Thursday, May 31, 2007


I feel like my blog has been kind of on the lame side lately. Not many posts, and the ones that I have put up have been hastily written and not really that well put together. What can I say--it's been busy, it's getting hot, Barak is in full-on kvetchy toddler mode and Iyyar is becoming quite the handful himself. Oh, and work is getting really really busy too.

So, sorry for the lack of quality blogging. Things at work should quiet down in about two years, so maybe it will get better then.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lest you think

that Iyyar does not figure prominently in the cast of characters around here, let me reassure you that that is not the case. It's just that he doesn't really talk much, so there's not as much to blog. He sort of says Barak's name, and sort of says his own, but that's it. No real developmental milestones lately--he pulls up but doesn't stand on his own, crawls and cruises on furniture but doesn't walk yet, even holding hands. He claps, he nurses, he understands more and more, and he spends a lot of time huffing and puffing his way around the house in search of things to bang, suck, and chew. He is more tolerant of the stroller than he once was, but I don't think he'll ever really be a fan. He'd just rather be on the floor. He gets very excited by drawers (Elmo underwear! Blankets! I can fling them on the floor!) and can now reach and empty the third shelf of the bookshelf in their room. He had his 12-month checkup last week, and is at 20 lb 6 oz--15th percentile for weight, and 76th percentile for height.

One thing he does do, however, is eat. A lot. Of everything, but preferably whatever I'm eating. Tonight, Barak was having couscous while MHH and I were having crockpot ratatouille and meatballs. I gave Iyyar couscous. Biiig mistake. Iyyar was completely outraged, because clearly whatever I had was better (he was right) and it is always preferable to be fed with a spoon over eating things with one's fingers, is it not? Clearly. So, I took off his (milchig) high chair tray and started feeding him eggplant and red peppers. First he started wailing hysterically, because usually the removal of the high chair tray means that mealtime is over. Then he got a mouthful of vegetables, chewed thoughtfully, and opened wide for the next one. And whenever I was a little too slow with the spoon, instead of his usual frantic "uh! uh! uh!" he reached over and tapped me politely on the knee. "Um, hi, I'm ready for more, please..."

His willingness to eat just about anything will be helpful in three weeks when I take him to Hungary, but his objection to being confined by arms, stroller, or carseat for any length of time will be, ah, inconvenient. It's not even the 10-hour flight I'm worried about; it's the week of hanging out in a Hungarian nursing home with my grandmother and her three roommates and their distinctly un-baby-proof setup of low drawers full of medicines and choking hazards. It's going to be... a challenge.

We're leaving b'ezrat Hashem in 19 days. I still have no idea how I will do this--I think I will attach his carseat (La-Z-Boy toddler sized) to the stroller with the Latch straps, put my big backpack on my back and my carryon under the stroller, bring lots of Cheerios (or Cheerioka as my grandmother calls them) and hope for the best. And try very hard to remember to say tefillas ha'derech.

Talking more

Sometimes, when I think about things that Barak says, it occurs to me that if it weren't for the way he pronounces things, a lot of what Barak says these days sounds like normal adult speech. Fortunately for me, he does still sound like a toddler. A concrete mixer is still a "croncrete mixer"; the bathroom is still the "brafroom." If he needs something, he still asks me to "help you please," "can I" is still "C'I" and "th" still comes out "f." So I am still asked to "help you please wiffa socks," or "play wif Lego"; Friday night we "make kiddush motzi"; new and complex thoughts come out slowly, with pauses between words and great thought. "First go to the barbershop getta haircut, then getta lollipop. I'm gonna get a red lollipop, 'kay Imma?"

But there are now more and more sentences that make it clear that Barak is barrelling toward kidhood. "Abba, no no can't be late shul!" has turned into, "Abba, don't be late for shul!" (I admit it, I put him up to that one.) "Mamaksa" is now "popsicle," "ikeem" is "ice cream," "No no can't touch it baby!" is "Iyyar, you can't touch that, it's not for you! That's my backhoe loader!" "No can't touch my leg," is "Imma, he's touching my leg! Stop!"

