Thursday, October 25, 2007

You know you are a Jewish mother when

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grumble. Grumble grumble.

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

Back to work.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Halachic preschooler

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

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

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

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

"Imma, is dis fleishig?"

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

"Dere milchig?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halachic man, age three and a half.

* * *

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

And this morning

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 22, 2007

This morning

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

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

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

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another recipe

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday, October 20, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 19, 2007



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hey, Wendy

If you're reading this, can you email me please? I mailed your yarn and it came back, so I need your address again.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

18 months

Iyyar had his 18-month checkup yesterday. Considerately, he chose that very morning to break out in a neck-to-toes bright red rash which would have impelled me to to take him to the doctor that day anyway--so he spared me a second trip. (Not really though--we didn't do any shots because of the rash, so I'll have to go back for those, but at least it will be a scheduled-in-advance visit.)

Iyyar, incredibly, is still only in about the thirtieth percentile for weight. Where is he putting it all? He eats Barak under the table, and me too sometimes. 55th for height. He weighs 24 lb 8 oz, which I need to remember the next time he gets a fever and I need to figure out how much Tylenol he gets.

Developmentally... well. I think he is fine, personally, and as I told the pediatrician, "My natural inclination is to worry myself sick over everything, and I think he's fine, so he probably is." Is he talking? Not really. A few words here and there, and you can't elicit anything out of him ever. Stacking blocks? No, but he attaches Lego. Will he kick a ball? No, but he can catch one if you throw it right. Does he know any body parts? Will he point at his nose if you ask him where his nose is? No. Any pretend play? Um, not really. He'll pretend to talk on the phone sometimes. Reciprocal play? I thought, but did not say, yes, he loves to drop things down the front of my shirt and goes into hysterical laughter if I do the same thing to him.

Then we come home. This morning, I put my finger on my nose. "Iyyar, where's your nose? Can you show me your nose?" Iyyar puts his finger on his nose and grins. Then, when I turn my back, he starts dropping things off his high chair tray, as per usual. Only this time, he's saying, "Uh-oh! Down! Uh-oh! Down!"

I really think he was just waiting till after the appointment to start.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


When Iyyar was in his screaming-all-the time phase (you know, the first six months or so) I mentioned the unbelievable volume in a running email exchange with a knitting buddy who is also a musician. I complained about the constant ringing in my ear from having a 200-decibel baby's mouth three inches away. She reassured me that he was probably headed for a career in opera. I thought she was just trying to make me feel better.

Now I wonder. Because Iyyar--well, that child loves to sing. He sings and sings and sings. He sings in his high chair, sings in his crib, sings to his toys. He sings the diaper-changing lament and the song of cheese-eating joy. Right now I am in my office, having just shipped off a speech, and I am listening to him yodeling in the hall. "AH ya ya ya yay! AAAAAH ya ya ya yay!" and then, "Ah ya yee ya bee! Ah ya yee ba bee!"

He's got his 18-month checkup scheduled for this afternoon, and I know that the pediatrician will give me grief that he's not talking yet, other than the two or three words that he doesn't use consistently. He won't imitate anything anyone says, although he'll imitate anything you do--he'll throw and catch a ball, help you put books away, put anything he can get his hands on in the garbage. But then you'll have your back turned, you'll here the soft patter of feline feet, and from behind you in the high chair you'll think you've imagined a small voice distinctly saying "cat."

"Cat?" you'll say, hopefully. "Is that a cat?" And Iyyar will look at you blankly. "Di-d-d-d-d."

Same thing when you say "no." He insists he doesn't understand. "No, Iyyar! Those are Abba's books. You don't take those off the shelf. No no!" How's that, Imma? I don't understand. What is this word you use, 'no'? Well, whatever--here, have a Kahati. But then when Barak's trying to take a toy away from him, what does he do? Holds it as far away as possible while hollering, "Na na na na na!"

