Finding myself in the Middle East

Monday, December 27, 2010

Good Enough

Today was going to be sweetness and light and honey and a thing of beauty and a joy forever in terms of the absolute amazingness in which I was going to be as Mommy.

I would start off by singing "Good morning" to my precious progeny when they entered my sleeping haven. Then I would give them breakfast wide awake, (perhaps curtesy of some strong coffee)as I smoothly floated about the immaculate apartment, gathering things up for gan and preparing perfectly balanced lunchboxes. The baby, already (mysteriously, now that I think about it) fed, would gurgle happily on his mat. Angels were going going to sing, too, I think, and maybe sprinkle down gold coins and fat-free muffins.

But Princess too, awoke with a dream. She too was determined as she gazed into the unknown future. She was going to definitely, no matter what, cry and tantrum the whole morning through.

It started at 4:30. The day, that is, started at 4:30. The girls were up and eating yogurt before the sun even got his pants on. 4:30 is not really my hour of glory, I must admit. I prefer to spent it drooling on a pillow, truth be told.

Outdoorsman, bless his soul, got up with them, and I kept drifting off to sleep between poundings on my door and spilling of aforementioned yogurts for the next hour. 5:30, Outdoorsman was off to shul and I sailed out of bed and took a deep steadying breath.

"Good morning, girls! Who want to get dre--Coco-pop, off the baby. Who wants to get--"

"Ima! Can you pour us orange juice and also I spilled my yogurt on my shoes."

"Ima, Princess doesn't let me use the glue."

"Ima, Coco-pop is using the big scissors and I told her you don't let and she didn't listen."

"Ima, Princess pulled my hair!"

"Ima, Coco-pop is yucky!"

"Ima, the baby is crying."

So he was. And so were they. And there was a huge pile of laundry that I forgot to fold from last night that was being used as--well, not exactly sure as what, but it entailed the used-to-be-clean articles of clothing being dragged through puddles of semi-dried yogurt.

I tried. I did. The angels laughed, though, and kept their singing talents and gold coins and fat-free muffins for themselves. And I'm afraid I said something to the effect of, "She gets it from your side," in rather a hiss when Outdoorsman came home for breakfast.

The apartment is in shambles, my nerves shot, and Princess went off to gan in tears.
And I'm rereading my first paragraph here and here's a thought--maybe she gets it from my side.

I mean, really. Why can't I pray and aim for a GOOD morning? Why does it have to be perfect or nothing? And I see the same look in Princess' eye when something doesn't go her way--okay, might as well let it all out. Day's ruined anyway.

Why can't I aim for a decent start and for everyone to be mostly happy? I can't sing first thing in the morning anyway, I would scare small sparrows out of the lemon trees.

I see it in Princess when she doesn't understand something on the first try, the frutration and the automatic reaction to give it up as a bad job. That's the reason I flunked math in school--it didn't come as naturally to me as the english subjects, so drop it. Why do soemthing if you can't do it perfectly?

Is this what I am passing on to my kids? Don't bother if it's not going to be guaranteed perfect?

Tomorrow, I will be pretty good. I will be good enough.

And the good-enough angels will sing mostly on key for me. And drop agurot and 95% fat free-muffins.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


"Hamakom yinachem otah," I told my father over the phone. "I love you and I'm thinking about you and I miss Bubby, too. Did he hear me?" I asked my mother when she put the phone back to her ear.

"He heard you, but oh no...he's shaking his head and looks upset. Hon, do you remember that you lost your mother? She died on Shabbas. She went peacefully. She was 91."

My mother has to remind my father several times a day that his mother just died, and each time he looks confused and hurt that no one told him and gets sad about her passing all over again. Something happened to him this last time in the hopsital, something terrible happened inside his head.

I never heard of MS doing that to someone, playing tricks on the mind in such a horrible way, but then again, Outdoorsman pointed out that most people in my father's condition are not still here with us. The unbelievable care that my mother takes of my father is why is is still alive. There were so many close calls, and they all ended in relief because of her. She loves life, and she loves him.

On a cheerier note, because my father's condition plus the fact that I might as well convert to Islam since my kids wake me up before the first prayer at 5:15 and I am grumpy and tired NEEDS a cheerier note, I sent something in to a magazine, thanks to all of your encouragement! I'll let you know what happens. Any great ideas for a pen name?

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I'd been having premonitions. Dreams, and a sense of dread that hit me right in the stomach as I was benching licht. It's nothing, I said, my husband said. It doesn't work like that. So it was with a vague sense of relief other than for the obvious of reason that his infection was cleared up that I told my sister, "Oh. Good. I’m so glad the hospital released him. Because I've been having these dreams."

"Me, too."


"Yes. Also L’s been having them. She cried."

"L cried? L doesn’t cry."

Then the phone rang at 6:30 in the morning. Coco-pop was sitting on my lap, Princess was sitting on the baby, and Outdoorsman had just walked in from shacharis. He handed me the phone. “Who in the world is calling at this—“

"Ima! What time is it over there? Everything okay?"

Everything was not okay. My heart crept up, up, up, into my throat. Abba, my Abba--

"D, it's Bubby."

A flood of tears, and a traitorous sense of--relief?--no, not relief, it can't be relief, my Bubby is gone, and horrible crushing guilt--I have not called her in over a month, I kept meaning to, what kind of person--

And Ima was saying that it was quick, and asking if Outdoorsman could say Kaddish because my Abba is Bubby's only son and he obviously can't say it and Outdoorsman is the only son-in-law who lost a parent, and Princess and Coco-pop wanted to know why I was crying, and if they could talk to Savta too.

I hung up the phone, feeling tingly, feeling numbed, feeling a slight edge of unreality fluttering in the corners of my mind. I’m always here, always far away, never where it could feel real. Outdoorsman tried to get the girls out, to give me space, but they were looking at me, and they were scared. I tried to remember what frightening words they might have heard from my end of the conversation. Ima, where was she? She was on the floor? Like she fell? I hope she wasn’t conscious, I hope she wasn't scared...was she all alone?

I remembered when my Sabba had died last year and how the words that we use to comfort ourselves as adults can be so very scary for kids. We lost Sabba. He left us. How not true, how very misleading and confusing, how frightened I would have been in their place, to learn that people can get lost or pick up and leave forever. I must be succinct. I must push past the wooden emptiness of it all and reach my words. I took a deep breath. “Bubby died. She was niftar. The part of her that made her Bubby, her neshama, went up to shamayim, and her neshama is very happy to go up there, to be near Hashem and to see Zeidy again, but we are sad because..." I fumbled, my lips feeling heavy, and caught it, "sad because we're going to miss her."

Princess asked how high shamayim is, and if it hurts to get niftar, and then asked for cornflakes in the white bowl. Outdoorsman set them up at the table and took the baby. I wandered around my room, looking around blankly for my blue scarf.

My Bubby wasn't here anymore, my Bubby with her suit and shoes matching, my elegant Bubby who went to put on a shaitel before we took a spontaneous family picture, who drove like a cowboy but never got the hang of that new fangled answering machine.

She was aristocratic and fanatical about cleanliness and made the best potato kugel in the world. And I remember the first time I saw her sit next to my father while he lay in bed and her voice broke as she said, "Oy, B, oy my poor boy." And it hit me, it hurt me--my sick Abba is her sick little boy, how hard, how unfair, after all she went through, to start a new family, to go on.

How my sister used to tease her, as she teased everyone, and at the age of 80 Bubby surprised everyone by teasing her back and developing a precious little sense of humor of her own.

Her mysterious additions to her stories of surviving the war that she told me last summer--a pregnancy in the middle of the war, but Bubby, I thought you met Zeidy in the DP camp-- stopped abruptly when she smiled, and offered me some more melon. Now I'll never know. How important is it, really, to know her full story? Maybe it is important. I think it might be.

Bubby never got her mind wrapped around the idea that I can now make a local call from Israel. She still thought of long-distance phone calls as prohibitively expensive and did not stay on the phone for more than three minutes at the most.

"So D'le, how are you?"

"Actually Bubby, I was thinking about coming in for the sumer. Tickets are really expensive, but I miss everyone and it would be--"

"Oh, okay, Dahlink. Okay. I love you, thanks for calling. Goodbye."

I love you, Bubby. I love you, Darling. Goodbye.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Just to Know You're Alive

My father is home from the hospital.

I know. I didn't even mention that he was in the hospital to begin with. He was. Double pnenumonia and an abdominal infection.

I spoke to my mother last week, when he went in.

"Hi Ima, how's it going?"

"Okay, we're alright. Abba's back in the hospital, though."

"Oh, no. What happened?"

"He's having trouble breathing, even with the respirator. His color is off and he's unresponsive. You know how he gets when he's sick. So I called Hatzala."

"Is he okay?"

"They don't know yet. I'll call when there's news, okay?"

"Thanks, yeah, okay. And tell him that I love him."


"So Ima, did I tell you that I decided to try out for the play in the end?"

"Oh, good! You're in, I assume?"

"Ya. They wrote a part for me before I even tried out."

Cold, Di. Real cold. Skip a beat, go on living.

I was reading this book, and in the book, a woman has two sick kids. Something to do with their lungs, and it's genetic and very sad. Anyway, there's this line in the book, something to the effect of how the sound of their coughing ripped into her soul. Each time they coughed, great big gashes. In her soul.

I am a pretty sensitive person. I have a hard time reading the news without crying, and I can only read happy endings. I broke the spine of my copy of Gone With the Wind because I threw it across the room, I was so furious at the ending. But when you live with something, really live with it, the gashing of the soul, well, at the beginning. When it still hurts. After a while, the gash heals. It forms a scab. Then you callous. And callouses don't bleed.

