Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Jews for Judaism.

Dad is an extrovert. He's friendly, and open to new people and experiences. I am too, though becoming frum has really tamed that for me.

Today he went for a walk, and was gone for a couple of hours. I finally caught up with him after carpool, and he says, "You'll never believe who I met today." "Who?" He pulled something from his bag - Jews for J literature. My eyes flew open in horror. "Not now, Dad!" I glanced around the car to make sure none of the kids saw. "Okay," he shrugged. "I'll tell you later."

So while everyone was at the dinner table, I snuck into his room. "Sorry Dad," I whispered, as I rummaged through his bag. When I found the brochure, I slipped it into the waistband of my skirt. I made a beeline for my bathroom, where I tore it to shreds.

Yaakov met me in the kitchen. "Where'd you just go?" I lowerered my voice. "Dad had some Jews for J literature." Yaakov freaked. "Get it out of here NOW!" he said, his hands in the air like chassidic stop signs. "I did already. I snuck into his bedroom and tore it up." He sighed. "Oh good."

Dad hasn't mentioned it, and I can't help but wonder if he forgot the incident entirely. Sometimes drugs are really helpful.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Day of the Golden Dragon.

So Dad is really into Chinese culture. When Chaya was born, we asked him what he wanted to be called. "Do you wanna be Zeide? Pop-Pop? Grandpa?" He paused for a moment. "I want to be called Gung Gung" - the Chinese title for the maternal grandfather.

Gung Gung takes long showers. Like, really long showers. And he sings Hava Nagila while showering. Nu, how can you go wrong with such a person?

After his shower, Gung Gung starts chatting up Chaya. "You know, you were born in the year of the Golden Dragon. That's a very lucky year."
All along, we thought Chaya was born in Tof Shin Samech, but Gung Gung enlightened us. (Interestingly enough, she does have a "Golden Dragon" personality).

We hustled out the door to a bris, and Rabbi B got Dad to put on tefillin. Then off to the library, where the project was to make a chinese dragon (!!!). We're approaching the Chinese New Year, so I think that's why they did it. I read an interesting kid's book about the Chinese New Year, and I checked it out for Dad.

Then we went to the craziest outlet mall ever. If I had known how crazy huge it was, I would have made it an all day affair.
We met a great Israeli girl named Ziv. I bought some warm clothes for Srulik. Rivky laid on the floor. Chaya got some Polly Pockets. Srulik gashed his eyebrow in the bookstore. Dad didn't take off his old dude sunglasses, not a once.

But the best mall moment, by far, is when we passed one of those rolley-cart thingies selling hookas. Dad called out, "I'll buy one if you give me something to pack the bowl with!" Oh. My. God. I laughed so hard. Dad was literally chortling.

Gung Hei Fat Choy!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dad arrived.

Friday, January 26, 2007
Sorting it Out.

When I was in the 4th grade, I didn't want anyone to know my parents were divorced. My mom and dad split when I was a baby, and Mom re-married when I was 6. Even though I didn't like my stepfather, I wanted everyone to think he was my real dad.

I had vague knowledge of my real father's mental illness. As I grew older, I just wanted him out of my life. I started using my stepfather's last name in school, a legal fiction to further serve my goal. When I was 11, I was officially adopted. I remember the tension in the room as my real father signed the papers. All the child-support he owed - thousands of dollars - disappeared with his signature.

As my teen years ensued, I wanted him out of my life more intensely.
Dad would call, and I'd have my mother tell him I was out. I dreaded speaking to him. I cut his side of the family out, and my grandmother fell victim to this schism. She loved me so much, and took care of me as a child. My wonderful aunt and uncle, my fabulous cousins. I removed them so I could feel whole.

When I was 16, I started letting my father back in. As I matured, I could start forgiving. This is a work in progress. Now that I am a parent, I can heal and forgive a little more. And the same goes for my stepfather, whom I loathed. I grieve for my grandmother - I was starting my tikkun with her when she died.

She'll never know my sorrow.

Thursday, January 25, 2007
It's Genetic...

