Saturday, August 29, 2009


I was standing behind Barak in the kitchen this afternoon, barefoot, watching him do a puzzle, when he shifted his chair slightly and one of the feet of the chair (is the bottom of a chair leg a foot?) landed smack on the base of my second-to-smallest toe. I heard a weird little crunch, which might have been, um, my toe breaking. It's been about five or six hours. It looks fine, just a little puffy; it hurts, but I can walk on it. Nothing I can do about it anyway, broken or not--but tomorrow I need to walk two miles thisaway for Barak's lice check and then two more miles thataway for him to meet his rebbe and then almost a mile home. MHH is working so there's nobody to do it for me; if he doesn't go to lice check he doesn't start school, and although I guess he could technically miss "meet your rebbe, see your classroom" he's really looking forward to it. Wonder if I can get someone else to check his hair for me...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Many and various

1. First off, the tzitzis party. It was a blast. Venue, of course, was the Doughnut Store, the kosher doughnut-and-other-junk place that we make a point of never ever going to, because, well, slippery slope and all. The only time we EVER go there with kids is when we are on our way to the airport, because they're open really early. Otherwise, just tzitzis parties, of which this is Party the Second. The only problem of course was that their doughnuts are milchig, so I had to stop by at the bakery in the morning to pick up doughnuts for Iyyar. I got two, and it was a good thing; I got a dozen chocolate-frosted doughnuts for the members of our party (three adults and eight kids) and since none of the adults had and the two babies didn't really either, most of the kids ended up having two, so Iyyar of course wanted a second one too. The ones I'd bought looked exactly like the ones we got there, so much so that he didn't realize they were different--when he helped himself to a second I just caught him sinking his teeth into a nice milchig one. Clearly he didn't eat any of it, though, because he was fine the next day.

Presents included, of course, the chicken tzitzis. And no, there is absolutely zero religious significance to this; in fact, these may very well be the only pair of chicken tzitzis ever in the history of the world. But Iyyar is into chickens these days, so that's what he wanted, and that's what he got. He also got a toolbox with worker-man hat and safety goggles; Avtalyon's kind of appropriated those.

2. Holy cow, soy is in EVERYTHING. Keeping a totally dairy-free diet is a pain but doable. Weeding out every little bit of soybean oil or soy lecithin is another story entirely. Earlier this week, after lunch, Iyyar got really quiet and climbed into bed with his blankies, as he hasn't done for a couple of weeks; closer inspection of lunchtime ingredients revealed "or soybean oil" halfway down the list of ingredients on the tomato sauce. The only other things he ate were plain pasta and allergen-free rice milk (and a plum, I think) so it's hard to see what else it could have been.

Cooking healthful meals for everyone every day has always been kind of difficult, logistically--I try my best but it's hard when the only way to keep an eye on the baby is to have him in the high chair while I cook, and once in the high chair the baby starts screaming to eat (understandable, but problematic when the food's not cooked yet!) So historically there has been a heavy emphasis on really simple meals (doodles cheese), things I can make at least partially the night before (pizza, carrot pancakes, chicken soup, hummous), and prepared foods (TJ's chicken nuggets, jarred tomato sauce, fish sticks etc.) Now, between Iyyar's diet and MHH's diet (he's been doing the IBS diet, which has really been helping with his own tummy issues) I find myself having to cook pretty much everything from scratch and/or making three different versions of every meal. I can't use prepared, well, anything, and I can't use cheese, and MHH can't eat any meat but white meat, and Barak won't eat any meat but bologna, and only eats about four vegetables, and... oh well, here's the rundown right now:

MHH: Soluble fiber at every meal; no red meat; no dark poultry or poultry skin; no dairy; no high-fat anything, or egg yolks; no fruit or fructose; limited whole grains; all legumes fully cooked and mashed, and vegetables have to be cooked and peeled.

Iyyar: No dairy or soy, but otherwise not too picky

Barak: No cooked vegetables except for carrots and spinach; no meat; nothing with sauce or (here's the kicker) ingredients that are not immediately identifiable upon inspection.

