Sunday, April 22, 2007

Why children need mothers

The scene: our friends' house in New Jersey, the last day of Pesach. I stopped by a friend's house with the baby, and MHH took Barak to a playground. It was a very nice playground with a shiny new climbing structure. A couple of hours later, I met up with them at home. The characters in the following dialogue: me and MHH.

Me: "How was the park?"

MHH: "Good."

"Did he have fun?"

"I think so."

"What did he do?"



"Did he play on anything in particular, or just run around?"

"Um, just ran around mostly."

[Barak walks in.]

Me: "Barak, did you have fun at the park?"

Barak: "Yeah! Play onna slide."

Me: "Oh, you went down the slide?"

Barak: C'I go play inna masement?

Me: Sure, go play in the basement. [To MHH] He was into the slide?

MHH: Oh yeah. He went down a bunch of times. Both ways.

Me: Both ways meaning on his back and on his stomach?

MHH: Yeah.

Me: Or head first and feet first?

MHH: That too.


Me: You let him go down the slide headfirst?

MHH: Yeah, he did it a lot.

Me: Um, did you think maybe you shouldn't let him go down headfirst?

MHH: Why not?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Big boy

He does usually wear a kippa now--that was one of the big milestones we hit over Pesach. All the other men and boys in the house wore one, and Barak had his new excavator kippa, so he started wearing one automatically. If he drops it, he exclaims, "My kippa!" and puts it back on. If he realizes he's not wearing, he'll ask for it; if I tell him he's not wearing it, sometimes he'll ask for it, although sometimes not. And if I just plunk it on his head, he says "Thank you," and adjusts it how he likes it--back on his head.

Black velvet kippa, back on his head, with his name. And payes. And an excavator. He's going to be the frummest construction worker in town.

Another one of those list posts

1. This was the boys' birthday Shabbos. Barak turned three on Friday, and Iyyar turned one on Shabbos, so we combined the celebration. Barak got a birthday hat and party at playgroup, and Iyyar, well, Iyyar kind of did his usual. Presents were opened Friday morning (Duplo and sandbox toys) and Ada took them to get a doughnut in the afternoon. She let him have a whole doughnut, with sprinkles AND chocolate icing. I called in the afternoon to see how it was going and got no answer. When I tried her cell, she picked up. "We're outside, running laps around the building," in an attempt to burn off the sugar high. Oh well, it's been a while since he's OD'd on sugar--since Purim. He'll survive.

2. Our apartment was originally conceived as a poorly laid out 2-bedroom with a kitchen, dining room adjacent to kitchen, and living room at the opposite end. A previous owner walled off the dining room to make a third bedroom, and this is now the boys' room. It is now an even more awkwardly laid out apartment, with a closetless bedroom. A closetless bedroom is not an issue when the occupant of said bedroom is a single baby or small boy--you don't need to hang up baby clothes and they don't need that much stuff. Now that there are two kids' worth of clothes, and two ages' worth of toys, it's gotten a little out of hand.

So, for the last couple of months I've been trawling message boards, physical and online, in search of some used furniture. Last month I got a small dresser, which now holds pajamas, socks, and underwear, and has provided Iyyar with endless hours of pleasure as he stands there holding the open drawer with one hand and emptying out the Elmo underwear with the other. Having the short-term memory of a goldfish, the experience of smashing his fingers in the drawer has done nothing to dissuade him from pursuing this activity; now I turn the dresser around during the day so that the drawers are against the wall. Iyyar saw me do it, and gave me a look that said very clearly, "Well, that was a mean trick."

This past week, I finally, after a lot of headaches with the movers I won't go into, got an armoire for their room. It's a used one from Ikea, but one of the largest and most solid things from Ikea I've ever seen. It's huge. There are two doors (latchable with a baby latch) that open to a bunch of shelves and space to hang clothes, with two drawers underneath, and the whole thing stands on legs that leave enough space underneath to slide a few Rubbermaid containers of toys. The room is looking much more tidy now, and I'm quite pleased with my purchase.