So my father is supposed to be coming Sunday. He sent 3 huge boxes for the kids, awaiting his arrival.

I was on the phone with him last night, and he told me he's getting anxious about the trip. "Gonna make it, Dad?" I queried. "Yeah, I'll be fine," he insisted.

I dunno. I'm starting to wonder.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007
G-d, Gangsta, and Me.

Yesterday at the library I met some interesting black kids.

Cedric was 11. He could not get over Zalman. All he wanted to do was hold him, which was fine with me. Cedric had a very cute sister (also nuts over Zalman). They were with an older friend, a "gangsta." He had a sullen look and a nasty mouth.

So I took out my siddur to da'aven. Cedric asked, "What language is that?" and I said, "Hebrew." He said, "Man, you can read that?" We chatted for awhile until I told him I had to talk to G-d instead.

He asked me for some of our pretzels. I gave him some, and his sister too. They thanked me. I told them the pretzels didn't come from me, They came from G-d, and He was the one to thank. I asked them if they knew about Abraham. Cute Sister said she read about him in her bible. I explained how Abraham lived in a tent that was open on all 4 sides, so people could come from any direction. I told them how Abraham loved to serve his guests, and when the meal was over he asked them to thank G-d for the food. If they didn't thank G-d, he'd bill them for the food. They liked the story.

Gangsta put in his nasty 2 cents now and again, but everybody ignored him. When we went to leave, I noticed the book he was reading: Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends." I found it incongruous that Gangsta was into it (although Shel Silverstein wouldn't). I asked him what his favorite poem was, and I told him mine. I told him he might like some of Silverstein's other books, and asked the librarian to help him find them.

I left the library pondering.

What is my role as a Jew? To reveal G-dliness in the world. Why is it odd that Gangstas appreciate kooky Jewish poets? Because I'm stuck in my stereotypes. Did I reveal G-d in the library?

I hope so.

Monday, January 22, 2007
The Massage.

One of my friends sponsored a massage for me. She saw me schlepping Zalman in my baby holder and said, "You know what? I want you to go to this lady." She whipped out a business card. "How much does it cost?" I asked. "It's on me. As long as you go to her, I'll pay for it. She's amazing."

So I made an appointment. On the phone, I got a really strong sense that the massage therapist was a lesbian. Today, when I went for my appointment, I felt sure of it. She was tall and muscular, with short grey curls and piercing blue eyes. Her hands were clean and strong. She was ugly and beautiful all at once.

She led me into a room. I looked around, and my eyes rested on a statue. A laughing, fat, god-man, surrounded by crystals. I immediately averted my eyes. I saw all her books on massage therapy and anatomy. I saw her degrees on the wall, her poster of Qi manifestations in different organs. I saw a picture of Mr. J with chakras. Why did my frum friend send me to this new-age lesbian?

She left the room, telling me to take off as much as I felt comfortable with. I removed "what I felt comfortable with," took off my wig and put my hat on. I laid on the beautiful table and covered myself with a towel.

She massaged and we chatted. She told me she recently had a hysterectomy, and that she was 50. I told her I had 4 kids and I was 31. She told me I had a lot of stuff stored in my muscles. She had a lot of frum clients, she said. "Most don't even bother with a hat," she said. I explained how I'd feel more "naked" without a hat, than the state of undress I was in.

I got a great massage. It was truly healing. I made another appointment, a month from now. I'm glad I'm allowing myself to take care of me.

Friday, January 19, 2007
Rivky and her Drama

You know, I've come to the conclusion that Rivky is just not a morning person. I've also concluded that I should integrate the "spirited child" parenting model with Love and Logic.

To explain: "Raising your Spirited Child" espouses accepting your child's shortcomings and working with them. Don't force your child to adapt, work with her and meet her on her terms. This is true, to an extent. One example in the book entailed a child in a dressing room for hours, because she had a hard time making decisions (this was allowed by the parent). Sorry, that doesn't work for me - there's a fine line between empowering and spoiling. Love and Logic encourages setting a workable standard. If the child falls short, ok, so they learn a lesson. Let them make mistakes in a loving way, don't coddle them to death.

