Grandma E made the poncho, which is in Iyyar's drawer now.

Chag kasher v'sameach to everyone who would like to have one, and happy Easter to everyone else.

The fastest way to find a lost wallet

is spending the morning on the phone canceling your credit cards.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I am eating noodles with cheese. Not just any cheese, but the first Parmesan cheese I have bought in its block-of-cheese state since I started keeping kosher about, oh, a decade ago now. And I probably didn't buy Parmesan then either, since I was in grad school and couldn't afford it.

But I was in the kosher grocery on Thursday, and I saw a great big hunk of kosher l'Pesach Parmesan. And I couldn't resist. Ask not what it cost--it was worth every penny.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Two-minute post

I promised my husband I'd be in bed by midnight, so this will be short.

Barak is, B"H, fine. He woke up right after I finished the last post, and for about half an hour both he and Iyyar howled in stereo. Once they'd both calmed down, the afternoon got much more pleasant--we watched Muppets DVDs and ate ice cream (or nursed, as appropriate) on Barak's bed until almost dinnertime. He seems mostly recovered now; his voice is still high-pitched and funny, but otherwise he is acting his usual self. What I can't get used to is how quietly he sleeps now--at night the house used to be full of the sounds of stereo snoring. Now you can only hear Barak breathe if you put your ear right up to his face. Kind of unnerving.

After the surgery, his doctor came out and told me, "His adenoids were enormous! They were completely blocking his nasal passages." I didn't realize until a couple of days later that she was right. Barak picked up a tea bag in the kitchen--orange blossom tea, and very fragrant. I sniffed it, and it smelled wonderful, and I handed to him asking him if he wanted to make a bracha. He sniffed and--the look on his face! It was the look of someone who just discovered a whole new sense he didn't know he had, which was, of course, exactly the case. He hadn't been able to smell anything for who knows how long. And he probably hasn't been tasting that much either.

Oops. 12:04. Good night!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

All done

Surgery at 7:30, out at 8:30, ice cream at 11:30, home by 1.

The beginning and end of his hospital experience--the parts in the playroom with the table set up with Thomas the Tank Engine trains and tracks--were a blast. The part where he woke up from anaesthesia with an IV and a pulse-ox monitor--not so much.

They're both napping now, and I thought I would do some writing, but instead I think I'm going to join them.

Thanks for all your good wishes. Full round-up to follow, when I get a chance.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


1. I took Iyyar to the pediatrician this afternoon. The more I thought about it, the less happy I was with the care we got at the ER last night--a medical student so clueless he thought only fat people had apnea and all new parents are advised to put babies to sleep on their stomachs. When I heard that last one, I couldn't help it--I asked him if he was a doctor. "I'm a medical student," he said. "Haven't you ever heard about Back to Sleep?" "I'm going into radiology." Well, then. The attending (not a pediatrician) thought Iyyar looked fine, and is he your first child? I felt that my concerns (MY BABY STOPPED BREATHING) were not being addressed, and that I did in fact know the difference between normal sleep breathing and absence thereof. So we went to the pediatrician. He instantly, when I told him what happened, said, "that sounds like obstructive sleep apnea!" Ya think? He looked down his throat. "Wow, look at those tonsils. Yeah, he should definitely see the ENT." And I left with my referral, and another ER crossed off my list of good places to take a child in the middle of the night. Or ever.

2. Barak is scheduled to have his adenoids out and tubes in his ears tomorrow. I am so freaked out about this I am in a state of complete denial.

3. On the way back from the pediatrician's, we stopped off at the barber's and Barak had his first real haircut. It is buzzed and he has payes. He looks, and I mean this in all sincerity, like a completely different child. It is hard to overstate the difference the haircut made. He was unbelievably cute while we were waiting--he saw the jar of lollipops and speculated with me which lollipop each of the bearded men with black suits and white shirts would choose. "He's gonna getta lollipop? Hiss also gonna getta lollipop? Think hiss gonna getta blue one!" I wished I had had a camera, to preserve the image of Barak perched high up on a barber chair, under a yellow striped tent, grinning and giggling at me in the mirror.

4. This is Barak's second night in a real bed--well, a crib-sized mattress on the floor, not in a crib. I'm trying to find him a used Little Tikes racecar toddler bed on Craigslist. There have been a few, but none in our area--I think he would love it but it's not something I would spend a lot of money on. Anyway, he's sleeping in a bed now. And has had a haircut. Milestone after milestone.

5. And speaking of milestones, Iyyar woke up crying a little while after I put him to bed and when I went in to get him, he was standing up in his crib. That's another first.

All right, time to get things together for tomorrow. Barak's surgery is scheduled for 7:30 am, so we have to be there at 6, so we have to leave at around 5:40.

Trying not to panic.

What's your poison?

