Wednesday, November 30, 2005
No More Mrs. Nice Guy!

I'm taking a firmer stance in my parenting lately. I don't like the middos I'm seeing in my children (namely, chutzpah and ungratefulness).

Someone recommended I look into John Rosemond, a "traditional parenting" advocate. I found him on the web and I liked what he had to say, especially his "Parents Bill of Rights." I sensed he was in favor of hitting though, and I am not. I think if I adopt his approach (minus the hitting) I can remedy what I'm seeing.

Here's an example: this morning I gave Rivky a cheese stick, and I had the temerity to open it. Well, that set off a major screaming fit. I took the cheese stick away, and sent her to her room. I told her when she was calm, she could come out and have it. She calmed down and came out, and I gave it back. Then she started ranting and raving how I ruined the cheese stick, she wanted another one, blah blah. So I took it away for good. Not satisfied? The cheese stick is no good for you? Bye-bye. The nicer Mommy Maven would have probably said, "I don't like the way you're talking to me," or, "I see how disappointed you are," or worse (!!!), I would have given her a different one. No more. I'm tired of my ungrateful children. You don't like it? Tough noogies.

Chaya also thinks she can pull fast ones on me. This morning she was whining on and on how she doesn't like the morning schedule. I pointed at her and said "This is the schedule, that's it." She had the nerve to grab my finger and sass me! So I took the toy she was holding and put it away. I said "If you're not going to listen and co-operate, you don't get to have the things you want." Normally I would have said, "I don't like the way you're speaking," or "I'm sorry you find mornings so difficult."

Because of our cash flow increase I've been able to send the girls to dance classes. Last week when I picked them up, Chaya told me she didn't like it. You don't like it? Next week we won't go. She changed her mind. She likes it. Next time I won't be so nice, I'll just cancel the next class. I mean, the NERVE! You send a child to a dance class and she tells you she doesn't like it? I mean, I'm not saying she can't have legitimate issues with something, but this wasn't the case here.

Srulik is also getting his share. He's a little more than 2, and he thinks it's okay to hit me. What's the usual response? "Hands are not for hitting," or, "Chassidim use gentle hands." Now I stick him in his room for a minute or two.

I'm tired of feeling like I give and give and give, only to be a door mat.
I want them to keep a tidy room, to clear their plates at the table, to be mentschen.

Someone responded to my last post that s/he went to a shiur and learned that sometimes gevurah (strictness/strength) is better than chesed (kindness). I think that's where I'm at right now. It's hard for me, I feel like I'm being witchy. But like another commenter said, "This too shall pass."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The Budget.

I mentioned a little while back that Yaakov - Baruch Hashem - had taken another job and was earning more money. This is something I am still getting used to.

I am not going out and spending extravagantly, but dinner time has been much more fun. Normally he would get paid, I would pay bills, and the remainder would be our food budget. I think the average amount I had weekly was between 75 and 100 dollars, including shabbos. Man, I would budget that money to the penny. Sometimes I would miscalculate while grocery shopping, and I had to tell the cashier to take things off in the end.

Once or twice I literally had NO money in the grocery budget, and I had to comb the cabinets for supper. Those weeks saw a lot of leftover cholent from shabbos, a lot of grains and beans. Sometimes I raided our pushkes, with nary a doubt. The money is to help feed poor Jewish families, why not ours? Somehow, we always managed.

Dinners were always good, but now I can buy things I never dreamed of. The other day I bought feta cheese to make Greek salad. I haven't had to warn Yaakov, "Don't use the bank card!" It's a little disconcerting to have so much. I can buy Rivky a 5 dollar present when she uses the potty all day. Before, that was unheard of! Take 5 dollars out of the grocery budget?
So it's an adjustment. I'm not used to being without strict financial parameters, and I miss them a little (strangely enough).

Thank you, G-d, for all your revealed blessings. And the good news is, we can give a lot more tzedoka now.