Or maybe it's just whistling in the dark. My brother went to visit my father right before he was released from the hospital. He laughed and told jokes the whole time. Driving home, he told my sister, "I laugh and tell jokes whenever I visit. Because what am I supposed to do? See him as he really is and spend the whole visit crying?"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On The First Night Of Chanuka

Angels were singing sweet twinkly songs, and I was wearing a long silver dress. Frogs were flying in a neat formation in the purple sky, and all the people clapped and cheered. The frogs flew in closer and closer until they landed on my shoulders. One hopped off and stood before me. He opened his mouth and spoke.


What? I'm not your Ima. You're a flying frog.


I opened my mouth to tell him off, when my tongue snapped out a good two feet and caught a fly. Chewing thoughtfully, I looked down. I had green webbed feet.


"Ah!" I woke up. I was in my bed. A little girl in a nightgown a bit too snug on her was around an inch away from my face. I took a deep breath and slowed my pounding heart. "Princess,"I rasped. I sounded like a frog. I swallowed painfully. My head hurt. I must have slept around five minutes since last putting the baby back in. The clock said 2:45. Three minutes. "It's the middle of the night. Go back to sleep."

"Ima, there are people in my room and they are having a party and now they are on Coco-pop's bed and they don't want to go home because it's dark outside."

I slid myself out from beneath my warm blanket and stumbled to her room. No party. Just Coco-pop, sitting up in bed. "Princess. There is no one here. Why don't you just--"

"Ima." It was Coco-pop. "Ima, the beds are moving. I don't want them to move."

Okay. Now, I am a grown woman, mother of three, college degree. And I am also really really (reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaally) afraid of the dark. I fought to keep my voice calm. "Girls. The beds aren't moving. There are no people here. It's the middle of the night. Go to sleep!"

On cue, Turtle woke up again. I quickly tucked the girls in and went to calm him down. I avoided looking out the dark windows and sang songs, mostly to soothe Turtle, partly to soothe myself. Outdoorsman came in, yawning, eyes half closed. "Everything okay?"

"Sure. This house is haunted, though, so we have to move."

Outdoorsman blinked at me, stared, then blinked again. He then retreated to the safety of the bathroom.

The whole night was a variety on the same theme. When the sun came up, one look into the girls' glassy eyes was all I needed. The house wasn't haunted. Both girls had a high fever.

So the first night of chanuka, which was supposed to include color paper and crayons and draidel stencils and latkas and doughnuts and presents had a lot less that and a lot more unabated misery with a chance of tears.

Happy Chanuka. It's a good thing we got eight days.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When I Grow Up

I just sent Princess off to gan in tears. Her, not me. Well, me too. Because when she is not in a good mood, I know that I had something to do with it, that I was less than ideal, and that stings.

It wasn't really my fault this morning. Coco-pop, who wakes up before the sun, woke her up this morning, and she woke up grumpy, raring for a fight. I sang to her, let her play the game which is the bane of my existance--Shoe Store, in which every show in the house is layed out on the couch, and then paired up and sold and placed into bags and delivered (for free!) all over the apartment.

I wrote her a mitzvah note, and didn't make a big deal over her half-finished yogurt. I let her play (i.e. torture) the baby and all was well--until the teeny tiny incident that happened as we were leaving. It ended in her calling me "an icky Ima" and me, tight-lipped, sending her off without a kiss.

I'm still wondering what went wrong. I guess I just never became the ideal me, the perfect me, the one I thought I would effortlessly turn into when I got older.

The ideal me is slightly taller, much narrower, a little thinner. She is sweeter, kinder, more patient, and a better, and published, writer. Her singing voice is stronger, and her acting more polished. Her kids obey every word she utters and with a smile, too, since she is always fair and phrases things perfectly. Her house is neat, her dinners delicious and perfectly balanced nutritionaly. She keeps in touch with all of her friends and family, and sews, too.

She sounds like Mother Teresa, but looks like Barbie.

Upon further reflection, I'm not sure if I want to become her...

or kill her.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Right Place, Right Time

I was late for class, but it was a beatiful day. I stopped for a minute halfway to the main building, and took in the flowers, the blue sky, the white stone buildings. Neve's campus was always nice, but even more so on this near perfect spring day.I was 20 years old, it was 75 degrees, I was in Jersalem, and if I stepped on it, I would only be five minutes late to my favorite class.

I was about to hurry on when someone tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I spun around. A girl--a woman? --maybe five years older than me stood there. She smiled and blinked and seemed a little uncomfortable. "Are you D?" her voice was quiet, refined.

"Yeah, can I help you with something?" she did look vaguely familiar, but that's how I am with faces. Vague.

"Hi. Um. You probably don't remember me. Do you remember me?"

"Uh, no. But that doesn't mean anything. I'm totally hopeless at remembering anyone...sorry."

"That's okay. I just need to tell you something."

I nodded encouragingly and made what I hoped was an interested face, not one that told her that I was going to be even later for class. "Go ahead. Do you want to sit down?"

"No, that okay. I'm late for class."


"I just wanted to tell you that I am here because of you."

Interest no longer feigned, I looked at her more closely. She had beautiful eyes. I had no idea who she was.

"I arrived here, on the campus, around 6 weeks ago. I'm in the building next door to yours. I was feeling kind of down when I got here because of things at home, and things that I was going through, and there are so many people here. I was totally lost. I had no idea why I had even come here. I wanted to learn about Judaism, I guess, but this was so overwhleming. I felt unwanted."

She paused. A butterfly flew by.

"I decided to leave. I didn't need this. I would spend the rest of my trip at a friend's apartment in Tel Aviv and then go home. Then I saw you. You walked out of your dorm and towards the main building. You must have seen me coming out of my building at the corner of your eye, because you turned. And I decided to stay. And here I am."

"I...I'm really glad? That you stayed? But I don't get it, I'm sorry. What did I do? Why did you stay?"

She was quiet for a minute, fidgeting with her necklace. Then she looked at me and shrugged. "I'm not really sure, actually. You introduced yourself. You asked me my name. You asked me how long I was here for. You asked me if I needed any help with anything. And you smiled. And I guess I just needed to see a friendly face because then I thought, I can do this. I can stay. And I did."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Wonderful Life

It was a shmiras halashon group thing, organized by her gan, and Princess was really excited to be doing such a big girl thing. It was Friday night, and I had just lit the candles. Her hair was long and damp and smelled like strawberries and she was wearing her purple head band with the bow. Her dress had a waist and she held her head high when I dropped her off. An hour later, salads made, table set, food warm on the hotplate, I was a little worried. My husband walked in from shul with 84,000 guests, and she still wasn't back. "Are you sure they said that they would drop her off?" he asked me over the clamour of everyone finding seats to their liking and the baby discovering his vocal cords.

"That's what the note said. But it was in hebrew, so I might have made that up. I'm gonna go. Start shalom aleichem, and I'll be back as soon as I find her."

I left the gate swinging open as I ran out into the street. It was dark, and getting chilly.

It only took a couple of minutes. She was walking towards me. Her hair was dry. She had lost her headband.

"Ima, it was so fun. We sang and sang and then I said we could have it next week at our house and they gave me a wafer but it's a little melted so I have to change."

"Sweety, where are you walking from?"

"They walked me to the top of the street."

The top of the street. We are at the bottom of the hill.

You weren't sc--you were okay? You walked back by yourself?"

"No, Ruthie's mommy saw me and maybe she thought it was a mitzvah to walk me back, so she walked me until I saw our house and then she left and then I saw you."

"They dropped her off at the top of the street in the pitch black and left her! She's five!" I said to Outdoorsman later that night in a furious whisper.

"It's really crazy." He was quiet. Then he laughed. "It's Israel. Five year-old Israelis take their younger siblings to Misrad Hapnim and argue with the clerks over the delay in the paperwork."

"That's not funny. Okay, that is funny. Stop being funny. They dropped her off in the middle of the night five minutes away from her house! I'm moving back to America."

"Home of the Sanitized for your own Protection."

"Yes! Where five year-olds get walked to their front doors! Like they should!"

That kind of thing happens around once a month. I intend to pack a suitcase and get our passports in order. Then something else happens, like a friend will call from New York and complain about the vocabulary that her daughter is picking up from her friends with TVs in Bais Yaakov, or how her eight year old needs to wear a pencil skirt, and I know that I need to stay here, in my wonderful little apartment with my blissfully fashion-ignorant little girls who think that "shakran!" is the baddest word ever.

I remember asking my older sister, when she lived in Irael and I was still single and in America and a D-centered teenager why she lived in Irael. And I was angry. "Why do you live there? We need you. Ima needs you. Abba misses you. The boys need a role model and you get married to this great guy and then leave?"

And she explained about kedusha and about the needs of your husband and the little family that you created coming before your siblings and parents and how I would understand when I got married.

I explained myself to my mother a couple of years ago when she said, "But if Outdoorsman gets a job...that's means you're staying there. Right?"

I tried to explain how I felt about living here, but I also had so many doubts that I was pretending not to have because my sister had always sounded so sure. It came out in a jumbled mess, a tangle of words. Halfway through the ideals of lower happiness thresholds and not living in a fashion parade, I petered off. "Um, how does that sound to you, Ima?"

"Like you're a little confused." She laughed a little.

I laughed, too. "I am. A little confused."

"That's okay. You'll work it through."

And I did. And she misses me and I miss her and it's so hard, sometimes, to come back home and see my father so much worse and my siblings needing a role model, and we come for a few weeks and then flit right back out of their lives? The teenage me would have been furious at the now me.

So we spoke to Rabbi Orlofsky. Are we being selfish, living here? My brothers idolize Outdoorsman. Wouldn't we be more of a help over there?

"So you're gonna be the savior of your families?" He smiled.

No no, not so dramatic, just, you know, are we more needed there? And it is hard living here, too. Everyone is so black and white. And they drop off five year old girls in the pitch black--but the point is, Rabbi, that maybe we are supposed to be there for them, back home. Not here.

Rabbi Orlofsky was quiet for a minute, thinking. Then he said, "No. How do you know how you would be in America? Do you think that you could stay the same that you are now? You live here, in this kedusha, where people want to be and want to raise tzadikkim and it makes you into a beacon of light, into a role model, into people that they want to be like. No, I think that you do much more for them by living here then you would be able to do living there."