My friend Jasmin works in an emergency room, and one of her principal gripes is people who use the emergency room when they shouldn't--when they really should be making an appointment with a primary care doctor, or when they're there for something silly. One of her examples was, "my baby's breathing funny!"

I hope I can still be her friend, because tonight I took my first-ever run to the ER with a child, because the child in question was breathing funny.

In my defense, the child in question was in fact having distinctly un-funny periods of not breathing at all. Iyyar, when I went to pick him up when he cried earlier tonight, snuffled around a little bit, tried to breathe, and for whatever reason wasn't getting any air. You could see his chest working at it, but nothing was going in. He tried a few times, and then--stopped.

A couple seconds went by, he twitched and gasped and got air. Now, I know that children often start and stop breathing at night, because Barak does it all the time. I'm used to it. I'm used to it in Iyyar too. What I'm not used to is a baby who is obviously trying hard to get air in, and can't because something's blocking it.

I called the pediatrician, who said, "Sounds like obstructive sleep apnea. Get it checked out. Go to the ER."

So I did, where the staff took one look at my (when awake) happy, smiley, curious, unbelievably flirtatious baby and instantly pegged me as a crazy mom. Baby is obviously fine. Go home.

In my defense, I pointed out that a) the doctor TOLD ME TO COME, and b) this is my second kid and my first-ever trip to the emergency room, and c) HE STOPPED BREATHING! Did he turn blue? I don't know, the room was dark. Go home, lady.

What's important here? Everything's fine. B"H.

So... when you're intensely stressed, or coming down from being intensely terrified (OH MY GOD MY BABY IS NOT BREATHING) what do you eat? I'm not talking "I'm waiting to see if the guy I dated twice is going to call again, where's the chocolate," I'm talking waaaay past that. Past chocolate chip cookies or Hungarian noodles or even cheese melted on tin foil in the toaster oven. What do you eat when you need 180-proof comfort food?

Bread and butter. White bread. And butter. And diet coke. That's my poison.

What's yours?

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Barak and I share many traits in common, among them our preferences in food. Neither of us is a very great fan of most traditional Shabbos food. It's not that I don't like potato kugel and chicken soup and cholent. I do. But if you made a list of my fifty favorite foods, forty-eight of them would be dairy or parve and the other two would be not-suitable-for-Shabbos fleishig.

So when the end of Shabbos rolls around, I am usually very much looking forward to my milchig malava malka. Sometimes I make Hungarian noodles or macaroni and cheese, sometimes I make pizza (I have that Bosch and all), sometimes I make cheese pretzels. I usually don't get around to eating anything until pretty late, and since I'm usually too busy with the kids to eat much of a seudat shlishit, by then I'm hungry.

This week, MHH invited some of his boys to a malava malka. I planned pizza. I made six pizzas' worth of dough, and cleaned, and had cheese and toppings and drinks on hand. On Friday, MHH came home and said, vaguely, that he wasn't sure how many would come. On Saturday night, I s asked him when he'd called it for. "Well, I never really set a time. I was having trouble keeping them on task and forgot to mention it." Oh.

Strangely, nobody came. Hmm.

Since I had pizza dough already, I made pizza for myself. Like I said, I like pizza, and I was hungry, and I wasn't really all that put out about not having a bunch of teenage boys descend on my houseful of sleeping children.

Did I say sleeping children? Sorry, my mistake.

I got the pizza in the oven, and Iyyar woke up, wanting to nurse. I nursed him, put him back down, and took the pizza out of the oven, practically rubbing my hands together with anticipation and glee. Children in bed! Kitchen clean! Husband otherwise engaged! Pizza!

Yeah, right.

Iyyar started crying again, and when I went to get him, there was Barak standing in his crib (Iyyar's old pack and play, where Barak sleeps now, since he still scorns his toddler bed) looking his most winning. "Imma," he said, positively dripping sweetness and hope, "I needa come out. Needa poop potty please."

Oh, right.

"Do you need to poop right now" [I am, remember, nursing the baby] "or can you wait a few minutes."

"I ca' wait a few minutes." Pause. "Come out please. C'I come out."

"Sure, come out. Abba will take you to the potty, okay."

Barak positively cannot believe his good fortune. He climbs out. "I just gonna play a iddle bit, 'kay?"

"No, Barak, you're not going to play. It's 10 pm. If you need to poop, that's fine, but it's not time to play."

Barak decides not to push his luck.

"'Kay. I just gonna poop onna potty."

"Just wait a minute, and Abba will come get you as soon as he's off the phone."

"Iss okay. I just gonna go poop potty by myself."

"Oh no you're not. Wait just a minute for Abba." Abba does not in fact get off the phone, so I put Iyyar back in his crib, mostly asleep, and take Barak to the potty. I set him up with his monster book, and think, would it be terrible to go eat a little pizza while it's still warm?

