Thursday, August 30, 2007
The Scoop on Poop, Part II

You know, it never ceases to amaze me what gets you guys chattering. I've written some intense things, and nary a peep. But when I write about poop...

Firstly, the good news: Srulik went to school and stayed dry all day yesterday. Hooray! Baruch Hashem.

The bad news is, Dr. F told Yaakov that his office would call yesterday to schedule next week's appointment. Well, you know that didn't happen.

And now, the rest of the story.

Your comments were thoughtful. Regarding Dr. F, We are planning on taking action - we're just not sure what. I'll keep you posted as the saga unfolds.

Regarding my kids...a couple of nights ago, a friend gave me a reality check: I was busy wringing my hands over how insane they make me, and she said she only wished she could have more (she's unable to right now). She reminded me that Yaakov adores me, and how lucky I am. It's really true. I have a beautiful family, and a wonderful husband. Despite my blessings, I still like to complain.

You're right, poop is no fun (especially in Wal-Mart). My kids are very challenging at times. But in the grand scheme of things, it's nothing. I love them. And with G-d's help, at the right time, I'll have more to love. I think that's what my friend and "Anonymous" was trying to tell me - to count my blessings.

And speaking of blessings - Please keep praying for Ruchama Aliza Sara Chana bas Esther Liba. That's her picture. It's a sad reminder that I really have nothing to complain about.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The terrible day.

We decided to put Srulik (4) in pre-school this year. It was a big decision for us, but I think it was the right one. Srulik has a lot of "boy" energy. When he's home, he's constantly harrassing the baby, growling, shouting, jumping off the walls, etc. We felt it was best for all of us if he was in a full-day structured program.

Yesterday was orientation. I met his wonderful teachers, and gave them a heads up that he had a seizure. I told them it was nothing to be afraid of, we didn't anticipate another. It happened almost 5 months ago already. The head teacher seemed particularly nervous, but I assured her it was fine. I told her what to look for, what to do, etc.

Today, when I dropped him off, I hovered around. I even peeked in the classroom window before I left, standing outside on my tip-toes. Satisfied that all was well, I left. But then I got a call about 3 hours later: poop. The teacher was already nervous about the seizure thing, and then he goes and poops on her. She didn't sound thrilled. I told her I would come in and take care of it.

I came in, cleaned him up, and did Love and Logic with him. "I'm really sorry buddy, this is a bummer. I need to take you home now." The whole time I was driving I kept coaching myself. Don't make predictions. It's not going to be like this all year. Don't freak out. Just stay in the moment.

I had to go to Wal-Mart for some things for dinner. We're in the parking lot, and he says, "Mommy, I need to make." Too late - another poop. I sighed. We went into the store and I got him into the potty. While he was inside, I called Yaakov and started to cry. I can't handle him home another year. What are we going to do? I saw he was a mess of bathtub proportions. I had him pull up his pants and wash his hands like an OCD champ. And I still had to get dinner stuff!

I was feeling angry and resentful. I wasn't supposed to be doing this, he was supposed to be in school. Meanwhile he was bouncing off the walls, running around, jumping on the shopping cart (doing all the things I put him in school for).

I finally got him home and in the tub. Then I had to start making dinner. And then I had to pick up my other kids. Rivky and Chaya started interrogating. "How come Srulik went home?" "He had an accident." "A big one? A number one or a number two? Did you have to change his pants?" I sighed for the millionth time. "Ask your brother," I said. "He'll tell you if he wants."

Oh, and here's the icing on this crappy cake. When I got home, Dr. F finally called. Srulik's neurologist. He did a follow-up EEG 3 months ago. THREE MONTHS AGO. He finally responded to our persistent phone calls. He's seeing an abnormality. He wants to see Srulik next week.


For 3 months you don't have the decency to return our calls, and suddenly you need to see him next week? I'm sorry, but that takes some kind of chutzpah.

The only bright spot of my day was the tzedoka collector that came to my door.

Sunday, August 26, 2007
The truth hurts:

Every couple of months we have a family get-together - a birthday, yom tov, thanksgiving, whatever. Today's gathering was for Srulik's birthday. My brother's girlfriend came. She moved to Florida to be with him before their November Israel trip.

I like her a lot, yet I feel threatened by her. Her youth, her beauty, the enchanting spell she casts on my children. She dresses like a twenty-something hottie, fascinating to Chaya and bothersome to me.

Today, Yaakov and my brother were talking about building our sukkah together. She piped in that she wanted to join. I felt indignant. You think you're going to come half-dressed to my house and build a sukkah with my husband? You got another thing coming, missy!

I used to go into frum homes dressed like that, and, like her, I had no clue. A little empathy would be in order, right? Right? But no - I just feel jealous.

She's awesome - I hate feeling this way.

Friday, August 24, 2007
Please da'aven for:

Ruchama Aliza Sara Chana bas Esther Liba.

This 4 year old in our neighborhood was found at the bottom of a pool. She has a pulse, but she's been breathing with a respirator since last night. The situation is very dire.