Sunday, November 27, 2005
Fancy Schmancy Mafioso Maven

Let me share with you my banner evening:

A lady from FEMA came to assess our house, part of their protocol. For whatever reason she had to walk around our house, check our rooms, use her magic laser thingy. I don't know why we have to go through such a balegan, we just want to get reimbursed for the 600.00 generator we purchased. Anyway, I let Yaakov deal with her. I was being a shlub, and he had all the FEMA paperwork anyway.

So I was basically hiding, listening to her laser her way around. Then she came to my room. Oh man. It was covered in clothes (I don't know what my problem is. I can't face laundry these days). When she left, I came out and realized that my entire house was trashed. I AM SO EMBARRASSED. Evidence of a popcorn party all over the playroom floor. Rivky's ripped up wrapping paper strewn throughout the living room. Picture frames scattered all over the sideboard ("Srulik was here"). Salt all over the dining room table (where the popcorn bowl was overturned). Gevalt! What's she going to think of religious Jews? I hope she visited other frummies in the neighborhood, with normal-looking homes.

I have been using the computer all night and frying my head, when I could be doing more constructive things (like folding laundry...). This computer is worse than a television. It sucks me in and eats my brain.

I'm working my way through a second piece of pumpkin pie.

Here's a joke: Someone goes up to the Godfather and says, "Hey, did you know there's more than 7 million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide?" "Nah," said Corleone. "There are, I just read an article about it, I'll show you." The Godfather raised an eyebrow and replied; "Remember this, there are NO witnesses." (My dad told me that one - he dressed as the Godfather for halloween.)

Weird parents produce amazing children.

Shavua Tov.

Last night I went with a friend to see "Ushpizin," a movie I linked to a while back. It was my first movie theatre experience in years. It was very good, I recommend it highly. The husband and wife in the movie are actually married in real life. I was very touched by the way he looked at her in the movie, I was a little embarrassed. The intensity of his love for her was obvious. I sat next to a yenta who "yented" during the film, so that was a bummer.

There was an interesting preview for a film called "Paradise Now," a movie about suicide bombers. It was made by Muslims. It's about these 2 young men who are assigned to bombing missions, but end up having moral and ethical quandaries about it. The premise sounds great, but I can't allow myself to have sympathy for these people. Besides the fact that I'm not about to start seeing movies on a regular basis. The one gripping scene in the trailer was when the bomber was about to board a bus, and he sees a toddler by the token machine. I can't explain the feeling I had seeing that. My whole body felt this yearning and aliveness. Very ironic to see such a preview before "Ushpizin" - people were actually booing.

This morning my mom called me and told me our neighbor died. He lived in the corner house, a Jew married to a non-Jewish woman. He had a family with her, a life. A Christmas tree every year. Still, he was a Jew. He had an unusual last name, one you wouldn't recognize unless you were familiar with yiddish. It's actually the maiden name of my beloved Canada-friend. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 2 weeks ago, and died yesterday. Shocking, right? My mom told me and I thought - "wow, so beautiful to pass away on shabbos kodesh." I feel sad. I know he won't have a tahara, that even in his death his essence will remain unrecognized. I won't be able to attend his burial, but I wish so much that a Jew would. Someone to say tehillim for him.

Friday, November 25, 2005

I just did a good thing, and I'm proud of myself.

On shabbos morning, my husband takes Chaya to shul. Chaya has the ability to sit with him the whole time. I stay home with Srulik and Rivky. Last shabbos morning was such a nightmare. Srulik and Rivky were so bored and went so crazy, they drove ME crazy (they actually drove me to tears). I vowed I would never do it again.

So I took charge of the situation, and took steps to remedy it.

I just got off the phone with a new mommy friend in the neighborhood, and arranged to come visit her shabbos morning. In our home, they get bored and start going meshugga. In other people's homes, they're angels. So not only did I just solve our shabbos morning crisis, I get to know this new lady, to boot.

High fives all around! A guten erev shabbos.