"Barak, I'm going to go to the kitchen, okay? You go ahead and poop."

"'Kay." Barak is happily sitting reading his monster book, clearly in for the long haul.

I head back to the kitchen. I wash, again. I take one more bite of pizza when

"Imma! I pished! Imma!"

I go and duly admire. Barak flushes. I head back to my congealing cheese.

"Imma! I pooped! Imma!"

"Abba, please, can you go help Barak on the potty?"

I take three bites. Three. I counted them. Barak is in the kitchen, dancing with joy.

"I pooped! I pooped onna potty! I gonna getta ice cream graham cracker sprinkles!"

"No, sweetie, it's too late for that. You already brushed your teeth, and we don't do treats in the middle of the night."

"I getta jellybean M?" [A jellybean/M & M from the Jar of Potty Treats]

"No, sweetie, no treats now."

You know how people talk about faces crumpling? Barak's looked like someone reached over with a first and scrunched it. Hard. He was crushed. I got out of bed, I pished, I pooped, and I get NOTHING?! Clearly, this would not do.

"All right, Barak, how about we go listen to Hashem is Here."

Sniff. "'Kay."

We go into the back bedroom, find Hashem is Here on RealPlayer [How annoying is it to pay for a download that is write-protected so that you can't load it onto your iPod?!] and listen. Twice. Barak is pleased. He goes back into bed with minimal fuss.

And I eat my stone-cold but still quite tasty pizza.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


So, Barak is scheduled to have his adenoids out and ear tubes in a week from today. Over the weekend it was just so obvious how much he isn't hearing--he's frustrated, we're frustrated, and it's not good. So. Tubes. I am assured by the doctor and most people who have either had them or had their kids have them that his hearing will be miraculously improved; I am also told that he may very well have a big jump in his language.

In case that is what happens and he starts talking more like an almost-three-year-old, allow me to regale you with a few current Barakisms:

Last week, MHH was suffering from too much work, too little sleep, and general under-the-weatherness. We decided to be nice and bring him lunch. I had made him lunch, put it in the stroller basket, and gone with Iyyar to pick up Barak at school; then we went from there to Abba's school. I called to tell him we were coming and he came outside to meet us. "Barak, let's go to Abba's work. Let's go bring Abba his lunch." "Abba gonna eat it lunch?" "Yeah, he's going to eat his lunch." "Iss very yummy?" "I hope he likes it!" "'Kay."

Fast forward to today. It was a little after six, so we were expecting Abba home shortly. Barak wanted to do something that required my undivided attention, and Iyyar was requiring the same; I said, let's wait for Abba to come home, okay? Barak considered this. "Where Abba go? Abba inna bafroom?" No, Abba's at work. "Abba's 's work? Wass he doing?" I think he's teaching. "No. Hiss not teaching. Hiss eattinga lunch." No, I think he's all done eating his lunch. "Yeah?" Yeah. (Pause.) "I think hiss earning." What? "Hiss earning. Hiss earning a book." Ohhh. "Yes, he probably is learning. He probably is learning from a book."

Iyyar started crawling on Tuesday. This is late--he's 10.5 months old and some kids are walking at this age--but it's exactly what Barak did so I'm not concerned. He's very excited about this crawling business and will spy something he wants, fix it with his steely gaze, and head straight for it, huffing and puffing (hoo! hoo! hoo!) with the effort of it all. The things he wants most of all are a) Barak's Little Tikes car, purchased for five bucks at the rummage sale where we got our couch last summer, and b) the loader-less toy formerly known as the backhoe loader ("Broke it backhoe loader." "How did you break it?" "Gotta share it.") The car is okay as long as I am keeping an eye on him; the loader is not, because I have seen those wheels come off on other similar toys and they are perfectly sized to be a menace to babies who put things in their mouths. Most of those toys have quietly gone into hibernation, but I have not yet made the backhoe loader disappear.

At least ten times a day, Iyyar spots the backhoe loader, drops down onto all fours and heads out on a mission. "Hoo. Hoo. Hoo." Laboriously, hand after knee after hand, he pursues his quarry.

And then Barak sees him.

"No no baby! Iss not for you! You no can't have a backhoe loader!" And he moves it a foot or two away.

Iyyar looks at Barak as if to say, well, that was a dirty trick, but I'm sure there was a good reason for it. I'll just crawl another couple of feet. "Hoo. Hoo. Hoo." He gets there. He gets his slick-with-drool little fist tight around the backhoe. And:

"No no baby! No can't hold it! Iss not for you!" Barak pries fingers off loader, and moves it another two feet away.

I think the loader needs to go to the garage for a little vacation. Don't you?

