Friday, August 31, 2007

The updated tally

Three broccoli kugels (two huge, one 8" round, made with four and a half pounds of non-bodek broccoli and a semi-functional hand blender, so imagine the mess at your peril). One corn kugel. One more pumpkin kugel. One 8" square meatloaf, still in oven. Cholent. Parve cream of asparagus soup, which MHH and I ate for a late supper (so! green! the first green thing I have eaten in days!). Green beans and onions, in the fridge for tomorrow night. Gefilte fish--that I just unwrapped and baked. I'm looking around my kitchen to see if I missed anything. I might have--there are too many dirty dishes around to be able to see many surfaces in here.

I did not get to making challah. I might do it tomorrow, or I might not. I didn't make the chicken for tomorrow night, but I should have time in the afternoon. What I really need to do now (well, sleep, but besides the obvious) is clean my kitchen so that all the fleishig dishes aren't out when my babysitter arrives in far too few hours.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


I have, besides the Rice Krispie Treats (chocolate and peanut butter chocolate) that I made this afternoon: one pan of turkey meatballs, two pans (one large and one small) of onion kugel, one pan of pumpkin kugel, and two pans of brownies (still in the oven). It could have been better, but it's late, I didn't get much sleep last night (did I mention Iyyar's toxic diarrhea? no? probably just as well), and I have an incredible amount of work to do tomorrow, followed by (yes!) more cooking tomorrow night. We are having guests this Shabbos, one sleeping here and three more just here for lunch. And I still need to clean, etc.

But I did get all the shopping done, and at least now I've made a start on the cooking. It's much better than still being in denial. I've got almost two weeks--IY"H it'll all get done, one way or another.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Here we go

About to start cooking. I spent $230 on groceries today, and it's 9:23 pm and my kids are asleep and the cookbooks are out and I have about a billion aluminum pans, and about eight things on my list for tonight. And that's not even going to cover me for the first round of yom tov.

It's been a week and we have still not been visited by our claims adjustor. Oh, and the roofers? They are not insured. The ones I wanted to hire, of course, are, but I was outvoted by the rest of folks in the building.

Okay. To the kitchen. Right now.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I'm barely conscious, because I went to bed waaay too late this morning and Iyyar woke up at 5. I should be writing speeches, but I'm not quite sentient enough for that, so I thought I'd sort of warm up with a blog post.

About, um, something.


Oh, let's have a list. Why not a list?

1. Anybody have any idea what is up with the price of dairy? Is all dairy like this, or just cholov yisroel stuff? The absolute rock-bottom cheapest cheese I can buy, which is a one-pound block of cheddar, colby, or what I gripingly but more or less accurately refer to as extra-sharp mozzarella, is now $5.49. That cheese, which I can only find in one store, is very substantially less than the second cheapest cheese, which is $3.99 for 8 oz, or almost $8 a pound! And those are the cheapest cheeses I can get anywhere in town. (I am not counting "American cheese product" as a cheese, although even that has gone up--I think it was $16.99 for a 3-lb block. More expensive than the real stuff.) I used to buy Barak string cheese to take to school. It's never been cheap, and has always been verboten as a kitchen snack, but now it's absurd--$11.99 for a bag of 18! This is string cheese, not imported Parmesan.

2. Can I just say how much I love buying used toys for my kids? I don't spend much money, I don't have to feel (as) guilty about the environmental impact of the plastic, and they don't care a bit. Last week I bought a used Little Tikes Cozy Coupe car. I paid the woman I bought it from $10 for the car and an extra $5 for driving it three miles to my house. Before she stopped by, I told Barak that a lady was going to come over and bring a new car for him and Iyyar to drive. Barak was pleased, but perplexed.

"Who's gonna bring the car?"

"A lady's going to bring the car."

"Who's da lady?"

"You don't know her. I bought the car from her."

"You don't know her?"

"No, I don't really know her either."

"Shess gonna give me a car?"



"I like da lady!"

And he likes the car. So, of course, does Iyyar, who is now quite good at opening the door and climbing in and out. He also managed immediately to peel off the speedometer sticker and remove the steering wheel, which I still can't find. The sharing is going, well... it is going. Sort of. Sometimes we get nice cooperative play, and one kid drives while the other pushes (no motor, after all. Will I date myself if I tell you I remember my father waiting in line for gas in a blue VW bug during the OPEC crisis, and everyone pushing their cars along the line to save on gas?) Sometimes, the car gets a time-out, although come to think of it that's only happened once so far.

