Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Expanding Horizons?

Last night I was talking to my mom and mom-in-law about this friend - Fatima - I had in the Brooklyn Ghetto. I met her when I worked in the local pharmacy/health food store. She was this really amazing artist, a deeply religious woman of the Bahai faith. She was a Christian American who converted.

She had cancer in her nose, and the doctors totally had to dig in there and get it all out. It ended up making this whole mess of her face, which she accepted with grace. I remember her face covered in bandages, tubes sticking out of everywhere. When the bandages came off and the tubes came out, a beautifully scarred woman emerged.

She had art internships in China and Africa, and sub-let her Brooklyn apartment when she wasn't in town. One time she came to visit me at my place, and saw Yaakov's tefillin bag sitting on the table. She asked if it was a learning pillow. I laughed and explained it was my husband's phylacteries. In the rural village in China - where she taught - the students had a special embroidered pillow they would bring to school to sit on when they learned.

In her religion there is something called "friendship day," where adherents give their friends little tokens and gifts. Fatima gave me a little gift bag from Clinique. It was really touching and sweet.

Somehow, over time we lost touch. She went back to China - she even sent me a letter from there. Everybody loses touch with friends, even ones we get close with. It seems to be an unfortunate part of life. But my situation was a little different. I wasn't sure if I wanted to sustain a deep relationship with a non-Jewish woman. My life as a religious Jew gets so intense - with so many facets - it's almost hard to relate to a non-Jewish person. My life of holidays and shabbosim, cycles of family life, kashrus...millions of details, all flowing outward from Torah. And on a deeper level, I wonder, how could a non-Jew really understand me, on a soul-level? So it was more than she went to China. Even on the spiritual level, we were miles and miles apart.

But last night I was thinking of this wonderful, courageous woman. I tried to search myself out, to understand the reasons behind my choice to let the friendship go. I wondered if I was being closed-minded. I wondered if I made the wrong choice.

Today, I took my kids to the playground and I met this really nice lady with 2 kids. She was obviously a non-Jew - the huge cross around her neck alerted me to that (not that I needed a visual to figure it out). We talked about childbirth, staying home with kids, being in a one-income family, her interracial relationship with her husband. We talked a lot. She said she felt lonely, all of her friends were single with no kids. I liked her. I toyed with the idea of giving her my number, but the same Fatima-feelings came up. How can I truly relate to this woman? I wasn't sure if I wanted to start something.

But she was really nice, I thought. And maybe I should try and be friends with someone outside my realm. I gave her my number, but I didn't ask for hers. I figured if she calls me, she calls me. If she doesn't, she doesn't. I tried.

It's all Hashgocho Protis.

Monday, February 27, 2006
The Visit:

I have been enjoying my in-laws very much. It's a little draining that they are staying with us, but the trip has been mostly good. I feel like I always have to keep the guest bathroom super-clean (which is hard because it's really the kids' bathroom).

My mother-in-law is very liberal about buying things for the kids and me, which has been both wonderful and daunting. She has bought us clothing, accessories, and all kinds of fun, out-of-budget stuff. She surprised me with a Stila lipstick from Sephora. It was a color I liked on her, but I wasn't crazy about it on me. She told me to exchange it for what I wanted - so I bought a blush instead. I had a 20 dollar credit, can you imagine? 20 bucks for lipstick? Anyway, I felt like a princess. I never wore blush before. I even splurged and bought a contour brush. So I'm lookin' pretty foxy now, with my Sephora Lorac blush (Plum) and my Wal-Mart Maybelline lipstick (Rare Ruby).

The in-laws insist that I do not cook, so each night has been restaurant fare. This has been a slice of heaven, I can't begin to tell you. Tonight we went to this Israeli grill place, and that's when stuff got really weird. It was the in-laws, me, and my mom. Yaakov and the kids were too tired to go. Anyway, she asked the Israeli waitress; "What's on the chicken kebab?" And the waitress said, "spices." Somehow - and I'm not sure how this happened - my mother-in-law took this totally wrong. She thought the waitress was being rude to her. "What do you mean, "spices" - what KIND of spices? If you can't tell me, get someone who can." She really got weird and aggressive about it. "These Israelis are so rude," she declared. "All of them."

