Wednesday, August 31, 2005
G-d shook the snow globe...

This Hurricane Katrina really blew the hell out of New Orleans and Mississippi. How many billions of dollars is it going to take to heal this insanity? I see the images online, I read the stories, I am horrified. HORRIFIED. The destruction is beyond massive. And the vandalism? Disgusting! I can understand if somebody needs food or water, or other emergency items. But baseball caps? TV's? Beer? Come on, people. That's gross. I read stories about hospital patients dying, mamesh babies in the ICU. People camped out under overpasses with no water. Thousands of people in complete desperation. People getting robbed at gunpoint. Total anarchy. If this is the character of New Orleans, no wonder Hashem wanted to destroy it. Aren't some bigwigs in Washington going to send some help there? How about sending in a special unit to control the hoodlums and the violence? I don't know how these things work. I feel so sorry for all these suffering people, it's a disaster of biblical proportions. Please G-d, help the innocent victims. Please G-d, help them rebuild and repair. Please G-d, spare us your wrath. Ad mosai, Hashem, ad mosai.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Madame Secretary

I always paid the bills in my house. Managed the money, made the budget. I'm obsessive-compulsive, so this is a great job for me. About a year ago, I read a book called "The Surrendered Wife" (which basically describes how to become one). I'm not knocking it. It was a good book, and I agree with the whole premise. It's very Jewish, actually. The whole idea is to build up your husband, encourage his masculinity. This is basically achieved by letting him be the boss. I agree with that. Shlomo HaMelech said, "Treat your husband as king, and he will make you his queen." So I read this book, and one of the main things to surrender is the money. Let him pay the bills, let him make the budget. Every week the husband is supposed to give his wife a weekly stipend for everything. Groceries, household stuff, diapers, whatever. So I relinquished my job. "Yaakov," I announced one day, "I can't handle being the secretary anymore. I've got too much on my head with the kids and the housework." "OK," he shrugged, and that was it. It was all downhill from there. He never gave me a stipend. Each week I would say, "what's my budget for the week?" and he'd say, "32 cents." Sometimes he'd say 39 cents, and then tell me "See? I increased your budget by 7 cents!" So he basically told me nothing, and I'd be out grocery shopping with no idea how much we had. Bills were getting paid late. Yaakov would say, "watch what you spend, there's a check we wrote to Schnorrers Inc. that might get cashed." Then I'd screech, "What?!! We shouldn't have to worry about a check being cashed! Once you write a check, that money is gone! You shouldn't consider it still there to use." On and on this would go, month after month. We also have a different opinion about paying bills. Yaakov would rather pay a bill late (and have more grocery money in the budget), and I'd rather pay it on time. We'd get nailed with the late charge anyway, so what's the point, right? Differing attitudes about money became a MAJOR source of contention in the Maven household. Until 2 months ago. Because that's when I took my job back, baby. I was tired of not knowing what I could spend, tired of bills being paid late, tired of the finances being "all over the place." So I told him (none too nicely) that I was in charge of the finances again. I got online, balanced our checking account, scheduled bill payments, and whipped us into shape. Last Sunday Yaakov said to me, "You know, it's good to have my secretary back." You see? He's still the boss. Along with Bruce Springsteen.

Okay Hashem, now bring Moshiach!

Just got power 3 hours ago, after 5 days without it. Just like last year. What a nightmare.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