3. Yesterday was not one of Barak's better days. He was pretty whiny and cranky, didn't listen well and said "no" a lot. He missed out on a trip to Target with Imma because he wouldn't go to the bathroom. I had to send him out of the kitchen while I was cooking dinner because he kept kvetching for things. And when I went grocery shopping with him in the morning, all he did was pull stuff off the shelves and campaign for candy, which he knows perfectly well I am not going to buy. I knew rationally that he had not been getting much Imma time with all the water- and insurance-related, ah, distractions that have been going on--my psychic energies are pretty drained right now. By the time I put Iyyar to bed, he was sulking in the living room.

"Barak, do you need some attention?"

"Yeah. I need some attention."

"Okay, I'm going to go wash my hands [I'd changed a diaper] and then I'm going to come pay attention to you. Should we read some books and cuddle on the couch?"

"Yeah. I need you ta pay attention to me please." Pause. Then, in the labored and thoughtful, pause-ridden kind of sentence that comes out when Barak is really struggling to express himself at the outer limits of his vocabulary, I got this.

"I need you to pay attention to me. I didn't get very much attention today. I need you to come and pay attention to me a lot. I need you to pay attention to me or else I'm gonna cry."


Later, on the couch:

"Barak, did you have a good day today or not such a good day?"

"Not such a good day."

"How come?"

"I had not such a good day because I had a hard time."

"You were having a hard time? I'm sorry. Are you feeling better now that you're getting some attention from Imma?"

"Yeah. I'm getting attention and now I feel better."

Well then.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Where to start?

I can't really say what happened this week, because if I did it would be like giving you a map to our house.

But, well, if you've been hearing about any rather extreme natural phenomena happening this week, which you would really, really not want happening while your building was being re-roofed and had tarps instead of a roof, it was probably happening on our heads.

We live on the first floor, and our apartment is basically okay. We are back in our building, after a night spent elsewhere on the advice of the fire department ("Turn off the breakers and vacate the building.") The people upstairs have ceilings on the verge of collapse, and we don't know yet if the roofers that were hired instead of the ones I wanted to hire have insurance. If they don't, our insurance company may or may not decide that's a reason not to cover the damage. The roofers say that they will deal with the internal damage, but it is so extensive I'm not sure how adequate that will be. We already had an electrician come in on Friday and check the wiring, and say that it's safe to be here (after he took all the light fixtures and fans out upstairs--they have power, but only to the wall sockets, not the ceiling). But this could go any number of ways, especially since two of the four families in this building are not terribly inclined toward ongoing maintenance, may or may not have insurance on their individual units, and may not think of things like, oh, mold, when considering whether or not to rip out and replaster their ceilings.

Oh, and our toilet seat broke off today. That too. And I haven't made it to Target since our guests left, so we are out of, um, pretty much everything I think, including laundry detergent, and I got speech requests this past week from two countries that are, if I may say it, insane, adding ELEVEN full-length speeches to my list, three of which were due yesterday (I did those) and eight more of which are supposed to be done by Sept. 7th (you can just laugh at that one.)

Yom tov? Yeah, that's coming up too.

But... Grandpa M sent me flowers on Monday. Bright yellow ones. And right before Shabbos, I got a huge box from a friend, full of desperately needed, um, I'll tell you what exactly in a few weeks, and FOUR bags of chocolate-covered pretzels from Trader Joe's (very, very handy since I had not exactly had opportunity to do any Shabbos preparation the previous week). And the boys were ridiculously cute and funny this week, and we went to friends' for lunch, and Barak was amazingly well behaved. He asked for a second piece of cake, and I told him yes, but then he was not to ask for any more, and when he finished it he hopped off his chair and went off to play and did not ask for any more. And Iyyar went up and down our friends' stairs, accompanied by their ten-year-old daughter, and on one of the trips down started repeating after her on every step, "down... down... down..." Oh, and he's just starting to say "ma ma," too.

It could be worse.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I made latkes for dinner tonight, just for me and my husband, after the kids had gone to bed. (I fed them first, don't worry.) I made a lot considering only two people were going to eat them: two big potatoes, a zucchini, four eggs. Which made me remember the following.

