Monday, November 26, 2007

And he's frum too

My husband and I occasionally joke about what will and won't be mentioned in his Artscroll biography. I'm not sure where this came from, but I think it started with his sister, who likes to tell her kids Uncle MHH stories (like the last time their family ate in a non-kosher restaurant--the cheese pizza they ordered had a piece of pepperoni hiding under the cheese and my husband, aged ten or so, apparently flipped out magnificently). "That's going to go in your Artscroll biography," she tells him.

Anyway, here is something that isn't going in anyone's Artscroll biography, but should: to wit, what a serious yirat shamayim does when a woman starts nursing her baby next to him in an airport.


I am beginning to find out just why it is that discipline is hard. Because I am used to being the center of my kids' universe; because I want them to like me; because I want to be their friend; for all those reasons that, sometimes, you just have to get over.

We tried the sticker chart, and it worked great for the first three days. Yesterday--not so much. It was not entirely Barak's fault; I'd been out all afternoon helping out a friend, and he and Iyyar had been with Abba, which meant lots of fun but not so much structure. When I came home, after bedtime, they were all still eating dinner (peanut butter and crackers and yogurt). Baths weren't happening at that point, and Barak was starting to get his post-bedtime hyper-wound-up look. The one in which he squinches his whole mouth over to one side of his face, and you know you're in for it. What I probably should have done was move Iyyar, who is generally really easy to get to sleep, straight into bed, and taken my time with Barak. Instead, I moved right to bedtime with both of them, which in retrospect was a mistake. Barak did not want to go to bed. He refused to go to bed, in fact, and even after I'd put them both in bed, turned out the light, and left, he came out and screamed. I put him back, calmly. He came out. I put him back again and counted, giving him time between counts along with plenty of reminders that there was going to be a sticker tomorrow morning if he could go to bed nicely but if he continued screaming he would lose the sticker. I got to three, he lost his sticker, he didn't CARE about his sticker and didn't WANT to go to bed. I closed the door.

And he did what he hasn't done since the last time I got scary in his face--picked up the biggest, heaviest toy he could find and started swinging it against the door. Hard. That I couldn't ignore, because a) he'll break the door if he keeps it up and b) if he ever does that with another child behind him, we could be heading to the emergency room. I had to get him to stop. So I opened the door, got in his face, and calmly but forcefully (I hope) told him that what he was doing was NOT OKAY and he had to stop it and get into bed. He said no. I said it again. He said no again.

What now? I couldn't think of anything good, so I said, "Barak, if you do not get into bed right now I will take your whole sticker chart and put it in the garbage."


I think it was a combination of the scary face and the incredibly mean threat but he fell apart sobbing and got into bed. Once he was clearly getting into bed, I went over, gave him a kiss, and tucked him in, as he told me, hiccuping and mostly unintelligible, that he didn't want me to put his sticker chart in the garbage. He went to sleep. I went back into my office feeling like the Worst Mother Ever. How mean was that to say I was going to put his whole sticker chart in the garbage? Um... very? But I couldn't think of anything else.


Today has been great, though. Barak was fun, Iyyar was fun, Barak played nicely with Iyyar and not only that, he spontaneously cleaned up a couple of times. He also did a couple of things I thought were so cool. One was display again the fact that he has a memory that borders on what a certain friend of mine would term "freakish." To wit...

Last year, just before Chanuka, I bought a big box of Clics, meaning them for a Chanuka gift/activity for the boys and their visiting cousins. Once I took the box out, though, it was clearly a mistake; six kids, three of whom were still putting things in their mouths, and the pieces were instantly going everywhere. I tried taking them out a couple of times and then just put them away. They've been on top of the armoire ever since, never mentioned, barely visible. Today, since Barak was being so cooperative and Iyyar was being so mellow, I thought I'd try it again. I took down the box and f0und an empty plastic box, and sorted the pieces into choking hazard/non-choking-hazard sizes. While I did this, Barak cleared up the rest of the toys. Then I put away the box of little pieces and set the big pieces down on the floor for the kids to play with. Barak looked at them. "Clics are for Chanuka," he informed me. "They're for Chanuka when Tanta Sara is here." Which was a year ago.

And tonight, while I was cuddling with Barak in the rocking chair at bedtime (striving desperately to avoid a repeat of last night) we talked about the sticker chart. "How many stickers are on your chart?" "Three!" "And how many do you need to get a treat?" "Five!" Then I asked, "How many more stickers do you need for your treat?" "One, two!" Mental math! Wow.