Oh, and on the title of this post: singing. We, like any self-respecting Orthodox family with small children, own a number of Uncle Moishy albums. None of them, however, have the Uncle Moishy classic number, Hashem is Here (song number 5). It goes like this:

Hashem is here
Hashem is there
Hashem is truly everywhere

Hashem is here
Hashem is there
Hashem is truly everywhere

(pointing with your finger)

Up, up, down, down, right, left and all around
Here, there and everywhere is where he can be found,

Up, up, down, down, right, left and all around
Here, there and everywhere is where he can be found!

Got that? Good. So, when we took Barak to see Uncle Moishy after Iyyar was born, he was very taken by this song he'd never heard before. And now he sings it by himself. It sounds sort of like,

"Hashem seer, hashem sare, hashem everywhere! Up, up, down, right, left, he ca' be found!" Then, "You sing it."

Today, for whatever reason, on the tenth or so iteration of this I started with the finger-pointing part. Barak was outraged. "NO!! First Hashem Seer!" I obligingly started again at the beginning.

"Now sing ma nishtana please."

Three weeks. Less than three weeks...


Saturday, March 10, 2007


The scene: a silent auction for the bais yaakov. I have Iyyar in the sling. A lady in a sheitel spies me and frowns. She comes up to me. I sense the beginnings of a mothering drive-by. I am not disappointed.

Lady in sheitel: What is that you've got him in?

Me: A sling. It's called a Maya Wrap.

LIS: Oh, how interesting. Where did you get it?

Me: It's made in Guatemala, but I got it online.

[Pause while LIS tries to figure out how to tell me indirectly that I should not have my baby in the sling.]

LIS: Is he comfortable in there?

Me: He looks pretty happy.

LIS: Doesn't that hurt your back?

Me: Not if I wear it right, no.

LIS: Wouldn't he be happier in a stroller?

Me: I don't think so. He's close to me like this and he can see everything much better.

LIS: Do you carry him in that a lot?

Me: Pretty often.

LIS: Aren't you afraid he'll get a little... too attached?

Me: No.

* * *

The scene: Our kitchen, late Shabbos afternoon. Barak is eating yogurt, I'm feeding Iyyar mashed banana, and MHH is eating leftover cholent.

Barak: Wassat?

MHH: It's cholent!

Barak: Abba eating a cholent? Iss yummy?

MHH: It's cholent! It's so geshmak!

Without any warning, MHH and I burst into the Uncle Moishy cholent song, at full operatic throttle. "Cholent! Cholent! Cholent a la kiddush! Cholent! Cholent! Cholent so delicious..." He sings a line, I sing a line, we sing a few lines together. Barak watches and grins. After the grand finale "... say, l'chovod Shabbos kodesh, and put it on the flaaaaaaaaaaaaaame!" MHH is bent into the refrigerator looking for something.

Me: Are we weird?

MHH: We have character.

* * *

The scene: The bathroom, erev Shabbos. I'm getting dressed. I'm getting over being annoyed at MHH, who was an hour late getting home from work and put about 3/4 of a stick of butter in the two-people's-worth of pasta I'd asked him to take off the stove when I raced out to get a few things before Shabbos. Drain it in the colander, put it back in the pot, and add a little butter so it won't stick, I said. He obediently added three quarters of a stick of butter. And some olive oil, because, you know, that's healthier than butter. And then he returned the pot to the flame, because I hadn't said anything about turning the stove off. [Think Amelia Bedelia.] So the noodles that had been destined for Barak's eponymous doodles cheese became deep-fried doodles. Good intentions and all, but I am slightly grumpy and MHH knows it.

Barak: Poop potty please. Abba, read a book please! Read a cat book!

MHH: I can't read you the cat book [Millions of Cats]. That's a library book. Imma doesn't let you read library books in the bathroom. Should I tell you the story?

Barak: Yeah!

