Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Hate Children…Just Not Mine

A little boy bit my daughter. A little boy bit my daughter at school in front of her teachers. A little boy bit my daughter at school in front of her teachers, so hard that his teeth went through her clothing and onto her skin.

She’s fine. The teachers cleaned it up with some antibacterial wash and soothed her. He didn’t break her skin, just scraped it a little so that saved a lot of worry. They called the mother of the little boy and let me know. It was not the worst thing that could happen. She’s fine. The mother has called me about 100 times to apologize. And my daughter is still loving school. And I still love that she goes.

But this incident was the first time I got worried. Not that she’s going to get hurt-people get hurt. It happens. I understand. But this was the first time I was worried about what she would learn at school….and not from her teachers.

My daughter went into school perfect and untouched by anyone but me. I was her greatest influence, I was her greatest playmate, I was her whole life. She had friends and visits and cousins that she played with but I was usually there. She is still perfect…but now less untouched and more bitten. I don’t want her to learn badness from these other children. These children that obviously aren’t perfect (because clearly only my child is) and they are getting their yucky unperfect cooties all over her.

I know it’s stupid. Clearly this is a control thing and I am the Queen of the Freaks (I designed my crown myself). If I could step away from myself for a minute I know I would see how school can only be a great thing for her, for both of us. But I think my issue is that I don’t want to let go.

Now I don’t think a toddler program nine hours a week is really letting go. But it’s that first step toward Independent Land. The first chance for her to be influenced by others. If I think too hard about it I think maybe I’m scared because it’s the first time I am truly being tested as a mother. When she was just with me, I just had to worry about me. Now I have to worry about EVERYONE. I have to make sure the values and behaviors that I have instilled in her up to this point remain strong in her. I have to teach her right from wrong-now that she actually knows what a REAL wrong is. Seems as though I’ll get to enjoy my rein as Queen Freak a little longer….at least until the Empress of my universe hits puberty.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Yom Huledet Sameach

Thanks to all the readers who have made us one of the Top-Rated Blogs at JBlog Central. If you enjoy Ima Shalom, please be sure to click here and rate our recent blog posts.

Today is the 18th of Cheshvan, my son's first Hebrew birthday, and the first of many days in the coming two weeks celebrating his first year of life (his "Gregorian" birthday, his birthday party). As if cramming for an exam, in the past week he has acquired a ton of new skills.

My son can now:
  • Understand a lot of what we say in English and Hebrew.
  • Say a slew of words including hi, dog, duck, mama and no (actually "nonononono," which he invariably says while doing something naughty).
  • Stand up for 8 seconds on his own.
  • Sign "all done."
  • Drink cow milk for his afternoon snack.
  • Feed himself (messily) with a spoon.
  • Give kissies! (My favorite by far.)
Quicker than I can say "nonononono" my little baby is becoming a toddler. I'm very proud and excited and just trying to keep up with all the changes. More to come!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Who's God?

At first I was just going to respond to Gluckel’s Sunday post, “Look Ima, there’s God.” I decided to write my own entry because the question of how we (and our children) come to know who God is dovetails with a small moment last night that, I hope, will be a turning point for me.

I don’t know how children come to know either.

Our rabbi’s drash on Vayera, brought up an interesting point about Hagar as a mother and a woman of faith. The reason she gave up in the desert when Abraham kicked her out of his household, though she had provisions, and though there was clearly a well nearby, was that how we relate to our God/gods determines how we relate to the world. If we deem God capricious, we are passive or we respond with aggression.

If this is true, then it seems to me that we naturally shape our children’s understanding of God based on how we behave and interact with the world. Of course, parental influence, though potent, isn’t fatal. I’m just saying.

My parents are people of profound faith. When our house exploded into flames 30 minutes after we’d left it, I and my 3 siblings began to cry, but my 31-year-old mother stopped us and said we were not allowed to shed a single tear because God had saved us, and she was so thankful.

Which brings me to what I hope is a turning point last night. What does it say about my perception of God that--I’m ashamed to say--I engage in lashon hara when I’m gripey?

Last night a friend took me to Target—we had to take my sleeping baby because we went after her bedtime. As we were leaving the store I noticed baby’s gorgeous faux zebra skin, monogrammed blanket (a present from my cousin) was missing.

My friend suggested I return to the store and look for it. I was exhausted and negative. “I’m sure someone took it.” It was probably the woman who had been shadowing me all evening in the baby clothes section, reaching over my baby to do price checks (instead of standing on the side) when I’d stepped away for a second.

Of course, you all know what happens next. At the last moment, I decide to return to the store. I don't even make it to the door when I see the blanket, folded and tucked protectively on the wall.

I vowed to my friend then and there I’d never speak negatively about anyone again. A blanket is a small, tiny thing. Much smaller than a house or a life. But suddenly, I was sick of being petty.

What will it teach my daughter about God if I am always judging and expecting people to judge me?

I’d been excusing my lashon hara with feelings of exhaustion and self pity. But I actually feel a lot better since I made my decision. Let it be God taking pity on my daughter and opening my eyes, as s/he did those of Hagar in the desert, so I can see the well (God’s work in the world, and maybe even my way through this book I have to write to get tenure at my job!)

Thanks for your post, Gluckel.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Look, Ima, there's God.

This afternoon, my delicious son and I were awaiting the end of Shabbat by reading together. He had selected a pile of favorites that includes this fall's favorite, The World's Birthday, a left over from Rosh HaShanah. I know, it's old, but what good, really, is a book you can only read for a few weeks a year? He's practically memorized the story, anyway.

So here we are, reading it. In the book, Daniel, the protagonist (not a word I generally would use to describe the subject of a children's book, but...) wants to celebrate the birthday of the world. His grandfather, a rabbi (conveniently, the same for my son), suggests making a birthday card for the world, like we send Rosh HaShanah greetings. All of this is probably boring you stiff and you're saying, "Jeez, I thought that season was OVER."

Well, the illustration of Daniel's Rosh HaShanah birthday card contained all of the things that were created during the six days of creation. And in the corner, there are two little nekkid folks cavorting. Their names are not mentioned.

My (genius, menschy and obviously theologically astute) son says, "Look, Ima. There's God." And points to the nekkid people.