Avtalyon, B"H, will still eat anything. But you see my dilemma? What's left that everyone likes? Oatmeal, fruit, and Rice Chex, that's what. Logically I would say, Barak needs to learn to adjust to new foods--and he has been, somewhat--but it's not fair to him to take away all his favorite dairy things and make him eat a bunch of things he doesn't like when there are plenty of healthy things he does. He's picky but not insanely so, and I just don't feel like making mealtime into a battle right now, especially since he is gradually expanding his repertoire--he'll eat pizza with sauce now, for example, which is a pretty huge development.

Oh, and to make all this more interesting? BOTH IYYAR AND BARAK HAVE PEANUT-FREE CLASSROOMS THIS YEAR. So no peanut butter, and for Barak, possibly no tree nuts as well--we're not sure yet. And he's not supposed to have fleishig lunches either. AND he's supposed to have motzi every day. Seriously, what's left?

Probably what I'll do for Iyyar is send him with a lot of snacks--crackers and hummous and red peppers and a hard-boiled egg, and let him have his sandwich when he comes home at 1. Barak can have PB and crackers for breakfast if he wants. For motzi at school, I'll have to start sending him with bagels and cheese, which he won't eat in sandwich format but will eat separately (whatever!)

The hardest thing is dinner though. Last night, we had:

-peas with lemon-garlic dressing
-scrambled eggs with spinach and garlic
-baked sweet potatoes
-cold leftover noodles from lunch, which Iyyar found in the fridge
-sliced apples, cucumbers and plums

Sounds OK, doesn't it? Barak ate an apple and cucumbers. Iyyar ate leftover noodles. Everything I actually cooked? Avtalyon ate some, and then MHH came home, ate the eggs and un-peeled peas with olive oil, and was sick this morning. EPIC FAIL.

3. Okay, that was way too long of a #2. So I'll stop with #3 (this should have been "long and various" instead of "many and various.") #3 concerns the moderately noteworthy occasion of my entering my third trimester. I'm due the very end of November, which, precedent would indicate, means a reasonable ETA of mid-November. This I am happy and excited about. What I'm worried about is the logistics. Two other guys in MHH's kollel have had new babies in the last year. Neither took more than a couple days off. One had family come in for a few weeks; another has family already in town. We will have neither. Avtalyon was born on a Friday morning; MHH took off Friday and Monday and was back to work on Tuesday. And that was with the best possible timing--if I have a baby midweek he's likely to go back to work the day I get home. Assuming, IY"H, that all goes well and I come home in two days with a healthy baby, which, well, wasn't the case the last two times.

Nearly everyone who helped out in the past is either no longer in town or not available; Ada is in nursing school AND working full-time (don't ask me how she does this, I have no idea), Yehudis has moved across the neighborhood, Racheli is back in Israel and CB is married and in New York. Asnat is back, but has two other jobs and not much flexibility. Grandma E is turning 80 in a few weeks and Savta is teaching, so visits from either are out of the question.

I have no idea what I am going to do here. I am a planner by nature, but on this one I think I'm just going to have to hope for the best.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Who is that masked baby?

I feel the pacifier and the slightly drooly shirt just complete the look. Don't you?

Friday, August 21, 2009


This afternoon, post-tzitzis party:

"Iyyar, how does your tummy feel?"

Iyyar, grinning ear to ear: "It just feel okay! It not hurty me!"

Stay tuned for tzitzis party roundup. Sneak preview: Yehudis embroidered his tzitis. With his name. And a whole family of chickens.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


So far, so good. We are now at one full week without any tummyaches from Iyyar. And, I hope, counting.

We went to the allergist yesterday, to get her take on all of this; I'd made the appointment a couple of weeks ago, when I thought of it more as one last thing to do before starting more invasive testing. She thought we should still do an endoscopy, since so much of what's going on with Iyyar doesn't make sense; the most likely thing is a gut allergy to dairy and/or soy (since I completely eliminated dairy at the same time that I took out soy, I don't really know which it is), but that usually shows up by age 1 and in Iyyar it didn't show up until he was well past two; also, he tested negative for dairy, which he "should" not have done. She was also concerned about his nutritional needs, so sent me home with a can of hypoallergenic baby formula and instructions to give him two 8-oz glasses a day.

