Finding myself in the Middle East

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Big Girls Don't Cry

Most babies are intrinsically lovable, probably a G-d-given defense mechanism, like the skunk's powerful smelly weapon. Because if the skunk didn't have it's eye-watering stench, it would be prey for everyone from the brown bears to 3 year-old Catskill pilgrimagers. (Pilgimagers. Those who make a pilgrimage. No? Hm. Worked in my head.)

The kids that I watch in the morning vary in age, gender and looks. The most important is the temperament difference, I would think, with looks coming in second. I mean, I don't need The Gerber Baby, but cuteness definitely helps when they start the second hour of banshee-level screaming....

I have sweet beebees with hair that looks like the kid was plugged in to an electric socket and really should be on display somewhere, and sensitive prima donnas with big blue tear-filled eyes who cry when their mommas' leave and when another baby looks at them head-on. I have grinning, dimpled adorable monsters who succeed in destroying that which my own two kids left in semi-mint condition. I have living dolls who don't make a peep even when they fall over. And I have Adina.

It is terrible, really. Why don't I like this kid? My surface reaction is--well--she is--Adina! She scuttles like a crab, instead of walking. She wipes her always dripping nose on my skirt. She only wants toys if another baby already has them. She growls instead of crying. She sits on the other babies. Really, she does. Flat on. And when she makes one of her vile, loose, multicolored surprise-in-a-diaper, she squats down and grunts like--like--like something big, with horns, that smells, and eats small vermin, that squats down and grunts. Nothing about her in sweet or endearing.

I am the most terrible person in the world. That is all that I can reflect on when I play with her. Why can't I see beyond that, just as I do with the baby who never stops howling at the moon?

Outdoorsman snorted a great, knowing snort when I told him about my dilemma. He said, "It's because she should have been a boy. And women are the biggest sexists when it comes to things like that."

I responded to this accusation in a thought-out and mature way; I snorted right back, and informed him that as a former bleeding heart liberal and feminist, that is the stupidest thing I ever heard. Then I took my feminist tush and marched off to wash the dishes.

Over which I thought over what Outdoorsman had said. And I thought--OMG--he might be right. BUT I WILL NEVER GIVE HIM THE PLEASURE OF KNOWING THAT. I have some pride, you know.

Ahem. Anyway.

Is he right? Adina's behavior is unsavory and uncute because girls are supposed to cry in high-pitched tones instead of growls and be the hittee instead of the hitter? Eat neatly and not spray food everywhere and say please and thank you?

Bottom line question: Do you think that I would mind her less and love her more if she was just a rough-and-tumble boy?

I Wanna Be where the Poeple Are

How old will I be when it finally all clicks into place? When I don't want to be over THERE when I'm over HERE and THERE when HERE? Reading a book to my kids and wishing that I was sipping coffee in Barnes and Noble and looking over a promising stack of books (that you don't even have to buy! just the buck 'o nine on the coffee, and all the new books you could want. Hm. I think I just salivated all over the keyboard.) Putting the kids to bed and itching to get back to the half-sorted laundry. Getting back to the half-sorted laundry and longing for it to be over so that I could sign online and go on youtube--um, make that

I want to be happy exactly where I am. I want to live in the present. I don't want to be urging my newborns into babies, babies into toddlers, toddlers into children, children into teenagers, teenagers into adults in my mind forever. I want to hug them and kiss them and play with them and make puppets with them and bake cookies with them and even clean up their spills and be patient with their tantrums and the thousandth call from bed and be there in heart mind body and soul.

It could just be the winter. The cold, rainy, dark winter that keeps me in my 76 square meters all. day. long. But it also could just be a matter of letting go. Of letting myself just BE 26 (until I turn 27, that is. Which is soon. Gulp.) and mom of two and babysitter in the morning and with x amount of dollars to spend. I will not be single with a PhD or a fabulously thin and famous broadway actress or 17 years old and dreaming in Barnes and Noble. I've always tended to escape into a different world in my head, which is why when growing up , if I was sent to the basement for a bag of plastics forks, I would come back with spoons. Or mayo. Or a chainsaw.

So--feathers and pom-poms and glue are coming out, kids! Puppets 101--here we come!After I finish my coffee.

Can you Paint with all the Colors of the Wind?

So I went to the speech, because, you know, night out and some torah thoughts to float around in my cereal-mush-mommy-head. And I came home really disturbed. And not just because I acted on the impulse to jump into the ankle-deep puddle in front of the building (oh, the freedom of giving in to a childish impulse! Oh the joy of a good splash! Oh the greater joy of soaking my sister innocently walking next to me!) but because the message of the speech resonated in me like a lightly applied dentist drill to the tips of my teeth. Or something else that is grating and has an off-key pitch.