I felt very strange. Here's this woman who has been so loving and gracious to us, yet all of a sudden she's going postal on the waitress. I felt bad for the poor girl. But then I thought, "Maybe it's me. Maybe I misread the situation, and the waitress was rude to her." I spent the whole evening trying to placate my M.I.L. (because the incident didn't just end there - she was mad for the rest of the meal). I kept watching the waitress, hoping she'd go into the bathroom (so I could follow her and apologize for my shvigger's crankiness).

When we drove back to the house, I ended up walking my mom back to her car. "Mom, is it me, or did she get all huffy at the waitress over nothing?" "It's not you," answered Mom.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Today I saw some chassidisher ladies at a local bus stop, and I offered them a ride. It happens to be that they were Satmar. There's some tension between our two chassidic groups, a long-standing problem I am not interested in blogging about.

One thing I have picked up from various Satmars I have met is that they don't necessarily consider Lubavitchers to be "for real." I don't know how to explain that, but I often get the vibe that they think of us as "less than." This annoys me to no end. To be fair, I will say that this might be just my impression, I could be totally wrong.

I have heard more than once that they think the Lubavitcher Rebbe is totally crazy. My Satmar landlady once dismissed my Rebbe like that. I didn't know what to say. She's my landlady. In hindsight, I'm a little ashamed that I didn't speak up. What kind of chossid doesn't defend his (her) Rebbe?

I know my Rebbe is revolutionary, and I'm proud at how he insisted on "ker a velt heint" - turning the world over. He wanted to rock the world with the idea of Moshiach, and he did.

So when I picked up those ladies today, I made sure to sneak into the conversation that I'm a Lubav. That's right ladies, do you see how modestly dressed I am? Do you see my aidel 4 year old daughter in tights? Do you see how well my wig covers my head? I'M A LUBAVITCHER. And I'm giving you a ride. Why? Because I love you! All chassidim are one family.

So there.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Goodbye, Superwoman.

This morning I got a much needed break. Mrs. Stein took Srulik and Rivky for 5 hours.

We've tried to get this off the ground for awhile now. Last week my kids were sick, the week before hers were, blah blah - something was always coming up. But this week we made it happen. I took her kids yesterday, and she took mine today.

Something magical happened to me. I got to go into several stores, by myself. I went to a doctor's appointment, by myself. I got to drive in my car - sans Uncle Moishy - all by myself! No kids in and out of carseats, no bathroom trips, no diaper bag. No insanity. I even got to do uninterrupted housework, which was a pleasure.

I reflected about what I wrote yesterday. No doubt, my life is challenging. But I'm not so good about getting the help I need. I always think I have to be Superwoman and do it all, just because I can. I'm beginning to realize that I need to preserve myself, and get some help now and again. I need to be able to have some private time as a person - I can't be in mommy-mode 24/7.

I think there's a part of me that thinks there's a weakness involved, in needing help. But knowing one's boundaries - and seeking help - is a sign of strength, not weakness. And, by the way, the Rebbe also said that women should get help. I'm going to try.

** Special thanks to Brooklyn Crisis Friend who has a) often encouraged me to get help and b) been a living example by getting plenty of help herself.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Monday - chof beis shvat - was the yahrzeit of the Rebbe's wife. Naturally, this is a day observed by women.

The Rebbe gave a talk once, on one of her yahrzeits, speaking on the role of women. To my understanding, the Rebbe was saying that the feminist movement didn't do women any favors.

He said that women were being told they had to compete with men, do men's jobs, etc., and this is not the role of the woman. Conversely, it is not the role of the man to do a woman's job. In Egypt, one of the harshest labors pharoah gave to the Jewish people was when he assigned men to do women's tasks, and women to do men's. He stressed that a Jewish woman is never "second class." Her role is far greater than a man's.

I was not alive when the feminist movement began, but I think I understand its historical underpinnings. Women felt "less than" because they had to stay home. They were bored, depressed, and felt like there was more to life than keeping house and raising children.

I feel that way sometimes. I'm with my children all day long. Sometimes the strain of raising them makes me so overwhelmed, I feel like I can't take it any longer. Just going to the grocery store is a monumental task. Most of the time, they're simply incorrigible. I can't tell you how many times a day where I am left feeling completely drained. When Srulik won't let me buckle him in his car seat. When Rivky pishes on the floor - again. When Chaya has a tantrum because she isn't getting what she wants. When the three of them harass me (constantly) while I am trying to make supper. When they refuse to go to sleep. I feel like I go a little crazy, every single day. It's almost 9pm, and I have had no peace at all today. (Well, I sat outside by myself for 10 minutes when Yaakov got home because I couldn't take it any more).