Oh, and I didn't mention Iyyar's time out. This happened on Thursday, I think. I took out the box of what we call little Lego, which is actually the medium-sized Lego--between "choking hazard" and "little baby" sized. Barak built what was an actual recognizable crane, using pieces of fence for the crane's arm. Iyyar saw it and started stalking it. We had a few rounds of Barak howling no, Iyyar lunging for the crane, and Imma running interference. Yes, we share our toys, but Barak is by no means expected to allow Iyyar to come destroy his Lego creations. I talked to Barak about how to tell Iyyar no, how to make a "no no" face, etc. There was no question that Iyyar knew perfectly well that he wasn't supposed to grab Barak's crane, but he kept grinning and trying it anyway. Again, and again, and again.

Eventually, Barak sat building with his Lego pieces between the wall and the dresser and his back to Iyyar, while I tried to keep Iyyar distracted with other things. Then, over the space of just a minute, Iyyar found a toy plastic orange section and started tossing it around; Barak got interested; the orange section went in the air, both of them went for it on all fours, and Barak slammed his head hard into the corner of the armoire, giving himself a big bump on his forehead. Ohhh.

I sat down with a wailing Barak, while Iyyar squatted on the floor with his trophy (he'd gotten the orange wedge) and watched. And then remembered the now unguarded crane. And went over, grabbed it, and broke it. Gleefully, while looking right at me. Ha ha, Imma! You weren't fast enough and I got it!

Barak, naturally enough, started howling at an earsplitting pitch. I went over, picked up Iyyar, said "NO! Iyyar, you don't touch that! You're going in your crib." I picked up the remnants of the crane, went into the hall, and beckoned to a suddenly silent Barak to come with me. We went into the kitchen while Iyyar screamed his protest, and reassembled the crane.

"Iyyar broke my crane. Dat wasn't nice. He's not sposeda do dat."

"I know, sweetie. You're right. That's why Iyyar's having a time out. He didn't listen to Imma, right? And when you don't listen to Imma and you keep not listening, then you get a time out."

"Also Iyyar gets a time out?"

"Right, also Iyyar."


The day had been a little bumpy until then, but after that point I had a magically transformed happy cooperative little boy for the rest of the day. Oh wait--there isn't a double standard where Iyyar gets to do whatever he wants and I get time-outs! Iyyar gets time-outs too! How about that...

And since this post has been mostly about Barak, I will mention that yesterday, when I came back from my friend's house, I came back with her eight-week-old baby in a car seat. We were only a few blocks away, she'd had to take the car seat out of her car, and it was faster for me to walk back with the baby than it would have been to put the car seat back in. So in I walked with a tiny little baby. Iyyar stared. "Ba," he said. "Baby," I said. "Ba ba," said Iyyar. "Baby," I said. "Bah bee!" he said, grinning and pointing in total, obvious delight.

Let's hope he's still as excited about bah bees about two months from now...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On screaming and hitting

You already know it's going to be a good one, right?

So, Barak is three and a half. He has tantrums. He tests limits. He does a whole lot of things he shouldn't do. I remind myself, through gritted teeth, that this is a normal developmental stage. I try, very very hard, to be patient.

Iyyar is one and a half. Mostly, he's still a baby. He's way easier than Barak in a lot of ways. He's mellow. He's happy-go-lucky. But now he has a temper. He's starting to experiment. And he wants to do everything Barak does.

When Barak was Iyyar's age, if he did something like hit me, I would just say "no hitting!" very sternly, put him in his crib, walk away, and close the door. I'd come back a minute later, say "no hitting" again,and carry on. Barak didn't hit much.

When Iyyar hits, I say "no hitting," very sternly. But Barak laughs his head off. And Iyyar sees Barak laugh, and he giggles, and then the two of them reinforce each other. If Iyyar hits Barak, Barak thinks it's funny.

I've tried explaining to Barak that if he laughs, Iyyar thinks it's okay, so he shouldn't laugh when Imma's saying no. But he does. He just thinks it's funny, so he laughs.

To be fair, the only time either of them hits is when they're really, really frustrated or hurt. Iyyar banged his head on the side of the dresser today and got mad enough to hit the dresser. (Both my kids do this--they get mad at inanimate objects. I once saw Barak bite his Lego because they wouldn't stay stacked the way he wanted.)

Now, I know that they are boys and they are brothers, and I don't think any two boys ever grew up together without whaling on each other every so often. My friend Chana has three boys, aged 4, 6 and 8 (or so), and her policy is that she only interferes when she thinks there is about to be a medical emergency. I don't think that that's completely unreasonable, and understand its sanity-preserving attributes, but I also have a deeply entrenched attachment to the "We. Do. Not. Hit." policy that is currently in place.