I'll have my ups and downs. I'll have my days where I want to go back without even packing a suitcase--they miss me, they need me, we are out of zip lock bags and deodorant and a five year old girl should not be walking home by herself--!

But for our anniversary, my mother sent a card. She sent some money, which is terrific and awesome. And she wrote, "I'm sorry that I cannot support you financially, but I want you to know that I'm so so proud of you. You're living the life that I would love to live."

Thursday, November 11, 2010


“These people know how to live. Look at this blueprint. They want to combine these three apartments, and make half of one into a dressing room.”
“That requires a lot of clothing.”
“I think they might just have a lot of clothing.”

“Ima, let’s dance!”
“First you dance with me myself, then with Coco-pop herself, then we all dance together, then I dance with Coco-pop. Then we all dance together. Then we hop, then we jump, then we spin in circles. Then—“
“Sweetheart. How about less rules, more dancing?”
“Mm. M’kay. So the rule is, we just dance.”

Shabbas (over a five minute span)
“Can we have shabbas party now?”
“How about now?”
“Is now time for shabbas party?”
“What are we going to have for shabbas party? And can it be now?”
“I hope we have those cookies. Do we have those cookies? With the cream? Because I like them. Can we have two? For shabbas party? And can we have it now?”
“Can I—“
“Yes! Yes, you can have shabbas party now. It’s time for shabbas party.”
“Oh, okay, good. But can I first ask my question? Because I was going to ask if I can wear your ring.”

“Dinner time!”
“What’s for dinner?”
“Chicken with potatoes and carrots.”
“I’m too tired for chicken. Can we have chocolate chip pancakes instead?”

“Hi, Princess!”
“Ima! Don’t be here yet!”
“But it’s time to go home. How was your day?”
“You always pick me up first! I don’t want to go first! I want to hang out with my friends!”

“Hi, this is ___ calling from ____ Seminary. Is this D?”
“Yes. Can I help you?”
“You taught a workshop here last year, and the girls loved it. Can you do it again this year?”
“Sure, I’d love to!”
“So I’ll get back to you on dates, and we’ll work something out.”
“Okay, good. Um. But while I have you on the line, I sort of, well, I kind of didn’t get, um paid. Yet. For the workshop. Last year.”
“Oh. Really?”
“Yeah, really.”
“Okay, I’ll check the records for how much you’re owed and get back to you.”
“Thanks. That would be great.”

“Your baby is in the 97th percentile for weight and height.”
“Yeah, he’s a big boy. Aren’t you my big boy? You’re just the cutest, biggest boy. Yes you are.”
“You must be feeding him too much.”
“Yes, I do not think that he needs to be this big.”
“But I’m tall and broad. My husband is taller and broader. And my other kids—“
“How many ounces do you give him?”
“Five. Or four. Or whatever he wants. He’s still an infant, so—“
“He is very high above the average line. You see, this is the average line and this is your baby. He is too big, I think.”
“But you see, um, Nurit? Not everyone can be average. Or is supposed to be average. That’s why there is a chart, you see.”
“So maybe feed him a little less.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Save the Last Dance for Me

The batter for cake was half mixed on the counter, the dishes half done in the sink. The kids were half dressed and the baby had a wet diaper. There was sand on the floor from your shoes which I forgot to empty yesterday at the park, and scraps of neon pink and yellow paper glued to the table.

But today, I did it. Today, I took time to dance.

I turned on the music to wake myself up as I packed your bags for gan and took out a fresh diaper for the baby. And then you asked me, with your shirt and tights on and your skirt still on the couch, to dance. I looked at the cake batter, at the dishes at the pink and yellow papers. I opened my mouth. The words in a minute were about to slide off my tongue, like snake oil. I looked at you. You were smiling, tentative. You knew it was a long shot.

And I closed my eyes on all of it except you, and we twirled around on the floor, spreading the sand around. You fell, I fell, we got up. We danced and danced and danced. Your laughter drowned out the lyrics.

We walked to gan a few minutes later, after you put on your skirt and I made your hair in a jaunty ponytail. The baby was in a fresh diaper, but I had left the apartment a mess, something that I never do.

I helped you across the street and blew a kiss. "Have a great day, Princess," I called. I turned to go, to take Coco-pop to her gan. Then there was lots to do before pickup, baby allowing of course.

"Wait, Ima. Cross me back." I turned back to you.

"But why--"

You ran back across by yourself, which you are not allowed to do. A warning rose to my lips, but then suddenly you wrapped your arms around my waist, which is a high as you can reach, and gave me a kiss. "I forgot to give you a kiss and a hug,Ima," you said. Your eyes were as bright as the little pink and yellow papers still stuck to the table.

I'm so glad we took the time to dance.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Earliest Memory: Heartsong

I can't really say, now, what was so frightening about that song. But then when I was little, there were so many things that frightened me. The world was so big and I was so small. I slept with the light on at night, blankets pulled up to my chin. I taught myself how to read when I was three, perhaps hoping to fight the dark with information. The world wouldn't be so scary if I can label everything.

So, the song. It was a silly little song about a boy getting lost in his messy room, but I guess my five year-old brain pictured him suffocating, petrified, as I would be. Music was always playing in my house when I was growing up, and when the tape with that song would begin, I would go up to my room and bury myself in a favorite book.

I can't recall exactly why I didn't leave the living room that day, when the tape was playing. Maybe because we were all there, hanging out, and it was so cozy to have everyone around me, my mother sitting at the table doing some quiet work, my siblings sprawled on the couch, and my father resting in his armchair.

So I was there when song went on.

"Please, turn it off." My voice was so small. No one responded because no one heard me. No one ever heard me.

"Please, please turn it off." Does no one see how my body is shaking?

"Turn it…" I lost my breath. I got up on trembling legs and tried to make for the door. Faintly, through the pulse pounding in my ears, I heard laughter. They were laughing at me. My body turned to liquid, and I was a puddle on the floor.

Then there were soft footsteps on the carpeted floor. I looked up, vision blurred from my tears. It was my father. He lifted me up, carried me back into the room. He sat back down in his armchair, holding me against his chest, and I couldn't hear the song anymore. All I heard was the strong, steady beating of his heart. And I was filled with the knowledge that as long as he held me so close, nothing in the whole big scary world could hurt me. Everything would be all right.

When my father got sick, he could no longer hold me in his big strong arms, and nothing was all right anymore. I had been right all along to fear the dark, the unknown.

I’m 6,000 miles away from him now, and since he can no longer speak, I send him my love via my mother.

“Tell him I love him and miss him and think about him all the time.”

There’s some murmuring, and I picture my mother smoothing back his hair, fixing his yarmulke while she gives over my message.

“I told him, and he’s smiling,” she reports back.

Someone recently said how much heart is in my father’s beautiful smile. I clutch the phone to my ear, close my eyes, and imagine that smile, the one that he put on just for me, and I can almost hear it again. His heartbeat. Strong and steady, reminding me that no matter what, everything is going to be all right.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In the Middle of Our Street

The house that I grew up in is tall and slender and red-bricked and squeezed between its neighbors. Each room is an unimaginative square, each piece of furniture solid and sensible.

The people that I grew up with are tall and slender and green-eyed, eleven of us with a two year space between each one. We filled up the house with ourselves, with the noises of homework and dinner, of singing and teasing, of feet running up and down worn out carpeted steps, and games of monopoly that went on for days.

During solemn moments following a game of Fire or pretending to be a radio station host and guests, we would all reafirm our plans never grow apart. We would get old and married and have kids, sure, but we would do it together. We would build a community called "Katzville" and live together happily ever after.

Katzville is now the name of the album that I keep all of the pictures of my siblings and their spouses and kids in.

"Ima, who is that baby?"

"That's Uncle Yaakov and Aunt Yael's baby. Her name is Penina, but they call her Penny."

"I never saw her, right?"

"Right. She was born after our last trip to America."

"So I'll see her next time we go?"

"Yeah, you'll see her next time we go."

A friend of mine doesn't fly in anymore. She says it's too hard, and too expensive and besides, what kind of meaningful relationship can you develop from a couple of weeks spread over a span of years? She says it's silly to cling to your past at the expense of your present.

I think that my past is my present and my future. Katzville may be just a photo album instead of a town, and my daughter might pierce my heart a little whenever she reminds me that she is not growing up with her cousins, with her blood, the way that I had always dreamed, but the slender house and siblings that I grew up with are part of who I am. I can't imagine a future without them.

My past wasn't perfect, but it was full of life and love.

I'm going to teach my kids how to play Fire.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sorry, Wrong Number

If you hear something said over and over again, like literally from 4 different speakers giving different kind of speeches in the last week, is that G-d's way of telling you that you are so incredibly dumb that you need an individual wake up phone call?

"Hello, D?"

"Yes, this is she."

"Hi. This is G-d. This is what you need to do."

"Oh, thanks, okay, let me just--"

"No, really, this is what you need to do. Now don't mess it up. Okay?"

"Oh, you mean I should like listen and then do what I want anyway?"

"No. I mean this is what you should do. Now. Got it?"

"I think so. Um. I just have a couple of--"


"Oh, I totally got it, G-d. First thing tomorrow morning, 'k? Thanks for calling. Bye."

Um. Hello? I guess I am that dumb.

Or I could not rip myself apart (which I totally forget is an option sometimes) and I could take it at face value.

There are so many things that I need to work on, but I believe that all of a person's stuff stems from the same root. There is one basic root cause for all negative behaviors. So hacking off the branches is a lot of hard work for not enough return. Sicken the roots, and the whole tree will die.

At least, that is how I always operated. In other words, all--or none. Be perfect--or why bother trying? And since no one is perfect, there were lots of things about myself that I was just putting band-aids on top of, and a pretty smile, and pretending that all that junk wasn't there. Like covering a mess in the corner with a white tablecloth before shabbas. Pruning the tree and pretending that I want to keep it, after all. Doesn't it look nice?