Turkey Day.

Thanksgiving went over well. The turkey was delicious (as was the kasha stuffing). The instant mashed potatoes weren't so hot, the only one available was "chicken flavor." Adding margarine really helped, though. I forgot to serve my pumpkin pie, but nobody noticed because Mom brought tons o' dessert. The only hitch of the day was when we lost power for 2 hours. There were big trucks coming around, lifting up tree debris from the hurricane - one of them knocked a power line. So the turkey got transferred to Mrs. Stein's oven for a little while. I'm grateful our power came back on so quickly.

The family was great, my kids went bananas, we all ate a bunch and enjoyed each other. Yay!

I'm zonked.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Thanksgiving Menu:

Okay, I have my Thanksgiving planned:
I know what you're thinking: How can I hire her to cater my next event?

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.


Today at the mall playground I saw Srulik about to put a cookie into his mouth. Where did he get that? I wondered, as I ran to stop him. I found the culprit soon enough: a well meaning grandmother.

I waited a minute to catch my breath and calm down. Do I say something to her? I debated. I decided to. "You know," I said to her, "My son couldn't eat that cookie because we keep kosher, but it's always a good idea to check with the parents first. Sometimes kids have allergies, you never know." She understood.

Then a couple nearby started talking to me, telling me how they lived in a condo that has a shul on the first floor! Wow! We shmoozed a little, and then the husband proceeded to tell me a dirty joke. Right there, in front of his wife and kid. At first I was weirded out and blamed myself - what vibe did I give off that made him think that was okay? Then I decided that this is not a mavencentric universe. It's not all about me - obviously he had his issues.

I've been running all day long, my brain is furry and Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I don't have a menu planned (except turkey and instant mashed potatoes, ha ha). I locked the door to the office here to have some "down time," but Srulik is hellbent on having a bottle NOW.

Gotta go, duty calls.

P.S. Here's a link that relates to a recent post:

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Adventures in the science museum

Every day I plan an outing for my kids, Srulik and Rivky, who are home. I need to get them out in the morning, or they get bored and start wrecking the house (and hurting each other). Today's trip will be BJ'S.

Anyway, yesterday we went to the science museum. BAD IDEA. Rivky was scared of all the noises that the exhibits made, and she wasn't interested in looking at the fish. That's basically the whole museum.

I got the kids (and double stroller) upstairs in an elevator because I saw someone else going into it. I posted once about being petrified of elevators, but I can handle them if another adult is in there with me. The problem was getting back downstairs. No one was getting anywhere near the elevator (which, by the way, was basically a small metal coffin). I decided to fold up the double stroller and take the escalator. I put the frightened Rivky on, stuck myself + stroller on, and turned to get Srulik. He refused to budge. So the escalator is going down, and I'm scrambling up trying to get my 2 year old. I frantically called to a museum employee to stick Srulik on the escalator, which was apparently a very big deal for him (he threw up his hands in disgust). What could I say? "Please Mister, help an Anxiety Maven out!" So Srulik was plopped onto the escalator and sat wide-eyed through the whole trip down.

We ended up spending the bulk of the museum trip in the toddler area, playing with a bubble tray, computers, and climbing on stuff. I found a globe and was thrilled. (It's really amazing when you study a globe, to see where countries are in relation to each other).

I was a little overwhelmed from the whole morning, and I called a friend to complain (I'm great at that). "This is gonna be my life?" I wailed. "Kid after kid, schlepping all day long?" She said, "You don't have to wait until menopause to be happy." It's true. These are the best years of my life, whether I realize it or not. I can find some private time to enrich myself as an adult, to help me face my daily challenges as a mother.

Thank you G-d, for my beautiful kids. Thank you for the struggles you give me, and not - chas v'shalom - other ones.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Once I saw a documentary on prison systems in different countries. In China, the inmates had Chinese calligraphy classes, qi gong sessions, and had to "mow" the lawn with their hands. In Turkey, they were basically in a pit. In America, inmates complained when they couldn't watch explicit movies, and the violence was unbelievable.