As a chassidisher woman, I am expected to have many children. This is what the Rebbe wanted. Each soul that is brought down brings Moshiach closer. What holier job could any person have than bringing more Yidden into the world?

But I resent the hell out of it sometimes. I don't have the personal freedom to "close up shop" and not have more kids. The Torah way is to have a Rav, and the Rav is the one you have to ask permission from. You might get a break - 6 months, a year, maybe more. But you have to have really extenuating circumstances for a Rav to say "okay, no more kids." I did not grow up religious, and I bristle and chafe from the yoke sometimes. I suspect many "frum from birth" women do too.

Yet there's another part of me that will always yearn for the next baby. I love having a midwife, and I love being pregnant (hey, when else does society so warmly embrace a fat lady?). I even love natural childbirth, as agonizing as it can be. I'm sure when G-d ends my childbearing years I will be terribly sad.

And probably a little relieved.

Sunday, February 19, 2006
The News According to Maven:

Leave Dick Cheney alone. He didn't mean to shoot the guy.

Allowing U.S. port security to be in the hands of the United Arab Emirates: STUPID.

Mudslides in the Phillipines: 2 thumbs down. Moshiach on the way.

Unidentified $365M Nebraska powerball winner - call me.

Hamas nominates Ismail Haniyeh* for Palestinian prime minister. He looks like my father-in-law.

*photo from AP taken by Alexander Zemlianichenko

The In-Laws.

They're coming.

I have one week to make my house look
nice. I will have to clean the dirt off the fans. I will have to tidy the laundry room. I will have to make it look like 3 little kids don't live here.

They are flying on a shabbos. Yaakov will have to pick them up as soon as shabbos ends (which means my house cannot look like it did this motsei shabbos, like a tornado hit). I will have to wash the dishes ASAP and not save them for sunday. I will have to clean up the bathroom. I will have approximately 45 minutes from the time shabbos ends until they arrive (taking care of 3 kids and cleaning like a maniac).

They are going to be staying in the computer/guest room. Yaakov will have to organize all the computer gear in the closet, plus the stuff on top of the cabinet. I know you read my blog honey, so I'm telling you now: it needs to be done.

I really wish they weren't staying here.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Thursday, February 16, 2006
In the Attics of His Life...

Yesterday we made a yucky discovery:

We have this heavy-duty plastic storage trunk in our backyard, where Yaakov stashed all kinds of stuff - college photos, old coin collections, an autograph album from the 6th grade. And lots of vinyl. For some reason (perhaps beknownst only to ba'alei teshuva), Yaakov would not get rid of his sorry record albums. We don't even own a record player.

Anyway, the kids went nosing through it, and we discovered the inevitable: mold.

So Yaakov sorted through all his treasures. Most of it ended up in the garbage. I wrote down all the artists that got trashed (for posterity, of course):

Joe Walsh
Rush (4 albums)
Miles Davis box set
Hot Tuna
Yoko Ono (Yaakov can be weird)
The Sugar Hill Gang
Dinosaurs (???)
Brewer and Shipley
Saturday Night Fever soundtrack
Donna Summer
Michael Jackson ("Hey, this is an original "Thriller" album!")

And last but certainly not least,

Cat Stevens (ha-ha)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Now THAT'S funny.

The following post is from boomka.org:

A Danish paper publishes a cartoon that mocks Muslims.
An Iranian paper responds with a Holocaust cartoons contest -
- Now a group of Israelis announce their own anti-Semitic cartoons contest

Amitai Sandy (29), graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing, from Tel-Aviv, Israel, has followed the unfolding of the “Muhammad cartoon-gate” events in amazement, until finally he came up with the right answer to all this insanity - and so he announced today the launch of a new anti-Semitic cartoons contest - this time drawn by Jews themselves!

“We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!” said Sandy “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!”

The contest has been announced today on the www.boomka.org website, and the initiator accept submissions of cartoons, caricatures and short comic strips from people all over the world. The deadline is Sunday March 5, and the best works will be displayed in an Exhibition in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Sandy is now in the process of arranging sponsorships of large organizations, and promises lucrative prizes for the winners, including of course the famous Matzo-bread baked with the blood of Christian children.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Archie and Edith, Again.