This really makes me wonder. How do our children get to know who God is? My son doesn't know that God gets thanked when we say motzi or kiddush or other brachot. He doesn't know that when Abba davens that Abba is talking with God (I'm not sure Abba believes that, either). He hears us talking. Oh, and wait, he learned about this guy, Hashem, who created the world, at his (Chabad) nursery school, but I don't think he connects Hashem with God quite yet. And this book didn't go so far, as others do, to talk about btzelem elohim, the idea that all humans are created in the image of God, so he didn't have that idea either.

So where did this come from? I don't know. And now I feel quite sensitive about how I talk about God in front of him, because I don't want to shape his understanding of God...I'd rather he develop his own sense of the divine in a way that is naturally appropriate for a small child.

When he pointed to the folks dancing in the corner, I paused. Then I asked him which one was God. Naturally, he responded, "She is. Her. The woman." Phew.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Silent transitions

In my 11 and a half months of Ima-hood so far, this was a pretty momentous week. I weaned my babies, thus bringing to an end the activity in which I’ve spent more hours than I’ve spent sleeping in the past year. I felt that the babies were ready and so was I; nevertheless, I’d been dreading the weaning process – afraid that despite their apparent lack of interest in nursing, they’d feel a sense of loss. I didn’t know how I would respond if they started pawing at my chest and begging for milk, as I’ve seen friends’ babies do.

But in the end, it went smoothly. In fact, a little too smoothly: the babies seemingly didn’t notice any change. Which, of course, made me feel quite strange and sad, more so than the relief I was expecting. I didn’t want them to be traumatized or bereft, but I’m left alone with my own feelings of loss, watching my babies take another big step toward independence and away from me. I see their eager faces as they grab the bottle from me and proudly hold it themselves, and I can’t help but wonder if they even remember all the hours we spent snuggled together, with them at my breasts. (If I ever started to forget, my droopy boobs would surely remind me!).

So after bracing myself for a difficult transition, I found myself instead dealing with the invisible, silent anticlimax – the change that no one seemed to notice except for me.

The other transition of the week – equally private but more insistently annoying – was the (TMI alert) return of my period. It was a powerful convergence. While I was preparing for what I thought of as the return of my body to myself, I was reminded that I was merely trading one set of bodily claims for another. I am in awe of what my body is capable of doing… but a little exhausted by its demands.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Raised by Gorillas? Unscheduled play time

It was 7:30 pm on Wed. and I was just getting around to eating lunch. So much for last week’s indignant telephone conversation with my Babydaddy—He wants me to supplement my
DHA intake. I say I eat very healthfully and don’t need supplements outside of the prenatal/lactating mother ones.

We all want the best for our children. The trick is, figuring out what “the best” means.

The need for good nutrition is pretty much a no-brainer. I try to balance my precarious bank account with my baby’s health. I liked the helpful piece in the Times about affordable ways to go organic.
I finally got a garden plot, which helps.

But Babydaddy and I often disagree about how much of the “extras” to give the girl. I’m a believer in just letting kids play. He’s more into the idea of activities. He wants me to take baby to sing-a-longs and exercise classes and all that.

It’s good he wants to be involved. I need to be more encouraging to him about that.

But part of my resistance is practical—there’s just one of me, and I’m not going to take away from research time or from me-and-baby time to run all over the city. If he were here, I’d compromise, and let him take her to some activities.

Part of it is philosophical. I’m pretty sure letting children explore on their own is the right thing to do.

I teach at a university—from what I’ve seen, over-scheduling and hovering causes more harm than good . And I think having children, and later, young men and women, pursue their own goals, not those of their parents, is a good thing.

A former student once thanked me for failing him. He wasn’t ready for university, but his parents insisted. Since he’d failed out, his parents withdrew financial support, and he was going to work in Spain. He was beaming with joy.

In the unlikely event that my child is a genius, it probably won’t hurt her to wait until she’s a little older to start on music, or art, whatever media it is through which she’ll rock the world.

I know my decisions about scheduled activities will involve lots of days like Wednesday, when I ate lunch at 7:30 pm: It’s a consequence of her world exploration. Plus teething again and preparing to walk.

Going to the zoo in bad weather, which I did out of desperation (she was a human tornado that day), turned out to be a great idea. The only drawback is the bad weather. But the zoo was pretty much ours.

The gorillas took my daughter in as one of their own. They played in front of her and pushed one another and made her laugh. I breastfed her in front of them. They didn’t mind.

Back at home I took baby to the foyer of our building and, fortified with new techniques learned from the gorillas, she climbed up and down the stairs and greeted the neighbors for an hour.

This is what we’ve signed on for—improvisation and learning from our surroundings instead of arranged activities.

I only hope a few other parents in my community believe as I do, so my child won’t feel like the odd-one-out when she’s older.

Uncle Moishy

My son loves Uncle Moishy. We let him watch two videos a day, and for the past month it has been Uncle Moishy - the haredi male Laurie Berkner - and Uncle Moishy exclusively. He particularly likes "Yomtov Uncle Moishy" which is recording of the Mitzvah Men doing holiday songs.

Each time, my little boy gets out his "microphone" (a cellphone attached to a charger) and sings along softly. One of our favorite activities is to perform, word for word, the entire video - of course using the microphone/cellphone and charger.

You can imagine our disappointment when we found out on monday that just the day before, THE Uncle Moishy was playing at a concert in Baltimore - and we did not know!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say, my husband and I have watched this thing so many times that we have memorized and analyzed the most minute and inane details. We could both write a senior thesis about Yomtov Uncle Moishy.

I find with most videos that my son gets attached to, I go through similar stages:

Stage I: Learning - this is when I am absorbing the video for the first (10) time/s.

Stage II: Mild Annoyance (10-20 screenings)

Stage III: Peak of Annoyance (usually occurs around the 30th screening)

Stage IV: Post-Annoyance Intrigue - (this is when we start noticing the details we were too annoyed to focus on the first 30 times)

Stage V: Zen - The video can be on - and we don't even notice. It becomes harmless background noise.

Stage VI: My son loses interest. (usually around the 100th screening...)

I am currently at Stage IV in the process.

Wish me luck in making it to Stage VI when we will FINALLY move on to something else. (nothing against Uncle Moishy, of course. He is actually really talented and has a real Yiddishe neshama...)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Bed

Apparently, now is the time to come out. To admit that I am one of the dreaded, foolish few...

Yes, I am a co-sleeper. And apparently, there are many of us.

My husband and I would never define ourselves as co-sleepers. However, since our son was an infant, when he would wake up at 530 in the morning (luckily, those days are a memory), we would bring him into bed with us and snuggle, and sometimes buy ourselves an extra hour of sleep.