We took our kids to the mall today. Something to do, a destination, something to get us out of Nana's house. I figured we could go and spray perfume, go into the science store, blah blah. This is the mall by my mom's house, not the one with the indoor playground near me. So we're walking along, big mall, kids are getting tired. I knew when we turned the corner, there was a way out to our car. Well, let me tell you what I saw. A billboard. A man and a woman, half undressed, in a major lip-lock. OMIGOD. My precious children. My super-sensitive, oh-so-perceptive 5 year old. "Chaya!" I called frantically, "Come into this fun computer store!" She turned and came in with me, and then wanted to go out. "No, Chaya, we're going back this way." She started screaming. I picked her up, and she went berserk. "I want Tatty!" My husband, meanwhile, had turned around and did not know what was going on; he had missed the billboard. He only knew his wife was being a nutcase. He started walking with the other kids towards me. "What's the problem?" he says. "There's a billboard there that is not appropriate for our children to see," I seethed. "You're giving it chayes! If you just ignored it they would have never seen it!" he said. "You're wrong! It's literally right in the middle of the path! There's NO WAY they could miss it!" I shot back. Yaakov was getting annoyed. He picked up the kids and headed out to the exit (and billboard). I was frantically in tow, playing a hat game with Chaya. Simple game, easy rules - mommy covers your face with tatty's hat. Isn't this fun? Meanwhile, he gets them out the door and I hang back to file a complaint with the mall office ("You're wasting your time," Yaakov said). I had to write out my complaint, and you could see my anger raging from the ink. I got a business card to call them and complain, too. If all this wasn't bad enough, I got in the car and Yaakov and I had the nastiest fight about it. In front of the kids. Maybe I'm an idiot to take them to the mall in the first place. I am so upset right now.

Kill Your Television

Thank G-d, we don't own a TV. We've been visiting my mom frequently since we've lived here, and never once have we turned on her television. Maybe because our kids were always around. Yet even during the few over-nights we've had, when the kids were asleep, we still never turned it on. Last night changed all that. She called to us, that seductive siren, her many channels beckoning like a mind-numbing octopus. It started when I walked into the den; Yaakov was watching the NASA channel. I sat down, and we watched footage of the shuttle docking with the international space station. That interested me for about 10 minutes, then I started hocking him to change the channel. I even got my mom's "Direct TV Channel Guide" to help us. I recommended channels that I thought we would like (Nat'l Geographic channel, Learning channel, Discovery channel, yada yada). Finally we settled on the History channel, which was showing the great film "Apollo 13." Plus, they had an interview with Commander Jim Lovell, which was really interesting. So we watched that, and in between commercials we would flip to VH1. Yaakov impressed me with his arcane knowledge of 80's bands ("The B-52's were MUCH better before their bassist died").

Highlight of the night: Watching Stevie Wonder on VH1
Lowlight of the night: Watching 5 minutes of "Beavis and Butt-Head"

I am so glad we don't own one.

Saturday, August 27, 2005
Truth is stranger than fiction

Friday night in our hot house. The shabbos candles illuminated the darkness, spiritually and physically. While my husband was at shul, I fed the kids. Chaya brought up a topic I wish she would forget: where babies are born from. Her friend Chagit came over one day and told her all about it. I was pretty ticked off with Chagit, let me tell you. Chaya had asked me this sha'aleh before, and I told her what my doula told her kids. That when a baby is ready to be born, Hashem opens up the mommy's belly button and the baby comes out. Makes sense, right? That's all the information I felt Chaya could emotionally handle (Lord knows that's all I could). But Chagit the informer changed everything.

CHAYA: (pointing) Mommy, babies come out of the mommy's privates, right?
CHAYA: (more pointing) From the front side or the back side?
NERVOUS-ME: From the front side.
CHAYA: (strange look) But Chagit is brown, so she must have come from the back.
NERVOUS-ME: (laughing) No Chaya, all babies are born from the front.
CHAYA: Never from behind?
NERVOUS-ME: Never from behind.
CHAYA: But some babies come from the tummy too, right?

I wish I could control her life in some ways. I wish I could keep her from hearing all the things she shouldn't hear, keep her from seeing all the things she shouldn't see. I wish I could keep her innocent forever. I wish our power would go back on.

Friday, August 26, 2005
Rain, rain, go away.

