Saturday, October 26, 2013

Of pterodactyls and robots

Just when I had almost completely forgotten that I once had a regularly updated blog, one particular post became the target of about four hundred spam comments. I get all my comments by email, and for the last couple of weeks, the bulk of my mail has been from "Anonymous" on "Pterodactyl." I haven't looked at any of them, so they haven't been that successful as spam, but they have reminded me that I haven't posted since... May, was it? So perhaps it's time.

This morning (it was Shabbos), the three older boys were upstairs playing while I was down with Marika and Mordechai having breakfast (muffins, if you were wondering). Suddenly I heard loud wails of outrage from Avtalyon, who, a few minutes later, came downstairs in tears because Barak and Iyyar had taken away his missiles. (Back story: I went to the US last week for five days for work, and brought them back Lego... something... robots, which came equipped an impressively deadly array of Lego robot weapons, which, sadly for me, are interchangeable; this means that there has been a lot of sneaky reassigning of weaponry to different robots and attendant protest from the owner of the robot thus disarmed.)

I listened to Avtalyon sob about his missiles for a minute or two, then got up and found two pieces of chocolate sitting on top of the freezer. I handed him one and one to Marika; he was not soothed. Then I said, "Avtalyon, I have a devious, sneaky idea for getting your missiles back." It was like turning off a switch: sobs instantly ceased. "You and Marika should eat the chocolate. Be very messy. Get chocolate all over your faces. Then go upstairs and look really happy. Say, 'Imma gave us chocolate!' Then Barak and Iyyar will want chocolate. They'll come downstairs and say, 'Can we have chocolate too?' And then you can take back your missiles."

Avtalyon thought this was an AWESOME idea. He not only ate his chocolate, he actually attempted to draw on his face with it as though it were a crayon. Then he and Marika went upstairs and I heard a gleeful "Imma gave us chocolate!" and then, exactly as predicted, "She DID?" Fifteen seconds later, Barak and Iyyar came downstairs. "Can we have chocolate too?"

Hitch in plan: Avtalyon is again crying. "I don't see my missiles!" "First give Avtalyon back his missiles. Then we can talk." Grumble grumble. All three of them go back upstairs. Me, hollering up stairs: "Avtalyon! Did you get your missiles back?" Avtalyon: "Yeah!" Me: "Did the devious plan work?" Avtalyon "Yeah! It worked great!"

Barak, looking puzzled: "What devious plan?"

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Musk Ox Day

Fifteen years ago today, I turned 25. On the same day, I defended my master’s thesis. A few days later, I got on a plane for Moscow, en route to a summer in Tver, which I knew would be followed very shortly by at least a year in the UK for more grad school. It was one of the points in your life that you remember as a temporal landmark in later years; I think of every event in my adult life as either before the summer of 1998, or after it.
During the two years of my MS, I was in a disastrous relationship with a guy who was depressed, unstable, and not at all in love with me. Instead of recognizing this and getting as far away as possible, I devoted more and more time and energy to fixing him (why are we so dumb? Why?), to the point where I suddenly realized in early April that I had not written the master’s thesis that had to be done and defended by the end of May, when I had that plane ticket to Moscow. I wrote my thesis in four weeks, fueled by Milk Duds and Diet Coke.

That same semester, my friend Cecilia was wrapping up her music degree, getting ready for her performance recital, and planning a cross-country move to start a PhD in a different field. It wasn’t an easy decision and it wasn’t an easy time for either of us. We were leaving behind lives were knew weren’t on the right path; we were leaving our friends and our familiar worlds and heading off, both of us really on our own, to do something totally different. I knew, deep down, that the relationship I was in, the one I once thought would last a lifetime, was about to end; she was taking a decisive step off the path she’d been on since she was three. We both knew we were making the right decision, but it was so hard. Neither of us were feeling very happy about any of it.

All through that year, whenever the boyfriend was more angst-ridden than usual or I just felt like I couldn’t deal, I would email Cecilia—sometimes at 3 PM on a Friday—and say, can I come visit? The next Greyhound is in an hour and a half. And I’d get on the two-hour bus and go visit, and we’d knit and watch bad TV and eat pizza and talk about nothing for hours, sometimes all night. It was more than an escape hatch; it was more like the valve on a pressure cooker. I’d stay for a day or a day and a half and then I’d take the bus back to reality.