I got home and read the label on that and saw both dairy and soy on the ingredient list, along with the line:

"Nutramigen Lipil with Enflora EGG is a hypoallergenic, lactose-free formula for babies who develop cow's milk allergy." It goes on to say that allergenic ingredients have been specially modified to be better tolerated in allergic children.

Sorry, but no. Butter is pretty much lactose-free, and we all know how well that went over; the second ingredient is soybean oil. With only a week of Iyyar feeling OK, there is NO WAY ON THIS GREEN EARTH that I am going to give him this stuff in the name of healthy bone growth. He can have calcium-fortified oatmeal and OJ and he can have spinach and salmon patties with the bones ground in; he's not going to get osteoporosis or rickets or scurvy on a few months of chicken and potatoes and vegetables, either.

Anybody need a can of Nutramigen? I hear it's pretty expensive stuff, and I'd hate to just toss it in the garbage.

So far as the endoscopy, I'm holding off. It's only been a week. If a month or two months go by (please please please) with no problems, then I don't see any need to put him through that. If this doesn't last, then that's a different story, but right now I can't see any good reason to go ahead with it.

Tomorrow, at great long last: the Tzitzis Party. Iyyar is getting tzitzis, a Spiderman t-shirt and the fabulous box of worker-man toys; Barak has a 100-piece Iron Man puzzle; there will be doughnuts for everyone, and Morah and her kids are coming too. I mamash can't wait.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


It's been a week since I gave Iyyar anything with soy or anything processed on dairy equipment (that I'm aware of, anyway). The difference is incredible. First off, he appears to be toilet trained now. Well--he is. He hasn't had any kind of an accident in days, stays dry at night and uses the toilet unprompted. He doesn't say anything about his tummy hurting or crawl into bed miserably after he eats. He's just... fine. And no diarrhea anymore either. He just says he needs to poop, goes into the bathroom, and a couple minutes later I hear a little voice requesting sorbet now, please.

Thinking back, I've been saying for a while, "but he was fine at Pesach!" And now that I think about it, well, there's NO SOY AT PESACH. Not much processed food, either. No rice milk. No funky nondairy yogurts. And when we were in Ithaca, he told me his tummy hurt a lot. What was he eating almost every day? Soy yogurt, which is processed on shared equipment.

I'm still sort of holding my breath, waiting for him to start saying his tummy hurts or that he can't poop. But... so far so good.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Very very quietly

A warning: this post is almost completely about poop. Continue on at your peril.

Last week, after we got back from Grandma E's, I had to either schedule an endoscopy or come up with something else to do next. It was a great visit, but it was clear that Iyyar wasn't feeling well for much of it. I was giving him Pedialax strips (senna-based), which were making him go, but also clearly hurt--not surprising, since unlike Miralax, which acts by reducing reabsorbtion of water into the large intestine, Pedialax acts by strengthening intestinal contractions. He was going, but he wasn't happy, and there was a lot of "my tummy hurty."

An endoscopy is so invasive--at Iyyar's age it means general anaesthesia and most of a day at the hospital. So I decided to schedule another appointment with the allergist first, and retest him for pinworms just in case. We've been to the allergist already--it was one of our earliest stops--but she hadn't done that much testing, and when we went I thought that dairy was the one and only cause and the problem had been solved. In fact, taking dairy out of his diet only moved the situation from "crisis" to "chronic issue." So it makes sense that, since dairy was clearly the chief culprit, maybe other allergies/food sensitivities might be involved. I made the appointment, and mentioned it to some friends, two of whom made suggestions: one was to try taking out soy, and one was to be a lot more careful about possible cross-contamination with dairy than we had been. I'd been reading labels, but not worrying about "produced in a facility that also handles dairy." So we ratcheted things up there.

It's impossible to say what's really done the trick, but Iyyar seems to be, well, toilet trained now. He just kind of did it himself over the last week. In five days, he went from screaming for a diaper every time he needed to go (and then being miserable for a few hours until he actually went) to jumping up saying "I needa poop!", running to the bathroom, and just... well... pooping. And getting sorbet. With sprinkles. The first time this happened was last Thursday and the party we had was quite impressive. I pulled out all the stops. There was singing, there was dancing, there was Sesame Street, there was sorbet, there was serious candy. As Barak said, happily, "It's almost like Purim!"