MHH: [I am totally not going to do this justice. I was hurting myself laughing. But I'll try.] So, this is a story about Jimmy. [All his stories are about Jimmy. Jimmy has sort of a Brooklyn accent, and sounds like he drives a cab.] Jimmy, his wife, she's lonely. She says, Jimmy! Go get me a cat! And Jimmy, you know, he wants to make his wife happy. He's a good guy, and he wants to make his wife happy. So what does he do? He says, sure, I'll go right now. I'll go get you a cat. And his wife says, I really want a cat, okay? So don't come back without a cat. And Jimmy, you know, he takes his wife very seriously and he says [with determination] okay, I'm gonna go get you a cat. And he goes to get a cat. So he walks and walks and walks, and it's really late, and he's kind of tired, but he's gonna get his wife a cat. And because he really loves his wife, he stops and picks her up a diet coke, too, 'cause she likes that. So he's looking for a cat. And you know, it's not easy, because this isn't Yerushalayim where you just shoot a tranquilizer dart down the middle of the street and you hit a fifty-pound cat you can haul home. No no. This is America, where it's harder. And Jimmy, he's a yiras shamayim, so he's not going to go steal someone's cat. What's he going to do? Well eventually, he hears the sound of meowing. He hears kittens meowing, and he thinks, gevaldik! Cats! He goes to the house where he hears the meowing, and he rings the doorbell. And this lady, she answers the door, and he says, "Lady! I'm lookin' for some cats! My wife, ah, she needs a cat. You gotta cat?" And the lady says, well, yeah, I've got this cat, but she just gave birth to a hundred kittens. And Jimmy says, "A hundred! Well, my wife only wants one." And the lady says, well, my cat, you know, she was having some a, some difficulty conceiving, you know, so we got her on ["What's that drug that makes you have triplets?" "Clomid."] So we got her on Clomid. And we didn't know, you know, that she's a Yerushalmi cat. And I guess they react funny to Clomid, because she had a hundred kittens. But they're all very attached to each other, so you'd have to take them together. And Jimmy, he looks at this cat, and she's like a tiger! Like a saber-toothed tiger! ["Tiger so scary?" "Yeah, they're very scary."] She's like fifty feet long! She fills up the whole living room. And Jimmy thinks about it, because they live in a one-room apartment, but the room is pretty big and he thinks she'll fit as long as she doesn't stretch out too much. So it's okay. So he says, okay, I'll take 'em. Boy, is my wife going to be happy! She only wanted one cat, and looka what I got her! And he takes the mother cat--she's looking kind of tired, because you know, she's nursing a hundred kittens, and that's not easy--and he thinks, my wife will really like this, because it'll be some company for her while she's nursing the baby--and the hundred kittens, and he takes them home. But his wife's not there when he gets there, so he doesn't know what to do. Because the cats, they all, you know, they need to poop potty. Just like you. And he doesn't have a litterbox. Now all these kittens, they're crossing their legs, all four hundred of them--four hundred and four, counting the mother--and he doesn't know what to do. And they're hungry. So he goes and..."

[I forget the rest. But I forgave him for the noodles.]

Friday, March 09, 2007


Barak can't hear that well. I've been noticing this for a long time, and took him in to the doctor for it last fall sometime. He said, yeah, there's fluid in his ears. Bring him back in six weeks and we'll see if it's cleared. When we came back nothing had changed, so I asked for a referral to an ENT.

We went last Friday, and she was absolutely decisive. "He needs tubes. And he needs his adenoids out." Ten minutes later, she was gone and I was holding the phone number of the surgery coordinator.

On Wednesday, I took Iyyar for his ten-month checkup and Barak in for a preoperative (choke) physical. My pediatrician seemed to have nothing at all to say on the subject of tubes. I asked him what he thought. He said, "I hate to put tubes in a kid in March. It's only been four months. It'll probably clear in the summer. Why not wait?" Would he do it if it were his kid? "Probably not. If he still has fluid in June, sure. But right at the end of cold season? The surgeons who do tubes talk about it like it's nothing and there are no risks, but that's not true. You can get..." and he reeled off a whole list of scary-sounding things. "I'm not saying I'd never do it. I'm just saying it seems worthwhile to wait until the weather warms up."

I called the ENT back. She was just as sure as she'd been. "He meets all the criteria. He's probably hearing at 40 decibels. You'd want to do something about that if it were your ears, wouldn't you> It's a very, very low-risk procedure, and it will help so much. He'll sleep better, he'll breathe better, he'll hear better. Don't you want to take care of that? Why would you wait?"

Why indeed. Um, because he's my baby and I don't want anyone to operate on my baby if it isn't absolutely necessary? How about that for a reason?

Don't I want to take care of it? Of course I do.

There is, by the way, no question that he can't hear very much, and I know the adenoids will have to come out sooner or later. So why not just do it all at once?


Did you have tubes? Did your kids have tubes? Do you have any wisdom to share?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Today was a Very Productive Day. Does anyone else notice a correlation between the cleanliness of their house and their productivity level? When my house is a disaster it's paralyzing. When it's spotless, I feel like I could move the earth.

No actual earth-moving happened today, although we did watch a bunch of guys out digging the street up. (Barak was entranced, so of course we had to stop and watch. I asked one of them if they minded the audience and he said, cheerily, "Nope! It'll make him want to go to college!") I did, however, go to the dry cleaner and pick up the tremendous amount of stuff we had there (and convey it home by way of the already-loaded double stroller, no mean feat), go to the grocery store and the fruit and vegetable store, get the last boxes of the kind of cereal my husband likes before the kosher grocery goes Pesachdik, go to the drugstore for diapers and diaper cream (waaaay too cold for the hike to Target), go to the bank, return all the horrifically overdue library books, and, um, get a haircut.