This evening was pretty difficult. Iyyar didn't nap enough, and both kids woke up way too early. They did pretty well throughout the afternoon, considering, but by bedtime, we had reached meltdown. Iyyar clearly needed to go to bed, and was happy to get into his crib with his blankets. Barak, however, decided that he was not going to bed. He kvetched, he protested, he did everything at a snail's pace, he procrastinated and whined. And when we finally got there, he simply refused, point-blank, to get into bed. What are you going to do now, Imma?

What indeed? He's not in a crib anymore, so I can't just put him in there and walk away. I did not want to get into a situation of trying anything physical. I wanted to stay calm. So I said, Barak, it's time to go to bed now, and I just turned out the lights, closed the gate into the kitchen, went into my office and closed the door, leaving a hysterically screaming Barak in the hall outside his room. I got some chocolate pretzels and started reading the Education section of the Times while Iyyar started wailing too. Barak was howling that he needed a toy (the latest in a looooong stream of bedtime-delaying tactics) and Iyyar was howling because Barak was howling. I ignored it. MHH came home and told me about his day. The howling continued. I asked him to go and make sure nobody was actually hurt. He left. I heard quiet, then the distinctive creak of the glider rocker. He came back. "I gave Barak the stuffed sheep and rocked Iyyar. Why was he so upset?" "He was upset because Barak was upset." "Why was Barak upset?" "He didn't want to go to bed." "Oh."

I wonder if it's time for a bedtime sticker chart. But when he gets like this, there is no motivation or threat that works--he just hates, hates, hates going to bed, and always has, and judging by his father and grandfather's attitude toward bedtime, probably always will.

Maybe we'll do the sticker chart anyway. Can't hurt, right? But I am open to other suggestions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

and yesterday

Asnat turned up looking both dreamy and troubled. I asked her what was going on. Silence. Then, "I met a boy..."

So now she's thinking about staying here instead of moving to LA. Barak was sitting at the table eating breakfast. "Barak, do you want Asnat to stay or do you want her to go away?" Barak, bless him, looked up in alarm. "I want Asnat to stay." Good boy.

So, we'll see. I told her I needed to know for sure this week, so as to give the newly hired backup babysitter enough notice. I think she's staying though.

On the subject of Barak (sort of), what is it about three-year-olds and reality? This morning Barak woke up (too early) and started asking Abba for the Commander Salamander book (otherwise known as Commander Toad and the Space Pirates, by Jane Yolen--probably tied in Barak's worldview with Hershel and the Chanuka Goblins for world's best literary work). Abba, who was finishing up caulking the bathtub and rushing to get ready for work, stopped what he was doing to look for it but couldn't find it. He told Barak he couldn't find it. Barak's response was to remind Abba, again and again and AGAIN, that he wanted the Commander Salamander book. Abba told Barak he didn't have it. Repeat. Then Barak came into my room and told me he wanted the Commander Salamander book. I attempted further reason, which usually works with him (but not this time, clearly):

"You want the Commander Salamander book, right?"

"Yeah. I wanna Commander Salamander book."

"Does Imma have the Commander Salamander book?"


"Does Imma know where it is?"


"Can Imma get it for you, even if you ask lots and lots of times and kvetch a lot?"


"So is it going to help if you keep asking and kvetching? Is that going to get you the Commander Salamander book?"


"Does it make you feel good to kvetch? Does it make Imma happy?"


"Okay, sweetie. So let's stop kvetching and find another book."


"I needa Commander Salamander book please."

Repeat. Eventually, I got up, got dressed, got Iyyar dressed, and started getting breakfast, with Barak still tailing me pleading for Commander Salamander. It was a little too early in the morning for this so finally I said, "Barak, if you really really have to keep kvetching, please go do it in your room. I don't like listening to kvetching." And of course he fell down on the floor screaming and crying.

I know that three-year-olds are not fully rational, and I know that it is a developmental stage to think that wants can influence reality. As in, I want to turn on the light/play the xylophone/listen to Uncle Moishy, so it isn't Shabbos right now, or alternatively, I want to eat cookies/go to shul/not have Imma go to work, ergo it IS Shabbos right now. But, gah! I will admit, somewhat shamefully, that I did see several Commander Toad books on the top shelf out of sight, but decided not to give him one, lest he come to the conclusion that if he kvetches enough what he wants will miraculously appear. I don't think anyone (except possibly Barak) could blame me for that one.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Something interesting

Before we moved to where we are now, we lived in a small community in Massachusetts--a one-shul town with no eruv, no mikva, hardly any kosher food, and barely a minyan. The people there were really nice (hi, Ellen!), but there weren't many of them. About a year after we left, the shul's director did too--except that instead of heading to a bustling metropolis like we did, he decided to go somewhere with even fewer Jews and even less kosher food. Specifically, he joined the Army, and is now the only Jewish chaplain serving in Iraq. He's also really funny. He was home recently for a couple of weeks and gave a talk at the shul, which you can see here. It's kind of long, but really worth watching. The sound quality improves after the introduction.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

From the mouths of the not yet grown up

A month or two ago--maybe more now--I realized that both Barak and Iyyar do much better with a 6 pm bedtime, not the 7 pm bedtime that had been in place for a very long time. They go to bed more easily, they fall asleep more easily, there are fewer evening meltdowns. They even wake up later in the morning, and generally in better moods. The drawback to all this improvement, of course, is that with a 6 pm bedtime they barely see Abba during the week. He leaves just as they are waking up (he usually gets an Iyyar diaper change in before he leaves and that's it) and comes home to kids who are either already in bed or in the last stages of bedtime.