We hear that one a lot, actually. And yesterday, the two of them had their first genuine brotherly fight--as in, not Barak grabbing a toy away and Iyyar crying, but Iyyar grabbing Barak's sunglasses, Barak objecting, and the two of them then whaling at each other in the double stroller. I solved it by taking Barak out and letting him walk. Shades of things to come.

Oh, and on the subject of the barbershop--we went this afternoon. (The barber, before I could stop him, offered Barak not one but two lollipops--a red one and an orange one. One lollipop was had at the time, another saved for a potty incentive. Because Barak can drag lollipop-licking out for hours, I set the oven timer; when it beeped, the lollipop went into a container. It's now sitting on the windowsill by Barak's bed, waiting for the morning.) Anyway--I asked the barber to do what he did last time. "Short, please. Keep his payes." The barber mamash SHAVED HIS HEAD. He has a shaved head and payes. He looks like he belongs in B'nai Brak, except for the, um, L. L. Bean plaid pants, croncrete mixer shirt and excavator kippa. I don't think they have a lot of excavator kippas in B'nai Brak. Although, who knows, I could be wrong.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Lately, Barak has taken to wanting to sleep in Abba's bed. He's never been a big one for sneaking into our bed, although he has had phases where he does it occasionally. For the last couple of weeks though, he's wanted to go to bed in our room. I've been letting him, because if it's taking Iyyar a while to fall asleep it's sometimes just easier to have Barak in another room. He gets transferred back to his own bed when it's time for us to go to bed, and is fine with that (although he does sometimes reappear in our room at around 6 am and clamber back in). Last night, he went to bed in our room, and at around 10 or so I went in there to get something.

And he was not in the bed. Just as I was trying to absorb this without panicking, I noticed a strange hand-shaped smudge on the footstool of the glider rocker. And that was when I realized that Barak was, in fact, asleep in the most awkward-looking position imaginable--half sprawled on the floor, half draped on the glider footstool, completely out.

All I can think is that he woke up enough to get up out of bed, started walking, got to the footstool, and fell back asleep rather than navigate around it. Not something I'd be able to do, myself, but I guess he's got those toddler powers.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Beeg animals

First a word of background: bugs, they are not kosher. At all. Worse than pigs, in fact. Got that? Good. So, one checks bug-prone produce for bugs, and either they are buggy or they are not. It is very rare to find a single bug, in my experience anyway.

On Purim, as you may recall, we ate by the home of some friends of ours from Israel. The father of the family, who is from Bnai Brak, got up and gave, while not entirely sober, a Purim drasha, on whether or not it is muttar to eat in the homes of people who you know do not sift flour. In Israel, everyone sifts flour, because there are bugs and we do not eat bugs. But here, here in chutz la'aretz? People do not sift flour. Why? Is it because there are no bugs in the flour? No! There are bugs! Here, my wife sifts the flour, and we have seen them! Animals in the flour! Beeg animals! Beeg animals in the flour! And here, the people ARE EATING THEM!

I sat there listening and thought, hmm, I don't sift my flour. I used to, because I used to live in a place where grain moths are endemic. But where I live now I have never found a bug, except for once when the entire bag was clearly infested. There's never been a case where I had a bag of flour that looked fine but, when sifted, turned out buggy. Sifting a five-pound bag of flour by hand every week when you are not finding anything gets old fast. So a couple of years ago, I stopped sifting.

This made me feel guilty, though, and on my next trip to Target I bought a sifter. Then, we invited the family over for Shabbos. I made challah. I thought, okay, I'd better sift the flour.

And what did I find?

You guessed it.

A beeg animal in my flour!

I was so excited I called my friend. "You'll never guess what I found! I found an animal in the flour!"


"I found a big animal in the flour, like your husband was talking about!"

"Ani lo m'vina."

I explained, and I still think she thought I was nuts. Especially when I put the bug in a ziploc bag to show my husband. "Look! A beeg animal!" My accent got distinctly Israeli. "A beeg animal in da flowa!"

"Yes, and so, there are always bugs in flour."

"But I would never have sifted it if it hadn't been for your husband's drasha! He saved us all from eating treif challah!"