A couple years ago--no, more--Sarah came to visit. I asked her what she wanted for dinner and she said she wanted latkes. (I think it was June, but whatever--I made them tonight and it's August, which feels even farther away from Chanuka even though it isn't really.) I said okay and started rummaging around in the crisper for potatoes. I pulled out two and then stuck my head back around the refrigerator door.

"How many latkes do you want?" I asked.

"Oh, I can eat them till I die," she said matter-of-factly.

I looked at the two potatoes in my hand. I looked back in the crisper. "Four potatoes?"

One more thing

I forgot about this conversation between me, Barak, and Nephew #3.

Scene: Back bedroom. Barak is about to dump some toys on top of Uncle Yaakov's nice black hat, which is sitting on top of a plastic chest of drawers. I stop Barak.

Me: No! Barak, don't do that. If you put things on Uncle Yaakov's hat, you'll squish his hat.

Nephew #3: It's okay. My tatty has lots of hats.

Me: Well, he still might not like it if one gets squished.

Nephew, to Barak: Does your tatty have a hat?

Barak: I not gonna squisha hat.

Me: He has hats, but he doesn't have a big black hat like your tatty.

Nephew #3: Why not?

Me: Because if he did he would probably squish it.

Overheard from my office

Now that I am working at home, I get a different perspective on my kids. In a word, I get to eavesdrop on them when they are not with me. I also get to hear them without seeing them, which, as those of you who have had babies may know, sometimes gives you a Eureka! moment when you realize that those sounds the baby has been making are not actually gibberish.

Asnat is here today, and when she is here she tends to put in Barak's Meah Shirim Rishonim (Hundred First Songs) CD. There are two CDs in the set: a green one and a yellow one. Barak likes the green one better. Somewhere on the green CD there is a song about the letter lamed which he likes very much, and on days when Asnat has been here he can frequently be heard singing "la-amed! la-amed!" A few minutes ago, he was singing the lamed song in the kitchen. Then I heard Iyyar, singing, "a-ama! a-ama!" with exactly the same inflection. Barak, in delight: "Hiss singing a green song!"

Other things I've noticed recently: I think I mentioned a while back that when Barak categorically does not want to do something, he announces, "I can't." It makes sense. When I say "I can't," it means I'm absolutely not doing it. I can't turn the light on because it's Shabbos. I can't read you that book because I'm going to work now. I can't give you milk because you're in the middle of eating a hot dog. So it's logical that Barak would add to his vocabulary "I can't eatta green," when I have neglected to peel his cucumber, or "I can't pish potty" when he is too busy playing for a bathroom trip.

And it makes sense that he has now started objecting to anything that someone else is doing that he doesn't like by saying, "Iss very dangerous!" Because once Imma has declared something dangerous, that child is categorically not getting to do it. Iyyar can't eat grapes, they're dangerous. You can't run down the street by yourself, it's dangerous. You can't cross the insane intersection near where we live on your feet, it's dangerous. So, logically, when he was in competition with his cousins for his treasured ride-on backhoe loader "Menucha can't sit onna backhoe loader! Iss very dangerous for Menucha!" Or, "Iyyar can't touch my airplane! Iss very dangerous for Iyyar!"

There was one other thing... what was it? I can't remember. Oh, right. Iyyar, as I might have mentioned, was never a huge fan of his pacifier. He always chewed it more than sucked it, and didn't find it that comforting. He ditched it entirely by about nine months. A few weeks later, I noticed distinct sucking sounds coming from his crib as he went to sleep, and investigated. He was sucking on his blanket, one of those cheap fleece blankets from Target. Then, a few weeks later, I realized that what he was doing specifically was sucking on the label. Now if he wakes up in the night, I go back in there and find the label for him and he goes back to sleep. The other day I saw on Etsy that someone was making and selling blankets with folded-over bits of satin and grosgrain ribbon sewn on all around the edge, like a blanket with fifty labels. So my baby can't be the only one doing this. Right?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Unsolicited advice