So we try, a couple times a week, to visit Abba at work. He teaches till early afternoon and then he's in the school's beit medrash, where it's considered acceptable for abbas to spend half an hour here and there learning aleph-beis with their kids. So, when the weather is nice and Barak is having a good listening day, that's what we do. Barak sits and learns with Abba for a while, and I follow Iyyar around the halls and try to keep him out of the gym (the gym! the gym! there are balls in there! I can HEAR THEM BOUNCING!)

This afternoon, we went to learn with Abba. On the way out the backyard, Iyyar starting saying "Dai dai dai" in the stroller. I, of course, started singing "Dayeinu" to him. Barak stopped me.

"Imma, what are you singing?"

"I'm singing Dayeinu." I sang a few more verses.

"What's that song?"

"It's a Pesach song, sweetie. You'll sing it at Pesach. You'll probably learn it in school before Pesach and then we'll sing it after the Seder."

Barak looked up me, mildly indignant. "Imma, I don't know that song now. I didn't grow up yet."

* * *

I don't know why exactly but I find it hard to remember the sounds that both Barak and Iyyar have made at various stages of baby- and toddlerhood. Right now, Iyyar is just starting to say words and realize the utility of saying words. He'll come into his room, where one of the all-exciting balls is stuck under the armoire. "Bah!" he'll inform me, and I will promptly pull the ball out and give it to him. He will cackle with delight at his success ("Heh heh heh,") lift the ball over his head, drop it ("Dah pih!") and watch it go bounce, bounce, bounce. Then, of course, he'll chase after it, and repeat from step 1. He'll stand up and say "up!" and then sit down and say "dowww." He says thank you ("ta taw!") and Abba and Barak, sort of ("Ah yah!") Imma? No, not so much. He does, of course, say Bamba, every time he sees it and whenever we go into the Bamba-carrying store. Bamba, as I may have mentioned, is big around here (although neither Grandma E or I really see the appeal.)

He also, of course, carries on long soliloquies in Iyyar-ese. "Ai dai, dai dai dai. Ai dai, dai. Ai dai." And then. "Aye bai bee ba bee! Ah bee! Ah bee bee bee!" Then, when he sees that I am eating something that may look identical to what's right in front of him on a plate but he knows full well is vastly superior, "Ah bee bee be AAAAAAAAHHH!!!!" When he wants to come out of his high chair, if I've taken off the tray but been too slow to remove the actual child, he'll point at his seatbelted tummy with both hands. "Diss! Diss!" Take THIS off, Imma, and LET ME OUT NOW.

If I ask him for his bowl or cup, so as to refill it, he'll usually hand me the requested item. If he's playing with a toy car or bus, he'll say so, with a strangely Bostonian accent. "Cah," he intones. "Buh. Buh." And for some reason, whenever I take him out of his crib, he wails piteously for something on top of the bookshelf (which is next to his crib). But then I can hold him right up next to it and he's not sure what it is he wanted--I think it's just that he was in his crib looking up at that out-of-reach top shelf, the contents of which seemed so much more appealing from a little bit farther away.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


(Just so you know, a feature of Barak's speech these days is that when words begin with "b" he usually turns the "b" into an "m." So basement becomes masement, baking soda becomes making soda, buttons becomes muttons. Etc.)

I think I may fairly say that I am a reasonably accomplished knitter. I learned to knit when I was six, and I got into knitting in a serious way at the age of 20 or so. I spin my own yarn, I design my own garments, and I have done everything from gloves on 0s to a cabled Lopi coat on 10s.

However, these days, my knitting is very stop-and-start, which does not lend itself to serious Thinking Knitting. Since Barak was born, I've made a lot of socks, mittens, hats, and gloves--small and portable bus knitting. I've made plenty of sweaters, but they involve an awful lot of circular-knit stocking stitch. Not a lot of color patterns, unless it's in a yoke. (I did one allover color pattern and it took me MONTHS, arriving to its recipient at least three months behind schedule. Sorry, Sarah.) One lace shawl. A few spiral-yoke pullovers, a couple of raglans. The only cables I've done, I think, have been on the baby hat I made for Iyyar out of one skein of orange Koigu--and that took me months to finish, because I never had the time for any knitting I had to look at.