Yesterday, Princess came up with a startling idea. She started off hesitantly, but then built up confidence and explained herself like an adult.

"This water bottle," she said, warming to her subject, pointing at a half-finished meh-eden (really filled with tap water, but don't tell) "can't really be here, because Hashem is really here. So it can't be here. Because Hashem is everywhere. Is He hiding? To make room for the water? Because if He wasn't hiding, then there wouldn't be any water. So He's hiding. But really, He's here. Really, He's water." She looked at Outdoorsman hesitantly. Overcome, Outdoorsman kissed her on the forehead and then leaned back and stared at her, openmouthed.

And from the mouth of babes, I knew. My big strong tree that I could not weaken that was full of the fruit of my anger, my jealousy, my laziness, my vanity was not really this big evil entity that I ignored because the size of it was just too big, because the spread of its branches and its black shadow was easier to ignore than to kill.

It's all Hashem. The tree is only in my mind, only there because I let Him hide from me. If I can see Him, then I can't see the tree. If I can see Him; the tree is not really there.

I have so much to work on. Let me start by opening my eyes and seeing what's really there.

G-d, I got the message.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Yanky has a Bigger Piece of Cake than Me

"So I think between the night nurse and the full time housekeeper and the morning babysitter and the woman who will come in the afternoon to cook for me and watch the older kids, I'll be able to be a normal person afer the baby is born."

She patted her belly and gave a small, tired smile.

I blinked.

Somewhere, off in the distance, a baby cried.

The world gave a small groan, and then started turning again.

Wow, I wanted to say. A normal person. And all along I thought that I was normal. (Or something cattier.) But all I did say was, "I hear. Good for you. Well, look at the time. I better get going." Then I pushed my non-babysat, not cooked for, non-night nursed baby home, with the help of my girlies.

It took me a while to realize what made me so annoyed about that conversation. Then it hit me. Like a ton of uncooked suppers. I do not begrudge her the wonderful help that her money can buy her. Good for her! (well, Outdoorsman said that I do begrudge. A little bit. Because I'm human. Well, maybe a liiiiiiitle bit. Because a night nurse? Sounds freakin' awesome.) What annoyed me was the end of it--with thousands of dollars worth of help every single day, she would be a "normal person." That she seems to not recognize the fact that not I nor any of my other friends can afford such unbelievable luxuries. That she does not recognize that they are luxuries in the first place.

I read in a great little book that when a person says that they don't have time, it's a false statement. We all have time, because we all live in the same 24 hour time slots. So it's not that we don't have time to do whatever it is that we can't do. We just choose to prioritize something else instead. Sleep instead of calling your grandmother. Going to run errands instead of baking cookies. Not saying what is more important, but just know that you CHOSE how to spend your hours. No one took hours away from you.

There will be a connection between the last two paragraphs. Never you fear.

Because the bottom line is, someone will always have it easier than you. And you can always say, "Well, when I have that that and that, then I will be able to do more chessed, to be more relaxed with my kids, etc etc etc."

But if that conversation showed me anything (other than the fleeting thought to call out "Is there a Night Nurse in the house!" whenever the baby wakes up now) it's that we get used to anything. Anything. She needs all of that help just to feel normal. She doesn't think that she has more time freed up that I do.

I went to shiur last night, and the woman speaker spoke about being proactive instead of reactive when it came to areivus, the concept that we are all responsible for one another. And automatically, we all started thinking of reasons why we can't, not right now, with little kids in the house...the speaker smiled and said, "You think you have more free time when they are older? You don't."


I guess my rambling, loosely knitted point is, only you can know what you are capable of. Only you can know how much time you are wasting, and how much time you are using. Only you know how much energy you have, and what you did with your morning.

Before I marched my unhousekeepered and uncooked for self back home after that conversaton with my friend, she said one more thing that stayed with me. She said, "I don't know how other people do it. Maybe I'm just made of different stuff."

I don't know what "stuff" you are made out of, dear friend of mine, because I am not in your head and heart. But I know what kind of stuff I'm made of, and I know that I can be doing more that I am. Thank you, because in a really roundabout kind of way, you let me see that.

Oh, and if your baby starts sleeping through the night and that night nurse is bored? You can give her my address.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scales are for Fishes

"Ima, what are you standing on?"

I spin around guiltily. "Oh Coco-pop, hi honey. Go out, please. Ima is getting dressed."

"But why are you standing on that? What does it do?"

"It's a scale. It weighs you."

"Oh. Why are you weighing you?"

"To...know how much I weigh."



What can I tell you sweetheart, with your adorably plump arms and cheeks, that I need to weigh myself because not having plump cheeks and arms is a measure of who I am? That I need to know whether to start my day by berating myself or not, and that all depends on a digital number that rolls up like a winning or losing lottery between my two feet?

I teach about Healthy Body Image. I yell healthy body image from the rooftops and still my head dictates to me how to feel about the 10 pounds that I want to (that I don't have to--my weight is fine--that I want to) lose.

For so long I thought it was me, that it was my own thoughts ripping my soul, tearing me down for going up a pound. When you realize it's all the yetzer hara, it's so much easier to separate self from the nasty horrible voice. You can say, don't you talk to me that way. I am a worthwhile human being.

I say it, I say it all the time. Looking down at little Coco-pop, waiting innocently for an answer, I know it's time to mean it, as well.

Weighing myself is not taking the measure of self. It mean nothing. Scales are for fishes. Food is for people. And little girls are for getting off the scale and tickling until they gasp, giggling, for mercy,

Which is exactly what I did.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In a Mirror, Darkly

Some days I feel like I'm taking a deep breath upon awakening and diving underwater. I hold the breath and don't take another one until I resurface after the kids are asleep.

It's not the baby, who henceforth shall be called Turtle, or Coco-pop who make me feel that way, although they are both definitely energy draining in their own special way.

It's Princess.

Ooooooh. Where do I start? If you follow this blog, you know that she is exceptionally bright. She is also beautiful, with an endearing smile and a terrific sense of humor. But that's not the part of her that makes me long for a liquid breakfast lunch and dinner--it's the part of her that is like The Energizer Bunny on steriods. She is intense and driven and wound up, and everything is of equal importance and urgency. Now. RIGHT NOW. She is my full time job. Like Hercules had the strength of ten men, Princess has the whining capacity of 10 girls. It's noise pollution. And here I will say something that I am not, as her mother, supossed to say: She can drive me crazy.

O Internet. Can you forgive me? I love her with all my heart. I even like her, which is much harder. But sometimes at the end of the day, I find myself longing for her bedtime. And then I don't like myself all that much.

Princess and Coco-pop were playing house the other day. Coco-pop was the baby, Princess her mommy. They were playing nicely, so I was listening with half an ear, rocking Turtle to sleep.

The Coco-pop started crying.

"What's going on over there?" I asked softly, wanting the crying to stop but also not wanting to wake the baby. They did not hear me, and I soon realized that Coco-pop was play-kvetching. It was part of the game. I relaxed, and listened in.

Princess said, "Coco-pop, say 'gimme that now.'"

Coco-pop, obediently, "Gimme that now."

"We DON'T talk to our Ima like that! Go to your room!" Princess wagged her finger sternly.

Coco-pop went to her room.

I thought it was time to interject. "Hey girlies, I don't like this game. Maybe--"

I was ignored and overuled. "Coco-pop, say, 'I want to come out right now!'"

Coco-pop followed the directive.

Princess turned to me. "Holy cow," she said. "That child is drving me crazy!"

Which is funny. But really, really not.

And at that moment, I offered up a prayer to Hashem. I asked for more patience. I asked for more love. I asked for the right words to come out of my mouth to build my family. I asked for the children to keep showing before me a mirror of my actions, but that it should be one that I would feel proud to look into.

Help me to live in the moment, in the moment between coming home from gan and bedtime, because it is only a moment. I know that because I blinked and she turned five. And help me to love where I am living.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

love is the only cure

I was never one of those girls who dreamed of her wedding day and who the man standing beside me would be. I never doodled wedding gowns in the margins of my notes during class. (I was more likely to doodle angry chicks in little dresses. I was a wierd kid.)

When I dated Outdoorsman, and he proposed, I was excited to get married to him, not about getting married in general. I was a calm and collected bride, not a giggling head-over-heels one, and I fell in love slowly but surely as I spent more time and shared my life with my wonderful husband.

I would like to define that love.

I like when Outdoorsman buys flowers for me (except when I remember that cut flowers are already dead and just don't know it yet. Then they make me cry. But that's usually when I'm pregnant or otherwie psycho).

I like when he sends me texts during a long day to let me know that he misses me.

I like when he compliments my dinner, takes my opinions seriously and tells me that I look beautiful and no, that does not make me look fat. I likde when he roughouses with the girls and when he remembers to throw his socks in the hamper.

I like that he knows just about everything but is not condescending about it, and seems to be able to fix anything.

But love...

Love is waking up from the baby yet again at 3:45 in the morning and reaching for him...only, he's not there. Outdoorsman is holding him, his large hand supporting the little head,and he's feeding him. "go back to sleep," he whispers and you blink blearily at the two of them, father and son. "I got him."

That's love.

Monday, October 4, 2010

like Monet, but different

I hate shopping. That being said, sometimes, instead of window shopping, lingering longingly over clothes and accesories displayed in a shop window, I go people shopping. I pick and choose certain traits and attributes from those around me and covet them. I want her figure, her sense of humor, his ease with the world around him, and her knack of anyways knowing when to keep her mouth shut. (because I don't know how to do that at all.) I want her shade of green eyes, his genuine love of people, and her graceful walk.

Then I put them all together in my head and presto! A new D, one that will finally be capable of doing all the things that I should be doing but don't because I am one green eyeshade away from it the way I am now, you see. (Quiet. It makes sense in MY HEAD.)