I know his hearing is fine, because if I say, "Iyyar, are you hungry? Do you want a snack?" right behind him, the next thing I know he'll be in the kitchen trying to climb into the high chair. I worry sometimes, because it's my nature, and I'll ask Ada what she thinks. "He's fine," she assures me. "I think he's just really, really stubborn. One of these days he'll decide to talk, and then it'll be full sentences from morning till night."

I have a funny feeling she might be right.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

and Shabbos

Barak was back to his normal sweet self.

Today, while Iyyar was napping, Barak and I went with a friend to Target, in her car. For a child with a motor vehicle fetish but no regular access to a car, going to Target in a car ranks about 8 out of 10 in the Toddler Excitement Scale. Not as good as getting to peek inside a firetruck or a concrete mixer, but a heck of a lot better than anything that happens on an ordinary day. I brought along his car seat and buckled him in. When we pulled into the parking lot, I got out of the car and closed the door, about to open the back seat to let him out. Barak, not used to any kind of a car routine, was immediately alarmed--he thought I'd forgotten him.

"Imma!" he hollered. "Buckle me out please!"

Buckle me in, buckle me out. It makes sense.

Off to put the tissues and toilet paper away.

Friday, October 12, 2007


After Wednesday's sweetness and light, Barak turned into Monster Toddler on Thursday. I know, rationally, that he had been totally tired out after his trip (five hours of constant high-level transportation excitement, with treats) and had been too worked up to get to sleep Wednesday night. He woke up earlier than usual on Thursday, which unfortunately is what happens when he doesn't get to sleep on time--he doesn't sleep late, he does the opposite.

I was tired too, because for some reason that second-trimester burst of energy has yet to materialize even though I'm closing in on trimester number three. What I really wanted to do at 1 pm when it was time to go get Barak was crawl into bed and have a nap. But I still had an afternoon of fun and productivity planned: haircut for Barak (he needs it, his hair is long enough now that his kippa won't stay on), stop into produce store (because we have nothing edible in the house but the kinds of cereal nobody really likes) and trip to the park/J. I picked him up at gan with our neighbor's daughter, whom I also walk home, and when we went in our front gate Barak told her, "I gonna go dis way and you go dat way, 'kay Chanie?" meaning, I'll go around the building like this and you go like that.

Um, no, because the rule when we are outside is that you have to stay where Imma can see you all the time. And this applies to Chanie to. I told Barak no, we were both going to the door together. I took Chanie in the direction that he wanted to go, meaning that he didn't just run around the building the other way, but he didn't follow us either. I called Barak, "Come on, Barak, we're going inside." He didn't come.

There are a few cardinal sins around here--not many. But one of them is refusing to come when Abba or Imma asks you, especially when you are outside. If I can't trust him to come when called, that really limits what we can do outside, and so I am a stickler. Barak knows this.

"Barak, come here please. I'm asking you to come here." Now in my I-am-Imma-and-I-mean-it voice. He didn't come.

"Barak, that's one. Please come here. If I get to three and you're not here, we're not going to go anywhere today. We're just going to stay home."


"That's two. Please come here."

Nope. Sigh.

"Okay, that's three. No walk today." I put the brakes on Iyyar's stroller, went back to the front of the building where Barak was on his knees sidling in extra-slow motion in my general direction (which does not count as coming here) and bore him bodily to the back of the building. He, like any self-respecting toddler, threw himself down on the grass and had a tantrum. So I took him inside, went back and got Iyyar, and then put Barak in his room for a timeout. I closed the back door and was in the kitchen in time to hear, "I pished in my unnerwear! AhhhHHHHH!"

Oh, it's shaping up to be a great afternoon...

He's really pretty well toilet trained now but when he's really having a fit he does sometimes lose it--although it's been a few weeks since it's happened--and now that it's a fairly rare occurrence he gets even more upset when it does happen. Lots of screaming. No I will not take off my shoes, no I will not take off my soaking wet pants, no I will not take off my underwear. I went and mopped up the floor while the fit continued in the bathroom and Chanie ignored it entirely in favor of the dollhouse and Iyyar looked on with great interest at this educational experience. Suffice it to say that AN HOUR later, after Chanie's Imma had come to pick her up and Barak had been naked from the waist down screaming that I had to put his underwear on for him because he CAN'T PUT ONNA UNNERWEAR, he finally got his underwear on (by himself). I got his pants on. I got his socks on. It was 2:15. And I wish I could say everything was fine from then on, but, um, no.


By around four, after three hours of almost nonstop screaming and nap-refusal and every kind of defiance, I had a crashing headache and was so at the end of my rope I had put Iyyar in his crib, left Barak playing in the living room, and called MHH, asking him through gritted teeth to come home early from kollel (which I have not done since Iyyar was born). He came home and I turned around and went into my room, closed the door and hid under the blankets for the next hour. I couldn't quite sleep, though, as much as I needed it. Our walls aren't thick enough to keep out that kind of noise. In fact, the only walls I can think of offhand that might be are the three-foot-thick stone walls of a Lithuanian monastery-turned-youth-hostel I stayed at in 1995. But I digress.

They did both get into bed at a reasonable time. MHH gave them baths, I made dinner, and I did a little writing and a little knitting after they were asleep. They both slept through the night, with the exception of Iyyar waking up for a little cuddle once around 1, which is unusual for him.

I think I am generally pretty patient with my kids. At least I try. But sometimes I just get to the end of my rope. I have never hit or even been strongly tempted to hit either of them, but on days like that I have a better understanding of how people get to the point where they do. And I have more sympathy, too. I've never been there, B"H, but yesterday I just had to walk away and let someone else take over, because I was out of patience, energy, everything.

Today, fortunately, is off to a better start. Barak is at gan, Iyyar is off playing with Ada, and I'm ostensibly working. But I thought I'd just get that off my chest first.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I took Barak on a trip today. He's been talking about trains for a while, and I was thinking I would take him on a short train trip (commuter rail) from where I work to, um, a yarn store I've been wanting to visit. So I took him with me first to the midwife (aka "baby doctor") and then to the yarn store, via bus and train.

I don't have time to do it justice, because I have to do all the writing I didn't do this morning, but oh my gosh we had fun. At the midwife's I asked the nurse to let him listen to his own heart with the stethescope. I wasn't sure he'd be able to hear anything through his sweater, but from the look on his face it was obvious he could. Then he listened to my heart. Then the nurse left. "Barak, did you hear your heart?" "Yeah." "What did it sound like?" "Boom boom boom."

And then the midwife came in (the same one who delivered Iyyar, whom I have not seen since. "You look different!" she chirped. Yeah, just wait another three months or so...) She pulled out her Doppler and we listened to the baby's heartbeat. I think at that moment it sank in with Barak that something really is up with the expanding tummy that he isn't supposed to squish. He does know that dere's a new baby in dere, but I think it somehow clicked a little bit more today.

We took the train out to the yarn store afterwards, which took more than an hour. But it was fine--great, actually. Barak is just so much fun to travel with. And he was enjoying himself so much. Every so often he'd burst out with, "I likea trip! I like going on buses and trains!" or just start laughing like mad out of nowhere, which he does when he's really having fun. He ate his Bamba and crackers very neatly (you know, in the scheme of things) while looking out the window and mostly sitting still. He did object a little when the train kept slowing down, but I pointed out that a slow train offered enhanced opportunities for truck-spotting, of which there were many. We saw a number of excavators, some forklifts, a few cranes, a bulldozer and an articulated bus. We also saw an old building with gargoyles ("Goblins!")

And my son, bless him, reminded me on the way to the yarn store, "Gotta buy lotta yarn, Imma. You need a lot of yarn. You don't have enough yarn. Iss very important ta have a lotta yarn."

Do you think he's my kid? Yeah, me too.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More bits and bobs

Nothing major to report, just little things with the kids. The usual, you know. How about a list?