I still haven't tossed the ziploc. Because it is not every day that one finds beeg animals in one's flowa.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

By popular demand

The esskavator kippa, in all its glory.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday night

Okay, first the important stuff: Harry Potter. Jasmin, I agree that JKR has been dropping hints, but I think it is more about his fallibility than anything more nefarious. Has everyone looked at mugglenet? There was an interview with JKR right after #6 was published that was very enlightening. I think Dumbledore is as we saw him--good, human, and imperfect. Snape, he is trouble. Oh, and I think Malfoy is going to do tshuva in the end.

That out of the way...

Has anyone been to the post office since the rate increase? Okay, has anyone tried to mail anything internationally since the rate increase? If you have not and plan to do so soon, you may be in for the same nasty surprise I got yesterday. International rates have more than doubled, and so far as I can tell, surface shipping for most things has been abolished. I used to make good use of those little Global Priority mailers, that were $5 for a little one and $9 for a big one. I had bought and packed a big one to send to my knitting buddy in Sydney, and discovered that those little mailers are now $13 and $21!!! And if you have something big and heavy to send, there is no longer any option of sending it by slow boat to save money. A couple of months ago, said knitting buddy was in at the beginning of job-search season, which is always one of your more stressful life experiences. So I put together a Lovely Box, and sent it by ship for--well, I don't remember how much it was, but considering how much it weighed and how far it was going, it wasn't bad. Now there's no way to send a box that size for less than sixty dollars. Yikes! I am going to have to insist that anyone who plans on requiring a care package in future relocate to the lower 48. Thank you for your cooperation.

Time to clean up the kitchen. Shabbos was good, we had guests, they'd already eaten too much at kiddush and the kids had stashed candy in the stroller, so we are leftover city around here. Anyone up for some cold chatzilim, chicken and cholent? Stop on by.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


In America, people think I am something of a linguist because I have some ability to speak in more languages than I have fingers on one hand. In other parts of the world, I am just an American who can't speak the local language very well, and is not really fluent in anything but English, and how lame is that? Having spent a lot of time living and working and traveling in other countries, I am exquisitely familiar with the humiliation of not being able to say what you want to say, or, worse, saying something that is exactly not what you wanted to say.

An example:

When I lived in Hungary in the mid-90s, I arrived with pretty good pronunciation, a fairly good intuitive sense of the language, atrocious grammar and a vocabulary that was all but useless anywhere but my grandmother's kitchen. This was, in a way, even worse than speaking with a bad American accent, because a) what I could say sounded Hungarian, b) the phrases I did know were correct and idiomatic, and therefore c) whenever I did mess up, people would not leap to the conclusion that I was in fact a foreigner (especially since those were fairly thin on the ground in those days, but) assume that I was deranged. And Hungarian, as a language, offers unparalleled opportunities of making a fool of yourself. In what other language could a simple toast turn into a celebration of your drinking partner's entire anus with a fatally shortened vowel? I ask you.

Anyway, one day I was at the library with my roommate, studying. On the way out you had to present all of your books to the checkout lady, whether or not you were checking anything out; no high-tech theft prevention here, you just left your bag at the door and showed her all your books as you left to demonstrate that they were your own. As I waited, I chatted with my roommate, in normal Hungarian, probably not making any immediately noticeable mistakes. And, as one does, I mentally plotted what I would tell the checkout lady. This is my own book [not the library's.] Ez a konyv--this book-- a sajat konyvem. This book is my own book. Well, I could shorten it and say, "This is my own." Ez a sajatam. Oh, no, wait. Postpositions like those, elide the vowel, it shortens to "Ez a sajtam." Doesn't it? No, no, it doesn't. See "fatally shortened vowel, above." That's why the checkout lady, who had already heard my seemingly normal Hungarian, was a bit taken aback when I proudly showed her my book and announced, "This is my cheese."

Ah, the memories.

What made me think of this, you ask? This. Read it and weep (in a good way.)

The only way to learn a language is to make a fool of yourself, early and often. Take it from me. I've been there.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

You heard it here first

So, as I hope you are all aware, we are in the serious counting-down phase here. Two more months till... oh, come on, you know what I'm talking about... Harry Potter, Book The Seventh And Final.