Apparently, this qualifies us as cosleepers, according to this article in the NYTimes.

No, we don't start together in the same bed. I jealously guard my space, so that wouldn't be an option. And I do appreciate the marital intimacy that comes with having a bed that belongs just to adults. But my bed is a family bed because that is what families should have: a warm, comfy place to snuggle, and someplace safe to transition in and out of sleep.

Millenia ago, humans believed that sleep was like a mini-death. They never knew if they would wake up. Hence the rituals of pre-sleep and post-sleep, hence saying the bedtime Shma and Modeh Ani, which allows us to thank God each morning for returning our souls to us. Seriously, thank God we don't live like that anymore.

I wonder, why is this co-sleeping a big deal? Who doesn't love cuddling up to another warm body? Does this not increase the level of intimacy that parents and children have, in a positive way? I know that it works that way in my family. Of course, I do see how it is dangerous for infants, and in that regard I do "get" the APA's recommendations against co-sleeping, but come on, we all want it.

Beds are places where happiness should happen. Sorry to say it, but I do think it's true. And I don't just mean sex. Beds are for snuggling under the covers, for jumping on, for pillow fights. Beds are the centerpieces of rooms, we spend hours choosing our sheets, plumping our pillows just right, and hundreds (or so I have heard) of dollars on zillion thread count sheets (mine are from Ikea). Beds are places for Shabbat naps, places of comfort when you are sick or when you wake up with a bad dream.

I am thrilled to admit that my son sneaks into my bed in the morning. It gives us a chance to start the day together, and often leads to recitations of Modeh Ani and even some of the more physical blessings of Birkot HaShachar (see "zokef k'fufim," which in our house is translated as the "jumping up and down blessing," or more literally, the blessing which thanks God for straightening up those who are bent over). I am thrilled that we read stories in bed together at night. I am thrilled that we say the bedtime Shema side by side in full snuggle mode, covering each others' eyes (someone always has to cover Elmo's eyes too). There is something so glorious about being able to do this side by side in a warm, safe spot.

I would like to have more kids. Right now, too, I am sleeping in a double bed and my son is sleeping on an air mattress on the floor next to us (story for another time), so the leap to get into our bed in the morning is not so difficult. Of course, it's a tight fit but he's still under 3. So we'll have to see how it goes.

Mothers of the world, unite. Tell everyone you love your warm beds, even if you don't spend enough time in them, and you want your children to love them too. Tell everyone that a warm body to sleep next to is a great thing, and that intimacy IS for everyone (because, contrary to American values, intimacy is not only about sex). Do whatever you do that makes you happy.

Save The Drama For Your Mama….Oh Wait, That’s Me

I am lazy. I sometimes worry that it’s not a natural lazy. Perhaps I have developed some sort of chronic lazyitis. I would rather sit around and watch paint dry than go on a hike. I would rather take out than eat in. I was all sorts of proud when my daughter started understanding more and could bring me things I asked for….just so I didn’t have to get up and get them myself.

Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea…I’m not the 400 lb Mommy you see on Maury that sits around at home all day in her pastel flowered muu muu and has her 2 year old shovel Cheetos in her mouth while she cries-WHY LORD? WHY HAVE YOU BROUGHT THIS BLIGHT OF FAT UPON ME?!? Then chugs a chocolate malt.
No no no.
While I do enjoy Cheetos, in actuality I am a size 2, relatively buff Mommy that has the occasional play date, outing, adventure, but when given the chance of doing something or nothing-I would really rather do nothing.

I stare in awe of other mommies who have the get up and go to plan their days down to a tee. Have schedules for the schedules of their 6 month olds. Have family outings and adventures planned out for the next 18 years. Heck, I was impressed by the women who had the stamina to write up one of them there fancy “birth plans.” Turning on Microsoft Word and typing out what I wanted just seemed like so much effort.

It’s fine and all if I want to sit here and make sure my couch develops a nice and defined butt print, but what am I doing to the Little Lady? When I start going on my neurotic rants about how I am an ill fit mother because Thursday’s big activity is toe nail polish painting (I have a rainbow of colors so we can do a different one on each toe) my husband tells me how wonderful I am. How great the fruit of our looms is turning out. That she is excelling in school. Has a ton of friends. Is brilliant and beautiful. And ultimately how you can’t have Mommy and Lazy in the same sentence.

I guess he’s right. The amount of cleaning I do alone now classifies as a hard core cardio workout. Our days might not be spent “letterboxing” or going on the next great family adventure-but we do have fun. We laugh a lot. We paint pretty pictures for Daddy’s office. She teaches me the songs she learns in school. We ride around the house on the dog (the cat was not as into it). And of course there is the not fun that keeps me occupied. Gotta love the Nap Wars or the No, Child-you can NOT have candy corn for lunch (again) Battle.

I am the Mommy. There is no back up. Nobody else to pass her on to if I am tired, or sick, or want to watch Oprah. It’s hard work. My job may use the words “Stay at home” but my job is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can’t take that away from me or any other mommy. When your child feels loved and needed you are doing a great job. So props to all mommies-over planned or under planned. Even to the Maury Mommy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Spiritual Life

I don't often read poetry, but I am a big fan of the work of the Jewish poet Merle Feld, author of the poem "We All Stood Together."

Her poems have always resonated with me as a Jewish woman, even more so as I grow older and can relate to her experiences of love, motherhood, and the pressures of life.

As part of my professional work (remember that?) I recently interviewed her for the MyJewishLearning blog, Mixed Multitudes. Here's an excerpt:

My writing poetry started with the need to express feelings, mostly sorrow that wouldn’t go away, and I found gradually that writing poetry eased the pain in my heart, naming pain was soothing, comforting to me. (it’s that ability to name pain that is part of what people appreciate in my work I think). In the early years poems would come and take me by surprise and I was frankly rather embarrassed that I had no idea how I had written them, or how I might craft them. I wrote down deep feelings - about miscarriage, early intense love, women coming alive in Jewish tradition because we willed ourselves a life - lots of poems on subjects “traditional” poets would never have deemed worthy or of interest. Read more...

And I simply had to share this poem of Merle's from her book A Spiritual Life, because it made me cry. Which isn't hard to do if you're a man, or an overwrought television drama. But is pretty impressive for a poem.

I have spent half a lifetime
sitting in this chair
looking out this window
watching to see
if anyone was being mean
to you. I never thought
to sit in this chair
and look out this window
just for the pleasure
of observing you at play.