He was a good story-teller and told story after story after story. But then he told a story about a great rabbi (no, I don't remember which one. But if you want, I can pull a name out of my Rabbi-Story hat. Chofetz Chaim. There ya go!) who was flying (airplanes...oh...well, I guess I should have a 20-21st century rabbi hat so that my stories make good historical sense) over the Niagra Falls. A talmid called out, "look Rebbe, look!" And he refused to look. He continued looking at his gemara. The talmid said, look Rebbe, look! It's niflaos haborey, the wonders of G-d!" The Rabbi pointed at his sefer and said, "This is niflaos haborey."

Me. No, Likey. And I'll tell you why.

After the speech, I said as such to a friend sitting next to me. She said, "He meant, on your own level, you know."

I said, "No, I do not know! I don't think that this is a level to be aspiring to!"

She said, "you don't believe that Chofetz Chaim/Rabbi Moshe Feinstien/Rav Sheinberg was a huge tzaddik??"

I said, "I believe (pick a name) was a huge tzaddik. I just don't believe the story."

And it's not possible! Moshe Rabbeinu, Dovid Hamelech, etc, etc, gentle shepherds all, living in nature, gleaning G-dliness from nature. Avraham Avinu, who discovered the entire Torah through nature! How can you close your eyes to it and give over the impression that it's a waste of time?!

And some more ?? and !!

Historically, people living as farmers, surrounded all day by endless land and sea and sky were more G-d-fearing than their city-dwelling cousins. Look at a political map of the US, even today, and realize this phenomenon. The beautiful world around us is created directly from Hashem in the first 6 days of creation! It's a canvas painted just for our human eyes to drink in.

Outdoorsman loves fishing. And I love taking pictures of how he looks knee-deep in clear waters, fly rod in hand. There is something so deeply naturally spiritual about being one with the world, of taking your place in the circle of life. My best shacharis is always after a night of camping under the stars.

There is a story that I like much, much better. Of Reb Zushia (I think. I think it's him. Maybe instead of a hat, I should get a Rabbi-Story database) who wanted to go to Switzerland before he died. When his talmidim asked why, he replied, "because after I die, the Creator of the universe to ask me, 'Zushia, have you seen my Alps?' and I want to answer, 'yes. Mah rabu maasecha Hashem. How wondrous are Your works, oh G-d."

How wondrous!

The Wind Beneath my Wings

When I was fourteen years old, I wrote a journal entry describing my Dad as a powerful strong lion (yes, I know powerful and strong should not be used in conjunction with each other since they are the same and do not enhance anything. I was 14, ya know.) with an arrow in his side. Mighty but wounded. I'm at a loss at how to describe him now.

My Dad is tall, handsome, and gentle. He also has Multiple Sclerosis, and has had that for almost as long as I can remember. Almost.... I have a collage of short videos in my head--being lifted upside down to walk on the ceiling, hiding under his desk and watching him work, sitting on his lap while he read a children's book and handing him a tissue when he cried (inevitably) at the sweet ending--but it's hard to see all that when I hear his barely audible slurred speech and rub out his clenched fists so that his nails don't cut into the palms of his hands.

It's even harder to see all that when I live 6,000 miles away from him, and can't even read him a book or tell him about my day, and get his beautiful smile in return.

His digression was slow and incredibly painful to watch. From walking tall and proud and looking like superman among humans, he slowly became Christopher Reeves after his accident. He tried to hold onto his pride and do the best that he could with what he still had; most of what he did was invest in the stock market and feel that at least he was making money for his family. When the stock market fell at the turn of the century, it devastated him. He felt, finally, the reality of the situation. He was a giver who would have to be a receiver for the rest of his life.

I spoke to someone whom I respected about what G-d was doing to my Dad. I was so angry and confused. The stock market was the one thing that he still had to hold onto, to make him feel as if he was contributing. Why did this have to happen to him? The answer I received was not the usual, "we don't understand...but it's all good, donchaknow." It was instead, something that really made me think and stayed with me for years. It was, "maybe that is the point. Maybe he is not supposed to have any attachments to the physical realm at all."

And in terms of him giving...well, he gives and gives and gives. His quiet acceptance and love, his smile, his constantly playing torah tapes and davening with headphones each morning, listening to my brother's taped over chanting of shacharis gives inspiration to all who know him, even if it does put a lump in your throat.