For posterity's sake, this is what I think:

1. Snape is evil. Anyone who thinks otherwise is (not to be overly harsh here) delusional.

2. Dudley was born a wizard and Aunt Petunia had him Squibified. This is the terrible memory he relived in Book Six, at the beginning when you you-know-whats came to Little Whinging. (Being vague here in case you haven't read Book Six.)

3. MHH thinks that in the last chapter, in which we are told we will find out what eventually happens to the surviving character, we'll find out that Hermione will become headmistress.

That's it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

From the mouths of babes

Dinner tonight was chicken soup and knaidlach, or, in Barak's case, knaidlach with an absolute minimum of chicken soup. Definitely no carrots, thanks. In the middle of soup-eating, I got this gem:

"Hashem say hafta eat chicken soup and knaidlach on Shabbos."

And hundreds of thousands of yiden probably agree with him.

* * *

This afternoon, Barak was on the toilet and I was in my bedroom (adjacent to bathroom), nursing Iyyar, who has a little fever, threw up this afternoon, and is on permanurser status. The conversation with Barak, room-to-room, went something like this:

"Wassa mem say?"

"A mem says mmmm. What starts with a mem?"

"Moishy starts wiffa mem!"

"Right! And also?"

"I don't know."

"Also Menucha starts with a mem?"


"And also Menachem starts with a mem?"


"What does Imma start with?"

"Imma start wiffa aleph!"

"Right! How about Abba?"

"Also Abba start wiffa aleph!"


"What does broom start wif?"

"Umm. Broom starts with a B."


"Yeah. See, there are two kinds of letters. There are aleph-beis letters, and ABC letters. Aleph and mem are aleph-beis letters. Broom starts with a B. That's an ABC letter."

Pause, during which I wonder if he is actually processing this. Then,

"What are you talking about?"

* * *

Yesterday, I made ravioli for dinner. I put herbs and cheese on the ravioli, and did not take out Barak's before the application of the dread "green." (No, I didn't forget. I just didn't.) I put some in Barak's bowl, and some in mine. Barak inspected the contents, and was not pleased.

"I no want it. I just want a clean one please."

* * *

This isn't really a talking post, but it's definitely a communicating post. As you may know, if you want to take a nursing baby off the Source of All Good Things, you can't just pull him off if he's actively sucking. That will hurt. What you have to do first is slide a finger in his mouth to break his latch.

Today, after Iyyar nursed and nursed and nursed, I'd had enough and went to take him off. But he saw the dreaded latch-breaking finger coming, grabbed it, held on, and wrenched it as far away from his mouth as he possibly could. Can't you see I'm busy here?

Monday, May 07, 2007


It was nice and sunny today and I decided to take the boys out in the double stroller so I could get some exercise and we could all get some air. I needed to stop at the bank (got my tax return, woohoo!) and on the way realized I was hungry. Hmm. The thought of French fries crossed my mind--I have not been to the pizza (and French fry) shop since my maternity leave, nor have any other members of the family. On mature reflection, I decided it was probably better that way. Then I heard Barak say something.

"K'I havea French fries please?"


Did I mention that we have not gone for French fries since AUGUST?!

What could I do? We went for French fries. Iyyar got his first taste of the dread delicious "food" item. We sat there munching. Barak said, pensively,

"I likea French fries. Iss very yummy."

"Yeah. I like them too. Do you know who else really likes French fries?"


"Grandma. Grandma really likes French fries. Whenever she comes to visit, we go get French fries."



"Grandma likes a French Fries?"


Pause for consideration.

"Grandma's very nice."

"Yup, she is."

Speaking of grandmas (the other one this time), our plane tickets came in the mail today, and I got our hotel confirmation e-mailed. Five weeks and six days to go.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Yet another list.

1. This conversation was related to me by Ada, our babysitter, when I got home from work on Friday.

She had Iyyar on her lap, and he was playing with her necklace. She told him no and got it away from him, he went for it again, and she told him no, don't do that. Barak was watching this.

"Ada say no no, don't do that."

"Right, I told Iyyar no."

"Also Imma say no no."

"Right, Imma says no sometimes too."


"Abba don't say no."

Ooh. He noticed.

2. Barak wore underwear all day yesterday, with pretty good success, and today, as of 3:15 pm, was still all clean and dry. Abba took him to the bathroom when we got back from our walk and a good three hours without a potty trip. Still dry! Abba gave him a high five, while I was in the other room nursing Iyyar and listening in.