And now you are a tall girl
with a woman's body,
too old to play in public.
And now the moment to watch for pleasure is gone.
And I grieve for all the watching I never caught
you in a single moment
of simple childish pleasure,
not that I can recall.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Who Cares About Saving the Planet??

Well, I guess I do. But I feel very, very mixed about it.

I'm engaged in a few home repair projects. Some are short term, some are longer term. Some involve nasty stinky chemicals that are unnatural, bad for me and my family, and no doubt "bad for the environment." Some involve making choices about products to purchase, which can be better or worse for the environment. So I find myself asking, who cares? I guess I do.

I have air conditioners. They work fine. They're the though the window type. They're paid for. But yet, I am contemplating paying $600 to replace them (but not get rid of them, they'll go to the basement for storage) with ceiling fans. I find myself thinking that between the cost to buy the fans and the electricity I'll still be using, it won't make a difference. Sure, you say, every little bit helps.

We are about to repaint some rooms. I can use the extraordinarily expensive low VOC (volatile organic compounds), natural based paints that dry without horrible fumes, or pay still too much for the basic paint. We'll be hiring people to do the painting during time we will be out of our house on vacation, so the fumes may well be irrelevant.

I have nice lights. Not a single one of them can take the new CFL bulbs. They are all halogen, which are long lasting and still halfway decent for the environment (and take up much less room in landfills). Do I replace them to the tune of hundreds of dollars I don't have, or just feel guilty about it?

Just like most of us, I want the planet to be in good shape for my son to inherit it. I want to do my part for global warming. I have a share in a CSA (community sponsored agricultural project), and buy local at every opportunity. I have stopped buying water in plastic bottles and carry my own. I don't buy seltzer anymore in favor of my own, environmentally savvy Soda Club system (even better because it is an Israeli company I even have switched to using Method products at home. My son drinks organic milk, eats organic eggs, cheese and some veggies (given that the roster of things that he'll eat seems to shrink daily). I use as many natural products as I can. I even pay more for "green power" from my local power company (yes, I am that sucker).

I imagine that we all have similar conflicts. I want very much to be responsible: I want to protect my son with sun-sensitive skin from the depleting ozone layer, I want him not to be exposed to chemicals, and I want the world to be beautiful for him in his life like it was when I was a child. But yet it costs more and more every day to be environmentally responsible, and I don't have the cash. Part of me just wants to ignore it and wait for it to go away. But then I feel guilty, really guilty, when I have the chance to make a choice and I don't want to make one that could eventually contribute to the downfall of civilization.

Now that I've confessed all my sins to you, I'm going to plan out my trip to the local farmers' market tomorrow. And then I'll be getting in my gas guzzling non-hybrid car to drive out to the "country" to spend time with friends for Shabbat, where I'll make lots of garbage and won't be able to recycle it because they don't do that everywhere.

Ugh. This is impossible. I am sure that you, my dear reader, would say that I'm doing OK, doing the best I can. But where can we get the list of instructions for how real women are supposed to do this? Which choices are the best for our world, for our families? And how can we not go broke in the process?

But I Don't Wanna Do Yoga!

You’re on your way to work and you feel like yelling at the meandering crowd before you, “What do you think this is, a mannequin convention? Get a move on!”

But you’re not even driving.
You’re walking.
It’s DC.
And you’re not even late for anything.

That’s when you know you need to release some tension. You need to start working out again.

I’ve often thought the best work-out in the world would be flamenco. You get your diva on and spend hours just stamping your feet. Really loud. But given the astonishing dearth of flamenco studios that allow you to bring crawling babies with, I have to look for something else.

I can't tell you how many times I've been told I should do yoga. Plus, the only places I’ve seen with “Mommy and Baby” workouts are yoga studios. And I’m probably going to call upon my head charges of “unenlightened” and “not understanding what yoga really is,” but…but...I don't wanna do yoga.

What kind of person doesn’t like yoga? That’s like hating animals and small children, isn’t it? I’ve tried it several times. Maybe I just don’t have an open mind. It stresses me out. Plus I know too many ex- friends who practice.

One told me that when he did a certain pose his instructor told him to visualize himself doing a good deed. “Did you then go out and actually do the deed?” I asked. No—the point was the affirmation and “feeling” connected through visualization.

Uh, I've got a baby stuck to my breast. I already feel pretty darn connected.

Another told me yoga made him realize that, though we enjoyed stimulating intellectual conversations, our inner children didn’t play very well together. And so he didn’t want to hang out anymore.

I wish I’d told him that his inner child had boogers. What is this, recess?

To be fair, the above-mentioned people would probably get on my nerves if they bowled, fished, or played croquet instead of yoga.

And there is a super-sweet woman in my building who always holds the door open for me and helps me with the stroller, yoga mat tucked under her arm. When she smiles at us, she smiles at US, not at herself helping us.

Still, you don’t see people doing Pilates on Times Square to model what world peace would look like (while, at the same time, NOT engaging in a publicity stunt).

Consider the names of yoga studios near me: “tranquil space,” “Inspired,” “Free to Be,” “goddess,” “Joyous Life Energy Center,” “Laughing Lotus.” And really, who doesn’t want to be peaceful or joyous or energetic or alive? Who doesn’t want to laugh?

To be shallow and materialistic for a moment, those names just don’t say work out--W-O-R-K out--to me.

I don’t want to work on my soul or my personality or my inner child or world peace or inner peace when I exercise. I don’t want to get to know me better or to become a better person.

When I exercise, I just want to tone my abs and let off steam.

Is that so wrong, so misguided?

Until I find something else, I’m lifting baby a zillion times a day so she can “jump-jump” on my lap, which she loves. That should tone my biceps so my arms don’t jiggle when I lecture. I’m doing the peek-a-boo sit up, which at least makes her laugh, and which should firm up something.

Or maybe I should just get a week of sleep.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What A Croc

When I was young my mother told me if I didn’t stop sucking my thumb it would turn green and fall off. When I still wouldn’t unlatch myself she took me to my cousin Marvin’s house.

“Look at Marvin’s thumb.”

I did.

There wasn’t one.

“Ask Marvin what happened to his thumb.”

I did.

He told me.

“I sucked it, so it turned green and fell off.”

I stopped sucking my thumb that night.

Now THAT’S effective parenting.