If, at some point, you decide to go on a trip to a Very Exciting Destination, where you plan to meet a friend whom you have not seen in two years, and this is to be a day completely without children that has been on your calendar for oh, say, two years, and you bought your Amtrak tickets online and have your bag packed with a whole day's worth of glorious knitting, and you are over the moon because you are about to have more knitting time in one day than you usually get in six months, and you have nursed the baby and made your lunch and are happily bopping your way out the door at 6:20 am in the pouring rain for the hour-and-a-half bus trip to the train station, because you do not drive, well, please take a moment to double-check your bag for your passport. Why? Because it might not occur to you that you would need a passport to take a train two and a half hours to the next state, but if you do not drive and do not carry a driver's license, you are going to need your passport, because otherwise Amtrak will not let you on the train. So bring your passport, because otherwise you will find yourself standing at the train station in tears as the train goes away without you, even though you have already paid for your ticket, because there was not anything like enough time to go home and get your passport and come back in the 45 minutes left before departure, and all the rest of the trains that day will be sold out, but it won't matter because if you even if you did wait four hours for the next train it'd be pointless because you would miss the excitement at your destination and you'd only have a couple of hours before you'd have to turn around and go back. And you will find yourself trying to figure out how to get back home on the bus, because you didn't figure out the schedule that way before you left, and if you are super unlucky you might get onto the totally empty bus and pick the one seat on the bus directly under a leak in the roof (pouring rain, remember) and sit right in a puddle so deep it will actually splash as you sit down in it. And then, instead of spending your day wallowing in wool with friends with similar wool-wallowing inclinations, you will spend it wallowing in self-pity as you fold laundry and clean your house and change dirty diapers. Which, under ordinary circumstances, you would be perfectly happy to do, but having been done out of the trip you were planning, you will be something less than excited about.

So, yeah. Save yourself the grief. Pack the passport.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


You know that you have been doing the speechwriting thing for a while when you vaguely recall a good line you put in a speech, want to quote the person you wrote it for in the speech you are currently writing, and google the half-remembered phrase to find out who you wrote it for--

and get 190 hits quoting the person who gave the speech.

It's not like I want the credit. The paycheck is all I am after, believe me (well, that and the health insurance). It's just... weird.


When I decided to go back to work, Barak was about five months old and I was scheduled to start my new part-time job when he would be a day short of 7 months. I was working five days a week from 9-1:30, a 25-minute bus ride from our house. At the time he was breastfeeding exclusively, sleeping, ah, badly, and a pretty high-maintenance baby in general. He was also, as probably would go without saying, the most precious baby in the whole wide world. And I had to figure out who was going to take care of him for those 4.5 hours a day, if it wasn't going to be me.

I didn't know anyone in town, and couldn't imagine leaving him with a babysitter who was a stranger. Family, yes, a friend, yes, but a stranger, no. So I looked into daycares, and found that there was a licensed daycare about three blocks from where I worked that had an opening for a baby Barak's age. It was expensive, oh, was it expensive--about 75% of my takehome pay. I would be working for little more than health insurance, but that was why I was working to begin with. Yes, it seemed a little crazy to spend that much, but I don't think I even hesitated at all--I signed him up, because it was clean and safe and the babies were well cared for and happy, and the teachers knew what they were doing and I would be five minutes away.

Barak stayed there for a little less than a year, until some things happened with the administration that I didn't like, I got pregnant with Iyyar, and his lead teacher, Ada, who was the one who kept the room running so smoothly, got into an altercation with the director (who had failed to report an incident in which a child wandered out of the building to Child Protective Services, and had forbidden the rest of the staff, mandated reporters all, from doing so themselves) and decided to leave. And offered to come babysit for us while she went back to school.

I couldn't come close to matching her pay, but I did the best I could. I paid her as much as she usually earned babysitting, which I managed by finding another baby to come here during the day whose mother paid part of Ada's salary. And I did pay her a salary. It was the same every week, Yom Tov or holiday or no. I said at the beginning that she would get a lot of paid time off because of Jewish holidays, and that once in a while I might ask her to stay late if I had a meeting to balance things out slightly--but she got paid for the full week, every week, no matter what. I didn't ask her to do housework, other than cleaning up after the kids. I depend on my babysitter for the health and safety of my kids and for my ability to work--and I need her to be reliable. So, I felt strongly that I needed to treat her like a real employee, not some kind of casual laborer.

When Ada needed health insurance of her own and got a job working nights at a local hospital, I rearranged my work hours slightly to keep her three days a week. Over this past summer, I also hired Asnat, who is now here three days a week and will be taking over when Ada goes to nursing school next semester. Asnat asked for a dollar an hour more than I was paying Ada; I decided to give it to her, and of course that meant I gave Ada a raise as well--even though the person I'm sharing babysitting with in the fall thought that that was crazy, because after all, Ada didn't have to know what Asnat was earning, did she?