But back to Rivky.
I woke her this morning and cheerfully said "modeh ani" with her. She screamed. She kvetched. I smiled at her. I loved her. I encouraged her to get dressed. I laid out 2 outfits to choose from. She wanted to get her picture she made for her teacher. I conceded. "You can get the picture, but then we get dressed." I went about my business. Next time I see her, she's coloring. I told her it was time to get dressed, and I took her by the hand.

We got to her room, and she proceeds to tell me this whole megilla. I tried to help my spirited child get dressed, but she wasn't interested. At that point, I was done. At 10 minutes before carpool, I gave her a heads-up. She freaked out. She screamed. "Nobody loves me in this house! Nobody's helping me get dressed!" I calmly told her how I tried to help before, but she wasn't ready. Now I was too busy. She continued carrying on. I hugged her.

When the car honked she got hysterical. I was kind. I hugged more. I made comforting sounds. She wailed about all her projects from the week, which all come home on Fridays. She cried about not getting her parsha sheet. I ached for her. I continued comforting.

So we're home together today. I'm not thrilled. It's erev shabbos, but oh well. I hope she learns.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Mormons at the Post Office.

So today I went to the post office with my friend's son, Yaakov. I got on line behind 2 well dressed young men, and I noticed they had name tags. I knew right away: Mormons. On a mission.

I was filled with conflict. Extrovert-Maven wanted to chat them up. Anthropologist-Maven wanted to pepper them with questions (hey, what's with the special "Mormon underwear?"). Lubavitcher-Maven won: just shut up and stand on line.

But one of them turned to me. "Awww, what a cute kid! What's his name?" "Yaakov," I answered. He looked at me quizzically. "Yaakov?" "Yeah, same as Jacob." He continued, "Do you like living in Miami? We're from Vegas." "Oh yeah? My mother-in-law lives in Vegas." (When are they going to start the Mormon schtick?) "Where in Vegas?" "I have no idea." They started to talking to the lady in front of me. (Was it my Jew-vibe?)

The lady told them there was Mormon church near her. One guy said, "Yeah, we're everywhere," and started ticking off countries. When he said Israel, I wanted to whack him. They gave her a picture of Mr. J. Then they went to the postal worker and chatted her up, all charming and friendly. Was this all part of a sinister plan, to Mormonize America?

One post office at a time?

Monday, January 15, 2007
Dear Rebbe...

I e-mailed my Rebbe the other day. That's right. E-mailed. Is that amazing, or what?

You can, too.

Sunday, January 14, 2007
Hashgocho Protis:

Every erev shabbos I try to call to a friend I don't get to speak with much. And this past Friday, I discussed this with the friend I called. We agreed: there's many people we like, admire, and enjoy. But, practically speaking, we have to stick with our chevra.

The woman I spoke with I like A LOT. She's funny, bold, and generous. She's also touchy-feely, like me. She confided that she's having a major health crisis.

Heart: "I'm going out right now to buy her a card and flowers."
Mind: No way! It's erev shabbos! You are so not!
Heart: "Yeah, but wouldn't she love getting flowers and a card, all things considered?"
Mind: Aren't you being impulsive? That's not the way a chossid behaves. And what's your real motivation, anyway? Are you really wanting to get her those things to further cement your friendship? Isn't this really all about you?
Heart: Okay, maybe there's a little selfishness going on here. But still, I think it would be a really nice thing. And don't we learn in chassidus that it's important to do the right thing, even if the intentions are wrong?
Heart and Mind: Off to Publix!

So I get there and I spent a really long time picking a card. Finally, I found the right one. It read something like, "Even though now is a hard time, and you're so anxious, know that your Higher Power is protecting you, yada yada." It was new-agey, yet very right on. I put it in the shopping basket. Then, I found the perfect bouquet. Lively, pretty, healthy. Just right for my friend.