It might not have been the “honesty is the best policy” approach many parents like to take-but I certainly appreciate what my mother did to help me. It would be bad if I was sucking my thumb at my bat mitzvah…wedding… a little extra comforting during the delivery of my daughter would have been nice…but overall good to stop sucking the thumb.

Now I’m starting to face some of my daughter’s habits and they are---well I wish she’d suck her thumb, then I could fly cousin Marvin out and we could move on. But of course her habits are as unique as she is, and I’m having trouble deciding if I should let her outgrow them on her own or try and help her out of them. Keep her behaviors main stream. I know that as a parent it is my job to teach her right from wrong. To guide her in her life. Help her make the right decisions.

But is it so bad to let wear her Crocs to bed at night?

When there is no immediate danger or damage it’s hard. I feel like I’m keeping her from being her-and Girl enjoys her Crocs. I know when people tell me their kids do weird things I tend to judge. Think man, if the fruit of my looms ever starts up with that I will smite the white right off her. I know I’m no better than anyone else though; all Mommies and Daddies have their Is My Child a Freak of Nature things to deal with. I just don’t want people to judge her, or me (well mostly me at this point) and clearly she can’t do this forever…but they look oh so cute pulled up over her footsie pajamas.

You know, even habits we do break manage to get replaced by others. I don’t suck my thumb anymore but when I’m stressed I tend to hum the most annoying songs. If you stop smoking you start eating chocolate. Stop shaking one leg the other one starts up. People need to self soothe, it’s in their nature. It’s hard to find the things inside you that will help you relax and are socially acceptable all at once. If I break her of this habit what is she going to take up next? Piercings? Twitches? Writing blogs involving porn?

It’s not main stream and it’s not the best thing to indulge her every need. I get it. But she’s happy and she sleeps the night. She even lets me put on other shoes from time to time. I have a few more months before she outgrows this pair….I guess I’ll hum “Bootylicious” and figure something out.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Other Woman

Loyal readers will have realized by now that for some reason I'm extremely conflicted about child care. Nevertheless, with Abba's thesis on slow-motion I bit the bullet and hired a mother's helper to take over some of his hours. She's great, super-affordable, and my son loves her.


Kind of.

Let's put it bluntly: I'm a little jealous.

Yesterday, Mother's Helper told me, "He just stood on his own for 5 seconds!" I was crushed. Granted, I'd gotten to see 2 seconds, 3 seconds and 4 seconds, but I missed 5.

Me: "If he starts walking on your watch, don't tell us. Seriously."

Later, while we were chatting about his love of music, Mother's Helper innocently told me that he has some songs that he dances to more than others.

Wait a son has favorite songs? That only he and his sitter know about?

And exactly what is it that they're laughing about for 5 minutes straight? To find out I peek into the nursery surreptitiously, like an outsider. But Ima wants in!

Deep down I know that this is ridiculous. That it's FANTASTIC that he is already making social connections with other people. That it's incredibly stimulating to play new games with new faces.

But still, I struggle. Am I just the food-provider and the day-to-day boring structure? Is she the razzle-dazzle? Does my son have a new best friend?

My solace is this: no one can really replace Ima. When the going gets tough, nothing but the Ima love will do. And while I might not be the only woman in my son's life, the foundation of love and protection I give him will enable him to go out in the world and find his happiness.

And they wonder why Jewish men have "mother issues."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Wake Up With Ima Shalom

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Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The ironies of motherhood

So my first big day away from my babies, which I posted about here? Turns out I didn’t have to go an entire day without seeing them, because they decided to wake up in time to see me off… at 5 am. Which was sweet, but, well, a little exhausting.

And my son? He chose the day I was out of town to take his first solo steps! Very exciting, but I felt terrible that I missed it… so instead of being just an exhausted mess trying to keep my eyes open while waiting for my delayed flight back home (which got me in at 2 am!!!), I was also feeling full of self-pity and self-recrimination. Not a pretty sight.

My son was apparently so excited for my return (either that, or for an opportunity to practice his newfound walking skills) that he decided to wake up at 4:45 yesterday to greet me, and to refuse his morning nap. By the end of the day we both were so bleary eyed that we looked like we’d spent the night in a bar.

Luckily, my daughter had enough energy for all three of us. When our playing stamina flagged, she kept herself busy by approaching her reflection in the mirror (and the oven door, and the silver garbage can) with repeated enthusiastic greetings and wet kisses. She was very kind, and let me off the hook after reading her favorite book to her only five times.

When did my babies turn into these little independent people?

I want to be a mikvah lady

I went to the mikvah last night.
This is surprising for many quite contradictory reasons.

First, I'm a practicing and happy Conservative Jew. You might say, "Conservative women don't practice taharat hamishpacha." But I do.

Second, I have been battling fertility related issues for over a decade now and rarely have "reason" to go...really, twice or three times a year. Every visit is a difficult one: either I'm not pregnant, or, well, I actually got my period, and I'm still not pregnant.

Third, I believe strongly in egalitarianism, and as a feminist, I have had a love-hate battle with niddah and the mikvah.

But I go.

This was my first visit to the brand new Upper West Side mikvah. Go. It is beautiful. I happen to be of the mind that going for a dip can mark any of a whole handful of transitional moments in life, not just the end of your white days or whatever. It raises hiddur mitzvah (the beautification of a mitzvah) to a new level. Not my taste in decor, but it is truly awesome.

The mikvah itself looks like the one in the scene from Sex and the City where Charlotte converts. Wouldn't surprise me at all if that was the model for the design.

But most powerful of all was the mikvah lady. Couldn't have been more than 25 years old and she was down on her knees cleaning my toenails of the remnants of bright red nail polish that I missed. Talking about getting pedicures, how she loves the sparkly colors and those are the hardest to remove. Talking about her sister-in-law, who does her pedicures. A real woman, obsessed with the vanities of life just like the rest of us, but devoted to escorting real live naked women through this experience.

I want to be a mikvah lady. Not the kind who picks the hair off the back and says "kosher" to the dipper. The kind who escorts regular women like me, ones with a need to make small talk and who wear pants to the mikvah (not to mention uncovered hair), through the moment when we leave the little deaths of our periods behind us and into the moment when we can focus again on life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's All in the Name

Taking my daughter to see her Babydaddy and his family is usually fraught with comical but edifying moments.

This time, on the first day of chag, I was seated with baby, Babydaddy, Aunt, and Grandmother at a pre-paid kosher restaurant when we were joined by a friendly, young couple. Aunt took it upon herself to introduce everyone by name. Then she got to me.