Mom slept over last night, so Yaakov and I decided to take a ride over to Borders. He wanted to buy more train magazines. Not magazines to read while on a train, but magazines about trains (he's a rail-fan).

We walked around and perused the books. We contemplated buying a chess set that was 75% off, but who has the time for chess anymore? We went into the music section, where I got to listen to the new (and very funky) Stevie Wonder CD. You readers know that I am trying not to listen to secular music, and for the most part I succeed. But every now and again...

Anyway, we sat down. Yaakov had coffee and I mooched off him. We talked. Yaakov talked. On and on he went, about how Iran is going to start selling oil for euros instead of dollars, and how this will affect our economy, and this is an excuse to invade them, and blah blah. And then the housing market, and interest and mortgages, yada yada.

We got in the car to go home and I thought, "This is really romantic. Our first night out alone since I can't remember when, and Yaakov dishes out a monologue about current events." I was feeling a little testy. Then I started to say something, and Yaakov interrupted me. It turned into a big fight. I was fuming. After the whole night of talking, you can't let me have my one dinky little sentence?

So Yaakov went on the porch to smoke and brood, and I got ready to go to sleep. But not before I wrote a really nasty note to him - IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS SO HE WOULD KNOW I WAS REALLY MAD - and taped it to the bathroom mirror. I laid in bed and waited to hear him come in. As I laid there, my virtuous Jewish soul started tchepping me. "You don't really want him to get that note, do you? All it's going to do is hurt his feelings. What will that accomplish? Besides, when you da'aven before you go to sleep, you forgive people who have "angered or vexed you" throughout the day. Doesn't that include your husband, huh, huh?" So I got out of bed and took the note down. When I heard him come inside, I thought to myself, "You don't know the trauma I just spared you, mister."

Isn't that a nice story for Valentine's Day?

Monday, February 13, 2006
Bad Mommy.

Srulik has a habit. He says "Mommy, mommy, mommy," over and over again. Like a broken record or a kid with a tic.

When he gets in this mode, it's a catch-22. If I answer him, he keeps on with his chant. If I don't answer him, he starts getting frantic (and loud) with the "mommy-ing."

Yesterday he was full blown. We were in the car on the highway. "Mommy," "Yes, doll," "Mommy," "What, bubbe?" "Mommy," "What, dollface?" "Mommy," "Yes, Srulik," "Mommy," "What, honey?" and on and on. Finally he got distracted and that was the end.

Then we went to the grocery store
. He put up a fight getting back into the car seat. Rivky wasn't co-operating about the potty. Forget Chaya - she wasn't listening at all. When they were all strapped in - PRAISE THE LORD HALLELUJAH!! - he started again. "Mommy," "What," "Mommy," "What?" "Mommy,"

And then I became unhinged.

I turned around and screamed, "WHAT! WHAT! WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!!!" in a voice that should be reserved for fire or massive bloodshed. He started to cry. I knew I was going to crack when he started chanting again, after all the insanity of shopping with the 3 of them and getting them back into the car. I should have gotten out of the car and stood in the freezing cold as soon as the "I'm going to lose control" feeling came over me. I should have just stood out there and calmed down, and let them all freak out in their car seats.

Oy, the guilt.

Saturday, February 11, 2006
When Shabbos was Saturday...

I was sitting in the backyard with my kids this morning, when my back door neighbor came out. She's an old Jewish lady, not religious. We schmooze sometimes over the fence. She's a yenta. She has a dog, and I see her when she lets the dog in and out.

So we're schmoozing, and Srulik pipes up, "My tatty is in shul." She smiled. "I know, and so is Chaya, right?" "Yeah. We're going later," I added. Then I asked, "What are you doing today?" She said, "I think I'm going to a movie." Then she went inside.

It hit me in the weirdest way. A movie? I remembered how I used to do stuff like that on saturdays. Friday meant the end of the week, and the beginning of 2 glorious days of "I can do whatever I want". Even the DJ's on the radio talked about it, like it was some kind of holy grail. THE WEEKEND.

I remembered the mentality I used to have - driving to people's houses to share a shabbos meal with them. I would enjoy a little shabbos, and then drive away - back into saturday. I don't mind having a shabbos meal with you, but 25 hours of this? Being frum was for somebody else.