"Barak, are you the man?"

"No, I not the man. YOU the man."

"No, I'm not the man. You're the man."

"No, you! You the man!"

And so on.

3. Iyyar has discovered the hall. He is very good at crawling now and has decided that his room is just, you know, so last week. So every time I put him down on the floor he immediately rotates toward the door and heads out to explore, making funny little "ha! ha! ha!" sounds as he goes.

4. After checking fifty billion heads of lettuce and spinach and whatever for bugs, without ever finding anything (this is supermarket produce, not organic farmer's market stuff), I finally found a genuine bug on Friday in a head of Romaine. It had legs and everything.

5. I had guests for Shabbos for the first time since, um, Iyyar was born I think. And really, I have to remind myself of this--it is not as bad as it seems on Tuesday night. I made gefilte fish, mock chopped liver, chicken, rice, sweet and sour celery, a vat of a Sephardic vegetable dish I can't remember the name of (guvetch? something like that), challah, chocolate chip cookies, guacamole, green salad (see "Romaine with bug," above) with homemade Caesar dressing, cholent, challah kugel and, um, that may be it but I'm probably missing something. I started at 8:30 on Thursday and was in bed by midnight; I also did another two hours or so Friday afternoon. I did have my faithful dishwashing assistant helping me, but otherwise I did it on my own. And it was fun. I forget, in the craziness of making dinner every night, that I really do like to cook. And we liked our guests (people we didn't know, that a friend of my husband's had asked if we could host) and it was all good.

6. Last week, my friend Chana came over and helped me organize my loom/guest/computer room. It has been a wreck, off and on, since we moved here--it is the only room off-limits to kinderlach, and so inevitably it is where everything gets dumped. One trip to Target, an unconscionable amount of money spent on Sterilite boxes, and three late nights of mad organizing later, it is transformed. The closet now has shelves, the floor is naked and bare, and everything I own is tucked away in neatly labeled and stacked plastic boxes. Or that's how it feels, anyway.

7. Iyyar is getting quite good at feeding himself, after resisting this useful skill for quite some time. On Friday I came home from work to find him in his high chair chowing on a bowl of grated cheese, literally shoveling it into his mouth with both hands. He was so into the cheese he didn't even care I was home. Who needs Imma, when I have cheese?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What I bought today

Two tickets--one adult, one infant--to Vienna. From there, we'll go by train and bus to the lovely and scenic and laughably titled "town" of Pervatpuszta. (Don't bother looking on the map. It's not there.) We'll be there for a week, leaving on Sunday and coming back the following Sunday. Never in my life have I bought such an expensive ticket--it was four times (four! times!) what I used to spend ten years ago, or even seven years ago.

Right, so, I'm going to the backwaters of Hungary by plane, train, and bus, I'm going to be bringing a 13-mo on a nine-hour flight, I have no idea what I will feed him or me or how I will do this, and I will be dispensing with my entire tax return and then some But right now, I don't really care. I just can't wait until it's 8 am in Hungary and I can call my granny and tell her we're coming!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

...and sunny day fun

Rainy day fun in the Uberimma household

Just turn your head sideways--it's easier than my figuring out how to rotate the picture. And for those wondering, it is the entire Hebrew aleph-beis made out of challah dough. Educational and tasty (and only a couple of them fell apart after baking).

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Now hiring

The position of Travel Companion to Hungarian Nursing Home is currently open, with the possibility of a second position. Potential candidates must be willing to travel light, hang out with little old ladies who don't speak English, and smile. A lot. Duties include baby-holding, polite nodding, and endless double-cheek-kissing. The ability to ride Hungarian buses without throwing up is a must; the ability to knit is a definite plus. Position start date: sometime in June. Benefits: the chance to see a part of Hungary you ain't never seen before. Salary: none, but aren't the benefits enough?

Interested applicants please leave details in the comments section.