“This is my brother’s daughter, and this is
[awkward pause]
the mother.”

I will never get used to anyone referring to me and my daughter, from whom I have never been parted for more than 6 hours at a time, in these terms.

She’s MY daughter, and he is “the father,” if you want to be technical about it.

But I bit my tongue, as I do when Grandmother and Aunt talk about how much my daughter looks like her father.

Being “THE mother” is totally different than being so-and-so’s mother. “The mother,” seems purely biological, stripped of any kind of social relationships or community.

It feels a little like a slap, or perhaps a very limp, clammy handshake. After all, I used to have something of a friendship with this woman. How else could she have phrased it?

When it was time, the young couple said goodbye to each person by name until they got to me. “Good-bye,” they paused, clearly racking their brains for my name.

“The mother,” I prompted.

Quite honestly, I don’t usually think of myself as “A Mom” (an appellative I’ve never liked) any more than I think of myself as “the mother.” I’m my daughter’s mama, but to everyone else I’m just me (albeit, with a sidekick).

Yes, my daughter is the most significant aspect of my being right now, but when she totally consumes me, as she did when I was pregnant, I’m not fit for human society.

When I was four months along, I was introduced to a super-smart man who uses his powers for good and not for evil. As we crossed the street, he placed his hand on my back to warn me of a speeding car that appeared from nowhere. I FREAKED out.

Too full of my daughter, even though I wasn’t yet showing, I couldn’t bear to have a stranger touch me.

Not that I want to go around having strangers grope me, but it’s good for me to have a little psychological space.

In the meantime, and speaking of names, I am exercising other aspects of my identity as a guest host for the Burlesque Poetry Reading series at Café Rouge in November (the regular host is studying at Drisha this year). I need a good stage name.

As timely as it is, I’m guessing “Shmita” won’t quite do. Neither will “The Mother.” Maybe something more along the lines of Gigi or Lisette?

What They Won’t Show You in Porn

My husband and I have been together 11 years…7 years married…2 as Mommy and Daddy. Somehow in those last 2 years we have morphed from being young, sexy and cute to young, sexy and cutesy wootsy.

We used to regale our friends with this bit called “What They Won’t Show You In Porn.” Tell them about how I fell out of the bed while trying to slink across it to show off new lingerie, chuckle at how one of us made the mistake of ordering chili on a romantic night out and of course there is “Oh dear lord what’s in my eye! It burns! It buuuuuuuuuuuuuurns!” story (allergic reaction to massage lotion, apparently).

It was all very witty…sharing a little of our inappropriate humor with friends. Made us the belle of any ball. We were charming, young, sexy, funny and potentially famous. We were quite sure we could take our comedy routine on the road one day. Maybe Broadway! But we’d do it clothed…or get a body double (I nominate Cameron Diaz as she is a blonde mini me).

So all this is a little too much information for you, but we’re close. I’ve discussed my boobs, honkers, gazungas and birthing story with you. I feel like I can share the latest installment of What They Won’t Show You In Porn with you without you being too judgmental.

We were having our special Mommy Daddy time and right in the middle of things I spontaneously played peek-a-boo…..and not with my eyes.

Scary part is, it didn’t seem inappropriate at all. Completely natural. Very funny.

When did Mommyhood invade EVERY part of my life?I know it invaded my sleeping patterns, my toy room formerly known as my den, my priorities…but my Mommy Daddy Special Time? Is nothing sacred?

Well no, I guess nothing is. They tell you all dignity is lost once you have a baby. They are right. I never thought my friends and I would sit around dinner and discuss our episiotomy scars. Or stretch marks. I never thought half of Pennsylvania would see my boobs as I tried to figure out that whole breast feeding thing. I never thought my daughter would be my constant bathroom companion. And I never thought my child’s gas would make me so proud.

I guess it’s not so bad. It’s not like I started playing darts. Ouch. Peek a boo is a classic fun family game. Maybe next time we’ll try tiddly winks…with a twist. ;-)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Where Oh Where Has Abba Gone?

I'll admit it. I'm a drama queen. And in more than one overheated argument I've told Abba he should take a hike. Irresponsibly. Insincerely. But still. As I start to calm down I've wondered, what if he ever did leave us? Could I handle parenthood without him?

This week, he left. Not out of anger or marital discord, thank God, just for a six day conference, Sunday to Friday. It was really hard for him to go--he was so scared that our son would forget him, or be angry, or worse, feel abandoned and betrayed. After "being there" day after day, he was also really concerned that he'd miss our son's first steps, or his first real word. It took a lot of reassurance to convince him that the week would pass uneventfully.

The verdict? I need him. Man do I need him. Even though I have sitters watching our son during the hours that Abba usually watches him I'm exhausted at the end of the day. I simply cannot believe it's only Tuesday.

Here's the kicker--even though I'm exhausted, I can't fall alsleep. Something about Abba's presence in our home relaxes me, allows the day to fall away and sleep to come. Without him my brain just keeps going and going.

These are the things that you don't appreciate. That the lazy hour at the end of the night spent watching television and going over the events of the day might actually be quality time. That Abba makes a priceless contribution to the household.

And that without Abba, Ima is just not Ima.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Good luck

Yeled is having his early intervention assessment tomorrow. Why, you ask? Well, in July, yes 2.5 months ago (don't even get me started on how long it has taken for early intervention to schedule an assessment!), he was diagnosed with torticollis - wry neck. He has been seeing a wonderful physical therapist at a local hospital, and thank G-d, his neck has been improving.

The thing is, that now we are told that he has low muscle tone as well. He's just over six months, and can't sit up unassisted. Again, the PT has been helping, but to an Ima-ma, the progress is OH.SO.SLOW.

This is where my worries really start. I want the early intervention for Yeled so that
a. he will have at least an extra hour of PT a week
b. the PT will take place in my home! I wouldn't stop going to his other therapist, but it would be great to have the extra support, without having to drive anywhere.
c. if he needs any occupational therapy- they will cover that as well.

Like I said, its been more than 2.5 months since his initial diagnosis, so who knows if he will be eligible for the help.

But I'm really torn- when my PT told us "good-luck with the appointment" I really wondered- would good luck mean that he is found too healthy to be eligible? Of course, that would be wonderful- it would mean that another set of eyes thinks he will be ok on his own. On the other hand, would "good-luck" mean that he is found eligible for EI, and we can have the extra PT?

I honestly don't know which would be the better outcome for us at this point.