My Dad recently had a feeding tube put in. He can no longer eat. No longer bite into a cookie and find the chocolate chips with his tongue. No longer let ice-cream melt in his mouth. No longer feel the refreshing coolness of iced lemonade wash down his throat. My Mom said to me, "that's it. That's the last of the physical pleasures that he had, and now it's all over." I finally repeated over to her the words that I was told so many years ago. She was silent, taking it in. We were silent for a minute together, breathing together over the phone lines, 6,000 miles away from each other.

So maybe I can describe him, after all. My father is an angel on earth.

Its all about the Benjamins

You know what's bad about not having money? Wrinkles. On your forehead. Also the pile of bills growing yellowed with age and fruit being too expensive to buy.

You know what's good about not having money? Well, do ya, punk?

I think that I am beginning to see some. What's good about not having money is the lower appreciation threshold. (I borrowed that expression from a well-spoken Rebbetzin. It means to be truly happy and appreciate the small things.) When we rent a car (as apposed to always having one at our disposal) it is AMAZING to open a car door and hop in and take your time loading it up and having it there when you come back. Princess said the other day, "remember when you picked me up in the car, and I sat in the front seat and we drove home?" First I was sad--she has MEMORIES of being picked up by a CAR? Then I realized--she experienced it. She enjoyed it. She remembered it. It was fun. Why does it have to be disneyland? Why can't it be a car?

I do think that kids should--every once in a while--have a day from a fairy tale. Fun fun fun--lots of it--and candy, too. Those days are stuff that dreams and memories are made of. (Also upset stomachs and overtired crankiness. I hear tell.) But I am starting to think--and maybe even starting to feel--that he who is rich is he who is happy with what he has.

My mother, who is a very wise person, said that when she buying a new fridge, she thought about getting one with an ice maker on the outside. She didn't in the end because she decided that her luxuries would be our necessities. What she wanted as something really nice but not necessary would be something that her kids, growing up with it, would not be able to do without.

Maybe that's why I can live in a 40 year-old apartment that had not been redone at all (except perhaps by people who chewed the walls and dropped heavy things down on the tiles in the living room). And when I get hooks for coats, it can be a day to be all happy and warm inside. It's not sad that Princess turned to me sleepily while I put her in tonight and said, "Aunt X sent me so much STUFF." (Read: hand-me-downs.) (although honestly, my sister has better taste than me and LOOOOVES shopping, which I despise. So--the clothes are cute and fresh.) She doesn't think that she has a closet full of used clothes.

She just feels loved.

I'm It!

I was tagged 3 times, so I figured I'll do this.

25 Random Things abou Me:

1. I have a secret fear that I snore. And it kills me that there is no way to find out if I do. Because the husband will not tell me the truth.

2. I want to dye my eyebrows. Blond eyebrows make you look like a fish.

3. I have the most giving and loving family in the whole wide world, and I want to be just like my sisters when I grow up.

4. Sometimes I'm washing dishes or reading a book to the kids and then I stop in midwash or midword and realize that I'm married with two kids. Which is so weird, because I am 14 years old.

5. In high school, I used to read 10 books a week. And I also had friends. Really!

6. When I was first married and started covering my hair, I dyed it neon purple.

7. I like eating salt. Plain.

8. I wish that I was petite. Sometimes, I feel like I look more capable than I feel because I'm so tall and broad.

9. I used to grind my teeth at night, and that's why they are all perfectly the same height.

10. I am afraid of the dark.

11. I love jelly beans.

12. My husband could beat up your husband.

13. I can crack all of the joints in in my arms.

14. I cracked all of the joints in my arms on a date and the guy opened the car door and threw up. No, not really, but he did turn green.

15. Lots of times, I think about someone and say, wow, I should call X, I haven't spoken to her in ages! And then I don't.

16. I feel the most fulfilled when on a stage.

17. I love super super hot showers. The kind that makes your skin turn blotchy red. I want to marry hot water.

18. I had two kids without epidurals and it was worth it for that unbelievable feeling of their little bodies sliding out and into the world.

19. I once got lost in the arab quarter in jerusalem after dark, and when I asked a group of men for directions, I distorted my face and body to look grotesque, because I was scared.

20. All of my siblings are leaving this summer, and that makes me feel very sorry for myself.

21. Sometimes I hate living is such an old apartment, because when you clean, it looks exactly the same as it did when it was dirty.