It's been raining hard by me. Really hard. We lost power yesterday afternoon. My challah dough was rising, when all of a sudden, *blink!* no more power. I shaped the dough and put it in the freezer, hoping that the freezer would work until today. Baruch Hashem, Mrs. Stein got power this morning, so I baked my challah by her. Yaakov is gonna fire up the barbecue and cook our shabbos chicken. I managed to bake brownies yesterday, so we have dessert too. Another friend in the neighborhood is going to give me some kugel and gefilte fish. We bought cold cuts for shabbos lunch, so we're set. It will be a lovely, simple shabbos. I joked with Yaakov and told him it was gonna be like "shabbos in the shtetl." When the candles burn out, that's all folks! Some people in my neighborhood have power, and some don't. The guy who mamesh lives right across the street from me does, so we have an extension cord running from his house to ours. That's keeping our refrigerator going. It's got just enough energy to do that, not enough to run our A/C (boo-hoo) or anything else. It's pretty hot in our house, we all have that "not-so-fresh" feeling. I came to my mom's house to do laundry (and blog) and get my kids out of the house. Yaakov stayed home to clean up all the storm debris (like our sukkah that collapsed). Last time we lost power we were stuck for 5 days. 5 DAYS!!! Ah well. This should be the worst of our problems. Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, August 25, 2005
I got all my sisters with me...

Last night at around 11:30 I knocked on Mrs. Stein's door. She had sent me an email, so I knew she was awake. We made a l'chaim, checked that her kids were still asleep, and told secrets. I fell in love with her all over again. I fell in love with all my sister-friends, as I enjoyed my time with her. My friends who know my issues, who I can call when I'm scared, who love me and advise me. My friends whom I admire, strong Jewish mothers, tenacious wives who face adversity with courage. I love you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Fancy Schmancy Anxiety Dad v2.0

My dad is really interested in Chinese culture, so much so that my children call him "Gung-Gung." This is a Chinese word that the father's daughter's children call him (the son's children call him something else). I even checked out a library book for him to read during his stay, a book about Chinese-American culture. Now I'm wondering if I jinxed the visit. I've been through a lot with my Dad, he and my mom divorced when I was a baby and I wasn't raised by him at all (although he did teach me to sing "hava nagila" when I was 6). In my teen years, I wanted nothing to do with him. I think I wanted to have a perfect family, and having this kooky dad out in California didn't fit my vision. Every time he'd call, I'd have my mom tell him I was out. When I was first becoming frum, I had this great friend/dorm-counselor. One night we were schmoozing, and she asked me to tell her about my dad. So I went on and on, and finally she said "you know, the person you are describing sounds exactly like you." WHOA. That was heavy. And true. I have learned to accept that my dad is a great guy; smart and amazing and generous, creative and loving and fun. But he wasn't capable of being a father to me, or a husband to my mother. His debilitating bouts of depression robbed him of normalcy, and they still do. It's okay though, he's married to a loving (non-Jewish) woman who takes care of him and accepts him. He has long-time friends who are used to his dark days. And he has a daughter who sighs when she misses him, and who wishes him a refuah shleimah.

Every Mother a Working Mother

Today, I got a phone call. I was busy. Making lunch, taking out dress-up clothes, removing Srulik from my bathroom. That's what I was in the middle of doing when Mrs. N called. Multi-tasking.

MRS. N: Can you make more phone calls for the community project?
HARRIED-ME: Well, actually, right now my kids are a little nutty...
MRS. N: Your kids are nutty?
MRS. N: I'm only calling because Rabbi Plony says you're a big help.
HARRIED-ME: (Ego mollified) I can make one phone call.
MRS. N: Can you call one person and have them call 5 others?
HARRIED-ME: (grumble grumble) Why can't you do that?
MRS. N: Because I'm working and I don't have the time to explain the whole situation over again to another person.
HARRIED-ME: (well what the hell do you think I'm doing, lady? Watching Oprah and eating bon-bons?) Okay, I'll try.