Yesterday, Princess and Coco-pop were coloring, which turned into cutting out, which turned into pasting in, which turned my whole apartment into what looked like the inside of a box of Fruity Pebbles. Colorful scraps where everywhere. I was resisting the urge to sweep it all up from under their feet as they were creating their masterpieces. Just let them be creative and have fun, My head told my itching hands, and you'll clean up later. On cue the baby started crying, so that decision was taken out from under me. I totally would have made the right one, though. Yup. Fer sure.

ANYWAY, point is, they were creating these works of art, and then Princess frowned. Brave men tremble when Princess frowns.

"What's wrong, Princess?" I inquired delicately.

"My CARRIAGE. It looks like scribble-scrabble. I don't know how to do it. YOU do it for me."

"Princess, you are an artist!" I gushed. Overgushed? Probably. "You make such beautiful carriages! You don't need me to make it for you!"

Princess' brows drew together, and her lower lip started to pout. The world paused on its sojourn around the sun, wary of the impending storm.

"No I don't! I make bad bad BAD carriages! They look like BIKES or CARS! There is no room for the BABY! YOU MAKE ME ONE!!"

"How do we ask?"

"YOU MAKE ME ONE! please?"

I put the baby down and drew a carriage on her paper. Then Coco-pop wanted me to draw her one. Then they wanted me to finish both of their pictures. Then they wanted the pictures hung on the fridge.

I read somewhere that it's better to do something poorly than to sit and watch other people do it perfectly. Or something to that effect. I guess we all know that in our hearts, because later, even though Princess said that she was proud of her project half-drawn by me because I do it better, I noticed that when she made her next project (by herself) she put it right on top of this one.

Her carriage did look like a car.

"It's so pretty Ima, right?"

"You're an artist, Princess."

She beamed. Birds sang and kings breathed sighs of relief. "Like Monet, right? I know."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Three Kids=Surround Sound

New Year's Blog resolution: I will write often, and I will write better.

I have so much that I want to write about. The problem is, to write in a way that I can actually click the Publish Post button, one needs a bit of creative energy. Or just energy. And while my darling little boychik is sweet and beautiful and wonderful, leaving me full of energy is not one of his talents. He is up at night from around 1 oclock AM until 5, when he falls into an exhausted sleep.

But, not to shirk from his duties, as his eyes close, he calls out weakly to his sisters, "I've done my bit. You guys take over now." And they do. 5 o'clock in the Lord's Holy and Blessed Morning. They take over. Yogurt and wet diaper and mini morning crisis, as the sun rises.

Ah, my babies. How I love them. I do.

In case I forget how much I love them, as 3 o'clock in the morning can sometimes do to you when your muddled little brain throws up a flare and blearily says, everyone else is sleeping. Everyone. Everyone except me and this child, I have a little note at the side of my bed. On it are listed three names.

Shaina b-s Yehudis

Rivka b-s Sara Chaya

Blima b-s Hindy

They are my friends, and Hashem has not yet given them what I have.

It helps me count my blessings, even when my blessings come wrapped in leaking diapers.

So! I will write more! I will work on my book! I will get published! And I will go to the living room right now where it seems that Princess has Coco-pop in a head lock. Very loudly.

Monday, August 23, 2010

To Life

We have no living grandfathers between us, which left room for a lot of debate regarding our son's name. But even as we decided and talked about it and eventually consulted the Amshinover Rebbe regarding it, the whole time this strange, unbidden thought kept rising in my mind, despite my squashing it down...why are we bothering to think of names when it's obviously going to be Moshe?

Moshe is my father's name, and two weeks after the bris I can tell you that my baby's name is not Moshe. Which is good. Because it means that my father survived the hospital's attempt to kill him.

The details are not even important. I mean they are, to me, to my family, but it's a long story that can be summed up by starting with My chronically ill father was rushed to the hospital with a collapsed lung and have in the middle My father can't be taken off the respirator and needs a trach and end with The hospital only gave him 1500 calories a day and NO FLUIDS and he wasted down to a skeletal 110 pounds on his 6"2 frame and almost died.

My baby was 2 weeks old when my mother called with the news that my father probably had a stroke. He was completely unresponsive. Or in the words of my eloquent 5 year old nephew, "Hey, is Sabba dead? Because he looks kinda dead." Outdoorsman and I were trying to figure out how to get the baby a passport in case I had to rush back. I could not stop crying.

It turned out to be fever and infection brought on from severe dehydration because, you know, who would have thought that he would totally need fluids and food?
I am flooded with relief and gratitude that he is still here with us.


My mother has dedicated her life to keeping his body and soul together. She is unbelievable. She keeps him alive with sheer dedication and the force of her love.
But when I spoke to her while we thought that he had a stroke and they were transfering him to another hopsital, I heard a weariness in her voice that I had never heard before. They were trying to put an IV in him and couldn't. They tried a central line instead. She said, "What should I do? How long should I let them torture him like this?"

Dear G-d. I know he is a special soul and I know that life is intrinsicly important. And I also know that just having him here on this earth is incredibly important to me...but how long is he to be tortured like this? He has been sick for over twenty years. He has slowly, painfully, lost everything. How long is he to be tortured?

Most of you are probably open-mouthed at my callousness. But that's because you just don't get it. Thank G-d that you don' get it.

He is very weak now, but my mother just called to tell me that he managed a smile for her.

I am so relieved.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Where my Baby At?

It's my due date, and I'll cry if I want to.

Outdoorsman insists that I was just as miserable the last two pregnancies in the ninth month as this one, but I really have a hard time believing that if I was this uncomfortable that I would go ahead and do it all again. Wow. The mind is a really amazing thing, to forget something like this. To perpetuate the species? Or just to add to my collection of stretch marks? We will never know.

There has also been decreased activity in the normally active little resident of Hotel des D. So I pulled out my dog-eared copy of What To Expect When You are Expecting, and was referenced to two pages. Page 314 read cheerfully, do not fear! The head must be engaged! All is well!

My heart lighter, I turned to page 516. Or, of course, the book continues, the cord could be wrapped around the neck of the baby. This could be fatal. And all different sorts of bad. So freak out and run to the doctor.

Instantly, I developed a split personality from the trauma. Then I made an appointment to get monitered. They gave me a quart of sugar water and the movements picked up ever so slightly. The doctor made a face but said that it was okay.

The second I got home, the baby started moving. And hasn't stopped since. Which means the baby is playing with my head. Which does not bode well for when he actually decides to emerge.

Which, by the way, baby? Ready when you are.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stars, in their multitude

And for the third time running, I find myself in a tent, on a mat, covered in masquito bites, nine months pregnant, counting down the minutes until morning and listening to everyone else snore.

It's not that I don't love camping. I do. My friends think I'm nuts, but there is something so magical, so peaceful, about the campfire after dinner, when the kids are sleeping, sharing thoughts with people that you can barely see, the sky a canopy of stars overhead. And when the kids are up, seeing them so excited as the tent goes up, licking gooey marshmellow from their fingers, playing in the dirt, at peace with the elements in a way that is so natural to them, I love that. I do.

I just don't see why I have to always do it two weeks before my due date, ya know?

We were laughing about it, Outdoorsman and I, about the last minute panic that sets in right before the baby comes. Oh, no, this is it. We will never be able to do anything like this again. This is our very last chance.

So we rent a car and read up on how to deliver a baby yourself in a rustic setting, pack up the BBQ and the sleeping bags and the kids and go.

Naturally, I don't get much sleep.

Why do we do this, this freaking out and running to get in our last licks? I guess we live in the moment, for the most part. We're shortsighted. It's hard to see when you are living in the minutes, that we also live in years. We will go camping again. We will sleep again. Labor won't last forever. Neither will this nice walk we are taking together.

This morning, Coco-pop popped a water balloon all over my skirt. We laughed, Outdoorsman said I told you so, and then got ready for gan. Five minutes later, with her little packpack on her back, she said, "Remember when I popped the balloon all over you, Ima?"

Yes, I remember, love. It happened five minutes ago. A lifetime ago, I guess, to someone on this earth for just under 3 years so far.

But why do I laugh at her? Look at me, last night, pounding the wall in frustration because of a mosquito that kept strafing me. The mosquito will eventually stop ringing in my ear, so why does it make me so angry, so put upon? The house will be clean. I will get dinner on the table. I will not be pregnant forever.

The question is, does this idea of impermanence comfort me--or scare the heck out of me?

A lot of bit of both.

The new baby will come, with G-d's help. And then the new baby will not be a new baby forever. Soon he will he licking his fingers clean of gooey marshmellow and playing in the dirt outside of our tent. Soon he will look up and see the canopy of stars and stare in wonder, comfortable in the elements.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our Bodies, Ourselves

I feel like telling someone, but only in a whisper. It's a pretty momentous secret, actually. Too big to contain, too big to let out.

But you won't tell anyone, will you, O Internet?

I have a cleaning lady.

She just started coming last week. She comes every sunday for three hours and does all the things that I can't do due to Large Belly Syndrome. She scrubs out the bathroom and cleans the outside of the windows. She dusts the tops of the cabinets and the hard-to-reach corners.

I tidy up along-side her, doing the dishes, folding laudry, projecting a busy, industrious air.

My husband hired her, only telling me at the last minute.

Most of you are rolling your eyes and leaving your computer to get a cup of coffee. You have a very nice husband, you weirdo, you are thinking. Get a grip. I thought that you were gonna say something along the lines of, I'm having triplets. And they're all over 12 pounds.

But some of you understand.

When a friend of mine has a cleaning lady, and inevitably finshes that thought with "because..." as in, "I have a cleaning lady, because my mother insists and besides she pays for it." I nod understandingly and, while laughingly tell her that there is nothing wrong with having a bit of help, relish the inner smugness of, I don't need one. I do just fine juggling everything on my own.

I come from a family of superwomen. My mother works full time, keeps house in perfect condition, is primary caregiver for my chronically ill father, and mother for the kids that are still at home and are out of the house as well. She is never overwhelmed, never tired, and will stay up until all of the laundry and paperwork is done.