I didn't quite intend for that last one--I meant to take Barak for a haircut. But then I saw that the Assyrian haircutting place had a sign out for five-dollar haircuts, and it transpires that they have a "privacy room" for women who cover their hair. Barak had passed out in the stroller, so I went in and got a haircut with Iyyar in my lap. I had intended to lose a couple of inches, but then I looked at it and realized that there was plenty there to donate if I just cut it a little shorter. So I did. It's shoulder-length now, shorter than it's been since I was, um, five. I showed my husband and he was too shocked to say anything other than, "Wow. I'll have to get used to that." I think he was a little relieved when I put my hat back on.

Iyyar, he is being absurdly cute. Today I gave him alphabet noodles for the first time, and that went over fairly well. I found out today that he knows what is inside a yogurt container; I took the big tub of whole-milk Stonyfield out of the fridge and he went berserk, bouncing up and down in his high chair (I'd been feeding him corn) and screeching. As an aside, why does anyone pay money for baby food in jars? I did it with Barak because he was in daycare, but it is just so easy to take a ladleful of whatever you're eating and run it through the blender. I have a hand blender now, so I use that. He eats what we eat now, and it's just so much better--as well as orders of magnitude cheaper--than buying Things in Jars. I can buy a pound of frozen organic vegetables for the price of two little jars of organic baby food.

And do all babies have a tzitzit fetish? At least, do all babies with access to tzitzit have a tzitzit fetish? I came into the living room tonight to find my husband sitting on the floor reading a boo, Iyyar lying on the floor next to him with a mouthful of tzitzit and a totally blissed-out look on his face.

What was it Kirk said in the Tribbles episode? Well, there's no accounting for taste.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Iyyar updates

You might think from my blog that all I do is hang out with Barak all day, leaving the poor little baby all alone in a playpen in an empty room somewhere (chas v'shalom!) The truth is that he spends most of the day glued to my hip, which is getting a bit more difficult as he gets chunkier and chunkier.

He's not crawling yet, although he has seemed perilously close for a couple of weeks now. But just a few days ago he started pulling up with confidence, and now all you have to do is put him down anywhere near a laundry basket and you will have a standing-up baby in no time at all. All he wants to do is stand--if you keep him sitting in your lap for too long (he's very cuddly, so sometimes it happens, what can I say...) he'll start this frantic-sounding annoyed-baby gurgling noise way back in his throat. "I need to stand up! I need to stand up now!" And as soon as you let him stand up, he's all smiles and so so proud of himself. Look at me, Imma! Look at me, I'm standing! He'll take a few steps if you hold his hands, but that's still very wobbly. He's not really comfortable moving his feet much when holding on to something and standing, so I think even cruising is not quite around the corner.

He's also just started clapping. Well, actually he's been doing that for a week or so, but today did it for the first time in front of our babysitter, who has been trying in vain to get him to do it for a while. I so love the very early stages of clapping, where sometimes the hands miss each other...

And Iyyar has the weirdest teeth ever. He's got the bottom two, in the normal baby pattern. And he's got one top tooth. But it's not one of the two front teeth--it's one tooth, off to the side. I cannot describe in words how intensely odd that looks. If he had a matched pair, he'd look like a baby vampire.

Sleeping is getting much better, B"H. The usual these days is in bed around 7, up for a snack sometime between 10 and 1, and then breakfast around 5, with a post-breakfast nap of a couple of hours to follow. I can live with that, yes indeed I can. And usually one nap in the morning of an hour or two, plus a shortish nap late in the afternoon. This afternoon he was napping when Barak woke up from his nap. "Barak, shh, okay? The baby's shluffing." "Baby shluffing? Hafta be quiet. Hafta go 'shhh' like that." It didn't help--Iyyar knows when his big brother is up and fun things are about to happen.

He's still got a yucky cold, which is making it hard for him to nurse. He keeps having to open his mouth to breathe, with lets loose a payload of milk that gushes warmly down my side. We've been spending a lot of time hanging out in their room with the humidifier blasting, which seems to help some.

All right, off to work. Iyyar is asleep, Barak is in the kitchen enjoying his post-poop ice cream, and the speeches call.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Barak's first Purim

What's that, you say? Barak's first Purim? Isn't he... almost three?

True, true. But this is the first Purim that he has experienced not as a baby, but as a kid. This was, as my friend put it this morning while we watched his realization dawn, his "welcome to Purim, kid."

For the record, Barak was a fireman. Iyyar had a turtle costume, but I never put it on him--he's got a cold and is not feeling well, so I wasn't going to inflict a turtle costume on him just so I could enjoy watching him be cuter than usual for the five seconds before it would have made him cry. Barak's costume consisted of a fireman coat, a fireman hat, and a Hatzalah vest, because he saw it in the costume bag and it was sooo silver and shiny. I'm so sure there are Hatzalah guys who are also firemen. Stands to reason, right?