The bright spot of the day was when Rivky had a tantrum in the bathroom at Bloomingdales. I went to the indoor mall playground with Mrs. Stein (who else?). Rivky said she needed to go to the potty, so off we went. But when we got there, she wouldn't go. She started to throw herself on the floor and carry on (Bloomingdales brings out the princess in us all). "Rivky, do you want to spray perfume? If you want to spray perfume, you need to make on the potty first." "NOOO! I don't wanna spray perfume!" "OK, Rivky, I'll just sit here and wait, and whenever you feel like you're ready, you'll go." 10 minutes pass before she decides she's gonna go. 10 minutes of wailing and writhing on the floor. I just sat there on the couch, wishing I had brought my cell phone to call Mrs. Stein and explain our delay. But the best part? The lady sitting near me in the "bathroom lounge" says, "I'm a behavioral specialist, and I really like the way you're handling your daughter." YEAH!!! [insert touchdown music here.] When I finally got back to the mall playground and told Mrs. Stein, she was so excited for my compliment. "You should write that in your blog!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Fancy Schmancy Anxiety Dad

What, you think I became an Anxiety Maven for nothing? It's genetic! My father has been struggling with being bi-polar/anxious forever.

He was supposed to come 6 months ago.
He was supposed to come 3 months ago.
He was supposed to come tomorrow.

Anxiety. It's a killer. I only have rachmanous on my father, and I love him very much. The first time I told my kids he was coming, they flipped out. They adore him, and rightfully so. He canceled. I told the kids he got sick. We made cards. The second time I told the kids he was coming, again they flipped out. He canceled.
I told the kids he got sick. We made cards. The third time, I didn't say a word. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. So when he called today to drop the bomb, I was cool about it. It was a bummer, but I was ready. "Take care of yourself, Dad," I said, before we hung up.


We checked out a book from the library once, called "Sometimes I'm Bombaloo." This is a book about Katie and her tantrums, and how Katie and her mom deal with them. It's a very cute picture book. Since then, when people (or situations) get loopy in our house, we say they're bombaloo. Well, this morning was bombaloo to the 10th power. It all started when my 3 spirited kids went into the freezer for the ice cream. I laughed with them the first time and locked the fridge, and said "please don't do it again." At one point I forgot to lock the fridge, and they went for the ice cream again. I laughed a second time with them and locked it again. Chaya said, "I know how to open the lock." I said, "that's great, but I know you'll respect mommy and keep it closed." The third time (always the charm), the locksmith was the culprit. "Chaya," I said, "I'm feeling very hurt that you didn't respect my wishes. The consequences are that I am taking away your gum for the day." BOMBALOO! Firstly, let me tell you about Chaya and gum. Gum is a new thing for her, and she's allowed just one piece a day. She fervently protects her precious treasure by putting it in a plastic bag when she wants to eat. She will chew that gum all day long. Gum = life. Anyway, she went ballistic. Screaming. Raging. Pulling stuff off the refrigerator. "I can see you're very angry," I said "and I don't blame you. We can have gum tomorrow." More raging. More screaming. I ignored her. Finally she calmed down enough to lay down and watch a video, and i snuggled next to her. "I'm proud of the way you calmed down, Chaya." We high-fived. After the video, though, the gum issue resurfaces. This time, she starts kicking me. "That's not okay!" I said, "I'm feeling angry!" I got up to go to my room. She wailed and hung on to my housecoat. She glued herself to me as I made my way to my room. "Chaya, I'm angry and I need my space now," I said. "Mommy doesn't want to be around you when I feel angry like this." She blocked door, and I had to remove her to get to my sanctuary. I shut the door, locked it, and went into my bathroom. I turned on the water (to drown out the screaming and kicking on my door) and called Mrs. Stein on my cell phone. "Wanna go to the library with me?" I asked her answering machine, "I'm locked in my bathroom hiding from my kids."

Other highlights of my fine morning:

Rivky pishing on a chair and me removing her from it, only to have the chair fall over and have pish land all over my slippers and stockings.

Srulik dumping a whole bowl of popcorn on the floor and having a dance party with Rivky all over it.

Going to the library and making a project with the kids (just so you don't think my life is only misery)!


Yaakov's lunch:

2 pieces of gefilte fish with chrain
a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
half a sleeve of Kemach "ritz crackers"
the end of a bag of bamba snacks

If ever I merited to be called "balabuste," those days are over, baby.

Monday, August 22, 2005
All. Tripped. Out.