Wish us luck tomorrow- whatever that really means!

A day away

Tomorrow will be the first day since they were born 11 months ago that I won’t see my babies. I have to be in NYC for work, and the schedule of meetings dictates that I will leave before the little ones wake up and return after they go to sleep. And I feel… panicked.

I know it’s only one day, and I know they will be well cared-for by my husband and our babysitter. But I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that they will wake up, have a whole day of experiences, and go back to sleep without a single kiss, hug, or smile from me. And I’ll go a whole day without hearing their giggles. When I get home, no one will greet me with a gleeful shout and a hasty crawl to the door (I’m sure my husband will be glad to see me, but his reaction is generally more understated and – let’s face it – not the same thing at all.)

As it is, I’ve arranged a slightly insane travel schedule (to the airport before 6 am and home around midnight) so that I’m not away overnight. At least I’ll be there when they wake up on Wednesday morning. But in comparison to the past several weeks of holidays, during which we’ve been together nearly all day every day, it’s going to be a shock to my system.

Maybe they’ll hardly notice I’m gone and I’m a total narcissist for acting like my absence will upset them. Maybe I’ll feel like a day in NYC on my own, with no one to feed, no diapers to change, no squabbles over toys to mediate, is liberating. But right now I just feel completely freaked out.

Motherhood is a powerful force, indeed.


It’s not enough to treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself. I say you’ve got to treat yourself the way you want others to treat you.

When I was pregnant, unwilling to force paternity on anyone, I offered Babydaddy an out: He’d not claim paternity, and he’d never hear from me or my baby again. But he decided to claim paternity.

So now my mother is right—I do need to do all I can to facilitate a warm and loving relationship between my daughter and her Abba and her Abba’s family, who live in another city.

But part of having a good relationship is mutual respect.

I know the more I insist upon my needs, the more I am respected. But one gets really, really tired of insisting. I’m sorry that this chag seemed all about boundaries instead of celebration.

The big negotiation this time was the 3-hour express train to bring my daughter to her father, grandmother and aunt. I could have left an hour earlier for half the price on a regional, but it would have meant missing 5 hours of my nanny’s 27 hours of babysitting that short work week, instead of 4.

I know it seems insignificant, but I really wanted to work till the last minute. Abba, of course, wanted me to take the earlier, cheaper train, since he pays transportation for me to take his daughter to him (last visit’s big negotiation).

I thought about it and realized I’d be resentful if I did, so I offered to take the earlier train if Abba would babysit 5 hours on Sunday so I could work. Nope, he couldn’t. I took the later, more expensive train. Though I am still a little panicked about my work.

Second challenge was getting them to give me a break. This visit, Abba assumed that he and his sister take the baby to the park while I attend shul with his mother, who is elderly and in need of supervision.

Grandmother is a wonderful woman, but Simchat Torah services are not a care-swapping opportunity. So in the end I danced with my laughing, dancing baby and her cloth torah. Grandmother watched, though the services weren’t quite what she was used to. I have no idea what Abba and Auntie did.

I’m not one to raise my voice or throw a fit, unless I’m hooked up to oxygen and i.v. and bleeding in a hospital delivery room when I had been expecting a natural birth with midwives in a birthing center. But, I suppose conflict is sometimes an unavoidable precondition to peace.

I look forward to more joyful, meaningful chagim in the future.

I'm Miserable.

Here's a good parenting moment for you if I've ever had one.

So last week, I took my darling boy to Target to get some new jeans (only $4.99 and cute, too). This is a special journey, made this time out of desperation, especially because we needed not just jeans but diapers, and especially because of the impending yom tov.

In the checkout, my son makes polite and adorable small talk with the older gentleman who was ringing us up. The conversation went something like this:

75+ friendly, bearded African American gentleman: Hello, son.

almost 3, excessively friendly, nearly bald from a pre-Army haircut little Jewish boy: Hi.

Gentleman: Are these jeans for school?

Boy: head nods eagerly.

Gentleman: What school do you go to?

Boy: (guttural chet pronounced perfectly) I go to Chabad.

Gentleman: Haven't heard of that one. Do you like it?

Boy: I am miserable.

It was so cute, so precocious that I almost started laughing. Then I looked at this super nice guy who was checking us out, and I thought, jeez, when you ask a polite, small-talky question like that, you're not really looking for a kid to unload on you like that, right? And then I panicked. Before I ran my credit card through. I totally panicked. My son, after his 4th session of school, is miserable.

At least he has the vocabulary to name his emotions, right? And yes, later, just to be sure, I asked if miserable meant happy or sad, and he correctly responded sad.

I don't want him to be miserable, I want him to LOVE it. Nothing else. Of course, we start fresh tomorrow, a week with no holidays, and I hope that it gets better, easier and more routine. For the record, his teachers say he loves it. And when I peek through the classroom windows and door, he's having a jolly good time.

Only our checkout gentleman and I are left wondering...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Waterford, Desert Style

I love sukkot. Love love love it. Wanna know why? Paper plates.

Brilliant! Brilliant I say.

A whole holiday where it is perfectly acceptable to serve succulent meals on Solo plates with cute little autumnal leaves? ORGASMIC!

Well maybe that’s a step too far. Maybe I’m 3 weeks into holidayitis and my spoon blister isn’t getting any better. Maybe I’m marrying Nemo and having all his fishy children. But permissible paper plates? It’s a gift. It’s Cliff’s Notes for the holiday month!

I know a woman who got freaked out when it rained because she left her dining room chairs out in the sukkah. I understand wanting to make it nice out there. I really do. I think our sukkah takes the cake. I’m not completely selfish and self centered. I want to celebrate the holiday to the nth degree. I love God and all. Think He’s the cat’s meow. But in the midst of cooking and cleaning and fasting and cooking and praying and cleaning and picking out outfits that don’t make you look like you’ve eaten 40 types of things rolled in puff pastry dough if there’s a chance to save a step I sure as heck am gonna take it.

I think Mommies and Daddies have a lot on their minds and their plates, paper or not. And while celebrating everything to its fullest is important I think finding a shortcut here and there is not the worst of things. In the past month I have spent more time with my oven than my daughter. I’m more thankful when the last dish is done than when she goes to sleep easily.
But in the past week this has not been the case. I was able to have more than 50 people come for meals for Sukkot and spend less than half an hour in total doing the dishes. It was a sukkot miracle. But I do know that a lot of people would disagree with me. A holiday is a holiday and should be given the same honor no matter where you eat.

How do you work the God /Life balance? At what point do you let your meal be a little less glamorous so you can spend the afternoon at the park with your daughter? What happens if you don’t make it to shul in time for Birchot Hashachar because you were reading Baa Goes the Sheep for the 10th time?

It’s a hard question. In my opinion, I’m pretty sure the same guys who thought it would be neato if a bunch of Jews ate outside in a hut with husks as a ceiling would be cool if on your lovely tables you had some lovely disposable plates. After all, they didn’t have to deal with hand washing and drying each individual piece of Waterford in the desert, why should we?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Being Alone

My daughter and I spent a wonderful Sukkot with dear friends from Texas who now live in Chicago.

Yes, the bridge of song from each of the 150 sukkot in the neighborhood (my friend’s children counted them). Yes, the identical crayoned pictures adorning the walls of each sukkah detailing where we came from.

Despite it all, today, back in DC, I feel utterly alone.

I know everyone feels alone sometimes. In her new home in Chicago, my friend is gracious and her life is full of love. But she says sometimes she feels the weight of constant caring for her three energetic, imaginative, delightful children. Husband putting in long hours. Close friends, family in Texas.

Mostly she must miss herself. The self she can’t attend to right now because she’s caring for everyone else. I imagine it waiting patiently for her in an unseen corner of the house.

The man I used to love feels lonely. It was bad timing for romance, but he’s too wonderful to lose by giving up a friendship. He’s between countries; he’s got a job in Chicago he couldn’t turn down, but he longs for home, for Israel.

He builds symbolic bridges: He bought property in Tel Aviv, which I would guess, helps alleviate the greatest measure of existential angst. And his work, much in demand, gives him intellectual connections he craves. He’ll find his love when he returns home, he says. When he’s settled again.

So there are different levels and types of being alone. Naturally, to me, mine feels the purest and most intense form. True, I have a daughter. But I don’t have a partner. I don’t own a home. There isn’t a “when I’m settled” or “soon.”

The future is now for me. Maybe that’s the loneliest feeling there is. One misses the future, just as one sometimes misses the past.

Without a daughter one can feel like the purest observer. Touching the world without leaving a trace of oneself in it. So that loneliness becomes a virtue, a gesture.

Which is great for photographers and poets.

Not so good for mothers, what with all the ways we're supposed to ensure continuous presence. We're responsible for the perpetuation of the species, the tribe, the demand for theraputic psychologists, just to name a few.

I'm trying to make a home in now while remaining open to what is in store. Even if what is in store is just more of right now.

The Home Stretch

We've overeaten. Underslept. Traveled for hours and hours in cramped quarters.

All for the celebration of our Happy Fall Holidays.

As a wise mama once said: "The holidays are hard on everybody."

I know that everbody-parent or not--is SO ready to be done by the time we hit simchat torah, but I think that parents of young children have it particularly hard.

At this point in time my son hardly knows which way is up. Naps are a mess, meals are feast or famine, bedtimes are pushed to the limit. Sleep is happening in a car, in a pack n play, in a baby carrier, anywhere but where it should.

I've often said that is so nice to have a day during the week where you can stop and step back from your everyday life. Now I'd like to revise that: it is so nice to have JUST ONE day during the week where you get a break from the everyday.

I miss the my everyday routines. And I miss appreciating Shabbat.

So, I will push through this last 3 day yom tov. No doubt we'll have fun. It's my son's first Simchat torah, and he loves to sing and dance--super-kaif!

But when my alarm rings Monday morning, I will anticipate with excitement five whole days of the daily grind. And when Shabbat comes next week, I will truly be thankful.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Touring a Jewish Day School

A quick post...

I am taking a tour of a prominent Jewish day school next week as we consider applying our son for their nursery school program (it is a NS-12 school). I wonder if it might be an interesting exercise to ask you, the readers of Ima Shalom, what I should be looking for, what I should be considering, as I look closely at this school and community.

Please share your suggestions, advice, and specifically, what I should look for! I hope all of you considering Jewish day schools will find this helpful....

Really Rejoicing with the Torah

My son, a newly-minted nursery school student, came home today with his very own flag for waving on Simchat Torah. We won't talk here about the sharp stick and how my very vigorous almost 3 year old will likely stab himself with it before yom tov...we'll stick to the joy.

He is obsessed with the Torah. Look at the bells, Ima. I can see it, Ima. Why is it wearing white (last week)? Can I kiss it? Where is my stuffed Torah? Look at it there in the closet, there are eight of them! Can I go up there on the bo-bima (not sure why he calls it that!) and see them?On Rosh HaShanah, an inexpert Torah carrier bopped my son in the nose with the Torah when he leaned in for a kiss. Not even a whimper, he was just so excited to be near the Torah.

The spectacle that is the Torah service on a regular Shabbat is so enticing for kids. The beautifully dressed Torah is brought out from its hiding place, and paraded around with singing to every person in shul, even the toddlers. Its clothes are soft and its decorations shiny. And you even get to shake hands with the rabbi and cantor as the parade around.

Simchat Torah seems like such an opportunity. Here is a day devoted to Torah. Everyone gets an aliyah, even "hana'arim," all of the youngsters. There is something so profound about this inclusion: that the joy of the Torah and the words within is not lost on small children.

This year, Simchat Torah services will keep my toddler up late at night. And I will be fine with it. Because this once a year celebration will keep him talking for hours on end, and will keep his enthusiasm going at Shabbat services for the next few months. My enthusiasm will match his, because seeing all of this through his eyes is unbelievably exciting. I hope that you'll be able to find this excitement yourselves, regardless of how much cooking, the crazy workload and the rest of everything that life throws our way!

Chag sameach!

Sleeping With My Etrog

Last week in shul, my husband was about to bench lulav, when my son started whimpering, "I s want to hold the etrog, Daddy!" Somehow my husband had so much faith in the gentleness of our little boy that he entrusted him with this delicate fruit.

Needless to say, the pitom broke off about five minutes later. And alas, our etrog was transformed from a ritual object to a little boy's favorite toy.

Since then, he has taken it everywhere - to the park, to the store, in the car, of course in the sukkah and yes - in his bed.

It is hard to imagine anythine more adorable than peaking in at night to check on my sleeping son and to find him cuddled up with his etrog.

One day, I hope we have a house with outdoor space and that my son will enjoy lots of family sleepovers in our backyard sukkah. For now, he'll sleep with his etrog.