This doesn't mean that I can't knit the kind of thing that's impressive to non-knitters, just that I don't do it much these days. However, I am fortunate to have knitting friends, some of whom have stepped right into the breach and supplied my kids with some truly stunning knitwear. Tanta Cecilia, particularly, has made my kids unbelievable cabled hoodie cardigans which they wear more or less all the time (scroll down for a picture of Iyyar's if you missed it).

Of course, what happens when I take my kids out in matching cabled hoodies, when everyone knows that I knit? There are oohs. There are ahhs. And then, "I bet you made those, didn't you." At which point I have to confess, well, no, I didn't. But, I try not to add, I could, if I had the time. I try not to add this because although it may be true, it sounds awfully... lame.

And usually, when I say that no, my friend made the sweaters, the response is along the lines of "Wow, that must be some friend" (to which of course I agree,) and then either "Boy, she's a REALLY good knitter," or something along the lines of "Could you knit something like that?"


Which brings me to the topic of muttons. Barak has gotten pretty good at doing his own buttons. Shirt buttons are usually too small and too hard for him, but the big cardigan buttons on his hoodie he can handle. Now, even when I had time to knit I rarely made cardigans (meaning, of the I've-totally-lost-count-of-how-many sweaters I've made I may have knit twenty cardigans). I don't usually wear them, and I like to knit things in the round, which meant that I do more pullovers. I have never made Barak a cardigan. So, one evening this week, I was running a bath for the kids. I had Iyyar on my lap and was getting him undressed as Barak worked on getting his own sweater off. I complimented him on his skillful button-opening.

"Barak, who made that sweater for you?"


"No, I didn't make that one. Tanta Cecilia made that one."

"Tanta Cecilia madea sweater?"

"Yeah, Tanta Cecilia made that for you. Wasn't that nice?"

"Yeah. I like the sweater. It has muttons. Did Tanta Cecilia makea muttons?"

"Well, she didn't make the muttons--I mean, the buttons. I think she bought the buttons in a store. She made the button holes, though, and she put the buttons on there."

Pause while Barak considers this. "You don't make sweaters wif muttons."

"No, I don't usually. I like to make sweaters with no buttons."

"You don't know how to make muttons?"


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Various thoughts I've had today, which I'm sure you'll find endlessly entertaining.

1. There comes a point in every pregnancy, or at least in all of mine to date, where you sort of stop thinking about the fact that pregnancies are designed to produce an actual baby. Right now I am just so used to being pregnant that I feel like this is just how my body is shaped, and it's totally normal to have something wiggling and jumping around inside me after every meal and late at night. I was just looking at my work calendar and realized, wait, by then I should have... another baby. The mind sort of reels.

2. Have I mentioned lately what a stunning difference being tired makes in the behavior of children--at least in my children? In the half hour after I got Barak from playgroup today he had no less than three meltdowns, one of which turned into an out-of-control screaming and throwing fit. I managed it reasonably calmly, but I also decided that like it or not, he was taking a nap. Since you can't (no matter how tempted you might be) tie a three-year-old to his bed to nap, this is a lot easier said than done, but I did get him--and, miracle of miracles, Iyyar--to nap, at the same time, for well over an hour.

The difference was stunning. Barak spent the rest of the afternoon being incredibly sweet, delightful, and charming. Of course, I paid for it later. Two hours past their usual bedtime, they were both standing in their respective beds making each other laugh. Party time in the boys' room.

3. If you have ever been to my house you know that my husband favors bathroom reading that is more cerebral. Me, I like the Patternworks catalogue. This afternoon, Barak disappeared into the bathroom for a potty trip (totally unprompted by me! and this happens a lot now! woohoo!) Then I heard a suspicious thump.

"Barak, what are you doing?"

"I'm pishing potty."

"What was that noise?"

"It's okay."

"Well, what was it?"

"The magazine fell into Emese's poop." Ohhh. Patternworks catalogue in litterbox. Yecch. Mental note to remove catalogue and put it in trash.

Barak comes out of bathroom. I look in litterbox. No catalogue. "Barak, did you put the catalogue in the garbage?"

"No, I didn't need to."

Because the litter-coated catalogue had been neatly returned to the pile of books.

4. One of the house rules around here is that Barak is not allowed on the cooking side of our eat-in kitchen while I am in there cooking. There is an invisible line on the floor that he knows he is not allowed to cross. This afternoon, when they woke up, I had been cooking something, but after both Barak and Iyyar woke up, I finished what I'd been doing. Barak was on his way across the kitchen when he stopped.

"Imma, are you all done cooking now?"