Yesterday the wife of one of my husband's friends called me to ask if I knew any babysitters looking for jobs. She had called Asnat (Asnat had posted an ad in the local kosher grocery) but Asnat was already working for me by then. I said I didn't, and asked what had happened to hers. "She quit," she said. "She wanted too much--she wanted a raise, and she wanted to be paid for when she wasn't working. And she was old." My friend works at the same Jewish school where my husband works, and they get a lot of time off. "Did you pay her for vacations and yom tov?" I asked. "Of course not! Why should I pay her when she's not working?" I knew that babysitter #1 had been with them for three years, but didn't want to ask if she'd ever gotten a raise.

"Well, they need to pay their rent every month," I said. "It's hard if you don't get half your month's pay whenever it's Succos or Pesach."

"I'm not paying a babysitter for when she's not working."

"Okay, well, I'll tell you if I hear of anything."

"Well, I just need someone reliable," she said. "How did you find Asnat?" I told her. "I guess you just got lucky."

Umm. What to say? That she would not have worked for you under those terms anyway? If you expect a babysitter to accept that she will get paid some weeks but not others, that she will have unpaid vacations of up to two weeks during the school year and then the whole summer, and you still expect her to be totally available for you whenever you need her, and never ask for a raise, well--how is she supposed to be able to live on that? Unless she's also getting Social Security (in which case, yes, she'll probably be old), or has enough money that she doesn't really need to be working, she's not.

I know that most of the women in town who work hire babysitters on that basis--they only pay for the hours the babysitters come, and they pay a lot less than I do, and they are always having trouble with babysitters quitting or not showing up or whatever, or being retired Russian women who can't keep up with their kids (the babysitting mainstay around here--because babysitting is not their only source of income, they can handle the patchy pay schedule better). And the people who know that I pay my babysitters a salary think I'm nuts, or just very careless with my money, or foolishly generous.

But I'm not. It's total pragmatism. I need my babysitters, and I need them to be good and reliable and I need them to value their jobs. They are helping me raise my kids, and in babysitters as in all else, you get what you pay for. I want them to be here because they want to be here, not because it's the only job they could get without a green card. If I want reliable employees, I need to be a reliable employer. No?

To be fair, not everyone can afford to do what I do--I have a good job, and I'm not paying tuition yet. I know I'm sounding critical, and I'm not trying to be critical of people who need to work and can't afford good child care--not at all. I'm saying that if you choose to work, or if you have no choice but to work, then whoever is taking care of your children is acting in loco parentis for you. Treat them as you would like to be treated yourself.

(Yet another argument for extended maternity benefits, government-assisted child care, and... oh, a subject for another post.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sick boy

One of the many advantages to working at home is that when your baby starts vomiting and running a fever and needs his Imma, you can be there in ten seconds, not forty-five minutes.

On Thursday I was working away and heard, a few rooms down, crying followed by wailing followed by constant, hysterical shrieking. I try to stay out of my babysitters' way when they are here--if I pop out of my office for every crisis, it undermines their authority as well as the work/home separation for my kids. But once in a while I do it. When I came out of my office on Thursday, on my way to the source of the noise I passed a large pool of vomit followed by smaller pools of vomit before coming to a vomit-covered baby with more vomit coming out of his nose, in the bathtub being de-vomited by Asnat. (She has been in the Israeli army. She is not fazed by a little puke.) I took over, calmed him down, nursed him, gave him Tylenol, and got him to sleep while Asnat (the fabulous) got out a bucket and rags and cleaned up. Then I went back to work.

He seemed basically okay later, if not his usual self. Friday, I had to go in to the office, but felt okay leaving him. I checked in with Ada mid-morning: low fever, not quite his usual self but basically happy. Friday afternoon, he was warm and cranky, and I gave him some more Tylenol, which helped; he ate bananas and macaroni and cheese, went to bed content and slept all night.

Saturday, he woke up under the weather but not alarmingly so. We went to shul and he ate a gallon or two of cholent. Afternoon, fever was back and he wasn't happy. Crying, some napping, much misery. More Tylenol.