Today, Mrs. Stein and I field-tripped to the children's museum. My 3 kids, her 4 kids, plus 2 more that she was babysitting. It was a major deal, she has a membership there and can take guests. A trip that would have cost me 40 dollars ended up costing me 2 bucks for parking. Such a bargain! It didn't take long for the Anxiety Maven to emerge, however. Downstairs, Mrs. Stein was anxious. Upstairs, it was me. Unbeknownst to she or I, our Mavens pulled a switcheroo (it musta happened in the elevator). I got upstairs and just went nuts - I suppose the conversation we had about child abductions didn't help. Nine kids running everywhere against just one Fancy Schmancy Anxiety Maven. Are those odds fair? I was chasing after everybody and yelling. Mrs. Stein was a cool customer though, grooving to Herbie Hancock in the music section. When we finally left the museum with our brood intact, Mrs. Stein was offering water to everyone. "Want a drink?" she asked me. Yeah, lady. SCOTCH.

Sunday, August 21, 2005
Amphibians or reptiles?

I live in a place where there are a lot of bugs. And lizards. I always see baby lizards running around the house. One thing my husband and I like to do is sit on our porch and watch the lizard wars. The mighty lizard hunters wait for their prey, stalking the moths with stealth and ease. We always sing the National Geographic theme song and cheer them on.

Instant CARma's gonna get you

My husband was supposed to work today. Whenever he has to work on Sundays, the kids and I make the trek to my mom's house. Baruch Hashem, she's only 45 minutes away. Anyway, Yaakov called his boss several times at several numbers, to no avail. "Looks like I get to go to Nana's house today too," he said. YAY! We all piled into the car and off we went. What a glorious day we spent! We swam in the pool, Nana polished the girl's nails, I got to read "People" magazines (only at Nana's house, nachon). Afterwards, we got to go for pizza. This is a place we frequent once every 4-5 weeks, whenever we visit Nana. They know our faces, we know theirs. We're "quasi-regulars." Anyway, something was up with the Israeli counter lady, as she was mighty cranky today. Yaakov placed our orders and asked for minestrone soup with my meal. We all heard him, we were seated right near the counter. The soup comes out, it's split pea. Yaakov walks back to the counter with the soup to exchange it, and Israeli counter lady shakes her head and says in a nasty tone of voice, "I don't have time for this today!" As if it's our fault that the soup is wrong! Each time we were called to the counter to get our food she was grumbly and uncooperative. When we finally got our entrees, they were wrong. At that point we just didn't want to deal with her anymore, so we ate what we were given. At the end of the meal I said to Yaakov, "you know, I'm going to say something to the owner. This is just not right." I went to the back of the restaurant and asked to speak with him. "he's out back," I was told. No problem, I thought, I'll just work on my little speech while I wait. I was standing there for a minute or two and who walks in through the back door? Israeli counter lady! She's wringing her hands and groaning that somebody had keyed her car. All around the entire car, some nasty prankster had left his mark. I wasn't about to add insult to injury by complaining about her - she had filled her quota of tsuris for the day.

Wish list:

I have a little listy-list of things I want. Things I consider luxuries, frivolities, expensive.Things that I cannot, in good conscience, buy. Baruch Hashem for my family to feed, the rent to be paid, tuition to be parted with.

Fancy Schmancy Anxiety Maven wants:

1) an i-pod
2) a bottle of "Burberry: London" perfume
3) a manicure and pedicure

That's not such a long list, is it?

Shabbos Yom Menucha

Ah, shabbos. The day of rest. The day my husband departs for shul for hours and leaves me with 3 very excited kids. No Uncle Moishy videos, no car to hop into, no "Shuki" or lego computer games. I dread the moment he walks out the door. Lest you think I'm remiss, I did read stories, play games, and take the kids into the backyard. Today was extra special (read: extra long), as my husband was making a siyum in shul for completing a Masechta (thank you, Rabbi Artscroll). Needless to say a lot of mischief was made this morning while my husband was out. I kept walking out of the house to see if he was on his way home. Baruch Hashem, he finally arrived. We had lunch, my 2 year old took his nap, I took mine, and the kids calmed down (why do they always mellow out when he's around?). Later in the afternoon I went to visit a friend, and took my 2 girls with me. As I walked down the block I passed my neighbor's house, who has a room to rent in her home. It's a one-room kinda deal, with a separate entrance. It was vacant for awhile but I've noticed recently a new car there. Outside the house was a guy taking out his trash. He was a mediterranean shade of brown, with a bird's nest of hair on his head.