My sisters all work, or run their own communities, and balance everything in between.

This year, for the first time, I am not working. I am a stay-at-home-mom. And my inner superwoman is laughing at me. They all do it, she says. They all do it, and work besides. What is wrong with you?

I try to explain to her that as a stay-at-home, I am with my kids much more, and it takes a lot of energy. Plus my husband WANTS me to have some help. And I am due in 3 weeks. And...

And nothing. My imperfection is showing, and that is why I have a knot in my stomach, and that is why I have not told anyone about my weekly visitor from Sri Lanka.

And maybe I'm reaching, but I think that I know why.

I feel like we grew up in a generation that requires of itself perfection, and not just perfection, but effortless, breezy perfection. Our mothers did it all. We need to do it all too, and be thin and have perfect teeth besides.

In my neighborhood, the majority of the girls are slender and pretty, their children dressed like little mini-me-s, and they attend chinuch and shalom bayis classes twice a week. Everyone is all smiles. Everyone looks, well, perfect.

Through my own battles with eating disorders and unhealthy body image while I was all smiles I know, the hard way, that effortless perfection is very, very, messy. I KNOW that. I teach that. I write about that. True perfection is G-dly. We are all trying to emulate Him, and in this world of klipa and sheker, we get everything all mixed up.

I am in the middle of reading a book, as reasearch to flesh out my body image workshop. I'm not sure how much help this book will be to that end, but the author says something so nice, so true, so heartfelt.

She says how everyone and her mother is thin and perfect. Thin and perfect is nice to look at for a while, it's easy on the eyes, but it's actually boring. What is interesting, what is sexy, what is endearing?

And I misquote, to bring to more to home:

My mother's gap-toothed smile is endearing. My small mouth in endearing. My friend's large nose with the small bump makes her look soulful, exotic. Beauty marks and moles are interesting. Large hips can be sexy. A rounded belly. Dark brown eyes. Short legs. A loud sense of humor. A laugh that comes from somewhere deep inside. The ability to cry.

Our so-called shortcomings, physical and emotional, mental and spiritual, make us who we are, and make us memorable.

And if that all seems like a pretty dramatic justification for having a cleaning lady three hours a week, that's okay. I am dramatic. That's part of who I am. And that's okay.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Smell Of Summer

What we were really supposed to be doing, on that breezy, hot, post-sandstorm afternoon, was reaplying suncreen and blowing up tubes on the green green grass next to the blue blue pool.

Which was very different than what we were actually doing--holding the kids back with one hand and scooping the unbelievably vile contents of the overflowing sewer into garbage bags with the other.

It was an interesting day. I use the word interesting very sparingly. I had made up with a group of friends to take the kids to the big swimming pool. One of us has a car, and all of us packed sandwiches, suncreen, tubes, bathing suits, and sunglasses. Then the morning dawned, and one of us woke up with a stomach bug. I woke up to weather which must have been over one hundred degrees and sand blowing against the windows, a nine month pregnant belly and a husband who sternly reminded me that I had been all shaky the day before and perhaps the pool was a bad idea.

Also, the truth is, I had been feeling bad about the expense. Even with my friend driving, it costs a lot of money to get in, and I would also have to buy a couple of new tubes.

So I stayed home.

And then the washing machine broke. And then the bathroom overflowed. And then the sewer plate started spewing the most vile horrible unbelievable---

An unbelievable amount of NIS nis later, I think perhaps the pool might have been the way to go...

Memorable quotes from the afernoon of fun in the sun by the (cess) pool:

Princess: "Can I also scoop? Please? Ima! You never let me scoop stuff from the sewer!"

Plumber: "That will be all of your life savings, please."

Landlord: "It's your fault, because you flushed TOILET PAPER down the toilet."

Plumber: "Actually, we found a red hose and a pair of pajamas and a box full of sand down there. Nothing to do with toilet paper.

Landlord: "Ah. Well. It's your fault anyway. We gotta go....catch a plane somewhere. Byeee!"

And to sum it all up:

Coco-pop: "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew, Ima."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Wrinkle In Time

The apartment is messy again. Socks on the floor. Toys on the table. Dust on the shelves. Laundry hamper full. I finished my coffee and brought the girls to gan. I am working up the energy to put my swollen feet on the floor and start cleaning up. But as much as I pretend it's about my swollen feet, I feel like there's more to my reluctance than that.

Sometimes I feel like I'm going around in circles. I love having a clean apartment, fresh food on the table. I equate it with happy faces around me, knowing that I am providing a haven for my husband and girls. But this aimless feeling, this feeling that I am not Doing That Which I Should Be Doing is so strong sometimes that I don't actually do that which needs to be done. Is this what I am really here for? To make dirty dishes clean and then dirty them again? To sweep against the never-ending tide of dust? To pick up the toys and then encourage the girls to take them out again?

What happened to the girl with a mission, marching off to the Emerald City armed with nothing but a certainty that she was supposed to be Somewhere, anywhere, but here?

Should I not be having a midlife crisis when I'm only in my twenties?

Yesterday, as I was putting on my shaitel for shabbas, Princess and Coco-pop, my fashion consultants, were eyeing me critically.

"Make the pony a little higher, Ima," Princess dictated. I did so.

"You look so pretty, Ima," Coco-pop beamed at me. I beamed back.

"Ima," Princess inquired and I braced myself for another emergency change of my earings, "What are those line on your forehead?"

Eh? Say what?

"What lines, sweety?" I kept my voice light.

"Those lines." She touched my forehead lightly.

I looked at her smooth, umblemished skin. Then I looked at myself, hard, in the mirror. And for the first time, instead of a slightly bewildered 16 year-old, a woman, aged 28, looked back at me. She looked a little tired, or were those bags permenant? And yes, when I stood even closer to the mirror, I saw the lines. On my forehead. But no time to panic. There is a little girl at my side, and she is waiting, fingers rubbing her own forehead anxiously, for an answer.

"Oh! These lines," I said. "You'll get them when you are as old as me. Should we go to the kiddush now?"

And the woman, limping with age, escorted the children out of the house.

There is going to be a gap in this post, after these lines. I will not bridge it, not yet. I need to actually feel the smooth transition from my fears, from my questions, from my domestic reluctance to the beautiful poem that I have hanging in my kitchen and that I so love. So for now, I will simply skip a few lines, write the poem down for you, and then finish this post with my daughter's innocent ending line to the above conversation. Then I will turn on the sink and start the dishes. And after a few minutes of warm soapy water and the house starting to put itself back in order, I will get there. I will feel the poem.

I always do.

Maybe it's all about the doing. Maybe it's about being. Maybe it's not so much about Emerald City and far more about what you can learn on the yellow brick road.

I Stop Writing the Poem

by Tess Gallagher

to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I'm still a woman.
I'll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I'll get back
to the poem. I'll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there's a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it's done.

As we walked to shul, Princess touched her forehead again and looked at me. "Maybe when I'm six, and I'm so big, I'll get them?"

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Closed Mouth Gathers No Foot

"Ima, I put my sandals on my own feets!" Coco-pop informed me. Her little heart-shaped face was flushed with pride.

"Oh, look at you! Wow! What a big, huge--" my automatic, but heart-felt praise was interrupted by the sounds of Princess' laughter. I asked her what was so funny.

"Coc-pop! She said feets!" Princess almost shrieked.

"Well, what should she have said?" I asked the all-knowing big sister.

"You don't say feets! You say foots!"

And sometimes I wonder if I do that, too. Intervene with my oh-so-helpful know-it-allness and really just put my foot--or foots--or feets--straight into my mouth.

I have ideas. I have solutions. I have solved the world's problems in less time than it takes to drink a cup of coffee after the kids are out of the house. All seems so bright and clear when I have some space to myself and the house is clean.

And every night, when my kids are asleep, I suddenly realize the Perfect Road To Parenting and Clean Bathrooms All The Time has been before me all along. I expouse muchly in this manner to Outdoorsman, and then drink another cup of coffee. The next morning, when I am awakened at 5:00 AM by a soggy diapered bottom sitting on my face, my wonderful solutions flee, afraid, I guess, of my morning hair. (The word Jew-fro was invented for the amazing way my hair has of defying gravity in the morning, so I don't really blame anyone.

Someone once said that when one person is talking, the other isn't listening; he's waiting. Waiting for the lips of the one doing the talking to stop doing that wierd up-and-down motion so that he can jump in with what he wanted to say.

I don't want to be like that. I don't want to have to be like that. Is it because I need people to think that I know everything, that I'm smart? I think I'm smart. Why would someone else thinking that make it more true?

Outdoorsman is totally my hero with this. He never has to get his words in. He knows that the world will get along just fine without his words of wisdom, if they don't get said. I think it's because he does not need confirmation. He doesn't need the world to see things through his eyes.

I need to stop talking all the time and start listening. Really listening. Then maybe I will hear what Princess hears when she says things like;

"Ima, when you sit outside and close your eyes and no one is talking, you can hear the birds. They are singing such a beautiful song."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Olam Haba and Orange Juice

I had a scary dream.

I've spent the past two days not accepting that dream, as per Outdoorsman's instructions. We gave money to tzedaka. I said tehilim.

Still for someone not accepting a dream, I spend an awful lot of time thinking about it. And I realized how often I think about worst-case scenerios in general. Outdoorsman 15 minutes late? The most logical explanation involves two fire engines and a nuclear bomb. Coco-pop not up at her usual 6:00 AM? I run, heart pounding, to check her breathing. Dr. Google has diagnosed me with bubonic plague and scurvy. I have written a will, and of course, always wear clean underwear. Because, you know, if you are run over by a truck and the doctors see that your underwear wasn't clean, you could die of embarrassment.

My mind leads me places that I have no interest in visiting, much less settling in for a winter or two, and I must follow the train of thought, helpless, unable to press the bell and say, "Okay, Mind. This is my stop. Lemme off."