Sunday, he woke up with a loaded diaper (cf. cholent, above) unhappy and subdued. He was playing a little, but not walking--just crawling around a little, looking lethargic. We all went to the bagel store, where he happily snarfed a whole bagel. On the way out, he started crying in the stroller and was asleep by the time we got to the park; he had a nap while Barak and his cousins played. Then he woke up. Crying. A lot

He either cried, wailed, or howled for the next six hours, except for the times he was lying on my chest with glazed eyes half-open. I called the pediatrician and got my Least Favorite Doctor Ever, the one who tells you without need for details or information that there is nothing wrong with your miserable suffering child and if there is, it is all your fault. I don't think I am either negligent, stupid, or inclined to health-related hysteria, but I would like to be able to say more than "My baby has a fever" before being told that he's Fine.

A few hours later I started wondering how long this would have to keep up before I took him to the emergency room. (Bear in mind that the only time I have ever taken a child to the ER was when said child had stopped breathing.) He just looked so, so, so sick. Limp, miserable, not caring what was going on around him, not really awake or asleep. Tylenol did absolutely nothing to make him feel better or bring the fever down.

And then at around 5, he started perking up, and watching his cousins, and saying, "guh duh duh" a few times. He drank some water. He ate a banana. He played a little. He nursed. He went to sleep. He slept through the night.

This morning, he seemed fine again, but I had had it--I took him to walk-in hour at the pediatricians, where one of the 4 doctors I like (there are 5 in the practice, including Dr. Awful) took a look at him. By the time he got there he had the charm turned on full blast. "Hi! I'm Iyyar! You may not know it yet but guess what--I'm your new best friend!" Every time she looked away from him, or I talked to her and didn't look at him, he'd lean waaay over to get directly into the line of sight and give a big cheesy grin. "Hi! It's ME! The reason we're all here! So how about if you smile at ME, please? Great!"

She thinks it a virus, of course--come back in two days if he's still feverish. I think she's right, but there was no way I wasn't having him looked at after yesterday. Right now he's off napping, after some more bananas and yogurt and observing of the chaos that is six children eating breakfast.

And I need to go write a speech.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Big party

My DSIL, soon to be my CSIL (Canadian sister-in-law) is here with her husband and kids for a couple of weeks while their worldly goods and van are loaded on a very large truck and transported to a cold city far, far away. We are sad that they will not be in driving distance anymore, but are consoled by the good long visit, which Barak has been excited about for weeks.

I first told him that they were coming about a month ago. I made the mistake of saying that Tanta Sara was coming. He seemed pleased, but dissatisfied. "I don't wanna just Tanta Sara. I want everybody to come." Ever since, when mentioning their visit, he has specified, by name, every member of the family, lest Imma leave someone off the invitation list (we wouldn't want the baby left behind in Ohio, would we?!) On Sunday, we hauled mattresses out of the storage space, put everything else down there that we possibly could, rearranged furniture, and made sleeping space for six in the boys' room (one twin mattress, one crib, two toddler mattresses and two pack and plays.) The excitement built.

"Everybody's gonna sleep in here?" "Yep, everybody's sleeping in here. Is it gonna be a big party?" "Yeah!"

Tuesday morning. "I want everybody to come!" "Everybody is coming. They're coming tonight, okay?" "Okay." For whatever reason, Tuesday afternoon Barak was tired and took a long and unaccustomed nap on my bed. Tuesday evening, we went for French fries. Tuesday night, Iyyar went to sleep and Barak, unsurprisingly, did not.

"I'm not gonna go night-night. I'm just gonna wait for everybody."

"Barak, they won't be here until midnight. You can't wait up for them. But you don't have to go to bed yet. You can come sit on my bed and read while I fold laundry." Barak went and got his sefer (The First Thousand Words in Hebrew) and read while I folded, commenting periodically on the impending visit. "Iss gonna be a big party, right?"

At 8:30, and hour and a half past his usual bedtime, he was showing no signs of tiredness, but I thought bedtime was in order anyway. "Okay, Barak, you can sleep on Abba's bed if you want, and you can have your book, and I'll leave the hall light on. When everybody gets here I'll come get you and you can go in your room with all the kinderlach, okay?" "Okay."

I went off to my computer to work. Iyyar was quiet. Barak was quiet. I finished a speech. At 10:30, I went past my bedroom door.

"Hi, Imma! I'm waiting for everybody!" Indeed he was. He was sitting bolt upright on my bed, in the dark, in his undershirt and pull-up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He had, by every indication, been sitting like that for the last two hours, just... waiting. Hmm. They were supposed to arrive within the hour...