22. Sometimes I like living in such an old apartment, because--just don't clean!

23. Number 22 was in theory. Really, I scrub the apartment walls daily.

24. The above is a bald lie. I do that sometimes, lie, I mean, but usually only to protect people's feelings. I hate when people feel sad. It gives me a sour stomach. For real.

25. I like my freckles. They keep me from taking myself too seriously.

Barefoot and Pregnant

It's 7:30, and the girls are soft and warm and smell like strawberry shampoo. I want to finish our good-night routine quickly, because the play-area looks like someone ate all of the toys and then threw them up in violent, patternless heaves (I think that is the most vile metaphor that I have ever come up with! Yay me!) and the kitchen was dirty from the kids' dinner and spotless from the one I intended to make for Outdoorsman and me.

I tousled the nearest damp head of hair, blew kisses, and edged to the door. Then, from the larger damp head--

"Ima, how do babies get into Imas' bellies?"

So many things flew into my head. A few of them: dinner would be late, and the house woul be messy. And, Princess! You are three! I thought that I had, I dunno, 18 more years or so before I had to answer The Question. And, I better answer her, because my face looks scary right now. Also that I will never be able to calculate square roots in my head, but that doesn't make me any less valuable as a person.

So I said, (truthfully, though kind of leaving out the technical realities,) "G-d puts a tiny tiny seed into the Ima's belly, and it grows into a baby." Then I sat down, because I knew all sorts of questions were going to come exploding out of Princess' inquisitive mind.

Sure 'nuff:

"How big is the seed?"

"Very tiny."

"Does it go in from the front or the back?"


"The front."

"Does G-d have to cut the Ima open to put the seed in?"

Ouch. "Nope, it's so tiny, it slips right in!" If she asks through where, and I say through the belly button, does that make me a bad person?--

"And then it gets bigger and bigger?"

Phew. "Yes, it gets bigger and bigger, until its ready to come out."

"Oh!" She sits up in bed, and grabs my hand. "That's why I have to eat good food with protien, so that I will get big and have a baby inside my belly, and then the baby could get bigger and bigger?"

Good explanation as any. "Uh huh!"

She's quiet. Then, "Does uh huh mean yes?"

"Uh huh. I mean, yes."

"Then I will go to the hospital and they will name my baby? When I am big and old and full of baby?"

OMG. "No, Princess, you name the baby all by yourself."

"Ima!" She is wide-eyed, and squeezes my hand. "You have to help me!"

"Oh, Princess." I feel my eyes filling with tears. "I'll help you however I can."

I hug her, and lie her back down, first turning her pillow over to the dry, cool side. Then I give her a kiss on her forehead, and head for the door. The kitchen is beckoning.

"Ima, how old will I be when you stop being my Ima?"

In two steps, I cross back over to her bed. (Not really an accomplishment; the room is the size of a larg-ish shower stall.)

"I will never be old enough to be too old to be your Ima."A complicated sentence, but she gets it.

I get it, too.

I need to sit on their beds, hold them tight, read to them, listen to them. Dinners and clean living rooms are not the things that will be remembered.

Outside, Inside, Upside down

I was cleaning up after dinner, virtuously ignoring the siren call of the computer with it's shiny, shiny buttons and many, many functions. I thought that I should wipe the fridge down; then I put that thought in a mental file marked "Pesach." Dishes couldn't wait that long, so I started on those. Hands in suds, my thoughts drifted, as they tend to do these days, to the the soldier that my husband and I are praying for. He became critically inured 2 days after we started having him in mind every day, and the war just became so much more real and horrifying to us. And how we both feel that we should have been praying harder, we should have been praying more. Then I felt the waistband of my skirt digging into my skin and I knew that when I took it off I would see those evil red lines and I thought with a surge of misery that no matter how carefully I eat and no matter how much I run, I will never ever get my metobalism and my figure back to the way it was before Coco-pop and Princess were born.

Yeah. It took me a second to be horrified at my thought process, too.

Sometimes, I even believe that I'll think about my body less when I lose twenty pounds. That's how AWESOME my power of lying to myself is. I will also be a more patient mother, loving wife, and even a better babysitter. I will be able to daven better, live better, love better, laugh better.

I can justify it a bit. Even at my thinnest, when I was too thin, it was ridiculously hard for me to find clothing that fits me well. I am tall, with broad shoulders and hips. That's how my bones are built. I didn't believe it, so I checked. Then I went to a wonderful seminary and learned and internalized all about G-d and love and you are worth so much more than just a body and a pretty face and I tucked my bones back in under a layer of flesh. Then I got married and had a couple of the cutest babies in the whole world, and tucked in my bones a little more. (Apparently, as my mother almost triumphantly informs me, the metabolism doesn't like being starved into complacency for a few years, and this is it's way of PAYING ME BACK.)