I saw a movie once called "The Shawshank Redemption." I was probably 18 or 19 when I saw it, not frum yet. That movie scared the hell out of me. I had terrible thoughts for a year or two afterwards about being falsely imprisoned, and I know I wasn't the only one.

I read a couple of books by Russian authors about gulag experiences. One was called "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch," written by Aleksandr Solzhynitsyn. It was an excellent book, and a seminal experience for me in Russian literature.

The other - "Subbota" - was written by a man who called himself "Avraham Netzach" (netzach meaning "endurance"). This is an autobiographical account of a religious Jew who spent 20 years in Stalin's prisons. Not that all of Soviet Russia wasn't a giant prison in those days. What that man went through, G-d in heaven! No one should ever suffer like that. He eventually made it to Israel.

I think about jail sometimes. Not in the frightened way I did after seeing "Shawshank," Baruch Hashem. Bob Marley sang; "Emanciapte yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds." I think that's true. I may not be in a physical jail, but oftentimes I'm imprisoned by my thoughts and feelings.

L'chaim to all of us who are searching and struggling within ourselves. May we each have the strength to walk free.

Suribachi, here I come!

Throughout the years I've met people here and there who have been into macrobiotics. Yaakov calls them macropsychotics.

One time we had this macro family over for shabbos, and I cooked a little differently for them. I made some squash and a pareve cholent, but I also served organic root beer. The husband gave his wife such a look when she drank some. "You know you have a cold because of too much sweet food," he admonished.

I dunno. I've always been attracted to it. When I lived in Brooklyn, I was a member of the Park Slope Food Co-op. There was a macrobiotic cookbook I would peruse while waiting on line (forever) to check out. I think it was called "The Self-Healing Cookbook." Even just reading about the food and the cooking is calming.

A friend just gave me a macrobiotic book. It's along the same lines of another book I have about macrobiotic pregnancies. Same authors. "Don't get any ideas," Yaakov warned. I don't even know how I could shift my family into eating that way, even if I wanted to. I know frum Jews who are into macrobiotics, but I don't know how I could do it. I put the book in my bathroom.

Every time I'm in there, I'm thinking about brown rice and kombu.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Reb Shlomo Carlebach had an expression, "S/he gave me back my soul."

I was grocery shopping this morning, when an old lady started chirping over my kids. I started talking to her, and I asked if she was Jewish (she was). "Do you light shabbos candles?" I asked. She answered with a heavy accent; "I light every Friday night and I say modeh ani every morning. I was in a concentration camp and I said modeh ani every morning then, too. Even when I had no breakfast, I still said modeh ani."

I leaned down to hug and kiss her. I was so touched by the idea of her thanking G-d every day for restoring her soul, even in the most horrific circumstances. How she loved and thanked G-d even when she wasn't being fed. How she loves and thanks G-d til this day, after G-d allowed a holocaust to claim her 9 siblings and parents.

I embraced her again, and cried my way to the cash register. I cried on line. I cried on the way home. I cried when I told Mrs. Stein.

Thank you, Perel. You gave me back my soul.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Smells like a Housewife.

The other day I was shopping in my local grocery store - whose slogan is, "Where Shopping is a Pleasure." Yaakov and I joke, "Where Shopping is Oppressive."

So I was there and I needed dish soap. We usually get the orange antibacterial one, but this time I was feeling fiesty. I musta stood there for at least 5 minutes smelling (it's hard for me to make decisions). I chose Palmolive, lavendar and ylang ylang aromatherapy. Same schtick with the hand soap (I settled on Softsoap's vanilla brown sugar).

I guess this would be a simple thing if my indecisiveness was limited to finding the right fragrance. But it was also, "Do I really need to spend the extra money on perfumed dish soap?" and "Do I need this davka now or can I stretch what I have?" and "What happened to the girl who only bought soap from the health food store?