"Yeah, I'm all done."

"Okay. Den I can go on dat side of da kitchen, 'cause you're all done cooking."

I just found that incredibly sweet.

5. Late this afternoon, I took the boys to the grocery store for a long-overdue shopping trip. I told Barak he could pick one Shabbos treat and after much consideration, he picked potato chips. Have I mentioned lately how much I love our local independently owned kosher grocery? I'd called right after I got home to see if they could do a delivery today, and was told yes--but before I got out the door, Barak had had his last and most dramatic meltdown and the trip was put on hold. Four hours later, the person who had told me yes was gone, the owner was on his way out the door, and nobody seemed able to deliver anything. So the the owner went around checking with all the employees figuring out how I was going to get my groceries, asking me when I needed them and when I'd be home, and finally decided that the person who closed the store tonight would drop them on his way home (at midnight! I assured him that someone would still be up.) Can you even imagine that happening at a big chain supermarket?

6. On the way back from my ATM run this morning--I ALWAYS forget, every week, to get cash to pay Asnat with--I ran into the daughter of a friend. I crossed the street and we chatted a little bit as I hurried back home. "You don't know anyone who is looking for a babysitting job, do you?" "Well, I just quit my job. I'm looking for something else, but when do you need?" So she's going to cover us in the short term till we find someone else--at least till winter break, when MHH is here, and maybe even till my maternity leave. Of course, that will still leave me with no help when the new baby comes, but at least it takes care of the immediate crisis--no small thing.


Asnat just quit, with many apologies. She is moving to LA in three weeks. I now have babysitting only two days a week, and about three weeks to find someone new.

I know, believe me, that there could be many worse things to have happen. But I don't really need this today.

Without getting into too many details, there is an awful lot of uncertainty in our lives right now--we don't know where we'll be next year or where MHH will be working, I don't know how I'm going to manage at home when this new baby IY"H comes in the winter, I don't know what to do about Barak and school for the fall (nothing is within walking distance, and everything is expensive, and deposits are substantial, and cf. "don't know where we'll be next year," above.)

I know that in the scheme of things these are all relatively minor issues. Nobody is sick, we are not bankrupt, we both have educations and are unlikely to get evicted or starve. Logically, I know that we are not in any worse a position than we were in when Barak was born and neither of us had a job and we had a new baby. With two and potentially soon three kids, though, and a mortgage, and the real estate market so in the tank we could not possibly sell if we had to without losing an unthinkable amount of money, it's all a lot more... distressing. I am a planner, and I know all about what God does when man plans, but... yeah. But. It's hard to relax when you're lying awake nights calculating how you would manage various doomsday scenarios.

One way or another, IY"H, it'll all be good. It will all work out for the best.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tantrum management

For the last couple of weeks, Barak seems to have been experimenting with tantrums as a way of either expressing his frustration or getting what he wants. The golden rule of tantrum management, of course, is never to let there be a positive outcome to throwing a fit. I've got that one down. Once you know what you're not going to do, of course, you then have to figure out what exactly what you are going to do with the kicking screaming three-year-old on the floor. That part is more of a challenge.

When I can, I walk away and ignore him. Sometimes he escalates what he's doing so he'll have to get my attention, by doing something so totally illegal that I won't just let it slide. A favorite for a while was, when put in his room for a time-out, picking up the biggest, heaviest toy he could get his hands on and slamming it into his door. I ignored that too until I saw what the inside of his door looked like. Earlier this week, he tried that one. I went in there and told him, scarily, to STOP. I left and he did it again, and I didn't quite lose it but I certainly used more volume and anger than he's ever heard before to tell him "That. Is. Not. Okay." He hasn't done it since.

But I don't like the idea of escalating my response to match his. I try, I really do, to stay calm. And last night, I actually managed it.

We went over to my friend Chana's house last night. She had a baby a few weeks ago and I'd told her kids I would make them pizza this week. So at around 4 we trooped over there with a big bag of pizza dough, a jar of sauce, a bagful of vegetables and some cheese. (I forgot, and had to run back for, my pan and the parchment paper. A manifesto on the fine art of home pizza-making may be forthcoming--stay tuned). A fine time was had by all; much pizza was eaten (Barak held out for the sauceless vegetableless albino version I made last), and Iyyar ate more than anyone else, as usual. Barak spent about two and a half hours making trouble with Chana's three older boys, the youngest of whom is about a year older than Barak. Bedtime around here is usually around 6:15. By six, I realized that Barak was so worked up, and so wound up, that going home was liable to not be so easy. And I had a lot to carry. So I called MHH (this is why we have cell phones) and asked him to stop by and get us on his way home (we live across the street, so this is not a big deal). He did.