YENTA-ME: Are you renting the room here?
NEW NEIGHBOR: (accent) Yes. I'm a college student.
YENTA-ME: What's your name?
YENTA-ME: (An Israeli! A new shabbos guest!) Are you Israeli?
NEW NEIGHBOR: I'm from Egypt. Gali Mohammed.
YENTA-ME: Where in Egypt? (I'm an idiot.)
YENTA-ME: (Kerro??) Oh, from Cairo.
NEW NEIGHBOR: Yes, you know Egypt?
YENTA-ME: (My people were only enslaved there for generations) Not really. Nice to meet you, good luck.

As we continued walking, I turned to Chaya and said "He's from Egypt, remember we were slaves there?" "Yeah I know," she said, and ran off down the block.

Friday, August 19, 2005
We've got spirit!

I have 3 amazing, active, energetic children, Baruch Hashem. Aged 5, 3, and 2. One theme I am exploring in my life right now is that they are "spirited" children, a euphemism coined by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. "Spirited," as opposed to perhaps "difficult," "bratty," or "vilde chayes." They are intense. Today, my spirited 3 year old decided to run away from me at the grocery store. We were on line, and all of a sudden...where's Rivky? "She went over there," pointed the helpful lady behind me. As I went to retrieve her, I wore a stern face. "Rivky," I intoned loudly, "If mama doesn't know where you are, then mama can't keep you safe." Then I went to pick her up. "NoOoOoOoooooo!!!" she wailed, kicking and screaming in my arms as we went back to the cashier (who shot me a disapproving look, hooray). The ice cream on the cake? When she attempted to pull my sheitl off my head. "Unacceptable!" I said, putting her down sternly. Rivky laid down on the ground and started carrying on. "Rivky," I warned, whipping out the index finger and wagging it, "Do you want to go visit Mrs. Stein?" (Mrs. Stein is my neighbor and dear friend, she had agreed to take my 2 older kids after the shopping trip). "If you want to go visit Mrs. Stein, you need to get it together." She got it together.

Don't tell me no lies and keep yo hands to yo'self

The other night I went thrift shopping. This store was playing the greatest music, all these 80's tunes. I couldn't help but grin as I heard other thrifters singing along with George Thorogood, hangers sliding across racks as we all bopped along. What was the gem of the night? Finding a book about Sephardic immigrant culture for only 99 cents. I have already devoured it. "Asentar en siete," - "to sit in seven" - the Ladino term for sitting shiva. Is that so beautiful? Concise and poetic. My paternal grandfather is from Turkey, and he married an Ashkenazi woman. She ruled the roost! All his Turkish food went out the window in exchange for her heavy, Eastern European fare. Apparently these "mixed marriages" were common. He was a dashing man, dark and hadsome, albeit short. For their wedding portrait they discreetly stood him on a box so he seemed taller then my grandma. I was told that when she brought him home to her parents, they weren't sure if he was really a Jew. He spoke many languages, Ladino and Turkish, English and Yiddish too. So he assuaged her parents by speaking to them in Yiddish. L'chaim to Pincus the Turk!

Thursday, August 18, 2005
Let's roll.

My husband typed that "test post" below. He actually gave me the chizuk to start this blog. I've been kicking around the idea of blogging for a few years now, always veto-ing it in the end. It's narcissistic. In many ways I tend to be a private person, and blogging is the antithesis of that. I also think there is a level of immodesty involved. But there I was, on the porch with my husband, when the blog topic came up. "Why not?" he said. "Yeah," I thought, "Why not?" I had to hustle us inside before I lost the courage.


Well, here goes. Welcome me to the world of blogging.

My Photo Name: Fancy Schmancy Anxiety Maven
Location: Chutz l'aretz - Outside of Brooklyn

fancymaven at gmail dot com