I think I'm trying to make my tedium a little more interesting. I wash lots of dishes every day. Ditto with the diaper changes. Why not make it a lavendar and ylang ylang, vanilla brown sugar experience? Are you getting my point? MY LIFE IS BORING!

I think Betty Friedan wrote a book about me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005
A bad day at the Big K.

K-Mart. There must be a hiring policy there - IQ higher than 80, no dice.

Yaakov found this great deal on a certain swingset model, and sent me over there to try and find it.

I spoke to 3 employees and got three different answers, in combinations of both wrong and unhelpful. I was even directed to the manager, also amazingly unhelpful!

I had all my kids with me, all interested in everything, in all different directions. Every time I run errands with everyone I remind myself, "Do I want to be committed to an institution, or do I want to go shopping now?"

I didn't find the swingset, but I got 2 boardgames and some other needed things. The line was slow as molasses. While I was dealing with the cashier, Srulik discovered a Three Musketeers bar. He didn't quite get the wrapper open, he just kinda suctioned a little out of it. I was horrified. "NO!" I said, "NOT KOSHER!" I can't even get into how badly I feel about that.

Send in the men with the white coats. I'm ready.

Monday, November 14, 2005
I never said I was a victim of circumstance...

So I had the rare opportunity to be a) by myself and b) in the car when I discovered "Movin' Out Mondays" - back to back Billy Joel tunes on a local classic rock station.


I love Billy Joel. I realized I was driving 20 miles an hour so I could keep rockin.

I don't need you to worry for me 'cause I'm all right
(not listening to Mighty Mitzvah Kids)
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
not harrassing Rivky to keep arms in car seat)
I don't care what you say anymore, this is MY LIFE
(not in mommy mode right now)
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone!

I was plastered to my car another time, a few months ago, when "Only the Good Die Young" came on. Billy Joel rocks.

Then I thought of a friend I haven't spoken to in awhile, who also likes Billy Joel. I felt sad.

Sooner or later it comes down to fate.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

If my Rebbe had an agenda, that would be it: Moshiach. Every fiber of his being was dedicated to making Moshiach a reality.

One thing my Rebbe wanted was for us to reach out to other Jews. To encourage Jews to do mitzvos, to bring them closer. I try to talk to Jewish women when I see them. Sometimes I get a feeling that someone is Jewish, and I ask them. Other times I get into casual conversation with someone, and then I sneak it in. Sometimes I really have to push myself. Those are the days when I just want to buy my groceries (and not talk to the lady in the cereal aisle).

This type of outreach is not limited to Jewish people. If I was really savvy, I would talk to non-Jews too. There are the 7 Noahide Laws that apply to gentiles, and I could talk to them about that. But then I'd NEVER get out of the grocery store. And I don't know how to approach a non-Jewish person. It's hard enough to muster up the courage sometimes to talk to other Jews.

One thing that my Rebbe wanted was to connect other people to the idea of Moshiach. This was a very hard thing for me to do for awhile. How do I tell somebody about that? It's one thing to talk to a Jewish woman about lighting shabbos candles, but Moshiach? Last shabbos I was talking to someone about it. I decided that every Jewish woman I spoke to this week I would bring up Moshiach. I said "Lighting shabbos helps bring Moshiach closer." Or, "Lighting shabbos candles helps bring the light of Moshiach into the world." I would always mention my Rebbe along with it.

I don't know if I'm ready to talk "details" about Moshiach - that's daunting. Every Jewish woman understands shabbos candles to some degree. But not every Jew consciously understands Moshiach, or has even heard the concept. It's easy to mention Moshiach briefly, but to talk about the third temple? Could I tell someone to listen for the call of the great shofar? Could I say that someday, soon, G-dliness will be as apparent as that box of Cheerios? You know why I can't say that? Because I haven't fully integrated it!

G-d, please send Moshiach soon. Show me what You really mean by all this.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Holy cow - it's 2 weeks away. I completely forgot. I'm too busy being traumatized post-hurricane!