MHH got there at around 6:15. I handed him Iyyar and Iyyar's hat and fuzzy suit, and got Barak's coat and hat. And I tried to get them on Barak, but Barak was not interested in anything but running around in circles being silly. Never mind that all the resident children were already in pajamas--Barak wanted to jump around and scream some more, not go home. I managed to get him into his coat, with minimal cooperation from him. Then it was time for shoes.

"Barak, go get your shoes please." No dice. I was sitting on the floor and had no interest in getting them myself, so I asked one of Chana's kids to get them for me (the shoes were behind the couch, where they had been discarded for semilegal couch-jumping activities.) He did. "Barak, come here and put on your shoes."

Barak stopped what he was doing, looked at me, and instantly collapsed into a fit of hysteria. "I wanted to find my shoes! I wanted to find them! AAAAAHHHHH!!!!"

There are a few categories, I think, into which tantrums fall. There are the tantrums of pure frustration that cannot be expressed in any other way. There are the tantrums of experimentation and trying to get one's way--one might call those the manipulative tantrums, although I don't like that word. And then there are the tantrums that happen when a kid is so tired or so worn out or upset about something or not feeling good that the tiniest little thing will set him off. This was one of those.



I gave MHH all the stuff, and he carried it all down to the stroller. Then I gave him Iyyar, and he took Iyyar down as I manhandled Barak into his shoes--the size differential between the two of us is such that I can still do things like that. Then I picked up my coat and walked out the door. Barak, still standing there screaming, suddenly stopped, and a look of alarm spread over his face. "I needa pish potty." Good for you! I thought. Usually when he gets that worked up, he loses control and pees himself. "Okay, go potty. I'll wait for you." Barak went to the bathroom, came back, and started screaming again. "I WANTED TO FIND MY SHOOOOOOOES..."

I started down the stairs, and Barak came after me. "Barak, do you want to go in the stroller or do you want to walk?" "I wanna go in the stroller. I'm a baby." However, being a baby did not prevent him from wanting to buckle the seatbelt himself, which he was too worked up to do. I did it for him.


Barak at this point was kicking and screaming and flailing, but I was pretty sure he couldn't get out of the stroller by himself. We went home. I asked MHH to take Iyyar inside and get him ready for bed. "I'll take care of Barak. Don't worry." I parked the stroller and sat down on the back steps in my coat. And waited.

"Barak, I'm going to wait right here until you're done screaming. You let me know when you're all done."


Then I took my knitting out of my bag. And started to knit a pair of gloves in sock yarn on size 0 needles.

Barak stopped. He looked at me. Clearly, he was thinking, this could go on for a while. And it's really pretty cold and dark out here.

"Imma, I needa find my own shoes."

"I know, sweetie. Are you all done screaming now?"



The power of knitting, right there.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Why is it

that when presented with an extensive tasting menu of woollen hats, mittens, scarves and gloves packed away for the winter in the back of the closet with only herbal moth repellent, moths will ignore everything but the handknit baby hat made in cashmere and baby alpaca (what else do you do with one 50g skein?) with patterning in Koigu? I guess the cashmere didn't taste as good, because they just chewed out the Koigu. In five places.

Sigh. I fixed it, of course, but there's something about a darned cashmere baby hat that just seems... wrong somehow. Especially given how long it takes to knit a baby hat, and the size of my stash.

Friday, November 02, 2007

More knitting

Not mine, though. Check out the green cabled hoodie, courtesy of Tanta Cecilia in Sydney. And the hat. That picture had to get taken fast--I put the hat on and Iyyar turned around, ran a few steps away, and pulled it off. You can see his hands poised for the hat-yank right there.

This sweater used to be Barak's. It was a gift for his first birthday, and he wore it right through last spring. Now, though, it's really too small, and has been passed on to Iyyar. But is Barak hoodieless? No! Because Tanta Cecilia sent another, identical handmade sweater--identical except that it is two sizes up, and in bright purple. (I tried to get a shot from the back of Barak wearing it, but he is too wise in the way of cameras--he kept turning around and posing.) And yet another cabled hoodie (a Rogue, for those in the know enought to be impressed by such name-dropping) in size XXXXXXXXXXXXXL for me, designed for maternity wear. When we all go out together, boy are we styling. :)

Thursday, November 01, 2007


1. There haven't been many posts lately because we just had a lovely lovely visit from Grandma E. Housework was neglected, laundry was left to pile up, and much knitting was accomplished. Oh, and perhaps a doughnut or two were eaten. Iyyar was fairly mellow despite a raging diaper rash that is just now starting to go away after almost two weeks. Barak, on the other hand, was on the worst tantrum hairtrigger I've ever seen. Every time anything went even slightly not his way, he was down on the floor screaming, including his first-ever public tantrum (brief, but still) at Target. He lost just about every treat I had planned--we didn't go to the zoo or even the doughnut store. And in addition to the tantrums there was a significant amount of just general obnoxiousness--like, when he was ignoring my telling him to do something, I told him to look at me, and he turned his face to me with his eyes squinched shut. Charming.