"Barak, do you want to come lie down with Imma in the back bedroom? You can listen to Uncle Moishy while I work." This suggestion was received with great enthusiasm, and he got comfy on Tanta Sara's bed with his own blanket, his own pillow, and Uncle Moishy on Abba's discman. I did some more work. At quarter to 11, Abba got home. He pulled out the laptop and sat there working in the half-dark as Barak listened to his music, positively vibrating with excitement.

And then I saw headlights pull into the driveway. I picked Barak up (he obviously wasn't wearing shoes) and we went out into the yard to greet Everybody. Four children giggling wildly, one baby who had been quite happy sleeping in the carseat, thank you. The kids went inside, Uncle Yaakov and Abba started unloading the van (which was like one of those sketches where forty people pour out of a Model T--how did they get six people, even mostly small ones, and All That Stuff in one eight-seater minivan?) and the pajama hunt began. Well, the pajama hunt began for the grownups. The kids, they had found toys. Loud toys. And were happily playing in the living room. By the time they were in bed, it was after midnight; by the time the stuff was put away and the adults were in bed, it was well after one.

What time did the first baby wake up? Umm, about five, I think. Yesterday, needless to say, everyone was a wreck, but today they seem pretty much recovered.

And on Sunday, the long-awaited event is finally scheduled to occur: Barak's tzitzis party. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

whine and moan

The morning started off extremely well with both kids sleeping till 7:30--that one was close to a miracle, since Iyyar's usual wakeup time lately is more in the neighborhood of, oh, 5 or 5:30. They got up, MHH went off to do his thing, I settled the boys down to breakfast and started cleaning, getting ready for my SIL and her family who are coming on Tuesday.

It's not like I didn't get anything done. I did. I cleaned the kitchen, and got the boys' room more organized than it was, although it seemed like every time I got something put away some small person would pull out something else. But I made space in the armoire and under the crib, and rearranged furniture to allow for the addition of one adult-sized mattress, one crib mattress, and two pack-and-plays. I got Iyyar down for a nap at about 10:30, and went with Barak into my room to start folding laundry.

And I don't know if it was just that he was tired, or not feeling good, or in a Toddler Mood, but ugh. Everything I asked him to do, he said no, everything was testing testing testing. When Iyyar got up, any time Iyyar touched a toy Barak would rip it out of his hands; any time Iyyar came close to Barak Iyyar would lose it completely, screaming, "Iyyar can't touch it! He can't touch it! Hiss gonna break it!" or worse, he would ask me to put toys away that he wasn't even playing with, just so Iyyar couldn't have them. That I really don't like. I can understand it if he doesn't want Iyyar messing up his Lego structure, and it's fine with me if he wants to take a toy into the living room and play with it by himself. But taking toys away from Iyyar l'shma, no.

I had started a batch of challah dough while Iyyar was napping, even though Barak, bizarrely, refused to help (he did scream for honey, and sugar, of course, though.) When MHH came home for his afternoon break, I handed him the baby and started braiding like mad; the challah I was mafrish I set aside, and then remembered that wait, I just baked pizza in that oven at 500 degrees, so if I want to bake a pareve batch of challah I have to preheat it to 525 before I can bake my challah at 350. On goes the oven, in goes the separated piece of dough to burn on the bottom. At 525 degrees, it burned in spades, setting off all the smoke detectors. At this point Barak had been dispatched to my room with Abba to read a book and, hopefully, fall asleep (ha. ha ha ha. ha.) Challah half-braided, I ran around opening windows and fanning smoke detectors to get them to stop beeping, and found Barak and Iyyar playing in the pack and play while MHH was reading HP7. "I don't think a nap is happening," he said apologetically. No, guess not. So Barak followed me into the kitchen and started making snakes with the challah, which would have been fine except that he kept pulling globs of dough off my dough to add to his concoction, which didn't really help with the baking of the actual challah. Ordinarily, he is really good to bake with, and accepts the "this is my dough, this is your dough" edict with equanimity. Not today.

In about six seconds flat (or so it seemed) MHH was back out the door, and the major meltdown began. I need to nurse! Now! No, I need Imma now all to myself! I need you to hold me! I need you to hold ME! And have I mentioned Iyyar's emerging violent streak? It doesn't matter how short I clip his nails, he manages to gouge me at least once a day, and tonight when I was finger-sweeping his mouth to get rid of the wodge of fresh challah he was actively choking on, he BIT ME.