1. Iyyar must be in some crazy growth spurt, because the child eats all. the. time. The day before yesterday he woke up from his nap and ate half an avocado, two scrambled eggs with vegetables and cheese, a full cup of milk, some challah, and a huge banana. And he was still asking for more. I told MHH about this later. "That was lunch?" he asked incredulously. "No," I said. "He'd already had lunch. That was his midafternoon snack. And he had dinner later." Last checkup, he was in the 15th percentile for weight. I'm interested to see what it will be next time. He looks to me like he's chunking up, but he's still a pretty skinny baby.

2. Except, of course, that he is less and less of a baby every day. Gone are the days when Barak could take any toy away from him just by dint of handing him something else. Now Iyyar holds it far away and hollers, "na na na!" Today when the were taking a bath I had to laugh. Iyyar wanted nose turkey baster thing, which has inexplicably morphed into a bath toy (well, it isn't so inexplicable--it does squirt, after all). Barak had it. So Iyyar scooped up a little plastic Tigger, held it out to Barak, and grabbed the baster out of his hand. He's catching on.

3. For the last seven months or so, Barak has been sleeping on a crib mattress on the floor. I didn't want to get him an actual toddler bed (which takes a crib-sized mattress) because he is such an, ah, athletic sleeper that I was sure he'd fall out no matter what kind of a crib rail I used. Often I'd go in there to check up on him and find him sound asleep on the wood floor halfway across the room from his bed. The trouble was, of course, that eventually he'd wake up and find himself not in his bed, and get disoriented and cry. So I thought, right, I really need to find him a bed. I started trawling the local craigslist and found him a used train bed. On Friday, the guy I bought it from dropped it off. Barak now refers to him as the "train man." The train man brought the pieces of bed up our back stairs, into their room, and started setting it up. Barak watched in fascination.

"Dass where da steam gonna come out," he informed me, point at the smokestack.

"Right, that's the smokestack," I agreed, not quite getting where he was headed.

He frowned at the front piece. "Dere's no steering wheel on dere, Imma. It needs ta have a steering wheel."

"Trains don't have steering wheels, sweetie. They run on tracks. They just have throttles. Grandpa can tell you all about it."

Then the sides went on. Barak looked even more disturbed. "Imma," he said, worried, "I sink dose wheels are not gonna work." I looked at the wheels. Indeed, they were only about 3/5 wheels. The bottom part was flat on the floor. Ohh. I get it now.

"Barak, you can't drive this train."

He looked pained. "Iss gonna go chugga chugga choo choo?"

"No, it doesn't drive. It's a train bed. You sleep in it."

"No, I not gonna sleep in it. I needa just drive it."

I thought abou this. "Well, Barak, look. What would happen if you tried to drive it? Where would you go?" He looked at the train. I could see him thinking. "You'd drive right into the rocking chair and the armoire, wouldn't you? You'd go crash. That wouldn't be good." He seemed to accept this. Later, after Abba had put in all the screws holding the bed together, he went to bed very happily, with no complaining at all (probably a first) and stayed in bed all night. In the morning when he woke up, I asked him if he liked his train bed.

"Yeah," he said happily. "I like da train bed. You can't drive it. You can just sleep in it." Indeed.

4. Iyyar, on the other hand, is showing no inclination to try to drive the train bed, but oh my does he love climbing on it. He did initially have some trouble getting off, though. He tried getting off it the way he goes down the baby slide at the J: holding onto one side with both hands and sort of hanging off. It didn't really work so well. "Barak, can you show Iyyar how to get off the bed? Show him how to go on your tummy and put your feet down." Barak demonstrated, Iyyar watched, and he did it himself right away. Now the train is his oyster.

5. Last night, both Iyyar and Barak slept incredibly well, and incredibly late. They woke up at 8:15. It was fabulous--I got to sleep for seven hours straight (I'd been up writing speeches the night before). However, putting Iyyar down for his usual 10 am nap clearly wasn't happening. When he was still awake an hour before I had to go pick up Barak at gan, I told Asnat not to put him down for a nap at all. I put him down after I came back with Barak, and then thought, well, what the heck--Iyyar's asleep, let's do a little baking. I made pizza dough and bagel dough and put it to rise, and then Barak and I made cookies. I took out the hand mixer and gave him my usual safety lecture. "Okay, so where are your fingers when Imma is using the mixer? Do you put your fingers anywhere near the mixer?"