I don’t remember exactly how the discussion started, or on which late night, but at some point we started talking about qiviut. Qiviut, in case you don’t know, is the fiber of the musk ox, made into insanely expensive yarn. Neither of us could possibly hope to afford it, and we thought about how really, all one would need to support oneself—no degree required—was a musk ox. We thought, hmm, we could forget the whole academic thing and we could open a musk ox ranch! Maybe in Canada, or in Australia. And after a while we decided that if things really didn’t work out, if we both still hated our lives in fifteen years, we’d throw it all up and open a musk ox ranch together. On my fortieth birthday, fifteen years to the day after my thesis defense. I wrote the date into the acknowledgments section of my thesis: May 19, 2013.

It seemed so impossibly far away.

It is, of course, today. In a few hours, to mark the occasion, we’re going to Skype. She’s a ten-hour time difference away, so it’ll be morning for her and late at night for me; we’re going to knit and eat pizza and drink Diet Coke together, and complain that we don’t have any short circular size 6s. We’ll wonder where lost scissors go, and we’ll ask to borrow each other’s tapestry needles. And we probably won’t talk about anything too heavy, because we never do. We won’t talk about the twists our lives have taken, or how we both got to where we are—places we never thought we’d be, but good places, all things considered. We know we made the right decisions, fifteen years ago. Hard, but right. And so, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Diet Coke to chill, and some knitting to do.
Happy Musk Ox Day.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Because Grandma E told me to

Guess where I am right now?

No, guess.

Hanging out in a hotel room, in the city where I work, with Grandma E. Mordechai is allllllmost asleep in his crib, Grandma E is reading on her Kindle, and we are both sitting here very very quietly, waiting for him to conk out so we can start chatting and knitting and doing other fun things like that.

I am having a lovely week. I mean, I miss my kids a lot. But even still.

I don't love that I have to travel for work, but since I have to do it I might as well enjoy it, right? So in between working I have been visiting with my friend Yehudis and the lovely Sarah Peasley, who came out for a night and knitted with me and even hung out with Mordechai while I was in all my meetings yesterday. And then she left and along came Grandma E, who took a train A THOUSAND MILES to come and visit for a couple of days. She keeps telling me she's 83, but I find that kind of hard to believe. (I, on the other hand, am turning 40 in a couple of weeks. I find that hard to believe too.)

The trip over was OK. I actually bought a seat for the baby, thereby ensuring a nearly empty flight on the way here (seriously, people stretched out over 4 seats on both flights!). Changed flights in Toronto, which I emphatically Do Not Recommend; I had my pedometer in my bag so I can tell you with absolute authority that the person who designed that airport did it wrong. It took me 1,963 steps to get from Flight A to Flight B, and most of that was with all my luggage in tow. And the baby and carseat and so on.

Grandma E and I have been having a lovely day of knitting and walking and visiting and shopping. Went to Target and bought half a gross of socks for various boys large and small, a bunch of sippy cups and Avengers underwear (and other things). Bought my husband a little birthday present that I think he will enjoy very much. Bought myself a new water bottle and Mordechai a toy phone.

Aaaand with that, I hear the sounds of sleeping baby breathing. Time to turn off the computer and knit!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Busy days, no time for blogging. But:

Last week, in the last-minute countdown to Shabbat, Marika kept circulating in and out of the kitchen asking for things, trying to get attention, etc. I know she just wants me to drop everything and pay attention to her, but now is not the time, so I reassure her: "Just a few minutes, sweetie. In a few minutes, I'm going to light. And then it's going to be Shabbos." Marika, joyously, "And then you're going to kiss me!"

Shabbat was lovely; we had nice guests and spent the late afternoon playing with friends. The kids even stayed past Shabbat and I went to get them after havdalah. As we walked home in the dark, Avtalyon was not pleased with me. I had done things wrong, yet again, it seemed. "Imma! How come you don't ever make it be Shabbos for longer? Why, Imma? Why do you always make Shabbos so short?" Because I can't control the movement of the sun, sweetheart. But you don't have to know that just yet.

And last night, as I tried vainly to find an apron to wear as I tackled the mountain of dishes: "Where's my apron? Has anyone seen my apron?" Marika's face lit up and she cried, "You can wear mine!" And she ran over to her little toy kitchen and pulled out her size 3, teeny tiny little pink ruffly apron with the owls on it, that I got for when she helps me in the kitchen. What could I do? I put it on. She thought it fit fine.

Mordechai turns one today. Avtalyon turned five last week. Out tenth--tenth!!--anniversary is in a few weeks. Time marches on; not every day is easy, but every day is good.