But back to my bones and the way that I am built. Apparently, all Jewish religious girls are 5"4 and hip-less. Except me. At least, that's what all the skirts that I try on seem to be telling me. I carry stacks and stacks of clothing--in my size--to the dressing room, and leave empty-handed and in tears. And it's really not good for me to feel not good about me. Because then I want to not eat ever ever again and eat a whole chocolate cake with mint frosting. At the same time.

I feel like when I feel good about how I look again, then I can proclaim myself a maccabi, fighting against the greek ideals of physical beauty and perfection of form. Isn't that the most ridiculous thing? I even know where it came from. I'm sure that you do, too. Have you ever noticed that from cartoons all the way through to "serious" films, the good guys are beautiful graceful and the bad guys are ugly and goofy? The good guy can only have a soul-searching if the wind is blowing through his/her hair and his/her eyes are bright and skin clear. I can talk about this for hours, but my point is--

--somewhere deep within me, I truly feel that to be at peace with the physical, I have to look good while proclaiming that I am above it.

The Play's The Thing

So I just came back from my sister's play, and she was as good as the play was terrible. I spent the whole time spakling all of the plot holes so that it actually made some sense, and calculating how far the radius of the aroma of the person-sitting-next-to-me's tuna sandwich was. Also, at one point, I stared up at the ceiling with puzzlement and a little bit of horror on my face and then looked around to see how many people around me I got to look up at the ceiling. Around 10. Then I faced forward primly to avoid the looks of puzzlement and horror directed at me.

After the curtains fell (or rather, ran jerkily towards each other on rather human-like feet) I got all of the "OMG, are you X's sister? Wow, she is so good, you must be so proud, and you look JUST LIKE HER!" To which I replied, "Actually, she looks like me." And also, when someone said, "OMG, OMG, OMG, it's so scary how she looks just like you!" I said, "Boo. Boo."

Now, I am really a nice person. I really am. I actually like making people happy and smile. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and I like feeling warm and fuzzy inside. If I make someone sad, It's like your favorite warm and fuzzy coat or sweater or dog just got caught in a downpour. And now smells like something warm and fuzzy and wet. So, when I was a little bit mean to all of my sisters cute little friends, it wasn't about my Inner Snob (whom I really should let out once in a while to get a breath of fresh air) It was really about me being a jealous dog.

Which is not any better than the inner snob, but at least it's true.

The play was bad, the scenery was bad, the costumes and acting so-so. (Except my sister. She was awesome!) But my inner sleeping actress woke up suddenly when the lights dimmed and the curtains opened. She probably woke up too suddenly and banged her head and ruined her REM cycle, because instead of waking up and curling up in her little bed and sighing a nostalgic sigh, she woke up MAD. She said, "why was I sleeping? Get up on stage, D! Who is that bizarre mirror image of you on stage? And why is my bed next to the Inner Snob's?"

I've acted and directed after marriage and kids as well. I concluded that it was too stressful, that it was too important to me to have a proper dinner on the table and a smile for my husband and time to read books to the kids without looking at the clock to get seriously mixed up in that again. I do acting for some cute frum movies, and that satisfies the Inner Actress most of the time without driving the Outer Housewife insane.

Most of the time. Sometimes the smoke signals that my brain sends my heart is scattered and made incomprehensible by a talented actress on a crappy set who looks just like me.

So I acted a little condescending to my sister's friends and banged the spakle knife around the plot holes a little too gleefully.

Sometimes I think that the fact that we are so incomprehensibly complicated even to ourselves is proof enough of G-d. And if I scared any of my sister's friends a bit too much with that final "boo," that's what I'll tell them. They're seminary girls. They'll buy it!

...Just as the Little Boy had Known it Would

"She tried to press coffee and cake on her guests."

I read that line in a book (Herman Wouk) and although it had next to nothing to do with the story, it leaped up off the pages and wrapped itself around my brain. Because. Those guests were unexpected. They just walked right in. Which means that she had cake (homemade, too) ready and waiting to serve.

I want cake and muffins and homemade bread in my freezer. I want to serve three course meals, each course delicious as well as nutritionally balanced. (I also want a 18-inch waist to wrap my apron around, but this is about me being ALTRUISTIC, not thinking just ABOUT MYSELF. So I will not even MENTION the waist desire.)