First, a little background. I grew up in an environment of very regimented food. I was never allowed to take anything without asking, and unauthorized removal of any food item from its storage place was regarded as theft. Candy, especially, was strictly rationed. There was, however, one day a year on which we were allowed to eat all the candy we wanted. That day was Halloween. Whatever we had left over after Halloween went into the candy jar and we got a piece a day until it was gone; but on the day itself, we could eat ourselves sick. It was more or less the highlight of the year. All the candy you could eat. Olam haba, right here on planet Earth.

We don't do Halloween, but I still think that there is merit in the idea of relaxing the rules like that one day a year. That's what the adults do on Purim (it is the one day of the year when it is considered acceptable to drink), and the kids should get to do it too (enjoy themselves, not get drunk!) So I had already decided that within limits (he's still two, after all) I was going to let Barak have a blast.

For those who don't know, Purim is a lot like Halloween in that the kids dress up and there is candy everywhere; however, instead of knocking on people's doors demanding candy, we knock on people's doors distributing it. Not candy, necessarily, but little packages of goodies, referred to as shaloch manos or, if you are tzioni, mishloach manot. A good system, no? Most of the time you also get something when you drop something off, unless the recipients are not home, in which case you slide your package behind the storm door, comforted by the knowledge that when you go back to your own home, there will be a line of little packages sitting there waiting. People do different things for shaloch manos; because the mitzvah is supposed to be sending cooked food, not candy, I always send brown paper bags packed with lunch. This year I did peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a juice box, a cheese stick, two homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a box of raisins.

When Barak woke up this morning, he could already tell that something was up; instead of his usual breakfast options of plain yogurt with granola or cheerios and milk, Abba gave him a Shabbos yogurt (one of the little flavored Stonyfield yogurts, sweet, way too expensive for every day and therefore a Shabbos treat). Hmmm.

"Barak, is today Purim?"

"Yeah." But Barak still didn't quite get what Purim was.

I went off to hear megilla and when I came back, after putting the baby down for a nap, I started packing the things in the shaloch manos that I hadn't wanted to leave out overnight. I started by taking the 36 string cheese sticks out of the fridge and asking Barak to separate the perforations. What toddler doesn't love tearing things that are perforated?

"C'I have it? I wanna eat it!"

Cheese sticks, like the little yogurts, are a rationed (expensive) item--chalav yisroel cheese ain't cheap, and those little sticks are never less than fifty cents each. Ordinarily he gets one a day in his lunch. At home, he gets cheese, but not the little wrapped string cheese sticks.


The eyebrows went up. I opened his cheese stick and he ate it. He looked at his empty wrapper. He considered. It never hurts to ask, right?

"C'I have other one please?" Sweet, winning, and hopeful, but fully expecting to be shot down.

"Sure. Today's Purim. You can have another one." I handed him another one. Better to start him out with a stomach full of cheese, right?

Barak looked at me thoughtfully. This was, indeed, very odd.

"Today Shabbos?"

"No, today's not Shabbos. Yesterday was Shabbos. Today's Purim."

"Oh." I don't know what that is, he seemed to be thinking, but I'm pretty sure I like it.

While I was making the sandwiches--it takes time to make 36 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches--Barak decided he was done with his (third) cheese stick and got down from his chair. And then the doorbell rang. It was the family of one of my husband's former students, who live down the street from us.

"Purim sameach!"

"Purim sameach!"

I handed Barak a bag and told him to be my shaliach. He gave it to our friends, and took the proffered bag. Yellow, shiny, with tissue paper and ribbons and containing... oh-ho. What's this?

"C'I hold it?"

"Sure, you can hold it."

Pause while Barak stares at me thoughtfully and contemplates just how far he is going to push his luck.

"C'I open it?"

"Yeah, you can open it."

Barak sits down and opens bag. Oh my. There are cookies. There are raisins. There is fruit leather. There are Hershey's kisses. There are gumdrops...

"C'I eat it?''

"Yeah, you can eat it."

Barak's jaw literally dropped. You could just about see him thinking, Who is this person, and where is my Imma? and then, Oh, well, I won't worry about her. Whoever this person is, I like her better.

The morning went by, and more shaloch manos was exchanged. Barak got used to the idea that when the doorbell rang, he grabbed a bag off the kitchen table and went running for the door, then sat down on the kitchen floor to investigate the contents of what had just arrived. He got a granola bar. He got a fruit roll. He got a juice box. He got a cupcake. He got two Sunkist gems. Two!

We went to friends' for the Purim seuda, dropping off and getting more shaloch manos along the way. "I wanna hold it please." "Okay." He ate a cookie on the way, and just held the other one lovingly, a sort of beatific look of toddler heaven settled on his face. It was freezing cold and windy, and I closed the stroller cover. (Iyyar, as I may have mentioned, has a cold.) Two minutes before we got there, they both fell asleep. When they woke up, maybe forty minutes later--how did they sleep through all of it, in the double stroller parkedW in the living room in the middle of a Purim seuhda? When they woke up, they both just sat and stared. Adults, dressed up rather strangely. Kids, dressed up even more strangely, running around with all. that. candy. All that food. All those goodies. Everybody singing. Loudly. Men in dark suits... and funny hats...