Needless to say, it's not a "weekend" to me anymore. Friday is basically dedicated to getting ready for shabbos. As soon as those candles are lit, something happens: the day of rest has arrived. I can't wait to go to bed after dinner! I love my nap shabbos afternoon. It's wonderful not to use the phone, the computer, and the car.

My whole week revolves around this holiest of days.

Thursday, February 09, 2006
The Neighbors:

My Latino neighbors moved out last week. We always had a pleasant relationship. They have a cute 6 year old, a plump kid whom I affectionately refer to as "Gordita" (but never to her face).

Oftentimes I would see Leo when I was in the backyard with my kids. He raised racing pigeons. I can't say I was thrilled that my next-door neighbor had a pigeon coop, but what can you do? Often he would bring a bird over the fence and let my kids hold and pet it.

In this fashion I got to know Leo, more so than his wife. She has a 9-5 job, he's a waiter with odd hours. He told me about growing up poor in the Dominican Republic, with one or two wooden toys. He told me his neighbor was a farmer who raised cows. One day the farmer told him one of the cows was pregnant, and that Leo could name the calf. In fact, the farmer said graciously, the calf will be yours! I'll just keep it and take care of it for you. This kept Leo busy for months! When was he going to get his baby cow? What will he name it? Not like kids today, he stressed. They have millions of toys that they never play with, and no imagination whatsoever.

With the cow theme in mind he "gave" a bird to my kids. He told them it was theirs, but he would keep it for them and feed it. My kids named their pigeon Fluffy. When pesach rolled around last year, I relinquished their ownership. I explained our holiday dietary restrictions, and how most bird foods are not in keeping with them. I didn't want my kids owning the bird over pesach, even for pretend. I think he was a little weirded out, but he was nice about the whole thing.

After awhile Yaakov noticed that Nora's car was never there, and neither was Gordita. "I think they're having some problems," he noted. And so it was. Leo told me they had separated. Nora moved in with her mom, and took Gordita with her. I was sad for them. Six months went by.

Leo sold the house and told me he and Nora were getting back together. He told her, "the grass always seems greener on the other side, but you never know if you'll get a guy as good as me." I don't think he meant it in a vain way, but rather in an honest way. He told me she was "treating him good," and he wants to try again. I told him that marriage is challenging. He agreed.
So that's the end of the soap opera next door.

I really hope they make it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Yud Shevat

A very holy day. The day the previous Rebbe passed away, and the day the current Rebbe assumed leadership.

I had grand plans, none of which actually happened. I was going to do mivtzoyim - encourage other Jews to do mitzvos - but I didn't. I was going to make a farbrengen with my kids, but they were too nutty. I didn't want to rile them up more with our usual "farbrengen farbeisen" (grape juice and sugary nosh). I was going to learn some of Basi L'Gani - the ma'amer the Rebbe gave over upon assuming leadership - but that hasn't happened yet. The good news is that the night is still young, so maybe after I fold the laundry and wash the dishes, I'll be ready to tackle that ma'amer.

Yeah, right.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Rivky and Rosie:

Rivky has an imaginary friend. She and Rosie have been buddies for quite some time, perhaps a year or so.

Every day I hear about Rosie. What Rosie's doing, or wearing, or where's she's going, or it's Rosie's birthday, blah blah blah. Rivky mentions her many, many times a day.

In Rivky's imagination, Rosie used to live in New York. But recently, Rosie moved to our neighborhood. About 3 weeks ago, Rivky asked me to take her to the airport (to pick up Rosie). When we got home after our busy day, Rivky wailed that we didn't go get Rosie. Every day she asks me to take her to Rosie's house.

Today was no different. She woke up, and the barrage-of-Rosie began. Rosie this, Rosie that. And of course, "take me to Rosie's!" Don't think I don't love Rosie, I find this whole thing to be very endearing. I just feel helpless when she asks to go to visit her.

When I went to pick up Chaya today, I got there a little early. So I let Srulik and Rivky go on the school playground. As I sat on the bench and watched them play, little kids were coming up and introducing themselves. "Hi, I'm Yossi." "Hi, I'm Mrs. Maven." Kid after kid, handshake after handshake, until..."Hi, I'm Rosie." I was flabbergasted. "Did you say your name was Rosie?" "Yeah, Rosie so-and-so."