"No!" said Barak. "Cause you could hurt yourself wif da mixer! You could hurt your fingers!"

"Right. You could really hurt your fingers a lot."

"Yeah," he said, a little too enthusiastically. "You could break your finger!" And then, very earnestly, "Chas v'shalom." ("God forbid.")

6. Iyyar has discovered Bamba. Bamba, in case you are among the uninitiated, is a sort of Israeli snack/junk food for babies. It's basically ground peanuts, corn oil, and a lot of added vitamins. I don't think there's anything in there that's actually bad for you, but it's pretty highly processed and not something I would ordinarily buy for a 17-month-old. The little boy who is here in the morning sharing Ada and Asnat with Iyyar, however, is Israeli, and his Israeli mom packs him Bamba. So now Iyyar knows about Bamba. He knows all about Bamba.

When Barak was a baby, starting at around nine or ten months, he had something of a fixation with Yobabies. He is still, for the record, extremely fond of yogurt, but at the time it was the only thing he got with added sugar and boy was it big. It was big to the point where if I was shopping with him and I wanted to buy Yobabies, I had to sneak them into the cart and, more difficult, through the checkout without him seeing. I remember piling them onto the conveyor camouflaged behind a box of Cheerios turned sideways. If he saw them, forget it--he'd scream and scream and SCREAM until he got on, and more than once I had to find a spoon and feed him one right there in the store because I couldn't handle the 35-minute walk home with him howling the whole way.

Iyyar is now like this with Bamba. He sees that shiny little blue bag. He knows just what is in there. And he WANTS IT. Yesterday we went grocery shopping and I bought three little bags of Bamba, for a planned bus/train trip I was going to take them on (fun for Barak, not so much for Iyyar, hence the distraction.) But he saw them. Now there are two bags of Bamba.

7. Barak is pretty much toilet trained now. He hasn't had an accident in a while, and now I only occasionally need to remind him to go to the bathroom. If he says he doesn't need to go, he's usually right, and most of the time he will take the initiative to go by himself. He does, however, have a habit of telling me he doesn't need to poop potty before going to bed, saving this ace card for a bed escape route later. So we often have a situation where I put both boys to bed, am on my way out of the bedroom, and hear Barak behind me piping up, "Imma, I needa poop potty."

That's what happened tonight. So he went off to the bathroom, I sat down to read email and knit, and MHH came home from work. "Where's Barak?" "On the potty," I said. We both heard Barak's running monologue coming from the bathroom. Ten minutes or so later, I heard Barak calling me. "Why don't you go see what he wants? You haven't seen him all day." MHH went off to the bathroom. I didn't hear the details, but I did hear, "I want Imma!" and then "I need IMMA!" and then "I NEED IMMA" and the sound of the bathroom door slamming. MHH slouched back into the office. "Chopped liver," he said. "He wants you." I didn't really like how Barak had spoken to Abba, so didn't quite leap up to his assistance. I finished the sock round I was on, then another one, as Barak's wails got louder and more hysterical. Finally I felt bad for him and went in. Barak, naked on the potty, covered in tears and snot, holding his little yellow metal schoolbus--which is maybe two or three times the size of a Matchbox car.

"Imma!" he hiccuped tragically. "I need you ta help me! I need you ta take da paper out of da bus. Iss stuck in dere." I look and, indeed, the entire bus is stuffed with tiny bits of toilet paper. That must have taken him a while. I take the bus. "Barak, that wasn't such a nice way to talk to Abba. Abba could have helped you take the paper out of the bus."

"Noooo," he said, very earnestly (for Barak is always earnest.) "He can't do dat. Hiss fingers are too big." For the record, my fingers were also too big for the schoolbus door, which was at most 1/4 inch across. I used a dental tool to get the shreds out.