It arrived while MHH was at work, and Barak helped me move things in. The bottom drawers are now for blankies--one has Iyyar's, one has Barak's. While we were doing that we talked about being careful with the drawers, not climbing inside, how climbing on furniture is dangerous, what things we do and don't climb on, etc. So when MHH got home from work, Barak ran in to show him the armoire. "Issa armoire. Iss got drawers and dere's blankies inna drawers anna money inna drawer. You can't climb on it. Gotta be very careful."

3. Back on the subject of blankie drawers--Barak has his preferred night-night blankies (yellow fleece blankies from Target, the first of which was a gift from Savta and subsequent versions of which were purchased by Imma), his quilt from Mrs. Peasley (knows as the blue blankie, for the blue flannel back), and his knit-by-Imma wool blanket, which is usually scorned and tossed on the floor. When I was putting blankies in the drawer, I left the blue blankie on the bed (it's hands-down the prettiest) and folded the rest and put them away. Barak, when he saw me put away the knitted blankie, instantly objected. "No can't put it inna drawer! Iss pretty. It goes onna bed."


Wednesday, April 18, 2007


You may have noticed the strange silence on the knitting front lately. That's because I've been feverishly working on this. You can read all about the story of its inception here.

And for those of you to whom the title of the linked-to blog is a mystery, I offer this excerpt from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which Sarah obviously needs to read:

'But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.'

'Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything.'

'But the plans were on display ...'

'On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.'

'That's the display department.'

'With a torch.'

'Ah, well the lights had probably gone.'

'So had the stairs.'

'But look, you found the notice didn't you?'

'Yes,' said Arthur, 'yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.'

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I don't really have the energy to post right now. I feel, to be honest, like a jellyfish. My knees are jelly. My hands are jelly. I'm amazed I'm not spattered on the floor right now.

Why, you ask?

I just drove a car. In traffic. In the notoriously bad traffic of the neighborhood where I live.

The car was a stick.

I have not driven a car regularly since 1992, and I have not driven one at all since 1999. I dislike driving intensely, and have such strong driving anxiety that even at my peak of driving comfort (relatively speaking) I could not enjoy being anywhere I had driven, because all I could think about was the drive home. Add my dislike of driving to a fondness for walking, a generally urban lifestyle, and a generally tight budget, and you have the car-free lifestyle of which you have heard tell.


Barak is headed, IY"H, into preschool this fall. His third birthday is this weekend. I think he is past the basement playgroup stage, and I am not that comfortable with the basement playgroup concept in general. The available playgroups are not my thing--close, convenient, and affordable, but waaay too hefker for my liking. There is, however, a good Jewish preschool in town. It is well and professionally run, and though expensive, it could be managed.


It's a little under a mile away. That's not a bad walk in general, but four times a day, every day, with one or two kids (and who knows, maybe even a third by the end of the next school year, by which time Barak will be four and a bit) it is clearly Too Much. I could take him on the bus, but that's not a big improvement. I could pay someone else to take him. Or I could learn to drive. Again.

A friend of mine had offered, a few months ago, to give me some driving practice on her car, which is a stick. On Sunday, I took her up on it, and we spent a couple of hours driving around a parking lot. It was fine. I was fine. She was very impressed with my ability to start the car in first and second, the infrequency with which I stalled out, and my general comfort with the concept of a clutch. "You've got really good hand-leg coordination!" she said. "You've really never tried a stick before?" I assured her I had not. She pondered. "I know!" she said. "I bet it's the loom!" And I bet she's right. That or spinning--what spinner does not remember the difficulty, the first time you try out a wheel, of preventing the wheel from spinning backward?

Anyway. Be all that as it may, the parking lot part was fine. So tonight, we went ou driving. In traffic.

It was fine, in that I met my primary goal of killing no one, my secondary goal of inflicting no damage to man, beast, or property, and my tertiary goal of avoiding being the object of road rage. However, the heart-pounding moments, the gutwrenching fear, the stallouts at red lights--verily they were there, and in spades.