Then Friday night it happened again, and Abba came home from shul at 9 PM to find everyone in the kitchen with chocolatey faces, playing with a brand-new toolbox toy I'd bought for tzitzis party presentation--but Barak had been selling Iyyar on the "worker man toys" he was going to get when he got his tzitzis, and then Iyyar thought he was going to get them that night, and I wanted nothing but positive reinforcement so I handed them over. Woohoo! The positive reinforcement has now been scaled back to one treat per, um, performance, but nobody seems to mind. Today's Monday, and for the last five days it has been nothing but good. Iyyar's happy, and he's informed me that I can give his diapers to Avtalyon now. He won't be needing them any more.


I'm not convinced that it's all OK and over with his stomach, though. For one thing, he's still having diarrhea, and the pattern over the last year has been spells of constipation, which are miserable, followed by spells of diarrhea, which he doesn't really seem to mind. I think it is possible that he just connected using the toilet with less painful elimination--we had a few conversations about how pooping on the potty doesn't hurt, etc. If, as the GI thinks, he's been deliberately withholding--which I really doubt is the case, but I'd be very happy to be wrong about that--it really could be problem solved. But if this is just part of the same cycle, well, we'll see in a few days, I guess. In the meantime, I'm keeping the soy and dairy completely out (which is harder than you'd think--many of the foods he likes and is accustomed to, like Rice Dream, soy yogurt, parve chicken nuggets, and rice milk cheese, are now out, along with every margarine that isn't loaded with trans-fatty acids). He's been getting way more apple juice than usual, and he's quite pleased about that--it's probably moving the diarrhea along, too.

Tzitzis party is tentatively scheduled for Friday. I asked Iyyar what he wanted on his tzitzis (my friend Yehudis does embroidery and has machine-embroidered trains and boats on other tzitzis for Barak). He asked for a chicken (I told you chickens had gotten big around here, didn't I?) I asked for a second choice. He thought Superman. Yehudis nixed that one. "My fingers couldn't do it." Then he said, well, maybe a steam engine like Charlie's? I hope he's happy with the train...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Farmer boys

Processing time

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of our trip were, it is fair to say, composed of fairly nonstop new experiences. Even the whole day at Philadelphia airport, which was not a whole lot of fun, was at least exciting--lots of new things to see, a lot of stimulation for the kids. Then new beds to sleep in, new people to meet (only Barak really remembered Grandma E and Grandpa M from their last visit a year ago), a different environment, so many new things to see and do. They handled it great, in general.

But Wednesday morning did not start out well. Everyone, with the possible exception of Avtalyon, got out of bed acting like they already needed a nap. Kvetch kvetch kvetch, fight fight fight. You want me to do what? I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that. You want me to come? Um, no, I'm busy. Iyyar seemed to have noticed that there was nowhere for him to have a time-out so decided to push things until he got one, to see what happened; I exiled him to the base of the stairs. That worked, but as he was calming down, Grandma M came along and, not knowing why he was there, told him to move because nobody could go up and down the stairs. More hysterics, &c.

The original plan for Wednesday had been to play in Grandma E's yard/pasture in the morning and go swimming in the creek with a friend at lunchtime. By 9 am it was clear this was not happening. I was OK with taking three small kids creek-swimming with another friend with similarly-aged kids, not in tow; two responsible mothers to three kids I thought was OK. But not when the kids were not being cooperative. I called and we changed plans to having a picnic near a (fenced) waterfall, a good 20-minute drive away; I thought the drive might calm them down, and the environment would be a lot less dangerous. That was fun, and the kids enjoyed running around, but Barak spent most of his time with the copy of Strega Nona and the Magic Pasta Pot he found in the back seat. Behavior improved marginally, but not all that much.

Then my friend, who had to get back to work, dropped us off at Saba and Savta's house, where we'd arranged to spend the afternoon and then have dinner (spaghetti and meatballs, possibly Iyyar's favorite food ever. Actually, he can skip the spaghetti--he just wants the meatballs.) We walked in and discovered that she had pulled out three or four great big boxes of toys from when her kids were little--all those great old Fisher-Price toys I remember from the 70s, like the airport and the airplane and the baggage carts and all of that. And the barn, with the animals, and lots of little cars and tractors. The kids went straight from the door to the toys, sat down, and started playing. There were some minor altercations (the airplane, oh the airplane) and Iyyar's tummy was not in the best shape until he finally pooped after an hour or so, but basically they just played. After Iyyar was feeling better, he got in on the action in earnest and they played. And played. And played.