Grandma E was very nice about it and genuinely does not seem to have left with the impression that I have raised a monster, but... when you have a child who is sweet and charming 80% of the time, why does the entire other 20% have to happen when you really would like him to be at his sweetest and most charming? I know that all small children have phases like this occasionally. I know that he is really a great, wonderful kid, that he is not spoiled and not a brat. And I know that it is unreasonable for me to expect him to behave perfectly all the time. Rationally, I even know that he wasn't actually screaming the whole time Grandma E was here, and she did get to see the sweet and charming Barak I insisted does exist. But... sigh.

2. Did I mention that knitting was accomplished? Yes indeedy. Grandma E made a lovely Fibonacci baby blanket out of Plymouth Encore (which, I will note, she felt was too thick for a baby blanket and also noted was hard to weave ends in on). I need to block that before I take pictures. I made the most ridiculously cute spiral yoke sweater I have ever seen, out of a mere 79g of Opal Hundertwasser:

I cannot even tell you how much this picture does not do justice to the sweater. I should have put something in the picture for scale (other than the cord of the iron I was using to block it). It is about a 3-month size, and possibly the cutest thing I have ever knitted. If I saw one that someone else had made I would have to instantly drop whatever I was knitting at the moment to make one for myself (well, not for myself, but for a baby of my acquaintance. You know what I mean.)

Before Grandma E got here, I had just finished a pair of socks made out of the skein of Trekking I bought while on the baby doctor/yarn store expedition with Barak a few weeks ago (because, you know, I don't have enough sock yarn etc.)

And what did Grandma E find in her bag but this very terrifying crocodile scarf that Deb made for Barak. Roar!

While I was taking crappy pictures of lovely knitting, I also took a couple of the Eris sweater I finished a month ago and which I got to wear once before I was too big for it.

Neck detail:

Knitting I can do. Knitting photography... not my strong point. Sorry.

3. In a general Iyyar update, I should mention that Iyyar is currently obsessed with balls. The box of little balls that usually lives in the armoire has not been put away in a week, and the two playground balls (one blue, one red) that I bought at Target a week or two ago are in pretty regular use. Iyyar's favorite thing right now is to pick up his ball, carol "Upf! Upf! Upf," carry it a few steps while cackling maniacally, drop it, and then chase it to pick it up again.

And as predicted by my babysitter, Iyyar does indeed appear to be progressing directly from nothing to complete sentences. Well, sort of. The thing I hear from him the most right now is "I don't want it!" which sounds sort of like "Ah na wa na!" But believe me, his meaning is clear. We are also hearing "Drop it!" (from his high chair, usually); "Open it!" (regarding the gate to the kitchen); and "Ah yah!" which means Barak. And yesterday, Ada reported a very clear "Abba's books," pertaining to those books which he is forbidden to pull from the shelves in the living room.

4. I mentioned above that Iyyar had the worst diaper rash I've ever seen, caused by a couple weeks of diarrhea that left him happy, perfectly well hydrated, but pooping all night long. I tried the usual--zinc oxide, BRAT diet, acidophilus, multiple nighttime diaper changes, baking soda baths. It helped, but not enough. The second day Grandma E was here he was walking around he house miserably grabbing at his tush and wailing. Desperate times, desperate measures--I took his diaper off and let him walk around the kitchen (linoleum floor, how bad could it be?) commando. The difference was immediate. He was just so much happier. At bedtime, I smeared him up good with zinc oxide, put a clean diaper on him, and put him to bed with just one of Barak's shirts and his diaper, so that I could check if he was dirty without waking him up.

Iyyar, it seems, saw his opportunity and seized it. When I went in to check on him, I found him in the classic sleeping baby position--on chest, knees tucked under tummy, tush sticking straight up in the air. Tush, in this case, completely bare--he'd pulled off his diaper and was happily sleeping naked. Grandma E had just gone to bed but I couldn't let her miss that. I knocked on the door. "Are you asleep yet? You need to come look at something." She peeked in and laughed. "If it wouldn't wake him up, I'd say we'd have to take a picture." I was tempted, but not badly enough to risk a crying baby at 10 pm. Around 4 am, he woke up wet and cold, but not poopy (fortunately). And the rash was much better.

5. Oh, and one more thing--Barak can now tell the difference between a gasoline and a diesel engine by the sound it makes. I taught him that one, which I know courtesy of a friend who has driven a lot of tractors and can imitate a diesel engine with uncanny accuracy. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch.