Wednesday, November 26, 2008

You Know You Have Made It When They Turn Your 30th Birthday In To A National Holiday

OK, so here’s the deal. I am turning 30. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will wake up and begin my 4th decade of life.

I am not going to lie and say I am handling this well. No. I have asked my husband for a boob job and Botox several times. I spent an hour and a half searching for gray hairs. I broke down in tears when a normally very thoughtful friend was telling me about a date he had and mentioned she wasn’t going to turn 30 for SO long and how girls “in their 20’s are so hot.”

Yeah, when you are vain and changing decades, it’s not fun. Constantly worrying about what is sagging and what is no longer going to be considered attractive. And when you are vain and love being the center of attention on said birthday, turning THIRTY and sharing the day with a turkey is just awful.

I am in Mahotma Baubie and Zadie’s Land with my wonderful Mommy and Daddy. My amazing husband. Awesome brother. And of course, my perfect children.

But where is the big party? Where are all of my friends? Where are the cakes and presents and over the hill balloons? And seriously, how does anyone expect me to turn 30 without a keg?

Instead of a whole shebang about my glory there is a whole shebang about what we are grateful for. I just do not see how this is fair. Instead of thinking about me everyone will be thinking about themselves! Oh the horror.

I am turning THIRTY yes. But just because I am 30 doesn’t mean I know how to share.

So I guess that means I have to think about me. I will have to have to sing a song to myself about my glory. Think about what I am grateful for me for.

Well I am turning 30. I am grateful I am not turning 40.

No no. That’s not nice.

I am grateful I will never know what it is like to be 9 months pregnant and having to hire the announcer from the Price is Right to ask the baby to “Come on down!”

Oh and I am grateful for my husband. Who is perfect for me and with me.

And you know, I am really grateful I don’t have any unsightly moles. Which reminds me I am happy I don’t have any cancerous moles, which reminds me I am glad I don’t have cancer, which reminds me I am thankful for my health.

I am grateful for my teeth and gums. And the fact that my husband has a rockin job where we can get sweet sweet dental insurance (and helps pay for the special “I’m turning 30 so I get to buy myself the sassy new black nail polish from Chanel” presents).

And of course I am grateful for the awesomeness that my womb produced. And in particular, I am grateful that my daughter is finally potty trained and that my sons sleeps through the night.

I am grateful that we have a beautiful home with a kick ass kitchen. And I am grateful that in it I seemed to found an actual talent that I possess- I can cook. Who knew?

I am grateful that I am turning 30 and am sad that I am not with my friends. Because that means I actually have wonderful, amazing friends who always make me smile (even when they are talking about 20 year fresh meat being hotter than 30 year old rib roast).

Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Look at me! I am 30! OF COURSE I should feel old. I have done more in 30 years then some people do in their whole lives! I am HAPPY and HEALTHY. I have friends! I am accomplished. I have been deemed smart enough to be hired by a Fortune 50 company and was smart enough to know that being a mommy is way more fun. And I have stuff! I have an awesome husband! I can spend long periods of time with my family and not want to jump off a cliff!

DAMN IT! Now I am all happy and feeling grateful. Darn turkeys and Pilgrims and Native Americans stealing my thunder. I wanted to wallow in my oldness for a while. You know how I love the self pity. Oh well. There is still the surprise birthday party that I am having in a couple of weeks. I will bitch and moan in between keg stands.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Seven Days of Sex

Yes, I did write that. And now you can go ahead and wake up from your nightmares, because I'm not going to describe anything seamy or inappropriate (after all, some of you actually KNOW me).

Apparently, a pastor of an Evangelical church in Texas--at this point, many of you have stopped reading, right?--has put a challenge to his parishioners. Revive the intimacy in your marriage with Seven Days of Sex. Read the article here.

I mean, come on. I get the rationale behind this "sexperiment." I know that sex is an outstanding way to boost the level of intimacy between two people in a committed, loving relationship. And for what it's worth, it doesn't happen that often at my house. And I could give you a whole long list of reasons why, including kids, which the aforementioned pastor says stands for “keeping intimacy at a distance successfully.”

But honestly, I wonder more about what has happened to us as people when I read an article like this of all places in the New York Times. Isn't the NYT the newspaper of record in this country? And why on earth are we talking about married sex HERE??

So on a whim I decided to see if I could find out what folks were reading about way back in 1900. Because it must be way more impressive, about paradigms shifting and the world changing all around...

On November 24, 1900, a whole 108 years ago, the New York Times featured short reviews of plays showing on Broadway. Apparently, a Thanksgiving tradition was to go to the theater, not to gorge on turkey (that was perhaps in another article), and according to this article, it was a truly bad play that didn't do well around Thanksgiving. Probably the same goes for today's holiday season.

And on November 30 (here's a shoutout to all you football wives out there), there was an extensive piece on the football season, describing how Pennsylvania beat Cornell and Columbia beat some team called the Carlisle Indians. I think that school isn't an Ivy anymore...and they'd be the Native Americans, anyway.

And so fine. I am humbled. And perhaps tis the season to renew one's faith in the fact that there are things more significant in the world than the economy, politics, Iraq, Afghanistan, other 3rd world countries that are disintegrating before our eyes, disease and famine. Perhaps it is important, especially in this season of giving thanks, that we turn to our spouses and say thank you, thank you for being our partners and being our intimate companions and lovers.

Thanks for putting up with us and our snarky comments when you want a medal for emptying the dishwasher. We are actually grateful you did it.

Thank you for putting the kids to bed, even though you riled them up and it took an extra hour and three stories.

Thank you for making dinner, even if it meant defrosting something I cooked last week.

No seriously, I'll stop. I think that the way that I will say thank you to my spouse this year is by having Seven Days of Sex and following the guidance of my new friend, Pastor Ed from Grapevine, Tx. That will help me to refrain from any further complaints about the state of the world, the messy kitchen/children/desk/football, and return to the intimacy that was the hallmark of our life pre-children.

Good luck initiating your very own Sexperiment!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kids' Night Out

Last night, I went with my husband to a New York Knicks game. It was apparently "Kids' Night," which must have been someone's brilliant idea of getting kids into Madison Square Garden to spend their parents' money on $100 seats and copious amounts of junk food, not to mention foam fingers and jerseys of players who are no longer on the team.

I did not feel badly at all, not for one second, for not bringing my 4 year old son. Now, he's a huge Knicks fan (appropriately brainwashed by my husband), and he's been to a few Sunday afternoon games, but I'd never bring him to a Saturday night game. After all, it was date night, and I was paying for a babysitter. Because I foolishly thought that I was going out to where there weren't going to be a lot of kids.

I did say paying for a babysitter. And that meant that I did not want to spend the evening with 10000 other people's children. Alas, I was wrong on that one.

Let's return to the idea of Kids' Night. That meant that the Knicks City Dancers, generally wearing inappropriately skimpy and tight outfits while gyrating all over the floor, were wearing flowy micromini sundresses and go go boots, to "tame down" their look. And dancing to songs from the 80's instead of hiphop from the Naughties, but with lyrics that are just as sexy and misogynistic. That meant that the Star Spangled Banner was sung by a 9 year old from LawnGuyland who was being handled by her stage mommy and who was groomed within an inch of her life. I also had the pleasure of seeing extra action from the Knicks City Kids, a troupe of kid dancers who wear baggy hiphop clothes and dance all over the place, and instead of being too sexy are overly precocious and also being fawned over and spoiled by their stage mommies.

I promise you, I did have a great time with my husband (and the Knicks won). You just have to wonder, aren't there any places adults can go anymore where the kids haven't taken over?

Went home after the game. My son the light sleeper woke up just after the babysitter left, and we had the pleasure of snuggling him back to sleep. He's taken over our that's appropriate. Not Madison Square Garden.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

No More Moooooooooo

It wasn’t the fact that my daughter’s nearly two and speaks in complete sentences that made me wean her.

It wasn’t even (when push comes to shove) the fact that she has been waking up at 5 am for her morning feeding and then not going back to bed.

It wasn’t the fact that my love is embarrassed when my daughter reaches her hands into my shirt when we’re in public and casually digs around until I feed her.

Before I actually gave birth, I thought that any single one of these would have been enough to make me wean my daughter. But at the end of the day, I loved the bonding too much. I loved her snuggling against me, her eyes gazing at nothing in particular, her hand around my fingers or on my necks and face.

And I appreciate the extra antibodies that keep my girl from getting sick.
And I loved the “100 elements in breast milk that can’t be found anywhere else”
and the idea that breast milk is perfectly fitted to the needs of my daughter at any age.

We were down to twice a day, so we could breast feed in private. And anyway, I told myself, my daughter refuses to drink cow’s milk, even milk with honey and vanilla. And I HAVE milk, so why not keep going?

But three times in the last week, when we were looking at cows (in Texas), reading about cows, or dancing with our fabulous, battery-operated dancing cow, my daughter stopped in the middle of it all, turned to me, reached into my shirt and said, “milk? milk?”

That did it. I refuse to be identified with a cow!
I mean, I certainly joke about feeling like a milk machine, but I'm allowed. No one else is. Not even my daughter.

She started weaning this weekend at my parents’, and now she’s (mostly) all done.

Not so painful. Though, to be fair, I’d started “trying” half-heartedly to wean a few weeks before, so at least the milk supply wasn’t urgently painful by the time we quit.

Her last gulp was on the plane, taking off in the Houston airport. Now we’re “all done. Bye-bye, mama’s milk” (mostly).

And for the first time in her entire life, she slept through the night last night (after a short crying spell at midnight).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Keeping Kosher in a non-observant family

My mother allowed us to keep kosher, for an entire weekend, cooking for the entire family, using her kitchen. Yeah, okay, so what’s the big deal? First, my family doesn’t keep kosher. Second, to call my mother a foodie would be an understatement. She's the kitchen goddess incarnate.

She ground our own peanut butter, our own flour (from wheat berries or rice grains), churned our own butter, made our bread, made pizza dough from brown rice, even ground her own poppy-seeds for her homemade poppy-seed rolls and made her own dough for her own strudel (made from our home-grown pears) etc. etc. etc. all during my childhood. Ask her to please step away from that pot?

So how did we do it without driving her absolutely, completely and totally insane? And still manage to eat on porcelain? Well, it wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t as difficult as one might imagine. For starters, we introduced new food that my mother didn't know how to cook in the first place, then let her help by chopping stuff up. She was happy to learn new, healthy and delicious recipes.

Secondly, my parents live in Texas, where real estate is relatively cheap, so they have space. I had some dishes in the attic I’d never used; Mama had a new paring knife and cutting board; I brought a soup pot from my kitchen, and I bought another soup pot on the way home from the airport, and a second knife and soup ladle.

I told my family that keeping kosher dishes at their place was an investment in our future relationship—a sign that seeing them was a priority. Eventually, I’ll build up enough (maybe I’ll buy a second soup pot and a frying pan next time) so that soon I’ll be able to visit without needing to bring any cookware with me. For now, though, triple-lining a regular baking pan with tinfoil allowed me to bake several lbs of fish (big family).

The second thing I did was to make sure they were included; I shopped for everyone and cooked a simple but delicious and hearty meal for Friday night. My mother lit candles with me. Luckily they like sweet wine. Who doesn’t like challah?

The biggest problem was reserving two kashered burners on the stove top. We’ll need to work on that one. The other problem was keeping my mother from poking in the soup pots with treif silverware.

Finally, be real. No, kashrut doesn’t make sense. It’s not supposed to make sense. Kashrut is NOT about logic. Yeah, it’s somewhat about making sure Jews and non-Jews don’t mix, which is hurtful to mention to my family. I just say that, aside from it being a commandment, it’s also a discipline to keep me mindful and attentive to my actions, my thoughts and the way I treat others, the way I treat the environment. That seems to work.

Also I introduced kashrut gradually, when I lived in Texas; at that time I’d cook an entire meal and bring it over. So it was seen as a treat, not as a weird and cultish habit or punishment I was subjecting them to. I started slow—we ate at first on their dishes, so as not to alienate. Or we ate on paper. And we talked about it. I avoided discussions that involved these words: truth, salvation, sin, right, wrong. And I acknowledged that what I was asking them to do for me seemed completely insane, as well as inconvenient, and I knew it, and I was really, really grateful.

I can’t say that it was easy for them. But luckily, they love me (yeah, I know it’s really all about the babygirl) and want to see us all again. Soon. And lots.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blissed Out

What do you call a man who tells you, “Let’s face it, you’re gorgeous, but your daughter adds a certain dimension to your beauty?”

What do you call a man who takes your daughter to the pediatrician while you’re at work, who travels to see family out of town and comes back with a doll stroller that your child has been wanting for so long that she’s turned her booster seat into a “croller”? Who asks if he can take your camera to a two-year-old birthday party because this particular two-year-old is your daughter’s best friend? Who calls you to tell you to go ahead and finish that project at work if you need to because he’s free and he’ll pick up the girl from the babysitter?

I don’t know about you, but around here, we would love to call that man abba.

Despite having just come from the new Woody Allen movie last night (my first visit to the cinema in about 16 months), filled with nostalgia for my previous, carefree itinerate existence, I am pretty blissed out. My love has been in the States for three weeks now, and frankly, I can’t imagine life without him. And judging from my daughter’s complete disregard for me whenever he’s around, she can’t imagine it either.

It’s so nice to feel there is someone who can back you up, support you, take turns being the bad cop, and who still thinks you’re pretty even when you’ve not washed your hair all week, and who still thinks you’re smart even when you’re sleep deprived and can’t remember the name of your best friend. It’s nice to have someone who speaks Hebrew to my daughter and who davens.

So now we’re preparing for a second round of negotiations with Babydaddy, trying to get permission to move with baby to Israel. Hopefully the quaint guiding principals of the court system in DC, which favors a woman in a relationship to a woman alone, will add weight to my side (or, as my love puts it, our side) of the table.

This weekend we’ll be in Texas to meet my family. I’ve made my five brothers promise to behave.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Yawn...Is it Shabbos Yet?

Tomorrow is Chamudi's birthday. Everything is in order. The trike is bought and assembled, the cake is baked. And I am dog tired.

Some days life feels so And not in that wonderful "when I grow up I'm gonna..." way. More in that "I've worked till ten two nights this week and today I worked all day and sat through a meeting about layoffs and then came home and battled through traffic to the toy store and the grocery store only to return to dishes to do, Shabbos to help cook and a dire laundry emergency" kind of way.

I guess it's no suprise. After all, I'm over some point adulthood was bound to creep up on me. But somehow every time I have a week like this I feel kind of betrayed. Sure, I wanted marriage, children, a rewarding career. But I also really wanted to spend a nice amount of time staring into space, watching vapid television, IMing friends near and far. I think I assumed that leisure time was my middle-class entitlement.

I'd love to write more now...I am so bummed that I haven't had the time lately to share with Ima Shalom. But I've got to work, so, Shabbat Shalom for now, and more next week, when my baby starts preschool.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Teach a man to fish and he'll fish for a lifetime...

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a meal.
Teach a man to fish and he will fish for a lifetime.
(Chinese proverb)
The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.
(Maimonides' 8th level of giving tzedakah)

Wonders will never cease. We have decided as a family -- ok, my almost 4 year old didn't get a vote -- that we want to eliminate red meat from our at home diet. We won't buy it or cook it, but will eat it "out". So we're trying to eat more fish.

There is a lovely (and clean) fish shop around the corner from our apartment. I like it, it's a little off the beaten path, and it doesn't stink of old fish. And they keep the kosher fishes separate from those other treif ones. I thought it would be a fun treat for me to take my son over to to our neighborhood fishery to pick out fish for dinner. He adores lox, and knows that salmon is pink, and I hoped that this participation in the shopping might lead to participating in the eating, thereby diversifying his fruit-cheese-yogurt-challah diet.

So we walked in. Not a huge store but he was the lobsters in the tank, of course. We walked by the display case, and he asked all the names of the fish (except for "EMA! That's SALMON!!!"). Loved the idea of a fish called branzini - don't even know if it's kosher - or tilapia, they sound so funny. Each fish seemed more interesting than the next.

Then we got to the whole fish section. Basically, there's a bin, about adult-waist high, filled with ice and dead fish. You don't want me to pull any punches, right? They're dead. Glassy eyed. Ick. And wouldn't you know it, darling boy runs right over, climbs up on a milk crate and starts poking their eyes. Picks one up. Starts swinging it by the tail. I nearly passed out. He picked out his own fish, a whole shiny red snapper, and solemnly handed it to the fish man to be cleaned and gutted. He carried it home, where Abba had frantically spent the last 20 minutes searching for a whole fish recipe that didn't take too long. He even helped prepare it by sprinkling salt and pepper on it and watching while it sat in the pan.

I was expecting that to be IT. But no!
Turns out that he loves red snapper. He ate at least 6-7 bites, which seems like a lot to me. He couldn't stop talking about it and wanted to do it again the next day.

It is apparently true that if you involve your children in the shopping, selection and preparation of food, they'll eat it. I was a complete skeptic, but now I have a kid who eats red snapper. Let's see if it holds for other things; snapping the ends off of asparagus didn't get him to eat that, but it was helpful. I'll keep trying...this made it well worth the effort. It is not just the example of eating it around a table with others who are eating the same thing. I helped to provide my son with a tool (and an appreciation) for enjoying the process of getting food on a plate, and involving him in the process and enabling him to have a voice in the choice empowers him. Participating in the cooking was nice too, although there is still flour on the kitchen floor. It's just as empowering as the choice between the red shirt and the green shirt; it's a false choice (we were having fish for dinner, after all) but he perceived that he had a voice in the decision too.

I wonder what it would be like if we always thought of food preparation for our families like this; how can we involve our children in the process, and how can we ourselves be closer to the process. Maybe all our children will learn to love kale. OK, maybe not, but you might be able to substitute red snapper for a Dr. Prager's Fishy once or twice.