Savta and I had planned to go to the local supermarket, which has acquired a kosher section since I last lived there, and pick up snacks for the flight home. I had assumed we'd bring the whole contingent, since ordinarily nobody would have any thoughts about turning down a ride in the car to the store. But today? No interest at all. "Do you want to come in the car to the store?" They barely looked up. "No." "Do you just want to stay here with Saba?" "Yeah. I just want to stay here and play." Iyyar had about the same answer. I looked at Saba. He suggested we sit in the driveway for a minute before pulling out. Barak is now more OK with being places without me but Iyyar generally likes to go where I go, so I thought this was a good suggestion. Savta and I went out to the car, buckled in Avtalyon, and waited. Nope. We pulled out and went shopping. I kept checking my cell phone, but nobody called. Avtalyon promptly fell asleep in the carseat and stayed asleep the whole time we shopped.

We got back home and the scene was completely unchanged. Barak and Iyyar on the floor playing, Saba standing there, amused, observing. They'd barely noticed when we had left and they barely noticed when we got back. Saba went off to the bus stop to pick up Abba, who'd been gone for going on three days. They hardly registered when he walked in. Dinner went on the table and they ate--Iyyar his meatballs, Barak his plain noodles, Avtalyon a little bit of everything--and promptly went back to playing, until it was finally time to go back to Grandma E's at around 7. They'd been playing for five hours straight. Except for stopping to eat--and with an early lunch and no afternoon snack, they had to have been hungry--they'd barely looked up the whole time.

And not only did they play nicely, but when we left they were children transformed. They were happy. They were cooperative. They went to bed nicely. They woke up the next day perfectly delightful, which was good because that was our big day to visit the fire station and the farm. It was clear that what they'd needed hadn't been a good night's sleep--it had been a good afternoon of quiet, uninterrupted, left-to-their-own-devices, familiar play. They needed processing time for all the new experiences.

I can't tell you how much this struck me--how clear it was that they had needed, really needed, that time to play. It made me think about how I feel about knitting. When I'm really really busy, what upsets me the most is not so much the lack of sleep--although I don't love that--or time to see friends or anything like that. What I hate is when I am really truly too busy to knit, even a little. I need that knitting time. I need the time to sit and let my hands do their thing and let my mind wander. I need it so much that sometimes, even when any sane person would go to bed, I sit down and knit for half an hour first--and we are talking about late at night here, when I REALLY should be asleep. But I need the knitting time more. It's not just time to veg. It's time to let my brain catch up to where it needs to be.

Next Sunday, I'm meeting up with Sarah to go to an all-day fiber event. I'm leaving here at 5:30 am and won't be back till 7 PM. I'll have hours and hours and HOURS to knit. I can't wait. :)

Saturday, August 08, 2009


We are home after most of a week visiting Grandma E and Deb and various other friends in the town where I went to college and then grad school and then stuck around a little longer after that. It was great--lots and lots of kid-centric fun, followed by evening knitting on the couch, and with the added bonus of other adults around to do baby-chasing duty occasionally. I want to blog about it all more fulsomely, but right now I have a kitchen to clean up, and I want to upload all the pictures first. So, in the meantime, this, b'kitzur, is what we did:

Sunday: Woke up at 3:45 am to get a 4:30 cab to the airport for a 7:00 flight, with a connection in Philly that was to have gotten us to our destination by around 1 PM. Instead, spent the entire day at Philadelphia airport, with occasional calls to local friend K, who would have let us sleep on her floor if we'd gotten stuck overnight (but, nice as it would have been to see her, we are still glad it didn't come to that). We were supposed to have a 2-hour layover; thanks to a thunderstorm that closed the airport, it turned out to be 11 hours. The kids behaved better than many of the grownups we saw. This is not saying as much as you might think.