They are both in bed now. Barak, after screaming pitifully that he didn't want to go night-night, was out in three minutes flat; Iyyar protested a little but seems to be asleep now. (In the middle of typing that sentence, I heard a sad little wail.) I'll pay tomorrow morning for putting them to bed early tonight, but... um, I had had it.

Sorry. After a whole day of asking Barak to PLEASE STOP KVETCHING, what am I doing? Yeah. Well. At least I'm not doing it loudly, and I'm not whacking you over the head with a juggling club while I'm at it.

I'm feeling like my blog hasn't been all that interesting lately--it's been ages since I wrote anything that was actually entertaining. As so often happens, though, the more is going on in my life, the less goes into the blog. Last weekend I took Iyyar a couple states away for a wedding, and that sort of derailed the rest of the week--I didn't get much sleep for two nights running, and since I had so much else to catch up on, catching up on sleep didn't really happen till Shabbos. Work is getting intensely insane, to the point where I open up my Excel log in the morning and, for the first time since I started this job three years ago, seriously doubt whether everybody will have all the speeches they need before they have to actually give them. I told my boss this a couple of weeks ago. "I have great confidence in your ability to churn out copy," she told me serenely. Great. You have great confidence in my ability to.... wait a minute. Don't you mean, pen deathless oratory?

She knows I will do it because even though mine is ostensibly a part-time job, I have a track record of staying up all night (and Toto, I am definitely NOT in grad school anymore) to finish speeches that are needed for oh, you know, peace summits between war-torn countries and that sort of thing, that I get told about 30 hours in advance. But doing that once in a blue moon because of last-minute schedule changes or other people's mistakes is one thing; doing it as a matter of course because my workload is so out of hand is another.

My DSIL and her husband and kids are coming on Tuesday, for a couple of weeks while their worldly possessions are loaded on a truck and shipped far, far away. We are all looking forward to this and fully cognizant of the level of chaos that will reign around here. As Barak says, "Iss gonna be a big party!"

Okay, here endeth the whining. To reward you for your patience (anyone? anyone?) here is a Small List:

1. Today, my friends, today was a red-letter (yellow-letter?) day. For today, while Iyyar was napping and I was cleaning the kitchen, Barak silently disappeared down the hall. And I heard no noise from the living room or our bedroom, which instantly made me suspicious. A minute or two later I followed him, only to find him... emerging from the bathroom, pulling up his underwear.

Yes!! The first-ever totally unprompted-by-any-adult trip to the bathroom to pish! Woohoo! Break out the simcha band...

2. Iyyar continues to be the master of the dirty look. His favorite is putting his chin down and glaring up at you through his furrowed eyebrows. Then I do it back, and then he giggles, and then I giggle, which spoils the threatening effect somewhat but is very entertaining for both of us.

3. I went to college somewhere with a Jewish student population that was [barely] large enough to support a kosher dining hall. At the time, it was completely student-run, and the food quality was, well, let's just say it varied. There were, however, a few items that were fairly reliably tasty, and one of them was the challah. It was doughy, it was chewy, it was squishy, it was everything challah is supposed to be, and if you went into the dining hall with three dollars on a Friday afternoon you could make off with a whole loaf of it, warm, all for yourself and your friends. It is probably the single food item from that dining hall that anyone who went there remembers with any nostalgia.

I have the recipe, but nobody in my house eats white bread and it doesn't get used much. However, I am pleased to report that after a year or two of recipe-twiddling, I now have a version of this recipe down that uses all whole wheat flour and tastes, if whole-wheaty, every bit as heavenly and, well, squishy. Four loaves and fourteen rolls are now in the freezer, awaiting next Shabbos. By which point I will, I fervently hope, be in a much better mood.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

If anybody still has faith in the Times...

Check out Sarah's post, here. And be sure to follow the link to the Jewish Week article.

Kitzer version, for those who are sick of this: Feldman and his girlfriend were not Photoshopped out of the article. They were cropped, along with quite a few others, because there were too many people to fit into one frame. He knew this before the article was published, and so, it appears, did the Times. But they ran the article anyway, knowing that the, ah, rather inflammatory lede about him being edited out of the picture was false.

And you know, while it's sad, it really doesn't surprise me.