I am afraid of the dark. I am afraid of something unknown scaring me to death.

I read about some detective finally finding the true murderer, and I think, The person is dead. Gone forever. What's the difference?

And I wonder. What does this say about my emunah, my belief, in Hashem's plan? If I truly believed in Olam Haba, and I truly believed that everything happens for some ultimate reason, would I be so afraid? This much afraid? Reading about someone in the news and cry cry cry, thinking, she must have been so scared, how could a person survive, being so scared?

Outdoorsman says that, like everything else in our adult world, it's not so simple. He says that there are degrees of belief, levels of emunah. We need to work on them, sure. But it doesn't mean that I don't actually believe.

Which is nice, and a little more heartening than my black and white binoculars that I use to view myself and my faults.

Yesterday, Princess came across a picture of Outdoorsman's grandfather, who passed away when Outdoorsman was four years-old. "I never saw him,"Princess said, puzzled. Then her face cleared. "Oh. He must be in shamayim with Zaidy and Sabba and Hashem. Can I have some juice?"

Monday, May 31, 2010

In My Arms

Outdoorsman, after a particularly hard day with Princess: "Princess, we wouldn't be able to live without you."

Princess, pout painted on: Nuh-uh, nuh-uh nuh-uh. You would would would.

Outdoorsman, stroking her hot little cheek: "No, we wouldn't. We need you."

Princess, squirmng away from him: "No, you don't need me at all. You have Coco-pop."

Outdoosrman: "But she is not you."

Princess: "Yes, she is. She's big now."

Outdoorsman: "But she is not you."

And she melted and sobbed.

I need to hold you more and touch you more, my Baby-Big Girl. I take it for granted that because I love you so much you know that without being told. You don't. I need to tell you. And tell you. And tell you.

So this morning, I told you. I told you that before you were born, Ima and Abba were just a wife and husband. That when you were born, you made us into Ima and Abba. And that no matter how big you get, you will always be our baby, because you were the first.

After reasuring yourself that always being the baby does not mean getting back into diapers, I think that you understood.

My baby. My big girl. How often do I need to say I love you until you finally believe me?

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Like a cloud of dust slowly settling on a newly washed floor. So slowly, so gently, it settles, you don't even realize the floor is filthy until later. Much later.

So slowly that when it dawns on you it feels quick, like someone flicked out the lights. All you know is, now you're groping in the dark.

This madness. This sadness.

You know what it is, really. It's not really like Before. Like That Time Long Ago. You're heavily pregnant. You know it's hormones. You know it's the frustration of not being able to do what you need to do because your hips ache so bad, your body is rebelling, and it's so hot. You know the kids drain you, too.

But that knowledge doesn't help you when the darkness settles in. When the light switches off simply when your husband forgets to say goodbye when he leaves in the morning. Buried in a snowdrift, where no one can hear you scream.

Edited to Add:

Outdoorsman got me a gift certificate for a massage, and set a bubble bath for me. My friend took my kids to the park for the afternoon. Sometimes the sun comes back so quickly, you blink back happy tears, blinded by everyone's love.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

To You

To My Darling Princess,
on the day that you turned five,

The last thing that you said to me today before you went to sleep, as we took off the shabbas clothing that you wore in honor of your birthday, took my breath away. You said, "Ima, tomorrow I will be five."

"Today you are five, sweetie," I said, puzzled.

"No, today I AM five. With shabbas clothing and a party. Tomorrow I will wear plain clothing and just be five. Like a regular day, only I will be five."

You took my breath away, with your mature observation, your deep connection to the way things are, your need to understand and clarify the world around you so that it makes sense in your mind.

But you always take my breath away, my beautiful tempest, my too-smart little girl. Life is not so easy on you, because you wear your emotions on your sleeve. The world disappoints you deeply, as do I. As do I.

But life is also a thing of wonder and beauty for you, because you feel so deeply. Because you are quick to tears, you are also quick to laughter. Because you cry rom the depths of your soul, you also fly to the moon with delight. You feel, touch, drink life. You are a ray of sunlight. You are my princess.

On this fifth birthday, I give you a blessing;

May you find your path in life, and feel it with your heart and mind. And may it make you happy.

I love you.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Tea, Toast.

So, you know how they say that you never appreciate something until you don't have it anymore? 'K. Guilty.

I have reached that stage in pregnancy in which I vascilate between Do I Really Have another Month and a Half Before this thing is Out Of Me? to ThePainTheBloodTheFear... maybe it should just stay put. Especially since I went for my last ultrasound, and the warm loving technicion (why are you here? in a voice like the dust from the bottom of an unused tea-cup. Because I'm havin' a baby! says I, bouncy-like, havin' a baby-like. Oh. Yeah. She says, with a voice from a thousand fathoms deep. Get on the table. It's dirty? Whatever. Yank down some more paper. Also? My soul is completely dead.) said, are you sure that the week is right? The head, which I am measuring now, is a few weeks larger than the date given.

Check the rest of the body says I, bounciness receding like sudden male-pattern baldness.

The rest of the body was normal to date given.

She glances at Outdoorsman. He is a big man. Ah, says she casually. The baby probably just has your husband's head.

Then, as if she hadn't just announced just how my labor was going to be (a NIGHTMARE), she clipped my papers together and gloomily informed me that I can get my own paper towel to clean up the jelly smeared on my belly.

How do I know from that one little casual comment that labor would not be a walk in the park? Or rather, a walk in the park during a hamsin? Because, you see, Princess had the same diagnosis. Only hers accured an hour and a half into pushing. When my labor coach glanced at my beloved helpmeet and said, "you have a rather large head."

"yeah," he said, puzzled.

"I think that might be the problem," she said softly, but not quite softly enough. That was around the time that I fell to pieces.

But! This time it will be different! Because it is number 3 and my body knows this game and all will be perfect.

Quiet, internet, with your horror number 3 stories, by the way. All will be perfect.

You in the Back! Stop it! With your back-labor-ten-hour-pushing-then-it-turned-out-to-be-triplets stories! All will Be Prefect!

Now. I feel much better. Where was I going with this, by the way? Oh, yes. This was all an intro to how we never appreciate until yadda yadda yadda.

So, I was pretty much uncomfortable, hot, not sleeping, glaring at my snoring husband's large head. Then something happened to make me realize that I had it really good.(aside from the fact that there are so many girls who WANT to get pregnant...I know that at 3:00 in the afternoon, but not so much at 3:00 in the morning...) I got a stomach flu. This is the second time its made its rounds in my family, but it was mild before. this time, it came with all of the trimmings. Fever, vomiting, my legs as weak as a newborn calf's.

I am now getting over the worst of it, and I must say, it is so nice to just have a regular 8-month pregnant belly to be uncomfortable with. Nothing like something real to complain about to put everything else into its proper perspective.

Edited To Add:

But this morning Coco-pop woke up with fever and a diaper too horrible to describe. Here we go again...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Slimy and Satisfying

We are moved, we are settling in--or will be, as soon as I vanquish The Random Boxes of Pain and Agony and Random Stuff. I hear woodpeckers and bluebirds from my window and can fill up the pool and have the kids in bathing suits in under five minutes.

(I'm also 8 months pregnant and living at the bottom of a hill during hamsin weather, but, ya know, pros have their cons.)(I'm also supposed to be doing laundry and making a shopping list and cleaning the house and emptying out a few Random Boxes of Pain and Agony and Random Stuff-or ThoseDarnBoxes, as I affectionately call them, right before I burst into tears--instead of eating cold leftover broccolli kugel and blogging, but ya know, pros have their cons.)

Anyways. We are getting there, lazy pregnant iron deficient lady of the house not-withstanding. And we are so happy! We have trees! We stand under our trees and pick out the ripest looking fruit and eat them and feed them to the kids and then lick our fingers, sticky from the juice. My kids are not used to the idea of bugs ALL OVER THE PLACE and honestly, since they do not pay rent, as Outdoorsman says, they will be sprayed and evicted, not in that order, but the idea of having an OUTDOORS--in Jerusalem--wow. It's so nice.

We are so grateful. We are making a BBQ chanukas habayis to show Hashem our gratitude even though we do not own the apartment. Because nothing lasts forever, right? Not even a place that you buy.

As I write this, the girls are having a tea party on the little round table outside. They just opened the door to the house by themselves, brought out the toy tea set, and set the table. Their heads are together, one blond-ish, one red-ish, and they are giggling.

This pregnant lady will now go before she leaks tears and shorts out the computer.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stuff and Nonsense

When huricane Katrina hit, with all of its horrible destruction and devastation, the second thought that accured to me (the first one being, OMG! of course) was the weird and chilling idea that the people who were killed had been murdered by their own things.

That is to say, their own stuff flew in the air and killed them and in effect caused all of the horrors that they are still facing today.

Stuff. We have so much stuff. Furniture and pots and lipsticks and files. Food and mugs and books and linens. And as I'm packing (not very well at the moment, since I am actually BLOGGING and not packing at all, you see) I think the weirdest thing is--we are getting along fine right now. Okay, pasta for dinner is not ideal, and I never want to see another peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, but if we are okay--WHAT IN THE WORLD IS IN ALL OF THESE BOXES? I'm tempted to light the whole stack on fire and see if I even notice.

Except for the toys, I think, since Princess and Coco-pop are wandering around the apartment like two little lost kittens, looking for balls of yarn. (If kittens, ya know, in some kind of parallel-infinite-possibility universe threw tantrums and asked impossible questions, that comparison would be perfectly apt.)

When I was growing up, I had so little space to call my own that I became a tosser. If I didn't need it, into the garbage it went. I even (though I regret it now) burned (I was a kind of dramatic teenager) all 20 of my journals that I had accumulated over high school. My motto for cleaning, gleaned from the wisdom of my mother who raised 10 kids in a four bedroom house, is when it comes to tossing, "it only hurts for a second."