It's like when we write up a Schedule of the Week. And on paper I am totally cleaning the toilet like, every time I walk into the bathroom, and the couches every second, and laundry before it even hits the bottom of the hamper, and sponja? I will finally go to my Israeli neighbor and get instructions on how to do a real one. The kind where you use 4 inches of water and spray it down soapy and grey onto unsuspecting passerbys because that's how it is done. And that's how we've been doing it for 4,000 years, and that's how it must always be done. (That's one of the problems of being a member of a really, really REALLY long-lived race. Whatever bright new ideas you have, you can bet that someone and his camel had the same idea. 2,000 years ago. And it failed. Miserably. And everyone will delight in telling you so.)

And then you are (using "you" instead of "I" for A) literary style B)avoiding personal humiliation) too tired in the morning because you woke up from the interesting sound that is a combination of Princess climbing into Coco-pop's crib and landing on her sleeping face and the new neighbors starting construction at 6:45 in the LORD'S HOLY MORNING (the sound is sort of like a banshee meeting a woodchopper) and then one of the babies (you babysit in the morning because you are masochistic) shrieking from the moment his smiling mother left until his smiling mother returned.

So there went the morning, and thoughts of laundry and homemade bread.

The afternoon is a whirl of Princess painting on the walls and Coco-pop's hair. Then they go into bath and bed kicking and screaming and with 3 gallons of milk ("a little teen tiny teeeeeeeny little bit more, Ima?") Dinner is put together on an express train, you straighten up the disaster left in your girlies' wake and wipe the paint off of the walls, and then wave at the laundry detergent and sponja stick in a friendly but slightly distant way on the way to bed.

But really, that was the parenting magazine version of your day. Like, "Stumbling to the coffee machine, I brewed my breakfast." If you were to be completely honest with yourself, there are many many many moments in between. Like when Princess curled up on the couch and read a book out loud to Coco-pop. Coco-pop napping, and Princess dragging a stool and a box of toy dishes to the kitchen counter, and you knowing that that would be the perfect time to bake something with her.

I'm thinking about all this because it is a week before Rosh Hashana, the new year, and I am thinking about what to take on myself that will be different from all of the grand plans written up so neatly in my journals, year after year after year. A wise person once told me that you should think about what you want to take upon youself, and then cut it in half. Then cut it in half again. And one more time. Make it so small that it will actually slip into your soul and take root.

So. Making homemade bread once a week (18-inch waist, anyone?) and all other symbols of being the perfect wife and mother must be chopped and chopped and then chopped again. The only changes that take root are the teeeeeny tiny ones.

I hope that, like seeds, they grow.

Don't Talk to Me, I'll Just Know That it means that You Hate Me

It's really incredible, how thin our skins are.

By "our skin," I mean, "my skin." (Just trying to make it sound all general-like and more of a universal "if you prick us, do we not bleed, yada yada yada," rather than, "everyone is so MEAN to me! Wah! Hold me!" )


So coming to certain decisions about who I am now, where I am now, what is important now, can be sort of like performing open-heart surgery. On yourself. Because it's painful and exposes some inner organs which are not beautiful to our way of judging beauty. And it's full of blood and sometimes doctors leave razor blades INSIDE the patient when they sew them up, and then the patient can win millions in a lawsuit. (Um. I think i just bit off a little more that I can chew over here. Ignore the last part. )

My life was going to take a completely different direction before we moved here. Doctorlawyermerchant living in a house with a two-car garage. Children? Yes, of course, but also a psychologist. How? Well, maybe by the time the kids came around, they would invent 36-hour days or something. Then I could be with the kids for 24 and have my career for the other 24.

So, maybe not so well thought-out. But still, a dream for a very long time. And when you sit down and say to yourself, self, I have two children who call me (and no one else) Ima. Doesn't that make everything else sort of fade away? Doesn't that make you want to take a job that you can do with them home?

It did. It also made me cry a lot.

So, where was I going with the thin skin, you might ask? And if you do, I might tell you.

I will assume that you asked.

Someone whom I love very much and I know respects me and actually feels strongly about me staying home with the kids (ok, it's my husband. Outdoorsman he shall be called. But he didn't mean it. Which is what I mean by THIN SKINNED.) said, "wow! It's incredible how much money you are making at an (wait for it) unskilled job!"

I think that all the color drained from my face and formed a little pool around my feet, because he said "I didn't mean it like that! You know that I didn't mean it like that!"