When I took my third year of Russian, almost everyone else in my class was actually Russian--almost all engineering students taking the class for an easy A. I am not Russian, and was finding it hard to keep up--and not getting much out of it either. A couple of weeks into the semester, I pointed this out to the instructor, a really wonderful Russian guy-with-beard named Slava. "Okay," he said. "We will do one-on-one." For the rest of the semester, that's what we did, meeting up in one of the campus eateries for an hour to go over whatever I'd translated during the week--mostly five-year tractorization plans and that kind of thing. Every so often, I'd have a sentence that would make no sense at all. He'd look at it, and chuckle. "Oh no," he'd said, "but there's no way you would know that. This sentence here refers to a medieval Russian nursery rhyme, and it is the last three words of the fourth line. So the reader is supposed to know that really, what the writer means is this completely different thing." I'd grumble about these ridiculous Russians, fix my translation, and grumble some more.

Anyway, now I've done the same thing. Jiggity-jig--we're home. Again.

Oh, wait. I didn't mention we went anywhere, did we.

Well, we went out of state for the weekend, for the unveiling for the friend who died right after Iyyar was born. Having a brand-new baby who had just gotten out of the hospital, and no one else to take care of Barak, there was no way I could have gone to the funeral (which was, in addition to being a plane ride away, the day before the bris). She was a good friend, and I wanted to go to the funeral, and since I couldn't do that we all went to the unveiling. Yup--all four of us. It was on Sunday morning, and we couldn't get flights that would get us there in time leaving after Shabbos, so we stayed Shabbos with friends of friends who turned out to be absolutely lovely and very hospitable people who, incidentally, happened to live three houses away from the brother of one of my favorite cookbook authors. (Funny world, isn't it.)

The weekend, the whole thing, was just so... not real. Shabbos was lovely, and every time someone asked us why we were in town I said, um, an unveiling actually. I had never been there before. My friend was someone I met through her blog, and whose blog I took over for the last few months when she was too sick to write it herself. She was, as I have mentioned here, Jewish but not observant; when it was clear she wasn't going to recover, I was the one who had the conversation with her about vidui, a Jewish tahara and funeral, what the chevra kadisha does. We changed her name. I talked to her, a few days before she died, when Iyyar was back in the hospital with jaundice and she was at home, knowing we wouldn't talk again--it was, I found out later, the last real conversation she had with anyone. She was my age. In a few weeks, I'll turn 34, which she won't get to do; a few months ago, I had a wedding anniversary she never got to either.

Even though she and her family and her illness were so much a part of our lives here, they were still, physically, very distant; I had known for months that she wouldn't get better, but had no sense of how imminent it was until I was back in the hospital with Iyyar and completely wrapped up in my new and suddenly very sick baby. I never saw her sick, never saw her house, didn't go to the funeral, and never even met her husband or parents until after she died (although I had met her sister). I met them a month or two later, while I was still on maternity leave, but it was all so... removed.

Going to the unveiling, seeing her name on a piece of stone, standing in her kitchen without her in it, and seeing all the people who I knew only in context of her now in a context of absence--it made it suddenly real. Not that it hadn't been before, not that I hadn't been aware that she had died, but my only real loss in a day-to-say sense had been of a cherished email correspondent. It wasn't in my face--I didn't wake up in the morning to an empty bed, or sit down to breakfast across from an empty chair, or even walk past a house I'd once gone into. When things happen that I want to tell her about and can't, I can still just write the email anyway, and send it off into email oblivion. For her husband and her parents and the rest of her circle of family and close friends, the ones who lived nearby and saw her often, things are very different.

And of course, in the middle of trying to connect with these people, and assimilate all of this, and be there, I was also trying to keep Barak from tipping over the chairs at the cemetery, and convince him that their doggie was not going to eat him, because he was a nice doggie, and change Iyyar's diapers behind a car, and make sure we had a ride back to the airport, and navigate the minefield of being the only Orthodox Jews in a group of Catholics, Reform Jews, same-sex partnerships and everything else, all while keeping Barak from climbing on the white couches with his shoes on, and preventing Iyyar from eating dirt.

I guess that's why I'm up at 1 am, the day after coming back, just sitting here and blogging in the late-night quiet. Her first yahrzeit is past, and my husband has finished saying kaddish for her. The year of aveilus is over. The blog is deleted. Her Hebrew name is there on the headstone, the way we changed it two summers ago, and I am here.