"Riiiiiiivvvvvvvvvvvvvvkyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!" I yelled, trying to catch her on the other end of the playground. She looked up. "C'mere, I want you to meet somebody!" She walked over hesitantly. "Ask this maidel her name," I told her. "What's your name?" Rivky said. "Rosie," she answered. Well, the look on Rivky's face was priceless. It was like a flash of excitement and awe. She stepped back a little. "See Rivky, you said you wanted to see Rosie today, and here she is!"

What a special moment.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A tzedoka collector just knocked on our door and asked for money.

Firstly, we had just settled our kids into bed. Needless to say, they all popped up like jackrabbits. We're still trying to calm them back down, half an hour later.

Secondly, I know what's in our checking account and knew we didn't have "what to give" from there. All we had was what was in Yaakov's pockets. He had a 20, a 10, and some singles. The 10 I asked to keep, to pay for Chaya's class photo tomorrow. Yaakov said, "I'll give him the 20."

Yaakov handed him the bill, he looked at it, and said, "You can't make it 36?" I could not believe my ears! And then Yaakov apologized! "I'm sorry I can't give more, that's really all I have right now." Yaakov has a one-day business trip to Vegas on Wednesday, and the 20 dollars was going to be his spending money there. (Don't worry, he wasn't planning on gambling. It was going to be for food, airport tips, yada yada).

The man walked out the door and didn't even say thank you. We handed a stranger 20 dollars in cash, and not only does he not say thank you, he lets us know it's not enough!

One part of me is really, really offended. Admittedly, the bigger part. Another part is struggling to be a chossid. I know that everything is hashgocho protis, that G-d runs the minutest details of the world. For whatever reason, G-d gave us that situation to learn and to grow from.

There is also the idea of a "holy potch." It's kind of hard to explain, but it's a theme in some chassidisher stories. That a Yid seemingly does something wrong or offensive to another Yid, but the underlying reason is very holy. When G-d makes one Jew an emissary for "punishment" towards another Jew, something very deep and special is happening there. It's a little bit of an odd concept, but it makes sense within the framework of chassidus.

Anyway - when Moshiach comes, this situation will no doubt be clarified. Along with the flat tire.

Guess Who's in Charge?

NOT ME! And it took a flat tire to remember that.

I mean, I know G-d is. But I haven't been behaving like that. I'm so worried about how we're going to make pesach, that I've been micro-managing the budget (and Yaakov). I haven't been acting like G-d runs the show.

So today I got a flat tire - I drove over a curb. Yaakov came home to rescue me, and got the 2 front tires replaced. There went 200 dollars out of savings.

I'm not at all surprised. With my major control-freak attitude, Hashem decided to give me a swift kick in the tuchas. Of course, I don't really know G-d's reasons for blowing my tire. I'll have to wait until Moshiach comes to understand the cosmic mystery. Until then, I'm going to try and have more faith that G-d will take care of things.

Pesach and all.

Sunday, February 05, 2006
The Wonderful Day:

Today was filled with good things.

I sat in on my daughters' ballet class. It was delightful to watch Chaya do the poses so well, and funny to watch Rivky try. I was amazed at all the positions (and their fancy french names). The teacher was so graceful and beautiful, like a swan with a frum-lady turban on its head.

Then I made a grocery-store trip with Chaya. I'm making a concerted effort to spend more quality time with her, alone. That was fun, albeit mildly stressful. Another thing I am trying to do with her is say "yes" as much as I possibly can. It's so easy to say no. She asked for a soda. I said no. "Soda is for shabbos." She asked for money for a machine. You know, the ones that take 50 cents and spit out a schlocky little toy? I was about to say no. But then I thought, why not? I loved those things when I was a kid - the excitement of wondering what you'll get. She got a really cute necklace with a crown on it. I told her that was because she was a "bas melech pnimi" (a modest daughter of the king).

Then we came home, tidied the house, and went to a real simcha - a Hachnossas Sifrei Torah celebration. A local shul was welcoming 4 new Torahs! One of them was rescued from Iraq, and was 600 years old. This event has always been very dear to my heart, and I've been to a number of them. The joy of finishing the Torah and then parading it to its new home, it's truly awesome. These Torahs were walked over a mile, under a gorgeous handmade chuppah. The police closed off a lane of the road and a whole bunch of us went. People in their cars were waving.