It's not the machine I don't like. It's the people in the other machines, and their unpredictability, and the people on sidewalks and strolling obliviously across streets, and the potential, unknown in my ordinary existence, of bumping someone off without actually meaning to.


There's other news, I'm sure, but I'm a little too jellylegged to think of it right now.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Barak, in the living room, is making a huge amount of noise. He is banging on his xylophone with sandbox toys, stomping his feet, and singing "rah! rah! rah!" at the very top of his very able lungs. It is earsplitting. I am in the kitchen considering asking him to tone it down when suddenly it stops, and I hear, in a conversational tone, Barak, telling himself quietly,

"I being very loud."

Pause, and then the racket begins again.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


We're back, and Barak is at playgroup and Iyyar sounds like he is just waking up from his nap. The house is beyond catastrophic--it was more or less tidy when we left, really it was, so how is that possible?!--and I have SO MUCH TO DO between now and Monday I have no idea even where to begin. Shabbos is coming, in its regularly scheduled way, and there are speeches to be written and mountains of laundry to fold and the taxes to file (they are done, don't worry) and a very major other project about which I am not at liberty to blog that absolutely, positively must get done tonight.

But, you know, first a little blogging...

Pesach was B"H fabulous. Barak really wants to be the youngest of a huge family. The friends we stayed with have, KA"H, seven, and Barak immediately became buddies with their youngest, who just turned four. Everyone else was always wanting to hold the baby--at one time I counted eight hands stretched toward me, or rather, him. The oldest daughter in the household (aged 12) took it upon herself to teach Iyyar to stand on his own, which he is now doing, with great glee. He spent the week, when not being held by others or woken up by all the noise, eating. Eating everything. As I said more than once, "You're not a baby. You're a bottomless pit!" He ate knaidlach. He ate chicken soup. He ate Pesach cholent and vegetable soup and potato kugel and yogurt and shmura matzo and even a couple of jars of baby food, because he was just that hungry. He nursed and ate and ate and nursed and ate some more. But not in the high chair. No, no, because we don't do high chairs, because why would anyone sit in a high chair when there are so many willing laps? Strangely, he doesn't look any bigger, although maybe he's taller and I'm just not seeing it.

And when you have a mother of seven and aunt of twenty-two (three sisters, 29 kids!) confirm for your that your children, when it comes to sleep, are Not Normal, you can feel better that it really isn't you. Erev Pesach, I told Barak that if he took a nap in the afternoon with everyone else, he wouldn't have to go to bed. At all. I knew that the seder tended to go till 3 am, so I figured he would have to crash by then, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. He did nap, and woke up joyously crowing, "I not gonna go night night! All done night night!" while dancing the happy no night-night dance. And as the seder went on (after Ma Nishtana, during which he spilled the entire contents of a full glass of grape juice on my brand new skirt), all the other children started to flag, and resettled themselves on the couch, their mother's lap, etc. Not Barak. Barak--I kid you not--started dancing jigs and singing (loudly) in the middle of the living room floor. At 1 am. At 1:30, I thought, this is insane, and sent him for a potty trip, thinking a little quiet time with a book might be a good lead-in to winding down. Wrong again. Instead, at 1:50 am, as the afikoman was being sought, Barak came barrelling back into the dining room, totally naked except for the red feetie pajamas around his ankles, shrieking, "I pished!" while pumping fists of victory. "I pished! I pished and I POOPED!"

More as I remember and have time, but that was a highlight. We now return to our regularly scheduled speechwriting.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Chol ha'moed

We're in New Jersey, and went to Borough Park today by way of a train, a ferry, and the R. If you saw a family walking along the edge of lower Manhattan past the heliport, and said family included a small boy screaming, "Hock clockter! Issa hock clockter!", that was us.

Remind me to tell you about Iyyar flirting on the subway and the train, Barak's stunning announcement in the middle of afikoman-eating, what time Barak finally went night-night on the first seder night, and just how much potato kugel Iyyar scarfed this afternoon.

Stay tuned. And a guten mo'ed.