And then I heard her. On her cell phone. Right there, not two feet away from me. Examining the avocados. I snuck up behind her and rubbed her back. (Mind: you damn well better hope that's her!) She turned and smiled. "You know why I'm here?" I said, "I'm buying you flowers and a card!" "Really, honey." "Yes! Here they are!" She laughed. She read the card and admired the flowers. We gave each other a delicious hug, the kind that involves back-rubbing. And then I put the flowers back in the bucket and the card back on the shelf.

She had received them, after all.

Friday, January 12, 2007

For the past couple weeks Yaakov has been working insane hours. He's come home at 10 or 11 at night, or gotten up at 4 in the morning. The database he's working with was (is) having "integration issues" and he's had to be SuperProgrammer to fix it.

Anyway, I just received a box of FTD flowers from FedEx. Addressed to "Mrs. Maven," I searched the box for an indication of my secret admirer.

The card read;
Thank you for sharing Yaakov with me over the last 2 weeks. His dedication and skill is something I have come to greatly admire. Have a good shabbos - and enjoy him. Mordechai.
(His programming partner in New York!) More special erev shabbos stories to come on Sunday. Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, January 11, 2007
Knight, meet Damsel.

Today I got lost. In the spaghetti bowl. It's an intersection with all these crazy loops and ramps and roads going everywhere.

Anyway, I got scared and reached for my cell phone to call Yaakov. Nope - left it at home. I panicked. But then I thought; "Maven, you're a big girl. You can do this." And you know what? I did. I found my way out of the treacherous spaghetti bowl all by myself.

It made me wonder about my dynamic with Yaakov. I was always very independent. I navigated New York and San Francisco as a teenager, alone. Then I met Yaakov. I was 19. He was 26. He always came to my aid, no matter what. He watched out for me, fought my battles, protected me. In the beginning I really resisted this. But now, I cherish the role. I love being nurtured and protected. I love knowing that he's always there to save the day.

However...I'm realizing that I let him rescue me when I'm quite capable of handling things myself!


My Dad told me a saying once: "Guests are like fish. They're fine for a day or two, but then they start to stink." Canada-friend told me another; "You're thrilled to escort them in, and thrilled to escort them out."

Neither of those quite describe my guest experience, but it was challenging. I understand why welcoming guests is welcoming the Shechina: you have to really move yourself aside, in your very own space.

Honestly, I had a great time. The family is amazing.
The first night they were here, the wife (we'll call her "Talia") announced that they were all going out after supper. She said, "I'm sure you have a routine, and we don't want to interrrupt it." I hadn't really thought of it until that very moment, but it's true. And I was grateful for her thoughtfulness. When they left, we did homework, bath, and bed. Last night they were here during "routine time," and things were upside-down.

There was more cooking, consideration of special food needs, even some extra childcare for me. But it was so worth it! Last night Talia and I had a farbrengen. I got to really know her. She played Yaakov's guitar and sang original music, we even knocked off some Indigo Girls tunes. We complimented each other's voices and told secrets. I went to bed at 2 and woke up (at 7) with my kids and her kids. Baruch Hashem, it wasn't hard - it was just more.

When they left at noon today I shut the door behind me and breathed an audible sigh of relief. It surprised me to hear it. "Wow, that was a lot," I thought. They are leaving for a week and then coming back for another 4 or 5 days. I'm looking forward to the rest!

But I'm looking forward, too, for their return.

Monday, January 08, 2007
The Guests.

They're coming. Tomorrow. I thought they were coming Wednesday. Oy.

Therefore, I accept that my house won't be perfect. I accept that things might be insane. I accept that G-d runs the show (even mine) and that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY.

Saturday, January 06, 2007
Beam Me Up, Scotty.

Currently crowding my brain: overeating, despair, feeling like I constantly have to be on top of my house (or else it will all go to hell), sadness/guilt over being a mean mother (too often), feeling like I can never give enough to a particular child, tired of being so organized, not being organized enough, needing a chassidisher farbrengen, ambivalent, wishing I could be more forthright in a certain relationship, worrying about pesach (and my pesach OCD), having a million errands to run, nervous over one child's issues, fear that it's all my fault, wishing Yaakov was here right now, missing mom too, joyous over baby's progress, disgusted/enchanted by blogging, hoping to get to know someone better, knowing I'm off-track in my yiddishkeit, wishing I had a mashpia, delighted over a friend's gentleness, disturbed that my bathroom needs cleaning, wanting to watch star trek to escape all my drama.