After that we went to the health food store, because I needed vitamins. Oh, I felt so wistful. I love the vibe and the people, and I miss the organic co-op I belonged to in Brooklyn. I miss the job I had at a health food store so many years ago. I miss being able to afford beautiful, organic food. So I walked around and looked at the lovely, healthy people and the lovely, healthy food. I looked longingly at the Dr. Bronner's soaps and the Aubrey organic shampoos. Sigh.

When I bathed the kids tonight I had a great idea. I had Yaakov put Srulik in his pj's, while I kept the girls in the bathroom and dressed them there. This cut out SO much stress, I can't begin to tell you. Once they get out of the bathroom, they are totally bananas. Running around the house naked, jumping on the bed. It's nearly impossible to get them settled and dressed. But by keeping them in the bathroom, they had nowhere to go! I bypassed all the insanity! It was so simple, yet so brilliant. I was proud of myself.

Now they're all asleep. What a great day.

Thursday, February 02, 2006
C is for Cat Stevens.

Today in the children's museum they had story time. It was a book about the 5 senses. While my guys were eagerly responding to their favorite sense-stuff (Rivky: "I like to taste sugar"), I perused the bookshelves. In the religion section, there was a book called "A is for Allah," by Yusuf Islam.

It was a beautiful book. Each page had its own Arabic letter and word, and each word described a different aspect or tenet of Islam.

In my "religious exploration" years, I picked up a reliable english copy of the Quran. I stopped reading early on, as one of the surahs said that Jews are so stupid they can't distinguish one kind of cow from another. I may have been shopping for a "better" religion, but I'd be darned if I'd read something that made fun of mine.

Nonetheless, I am interested in Islam. Maybe to understand it better, to know why some of its adherents insist on behaving so madly. To learn what one of my favorite singers found so great about it.

He'll never ever be Yusuf Islam to me.
In my heart, he'll always be Cat Stevens.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
State of the Maven address:

Last night the president was on TV, giving his report of how things are in the good ol' U.S. of A. We watched via the internet.

Yaakov was all ready to heckle his favorite guy in Washington - President Chimpy. I don't really have an opinion one way or the other, but he seems like a G-d fearing fellow. Plus, his wife just oozes class. I love Laura Bush. She always looks great and she knows her place (unlike Hillary).

So he's standing behind the lattice doors, waiting to come out, and I'm looking at all the fancy schmancy people there. You could feel the excited energy in the room, like the Dead was about to come on. I even had the opener all picked out, "The Music Never Stopped." I heard the first riffs of the song when the guy was announcing "The President of the United States of America!" While George was pressing the flesh and smiling and waving, I heard the Grateful Dead and imagined all those suits bopping up and down. And let me tell you, they sure know how to clap.

So straight away George mentions Coretta Scott King, which I thought was very clever. Let him appeal to black voters. People would sit or stand and clap clap clap like maniacs. I wondered if they felt like I do in shul, wondering whether to stand (and if they could get away with sitting). I also wondered whether George, when rehearsing his speech, was thinking, "They're gonna clap like crazy after I say this!" Usually it was just the republican side that was clapping and standing, which I thought was funny. One or two Democrats would stand up on certain issues, which I thought was brave (and telling).

Bush said that 4.2 million jobs were created in the U.S. last year, which prompted Yaakov to yell, "Yeah, but they're all at Wal-Mart for minimum wage!" He also mentioned the brave soldier who was killed last month in Iraq, Sargeant Clay. The camera panned to Clay's parents and widow, and people were thundering and clapping away. George actually winked at them! The widow was very aidel, and the father had a scraggly beard - a nice contrast to all the clean-shaven faces. When Bush mentioned the surveillance act, you could see Hillary shaking her head. Nope, she doesn't like the idea of wire tapping. Too much like Linda Tripp.

One highlight of the evening was when the president mentioned his social security bill getting voted down. All the democrats stood up and clapped, secretly high-fiving each other - their shining moment. Another good one was George mentioning how two of his father's favorite people were approaching 60 - him and President Clinton. Well, you could see a smile twitching around Hillary's lips then.

I fell asleep sometime around when he was talking about ethanol and gas alternatives. So I missed the democratic rebuttal, boo-hoo.

P.S. Today, when I pulled up to the kosher supermarket, the car next to me had one of those ribbon magnets. You know, the ones that say "support our troops," or "find a cure." Well this ribbon magnet, identical to the other ones, actually said "support farting." I found it terribly amusing.

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

fancymaven at gmail dot com