Monday: The beginnings of serious Small Boy Fun. Grandma E's son-in-law Charlie came over with an honest-to-goodness functional steam engine. He fired it up and drove it around the house and let the boys ride on it. Then he let Barak drive it. They both worship him now. The next day, when Charlie pulled into the driveway (sans steam engine), I heard Iyyar say, dreamily, "I want Charlie to come back. I want him to come back wif his steam engine."

Then Grandma and Iyyar and I went down to the local natural-food coop to get various kosher and dairy-free items, plus the popsicles I had promised the boys in reward for their relatively spectacular behavior the day before. We put Abba on a bus, because he was going to visit his own grandma for a couple of days, and then came back up to Grandma's, where we then loaded carseats and kids into friend Deb's car for an afternoon at her house spent splashing in water barrels, eating blueberries directly off bushes, harassing cats, bonding with bunny rabbits and, finally, building with Lincoln Logs. More on all of this later.

Tuesday: Morning at farmer's market, including a visit to the Twisty Balloon Man, who made a dog on a leash for Iyyar and a pirate sword with belt and holster for Barak. The dog, sadly, did not even survive the trip back to the car; the pirate sword made it to lunch but not beyond. Alas. Lunch of fabulous farmer's market corn (cooked in the pot Grandma E bought and kept new just for us--we are not worthy), green beans, peaches, and the cucumber we'd brought back from Deb's garden the day before.

Afternoon included a trip to the park with sprinklers, checking out the playground equipment, and general running around; then back to Grandma's for a dinner of yogurt, and then bed for the boys and a visit from some members of my old spinning guild for me. Lots of fun and a sleeve and a half knitted on current baby sweater.

Wednesday: morning spent running around Grandma E's enormous backyard with pasture, collecting walnuts from the tree and driving toy cars in the grass. Lunch at the waterfall with boys and a friend from a short-lived Job from Hell I had in New York (only good things to come out of job: said friend, and the discovery of an awesome kosher vegetarian Chinese place). Then we went over to Saba and Savta's house (TWO sets of honorary grandparents--my kids are doing pretty well, wouldn't you say?) for spaghetti and meatballs and playing-with-toys. I really want to blog about this further--much to say there, mostly about the workings of the busy mind. Saba went to pick up Abba at the bus station in time for dinner.

Thursday: left Abba, who did not fit in Grandma E's car, at home with his books while we went to Deb's local fire station for a privately guided tour of same by her brother-in-law. He opened all the bay doors, drove a truck out into the parking lot, and let the boys climb all over it--and try on fireman coats AND hats and even showed off his thermal camera. Boys were so stunned and awestruck they barely managed a thank-you at the end. I heard all about it later, though.

Back to Deb's, by request of boys, but by way of her friend up the road who has sheep AND goats AND chickens to feed. My own grandmother kept chickens until I was well into my 20s and one of the great highlights of visiting her as a child was getting to feed them and collect the eggs, so it was really nice--and a little melancholy for me--to watch the kids entranced by these ones. Then back to Deb's for a lunch of blueberries, directly off the bushes, hard-boiled eggs (including one from a chicken of our recent acquaintance), peanut-butter sandwiches and what Iyyar calls "tomato chips" (Bearitoes, which you can't get around here but I really like).

Off to the university campus, via the local yarn store (I got a magazine and a ball of sock yarn), where we met my friend Zhenya (old friend from my very first Russian class there). Ice cream for the dairy-tolerant and a popsicle for Iyyar, a walk around the gardens, and a visit to the Echo Tunnel. A very loud visit.

Then home to Grandma's, where we discovered Abba with meat tenderizer plastered on his face from a yellowjacket sting incurred while reading outside at the picnic table. Dinner of the last yogurts in the fridge for the boys, then baths and bed; Grandma E and I shared the box of tomato soup I'd bought on our first day, then there was laundry and packing and bed. Another 4:45 am departure, but a much smoother trip home; everything was on time, it could not have been easier, and we were back in our own home by 1 PM. I took a solo trip to the rarely-visited supermarket for supplies, then made bagels for Shabbos, with Barak watching from the kitchen table.

"Imma, when are we going back to Ithaca? I want to go back there. Can we go back soon?"

Can't imagine why he'd want to do that. Can you?