He didn't. I know he didn't. It's me. It's my THIN SKIN. But it's more than being sensitive, I think. It's being insecure about decisions you make. Especially in this world we now live in, where a woman is somehow supposed to live in 36-hour days. She is supposed to be a full time mother and have a full time career. I know that this gripe is nothing new and is almost cliche, (horrors!) but now it hit me. Like, you can be a full time mother--if you also gave up a glorious career to do so. Then everyone says, wow. What a mother. But to give it up before it even starts--that's a whole different thing. My grandmother says I am wasting my life. My mother says I should finish--just in case. my mother-in-law wants me to have already done it before I had kids. (Which involved time travel, which gives me a headache.) Outdoorsman wants me to do whatever will make me happy.

And my kids?

Princess says, "can we bake cookies? And then read 4,000 books and can I take apart a puzzle for you to put back together so that I can say that I did it? You are not my friend! You never listen to me! I love you, Ima. Can you sleep on my bed with me for one teeny little minute?"

Coco-pop says," Dis! Dat! ba ba ba!"

So the jury is still out on those two. I know what is right, I think--until someone exposes the fact that maybe I don't really feel what I think all the time.

Yes Sir, That's my Baby

We are walking home from gan and her slightly sticky little girl fingers are wrapped halfway around my hand.


"Yes, Princess?"

"You saw Leah's mommy? She has a big belly. It's big like there's a baby inside. Isn't that silly?"

"Um, I don't know if it's so silly, love. I think that there is a baby in there."

"But, Ima! Leah already has a baby!"

"I guess Leah's baby is going to be a big brother. I think that Leah's mommy is going to have another baby!"

Her hand jerks in mine. She is quiet. Then, "Ima?"


"Who was the big girl when I was the baby?"

(Let me just interject here to say that Princess is very, very bright. And in touch with her feelings. And a little scary. Because she is three years old and is really around seventeen. Just without braces and body image issues. And with a few more almost-made-it-to-the-bathrooms than the average teen. I cannot say anything in front of her that she will not repeat back to me and then to the woman on the park bench next to me. She wrestles with ideas that she is really not supposed to grasp yet. So I am VERY GLAD and GRATEFUL that she shares her feelings with me. )

(oh, and temper tantrums. She has more temper tantrums that other seventeen year olds.)

(Actually, scratch that. I think it's about even.)

(Do you realize that half of this entry is in parenthesis?)

(I'll stop now. Back to the heart-stopping question posed to me by my 3 year-old.)

It took me a few blinking moments to understand what she was saying, and why she was gripping my hand so hard. Then I got it. I stopped walking and knelt on the ground in front of my beautiful apple-cheeked daughter, who thought that when I was going to have another baby, she was going to go the way of the last big girl. Out with the old, in with the new! Omigod!

"There was no big girl when you were a baby, love. It was just you."

When I was pregnant with Coco-pop, I was torn up with guilt. How dare I introduce a new presence into the house that will cause my precious Princess feelings of jealousy and insecurity? I would sneak into her room at night and watch her sleep, feeling my love for her and doubting that I could love another as much as I loved her. And she needed so much. Even as an only child, she needed validation and reassurance constantly. How would she react to another baby sitting on my lap when she wanted to cuddle? To me nursing someone other than her? How could I DO this to her?

Oh, and I was also hormonal.

After I had my second baby, I knew that a parent can and does love more than one child, that love is like fire that can be given over to another candle without any loss to the first candle. I just didn't know if Princess felt the same way. Actually, we got a few good clues that love was not a fever on Princess' brow as she gazed at the 7 and 1/2 pound invader for the first time. She picked up the edge of the blanket covering Coco-pop and pulled it completely over her head. Then she inquired casually about the hospital's return policy.

The coming together as a family was coming together now, I think. It's always so delicate, the balance. Do I ignore when Princess takes the toy away from Coco-pop? Do I scold her? When Princess hits the baby, I tell her not to. When Coco-pop takes a swat at her, I tell her that Coco-pop is just a baby. Is that a double standard? Am I making her feel picked on?

I know that I am very, very imperfect. I have a temper. I work on it. But is that good enough? Am I good enough? We took her 6,000 miles way from loving extended family, including grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Does Princess feel happy and safe and warm, wrapped up in a family of only mother, father, me and baby sister?

I stand up and take her hand again. I hope that I allayed her fears. "I love you."

Distractedly, "I love you, too." We walk across the street.

Then, "Oh! So Ima! It's gonna be like this. You and Abba stay Ima and Abba. I'm gonna be the big girl, Coco-pop will be the little girl, and the baby will be--" her eyes sparkled with the effort of her thinking--"the baby could be the BABY!"