Barak came out, and got in my lap, and watched the proceedings for a while, interested but overwhelmed. After a while, he remembered the precedent of the morning.

"C'I have a treat please?" he asked, hesitatantly, because ordinarily treats do not just fall out of the sky. "Sure," I said. "It's Purim. Should we look in the stroller and see what's there?"

He got another fruit roll, and a Twizzler. "Want another one. Want another one red stick please." "I don't think we have another one of those. Should we go look?" "Yeah! Go look please." We went outside to check out what was in the stroller basket, and I picked out what wasn't milchig. And gave it to him.

Over the course of the meal, he got a candy necklace, and a chocolate cupcake, and I got schnitzel, and there were grammen sung, some of them about us. It was a kollel seuda, and everyone there was calling me rebbetzin, and I had little boys on and off my lap, and despite all the chaos and the sugar and the--did I mention the chaos--nobody cried at all, at least neither of my kids. They just sat there and listened to everyone singing and singing. In the middle of the meal, I leaned over to the woman sitting next to me--a ba'alas tshuva and a friend, and said, "Do you ever look around you and think, I wonder what my non-Jewish friends would think of me if they could see me now?" She grinned. "I work with a lot of very hip black women. I think they'd be having a blast."

Chazal say that there are three things that show you what someone is really like--what they're like when they drink, how they deal with money, and what they're like when they're angry. These Israeli kollel guys, when they were drunk, they sang songs to G-d. That's what is inside of them. They sang songs about G-d, and Israel, and Torah. They're all Tzioni, all of them have been in the army. People like that are the ones who make me feel, what are we doing here, and why aren't we making aliyah already?

Anyway. Back to Purim. After a few hours of singing and sugar, I decided it was time to come back to earth. Barak, "I not gonna go home now." But a bit of persuading, and the option of holding a particularly lovely shaloch manos package, and he was in the stroller, tucked in next to his brother. Back in our own kitchen, with the sun heading downward, we talked about Purim. "Is today Purim?"


"What did we do today?"

"Eat candy!"

"And what else did we do today?"

"Eat cake! Eat Bamba! Eatta star cupcake!"

"Why did you get to eat candy?"

"'Cause iss Purim!"

"Okay, Barak, one day a year it's Purim. And when it gets dark, Purim's going to be all done. It's going to be dark very soon, so you can have one more thing. And then we're going to sing goodbye Purim, see you next year. Okay?"

"'Kay. C'I havea Bamba please?"

I let him have his Bamba.

"Gotta poop potty."

I put him on the potty, and sat down with Iyyar in the bedroom. And listened to those wonderful toddler monologues, in which Barak holds forth on whatever has happened to him that day. "Iss Purim. Weara fireman hat. Imma say, yeah can eat it! Eatta chocolate! Eatta Bamba, 'kay? 'Kay. I eatta Bamba, eatta cake. Iss Purim! Iss all done Purim. I gonna poop now. [Sound effects redacted.] I pooped! I gonna flush it now!"

And so forth.

Iyyar's asleep now, and Barak is back on the potty, a bit too hyped up on sugar (really? yeah, it surprises me too...) to actually sleep. But he had a wonderful day, and has not cried, flipped out, or thrown up once.


Good-bye Purim, see you next year, aye nye nye...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Shaloch manos

The advantages of having an under-three sous-chef: he's free, and when it comes to baking vast quantities of chocolate chip cookies for Purim, he's very, very enthusiastic.

The disadvantage: when allowed to open the brand-new box of baking soda, he is liable to start emptying the entire box into your mixer bowl when you're not looking.

I wouldn't have minded so much if the bowl hadn't already been full of every other ingredient, including all my absurdly expensive imported Israeli chalav yisroel butter...

Is it just me?

If you are a knitter, and you have no time to knit, do you feel strong urges to buy yarn?

I know it's not rational. I mean, a) I have plenty of yarn already and b) I don't have time to knit what I've got. So why buy more? My guess is that it's a way of scratching the knitting itch when I can't actually knit.

Right now I am obsessed with this. And as certain of my friends will tell you, I don't use the word "obsessed" lightly. It is the most beautifully designed and fun-to-knit pattern I've ever seen (forty pages long!!) and I am already plotting future renditions. I finished the neck yesterday and am up to the knitting-in-the-round part of the yoke--the fun, rewarding part that comes after the brain-crunching cables. And I can't do it! Because I have to write! And cook for Shabbos! And make shaloch manos! And things for the Purim seuda!