I have divided opinions on this event. As a religious Jew, I have my own holidays (and Thanksgiving aint one of 'em). It doesn't mean anything to me on a spiritual level. On the other hand, I'm an American (and a history buff). I can appreciate Thanksgiving from that perspective, at least. Plus, I can never get my grandparents to come for any yomim tovim. I'm challishing they should come for Pesach, but would they? NO. Thanksgiving? Well, that's a nice, safe holiday. Not too religious for them.

I made Thanksgiving last year and the family came. I made my very first turkey. I even stuffed it and sewed it up with a needle and thread, just like Martha Stewart would. Heck, the turkey had
to be fancy schmancy - I served it with instant mashed potatoes (nobody noticed). I made everyone at the table say something that they were thankful to Hashem for, so at least I schlepped G-d into it, too.

Then I made turkey soup with matzo balls for shabbos, and we had leftover turkey and fixins' for dinner. It was good.

So this afternoon I called the family and penciled them in - Thanksgiving, here we come.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Since this whole loss of power thing, I have thought often about the American way of life.

There's something a little overwhelming - a little too big - about our lives now. There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle. I don't even know if I can adequately explain myself.

Firstly, I want to say that I am not "America bashing" or coming from a place of accusation. This is an amazing country, I am grateful to be here. My Rebbe said America is a nation of chessed (kindness).

My mom has a Wal-Mart near her. As if Wal-Mart isn't huge enough, there's also such a thing as "Super Wal-Mart." At the Super stores you can buy groceries, computers, clothes, you name it. You could probably even purchase a Wal-Mart employee, for all I know. My mom's store is nebech just a regular Wal-Mart, but a few blocks away they are going to open a Super Wal-Mart. When they open the Super store, they're going to close the "little" Wal-Mart and (are you ready for this?)...expand it! Something seems not right about this. These stores are going to be a few blocks from each other! Am I crazy, or is this not normal?

I keep thinking about Laura Ingalls, I've thought about her family a lot since we lost power. She was literally afraid the first time she went into a store. She had never seen so many things in her life. Sugar, flour, tobacco, bolts of calico, gun aisle of Wal-Mart probably has more things in it!

Then there's the gas and the insane oil dependency we have. Suburbia was built in such a way, that everywhere we go - we need a car! What happenes when the oil runs out? I mean, I hope Moshiach comes first. Otherwise, all hell will break loose. Count on it.

Cell phones - don't get me started. People are so busy on their cell phones, they are missing out on life around them. They are so busy talking to their phones, they aren't talking to the person sitting next to them. In our quest to communicate more, perhaps we communicate less?

The blood is on my hands, too. I own a cell-phone. I even drive my gas-hogging minivan to Wal-Mart. There's something wrong with this picture, though. This life is so big and material. It's a little out of control.

Where are my nights of listening to Pa's fiddle, in the glow of our kerosene lamp?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005
No News is Good News?

A couple of weeks ago (or thereabouts) I blogged about emailing a particular rabbi, asking him whether or not blogging was appropriate for me.

I have yet to hear back from him.

I spoke to a good friend in the Brooklyn Ghetto, and she told me she felt it's okay to blog. I told her it made me feel a little "yeish" (ego-centered). She told me she felt the blog elevated the yeishus. Like, everybody has that little part of themselves that craves attention and wants to be validated. So if I put my voice out there as a Jewish woman, writing about G-d and my life, then maybe that elevates the Ego Maven. And it channels that part of me in a healthy way, b'ezras Hashem.

Because as much as I want to say "it's all me," the truth is that it's all G-d.

Late Night with Maven Letterman

It's midnight and I'm still awake, reveling in this marvel called electricity.

I just finished eating ramen noodles and a coke slurpee. Go, me. Truly, a paragon of health.