As Long as it's not Tighty-Whities

It has just recently come to my attention that I might be a little bit psycho. My sister told me. And she is the very honest and sincere type, the kind who will think for a long while about how to phrase her answer properly when you call to ask if she's been outside yet this morning and if so, can she tell you if you need a coat.

Apparently, the reason for my thought-out diagnosis is the fact that I always think that my apartment is dingy. As in, dirty. As in, I just cleaned everything and the whole 76 square meters smells like a veritable potpourri of various bleaches but I KNOW--and have known since childhood--that I left a pair of dirty underwear somewhere.


And not only that, but I will not be the one to find it, no. Someone else will. A guest. Maybe the regal woman who lives up two flights. She will knock at my door to remind me that I did not pay building maintenance, I will slap my head and stammer in tooth-rotting Hebrew that it's the First of the Month! Again! I thought that it only comes around a few times a year! But this is like, every MONTH! If not more often! I will then run to the safe to pretend that there is money inside that I am looking for.

Waiting calmly at the door for me to come back and same, erm, IhavemoneybutitisamericandollarsIneedtochangeitcanIcomeovertomorrow? (we do this every month) her eyes will stray to Coco-pop trying to crawl past her out the door and head to the Landing Of Plunging Death. She will pick up Coco-pop, who will be annoyed that we did not let her see if she really has wings growing out of her dimpled shoulders (she just might. she is delicious. she is a coco-pop.) and bring her into the living room in howling protest. Then, she will see it. A pair of dirty underwear.

My imagination gets a little hazy at this point, but I know that it will happen. And that it will be humiliating and horrifying. And no one will talk to me again. Or something like that. Maybe they will talk, but they will also giggle. Behind their hands. Copiously.

I'm thinking of actually leaving a pair in the middle of the room and taking it from there. Sort of like locking a claustrophobic person in a closet and coming back for him an hour later. A dark closet, with snakes in it, maybe. And a pair of dirty underwear on the floor.

Jerusalem, Hills (and Bills) Surround You

So, first of all. Annoying, annoying ANNOYING (annoying!) past couple of days. Because when you are washing dishes, apparently it should not be done with a baby on your hip. Because then, they say, you could break something. When that thing is broken (heavy ceramic crock pot insert, for example) the next thing that they say that you should not touch the jagged edge to see how sharp it is. It is. Sharp, I mean.

Okay, so I cut my hand. The pad of my thumb, the single most annoying (you see? the Annoying is starting) place to get a cut. The next thing not to do in this hypothetical scenario is act all, oh, I don't need stitches, I will be fine, see, it stopped bleeding only two hours later.

Still! Okay, I was (hypothetically) stupid. But the way that the doctor reacted is even stupider! Really! Today was the third visit, about a cut. To sum:

Visit #1: It's infected. Wait two days. Antibiotics. Oh, and I am a surgeon, so I am a snot.

Visit #2: Surgeon? What surgeon? Where am I? What am I doing here? Oh! I work in a medical office! Ah, okay. For a second there I thought...well, he does not come in today. But let me first take off your bandage so that I have to put another one on. For fun.

Visit #3: You waited too long! I cannot stitch you now! So you must wear butterfly stitches for the REST of your LIFE! Oh, and I am a surgeon in a bad mood, so I am beyond snooty. I am a brat.

But really, my two girlys, Princess and Coco-pop, ages 3 and 1 respectively, are very impressed with The Bandage. I look like I set myself on fire. It's a cut, people!....

I try not to get mad at a situation that is what it is. Places have personality, and those who grow up with it perhaps don't even really see it as anything other than the way it is supposed to be. But I am an american living six thousand miles from the red brick houses I called home, and The Customer is Always Right sits better with me than I am Doing You a Big Favor, Giveret. As someone who is fascinated with what make people tick in terms of cultural nuances, I can give my theories of where the prevailing attitudes come from, and know that none of it is personal and I probably will, in a few days. When this stupid Burn Victim Bandage is in the trash.

I live in the holy city, and we have a tradition and law not to say disparaging things about it at all. I don't think, however, saying negative things about the current state is referring at all to the actual ancient city. In fact, I just made up a lovely poem about my love/hate relationship with this complicated and very beautiful (beautiful sometimes in the snooty and bratty way of a chick who KNOWS that she is beautiful) place. I will share it with you, because you are a great lover of poetry, I just know it.


I can gripe about the bills--
But not about the hills.

Thank you.

Because my water bill---You know what? I can't even talk about it.


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