Friday, January 05, 2007
In other food news...

I made dinner last night for a family with a new baby. Chaya came home from school today and said they loved it! She said one of the siblings approached her in school and told her "they ate it all up." I was amazed at how wonderful this made me feel.

Pareve stuffed shells

1 box jumbo shells
1 package firm tofu
1 container Tofutti "Better Than Cream Cheese"
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 egg, beaten
handul of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
salt, onion powder, garlic powder

Cook shells according to directions. DO NOT OVERCOOK (or they will get soggy and hard to stuff)! Blend tofu, Tofutti, egg, spinach, and spices with a hand blender or food processor. You want a little consistency, so don't overdo it (although make sure all the tofu pieces are blended). Stuff mixture into shells by the tablespoon. pour sauce over the top and bake at 350 for 45 mins to an hour. Easy and yummy!

Thursday, January 04, 2007
Go figure...

I just made a fancy schmancy shabbos dessert. I spent lots of money on ingredients. I spent a lot of time making it. I don't like it.

Yaakov loves it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007
The Bottom Line:

One of my friends called last night to comment on the "Rivky fiasco." "I know you're into Love and Logic, but can I offer you some "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen" advice?" She suggested I take Rivky aside and ask what I could do to help.

So I asked last night when the girls were in bed. Chaya raised her hand. "I know! You could lay out all her clothes, even tights and underwear and shoes." "Would that help you, Rivky?" I asked. She nodded. "What else?" I continued. Chaya's hand shot up again. "I want to hear from Rivky," I said.
"Could you help me put my tights on? It's hard to crunch them up over my feet." I said I could.

She got out the door this morning, Baruch Hashem.

I also made some changes. I got out of my room much earlier. I put my personal care aside, telling myself I would do it later. I stayed with her in the room for a bit. I helped Srulik get dressed before the screaming started. Yaakov was available to help.

A couple of weeks ago, someone told me something in shul. She said, "It doesn't matter what all the parenting books say, you have to do what works with that child in that moment." And it's true. I like Love and Logic, but I don't agree with all of it. The bottom line is that the parents are loving, no matter what.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Every morning, from the second I emerge from my room, I am bombarded. Srulik tantrums. "Mommy! Get me dressed!" I tell him, gently, that if he wants mommy to dress him, he needs to wait. He continues to scream. Meanwhile, I have to hustle Chaya and Rivky out the door for school.

Rivky is a dawdler (slow to adapt?). She wakes up and lolls around in bed. "Rivky! You're going to miss your ride!" The pressure mounts. Every few minutes I pop in and remind her the clock is ticking (a love and logic no-no). One time she's sitting on the floor contemplating her navel. The next time she's standing on her bed staring at her aleph-beis poster.

Srulik is screaming his head off and I finally decide I'm going to get him dressed. This would be fine, if he wasn't doing his dance routines. Zalman starts wailing, and Srulik is fox-trotting between tzitsis and shirt. I was ready to abandon him and rescue the baby, but that would make everything much worse. Srulik, in a jealous rage, would start screaming anew. I preferred listening to Zalman.

(Despite the morning-madness I have made two breakfasts and one lunch.)

I finished dressing Srulik and ran to prepare baby food for Zalman. He's screaming like a lunatic in his exersaucer. I finally put my hands on my head and Tarzan-roared; "I can't do everydamnthing!!!" I immediately felt ashamed.

Rivky missed her ride. (I am trying to figure out logical consequences). Meanwhile, I have abandoned everything to sit down and write this sorry story. The baby is content on the floor now and Srulik and Rivky are drawing. To salvage my self-esteem, I did have ONE shining mommy moment: Chaya stuck her tongue out out me. My index finger whipped out for an angry lecture, but instead I stuck my tongue out at her and tickled her.

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

fancymaven at gmail dot com