I realize that I probably should have gone to sleep several hours ago, just like I did when I had no power. My body was probably on it's natural schedule then, and now I am artificially awake. Artificially awake and artificially energized by the artificial slurpee. Did I ever mention that I used to work in a health food store?

So my grandparents skipped town when the power went out. They went to Boston to be with my grandmother's daughter. Anyway, they came home tonight and Yaakov went to pick them up at the airport. Since they emptied their refrigerator before their trip, I shopped a little for them today so at least they would have breakfast tomorrow. I bought them bagels, cream cheese, lox spread, yogurt, butter and fancy schmancy havarti cheese. Of course all these items were cholov yisroel. Even though they don't keep kosher (yet), I wouldn't feed them something I wouldn't eat myself. So now I'm praying that all the dairy is fresh and beautiful (the kosher store just got power over the weekend). If this is going to be my grandparents' first impression of mehadrin dairy, please G-d - let it taste like heaven.

Ok, it's late and tomorrow is another busy day. With power, Baruch Hashem.

Monday, November 07, 2005
Nes Gadol Haya Po.

A great miracle happened here - we got power! After 15 days. SIGH. There's so many things around here that need doing and loose ends that need tying. It's a weird transition.

My joy is not complete though, there are many people still in darkness. I feel so badly for them. How can I be happy when I know they are still stuck?

Today was awful. I just started sobbing. The air in my house was stagnant and hot, not to mention smelly. My kids were off the wall (big chiddush, right?). I felt so drained and so DONE.

G-d had mercy on me though. May G-d have mercy on us all.

Saturday, November 05, 2005
No Coincidences.

No power yet. There are power trucks all over the place though, so I hope we'll get it soon. Yaakov managed to hook up the computer to the generator, so here I am.

Last week a weird thing happened to me. A friend in the neighborhood stopped by, to ask if I wanted any kids clothes. I said I was too overwhelmed (without power) to deal with hand-me-downs, but thanks anyway.

Then she said, "I don't want to offend you, but my mother is really hurt by something you said to her. I'm not sure what happened, but you really hurt her feelings." I was flabbergasted. I barely know her mother, and I rarely see her. What could I have said to offend her, I asked? "I'm not really sure, I just know she's upset."

I told her the last time I saw her mother was when the family was walking down the street one shabbos morning, and I walked out my door to wish them all a "gut shabbos." The mother walked by and completely ignored me. I also saw her about a week earlier at a barbecue. She disagreed with me on something, and she really snapped at me. I figured she had issues, and I let it go. Before that I don't know when I saw her last. "She snapped at you and ignored you because she's still upset over what you said to her."

I tried to pick my friend's brain about the situation. Finally she said, "My mother says you embarrassed her in front of Rav Plony." "What?!" I asked. "When? Where?" "She says it was in shul." Firstly, I rarely go to shul. Secondly, I don't think I've ever seen her mother in shul, and certainly not together in front of Rav Plony. "She says that she was trying to find a place to go on yom tov, and that you said to her; "Stop trying to push yourself on people." Then I got ticked off. This lady was rude to me twice, and she had obviously me mistaken for someone else. I raised my voice a little. "What?! I would NEVER say such a thing! She's got me mixed up with someone else - I would never ever say that!" It's true, I would never say that to someone (especially not in front of Rav Plony!). In fact, if I was around her mother when she was looking for a place to be on yom tov, I would have invited her to MY house!

Anyway, I was feeling mad about all this. Then I stopped myself and just stood there. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths, and I said to my friend, "It's not right of me to be mad over this. The Ba'al Shem Tov said that when a person gets angry, he forfeits his soul. And another thing, The Ba'al Shem Tov teaches that everything is Hashgocho Protis. So for whatever reason, I had to be a part of this situation." Then I said to my friend, "Let's be chassidim and make a l'chaim."

Out came the cookies, wine, and the little plastic shot glasses. I made a l'chaim to her mother, that she should let go of her pain and anger. I made a l'chaim to all of klal yisroel, that we should love each other unconditionally.