Outdoorsman, on the other hand, is nostalgic. He keeps things. (But Di, it's The Very First Discman that I ever bought!) It's very sweet, actually, but I think that he needs a Man Cave in the basement instead of random keter drawers filled with things that I have no idea what to do with. The problem with a Man Cave in the basement is that most apartments don't come with basements. Oh well. I think that there is some unwritten law, somewhere, that marriage is composed of two people--one who cannot sleep with the windows shut, and one who cannot sleep with the windows open. Ditto on the keeper/tosser thing, I think.

Except I think that in spirit, he is ready now, too, for a clean new start. Especially after packing 60 boxes in 4 days. Maybe I can sort of pay the mover to drop some strategically placed boxes...

NO. That would be totally wrong.


Edited to Add:

I found the rule! I found the rule! It is not unwritten after all, and is in fact written brilliantly by Ogden Nash. Here 'tis:


How wise I am to have instructed the butler to instruct the
first footman to instruct the second footman to instruct
the doorman to order my carriage;
I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage.
Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen,
I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance entered
into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut and
a woman who can't sleep with the window open.
Moreover just as I am unsure of the difference between flora
and fauna and flotsam and jetsam
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people one
of whom never remembers birthdays and the other never
And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or
the gas pipe and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate
or drown,
And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the
window sill, it's raining in, and he replies Oh they're all
right, it's only raining straight down.
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it's the only known example of the happy meeting of
the immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and
combat over everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life,
particularly if he has income and she is pattable.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Brave New World

When we first came to look at this apartment, we realized a couple of things about it. One, the rent was really cheep, which was the reason we were looking at the apartment in the first place. Two, it had two bedrooms, one more than what we had until then. And three, that we could make this place into a home with a bit (okay, a lot) of scrubbing and a bunch of love.

So, we did. Scrubbed it and loved in it and hung up a few paintings. It's in a good location, we have good neighbors, a comfy leather couch, and all was well. Until this year, when we realized that we were outgrowing it and needed a third bedroom. We found a new apartment, and even though it was in the middle of our contract, we figured it was a good time of year for moving, and we would have no problem finding someone to take our current apartment off our hands.

That's when we realized, for the first time, the fourth thing about our apartment.

It's gross.

No, really. The walls are peeling and the plumbing is external and the bathtub is gray. The sink backs up and the floors are uneven and the cabinets are crumbling from the inside out.

We know this now from the expressions on the prospective couple's faces when they walk in to view our home.

And honestly, I just don't get it.

Because when we came in 4 years ago, we saw a kitchen to bake and cook in and a dining room to eat in. We saw a place for our washer and dryer, a place for our couch, a place for our beds and a place for our shelves. No we are not blind, and we did notice that it was not renovated and was actually kind of old. But we also saw walls to contain our shabbas meals, walls to contain our spontaneous dancing in the living room, walls to contain our growing family and the laughing and loving and joy.

Where we saw a bathtub and room for a bottle of cherry bubble bath, they only see mold. Where I cooked for endless shabbas guests, they see peeling cabinets and faded countertops. Where Outdoorsman learned and roughhoused with the kids, they see ancient tiles.

It's been a week, and we have not found someone to take over our lease, though a dozen people have trouped through my door, searching.

Searching for what?

Either I need new glasses...or they do.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Back From The Land of Starbucks

Jetlag blurs days together. When did it become thursday? Never mind thursday; when did it become April? 2010? Ya gotta be kidding me. And whose kids are these, anyway? What do they want from me? Why are they up at 4:30 in the morning, and why do they keep calling me Ima?

Anyways. Past the blur. Beyond what I can't see. I have been to America, and sharing one computer with 25 people tends to have a damper on my mad blog-writing skilz. So, here I am, a bunch of weeks later, hoping that the internet will soon once again purr beneath my hands. (Or at least work. Old computer. Bli ayin hara, pitoo pitoo pitoo.)

So, a million things happening. What should I write about? My America trip? A family crisis that is being blamed on me? That we are moving to a new apartment in less than a week, and are just getting boxes today? That my kids are so jetlagged, they have been going to sleep for the night after the sun already lightened the sky?

Oh! I got it. Princess.

Ooooh. Where should I start?

Princess is, well, a princess. Or rather, a queen. She asked me yesterday, while drip-drying in her princess towel, "who is more powerful (!) a queen or a princess?"

"Well," says I, "A princess is the daughter, and a queen is the mother."

"I'm a queen, then," says she with a proud tilt of her royal chin, as she dripped royal bathwater all over the royal ripped leather couch, "and you can be the princess."

The girl is not easy. She is way too smart for her age, and has a real thirst for power as well. She is always the one who initiates the game with her friends, and the weirdest thing is, they follow her. They all do. No matter how independent they are, they all toe the line around Princess. She loves it. She is a good master, too. She compliments her subjects freely, and stratigicaly. She gives them the idea that they have free will even when they don't.

But this aspect of her personality makes it kind of hard for her to bow to my authority. Her techniques don't work on me, though she tries, and that is very frustrating for her. As I posted about earlier, we recently changed our way of dealing with our precocious oldest. (I also set up a lifeguard at the gene pool. Find me the ditzes, I told the lifeguard. Find me the lighthearted laughing ones. One Princess in the family is perfect. Don't be afraid to blow your wistle!)And it was working! She was happy and responsive and all was Coming Up Roses. But then came (drumroll, please?) The Shabbas With Shira.

Shira. My husband's best friend's daughter. Not the scary brightness of Princess, but her taste for power squared. And then multiplied. And then add to all that the fact that her parents give in to her.

She is catty. She is manipulative. She has her parents wrapped around her finger.

For Princess, it was love at first sight.

Since the shabbas that we spent together, almost a month ago, Princess has been trying everything that she saw over the weekend. Everything. And I'm so jetlagged and tired and it's so hard not to yell and scream sometimes when I see all of my hard work spilling down the drain. It was pretty obvious to me where all of the new agression and tantrums were coming from, but it was all clinched yesterday when she was playing with the downstairs neighbors. Princess decided that everyone in her game was to have made-up names.

"Let's have pretend names for this game. I will be (re-use drumroll) Shira."

She'll get over it, right? She'll pull through. It will all be okay. Because what you learn from the home is most important, and the outside world can remain that way s long as I keep trying and keep smiling and keep doing my best to instill positively and warmth and love. Right? Right?

Hold me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

To A Little

Running hand in hand
in hand
with her Abba,
wearing his jacket;
It is chilly,
and you were chilly, and he is big and strong and warm.
and he shrugged off his jacket,
and he put it on you.
The jacket hangs to your knees,
turns your thin arms into large black wings,
warms your shoulders
And brightens the gray, gray day
with both of your matching bright eyes,
your identical smiles.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Butterfly Kisses

"But, but but, I want it, want it want it, and also, it's almost Purim, so it's a good time to get a treat. Right?"

I kept my face carefully blank. Then let a smile touch my lips. "You want it want it want it?"

Princess' face looked like the sun coming in from behind gray clouds. "Yes."

And it's a good time for a treat?"

"uh huh."

I touched her chin. Her stubborn, set, adorable chin. "Just because I love you. Here you go."

Her eyes looked suspicious. "In a bag."

"In a bag."

"I want to pick them."

"It's so important to you?"

"Uh huh." She paused. "Please?"

"You can pick them. Then we need to hurry home."

"Okay! Thank you! My morah says that we need to all dress up tomorrow! For the party! And you can come! Imas can come! But not Abbas." A frown creased her round little mouth. "I don't know why."

We are changing our interaction with Princess, and now it's listing to one side of our ultimate Golden Means. And I am holding my breath, but it seems to be working. She has had only one tantrum in the past two days, as aposed to all. day. long. The odd thing is, we were inspired by a vlog.

It's weird to even watch it. It's basically a vlog about the day-to-day life of this family. They happen to be religous Mormons. And I can't stop watching them. It took me a month to figure out why.

They have three kids and one on the way, a huge family out of our world. And it was clear to me that the mother and father love every minute of it.

It took me another month to figure out why.

I think they just love them. The kids, I mean. They just love their kids. And that sounds like, well, duh, but really it pretty deep, I think. They just love them. They discipline, sure, and they are actually kind of strict, but there is never anything harsh behind the interactions. No expectations.

I'm actually having a hard time putting this into words. Let me give an example. When I was 9 months pregnant with Princess and living in 35 square meters in a building where you needed to try really hard NOT to hear exactly what was going on in all your neighbors' lives (I was tempted once to write a letter to one neighbor, explaining why he was right, and she had spent too much money that week carelessly. I also knew when another neighbor found out that she was expecting a boy after three girls. So excited for you! About what? Erm. About. Your new dress?)my husband and I overheard a father admonishing his little girl, "Is this how our tzadekes behaves?!" And I remember thinking, or maybe one of us said to the other, maybe she doesn't want to behave like a tzadekes. Maybe she wants to be a little girl.

That's it, basically. I am not trying to give in to her wants and constant desires. I am trying to project simple love and understanding, with no expectations. Not that I don't believe that she can become whomever she wants to become. Not that I don't believe that she can't rise above her contant need to control every situation. But that right now, while I would love her to, and I will try to lead her onto that path, I don't expect it. I won't project disproval while you wear your emotions on your sleeve. I don't expect you to be a tzadekes, my complicated little girl, I am trying to tell her. I love you for who you are right now, in front of me.

I tucked her in last night, my eyes red with the fatigue that has been hounding me since my pregnancy started, and has gotten worse recently. Outdoorsman, bless him, has been helping nightly with bedtime these past few weeks. "Tell me something that made you not so happy today, and something that made you happy today."

She thought for a moment. "Merav said I was a little baby today in gan."

"Oh. That didn't make you feel good?"

"NO. But she is silly because I'm even bigger than her."

"Yes, you are. And did something happen today that made you happy?"

"Yes." she dimpled. "You bought me an extra treat. Because you love me."

Because I love you.


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