Thursday, November 03, 2005
Are You There G-d? It's Me, Maven.

Today is our 11th day without power.

I'm trying so hard to stay cheerful. Other people in the neighborhood have gotten power already. A part of me is really happy for them, and another part is a little frustrated and bitter.

This morning I drove to my mom's house, just to get out of mine. It's hot and I don't feel good when I'm there. My mom's house is very cluttered and not child-proof, so that's a big drag. But at least she has air conditioning! When I come here, I feel a little annoyed with my mom - like, what's wrong with you lady? Why can't you have a normal house? I think that growing up in this environment has made me obsessive about neatness. Maybe I'm over-analyzing.

Chaya is in school and Srulik and Rivky are with me, going crazy and destroying Nana's already upside-down house. If they were home, they'd be destroying ours. I feel overwhelmed - trying to control my kids sometimes is like trying to stop Casey Jones' train ride to hell. So I'm feeling like a bad mother on top of everything else.

The good thing is that I'm crashing out every night at around 8:30 - it's dark, and there's nothing else to do. So at least I'm well-rested.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Scenes from a Mall

Remember that movie? Woody Allen and his wife in their neurotic Jewish marriage, doing their thing in a fancy schmancy shopping mall. Well, I made my own movie in the mall today. Starring Rivky and Mommy Maven - live and uncensored!

We're at the mall so Yaakov can plug in at Starbucks and do work. Srulik was asleep in the stroller, and Rivky and I went to the mall playground. The playground has these couches all around it for parents to sit on. They are also the fences. Rivky decided to climb over one and go running into the mall. I dropped my tehillim and ran after her. I picked her up and held her tight. She started hitting me, tugging my wig, and wailing (she's got spirit!). I was really embarrassed and overwhelmed, but I stood firm. She ran away from me yesterday, too - she thinks it's a little game. Testing the boundaries, whatever. So I put on a very serious face and laid it down. "Rivky, if you run away from mommy like that, someone could take you away from me. Mommy loves you very much and I want to keep you with me, so you can't do that anymore. If you pull a trick like that again, we're leaving the mall playground - GOT IT?" I felt weird to tell her that someone could take her away, but that's the reality. I didn't know what else to do or say at the moment, how I could convey the seriousness of it to her. So we went back into the mall playground and played awhile, and she started to try and climb the couch again. I didn't know if she was going to go AWOL again or what. I snapped my fingers to get her attention and yelled "YOU!" I pointed my finger at her and gave her the look of death. She got down.

I saw a mall security officer near the entrance to the mall playground, and I decided to enlist his help. I read somewhere in a positive parenting book that if your kids aren't behaving, to "call in the authorities." Sometimes kids will listen to a cop, a lifeguard, or store employee more than they'll listen to the parent. So I told the guy the situation, and called Rivky over. "Rivky, this is officer Ben." She hid her head in her arm. "Rivky," he said, "You can't climb over the couches here. You could fall and hurt yourself, and I don't have any bandages or anything to clean up all the blood." (Gevalt! That's what he said to her!) I think she got the idea.

So we played a little more and then I took her to the Bloomingdales potty. On our way back, she decided she wanted to sit on a bench. No problem. We sat for a minute, and then she laid herself on the ground and started to wail - "I want tatty NOW!" "Okay Rivky, we can go to tatty, whenever you're ready we'll go." She wasn't ready. She wanted to lay on the floor and kick and scream - right across from Abercrombie and Fitch! YAY! So she's laying there and having her tantrum, and I just sat on the bench. Every few minutes I'd say, "Whenever you're ready, Rivky, we'll go." People were walking by and giving us amused glances. One guy gave her a gentle bop on the head with his shopping bag (which provided me with a little comic relief). She finally climbed on the bench and we put her shoes back on (she kicked them off mid-tantrum). We walked to tatty at Starbucks and I said, "Yaakov, I need a break."

And that's how I got to tell you this story now.

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

fancymaven at gmail dot com