Please dedicate every good deed you do to this little girl's recovery.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 23, 2007
Ridin' that Train...

Today I took my kids on Tri-Rail. That was a crazy adventure - I might write more about it later. But what really got me was talking to my mom on the phone afterwards. She told me my stepfather, whom I've long disliked, took my brother on Tri-Rail when he was 5.

What made that trip meaningful was that my stepfather was dying of cancer. He took my brother in between rounds of chemo. Hearing this story made me think of him as a vulnerable person, not the monster I've made him out to be in my head.

Elul is the right time to learn these things.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Here ya go:

Three of you wanted to know how Yaakov and I met. Believe it or not, it was a shidduch! When we were first exploring frumkeit, someone who knew us thought we would make a good match. Strangely enough, it worked!

This would be a good time to mention the mekubal Yaakov met, Rabbi Chaibi. Yaakov asked him for a brocha to meet his soulmate. Rabbi Chaibi told him to go to the mikveh a certain number of times, and to take a certain amount of showers, and then to say certain chapters of tehillim in front of an open window. Two weeks later, Yaakov met me. Weird but true.

Yaakov was 26 and I was 19. We met in '95. Interestingly enough, one of our early questions was, "What will we do about Friday night shows?" A few weeks later, Jerry died.

It was a long and winding courtship, off and on at times. I had to do some growing up. I was majorly into partying, while Yaakov was very stable. He owned a home and had a good job. We both knew that we wanted to be religious some day, and raise children within this framework.

A year or so after we met, I went to yeshiva in Crown Heights. He stayed in Florida, intensively learning here. He finally came to Brooklyn to start yeshiva himself, and we got engaged the day he arrived. Just today he joked, "You got lucky - you caught me after a long day of driving. My brain wasn't working."

Truthfully, I was very lucky that Yaakov was willing to wait for me. He waited for years. Yaakov likes to joke when I'm running late; "I waited long enough for you, what's a few more minutes?"

Heather K, the Irish Catholic, asked how I became frum: I was a big spiritual seeker for many years. The first frum people I met used to be disciples of Yogi Bhajan (transcendental meditation). I was a vegetarian into Buddhism at the time, so it was a good match. They lovingly allowed me into their home to experience the beauty of shabbos and yom tov. It was very real to me, it touched my soul. After that, I knew I could never turn back. It took me several years, but I got here. You know, I once read another frum Jew's blog and he described himself religiously as: "Underconstructionist." I think that sums it up for me, too! Heather, I'm sorry you constantly have to google what I'm saying. I've tried in the past to explain the words/concepts I'm talking about, but I find it interrupts the flow of my writing. Here's a link that might help. Thanks for reading! (Hey, you're interested in orthodox Judaism, and I've always had a thing for Ireland. This could be a win-win!)

Eden wants to know how we came to sunny Florida. Basically, we decided there wasn't enough crime in Crown Heights. Seriously though, Yaakov received a job offer and we got a brocha to move. Though I miss Crown Heights, we're very happy in our community here.

Just to address the Hillary issue: I'm not pro- or anti-Hillary, I just think she'll be the next president. I'm actually a John Edwards gal. Oddly enough, neither of us vote. We should, as it's an American privilege. Besides, the Rebbe encouraged his chassidim to vote. Though we like to follow politics, I think it's fair to say we're apathetic. (Yaakov is a huge fan of this site, however.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007
Happy Second Blogiversary!

Two years - and 577 posts - ago, I started this blog. Last year, on my first "blogiversary," Yaakov re-designed the site. I'm not doing anything that exciting this year, but I am taking reader questions again (you can leave them via comments or email). I appreciated your input so much last year.

And now I have a question for you! I'm curious to know, how did you find this blog?

p.s. Hillary's going to be the next president.

Friday, August 17, 2007
Hashem brings forth the bread from the Earth...

Today while kneading my challah I let Rivky and Srulik stick their hands in the bowl. They had such a good time with the sticky dough, and I had fun watching them. But the biggest deal of it all was that I actually let them - I never did that before. I do let my kids help me cook, but I have my reservations. Sticking hands in dough is waaaaay out of my comfort zone. Today I said, "What's the big deal? They washed their hands." It took a little more effort from me (especially to clean them off), but we did it.

For me - a stubborn person with anxiety - this simple act was very growthful. Then came a knock at the door. The postman was dropping off something, a package from this organization. It was all about coping with miscarriage - my mashpia ordered it for me. While I insisted to her that I was fine, she felt that it was something I could benefit from "down the road." The package was gorgeous, and I'm so touched that she sent it. I feel glad that I finally have a mashpia, and that she cares so much.

Having the miscarriage prompted me to finally get help for my anxiety. Getting help for my anxiety allowed me to relax and let my kids have fun with the challah dough. And then the package came.

Now the dough has risen, and I have to do the mitzvah of hafrashas challah. And when I do, I will pray for a friend that G-d should bless her with more children. The whole thing feels like a gift: hashgocha protis with a beautiful, jaunty bow.

p.s. After I separated the challah I started singing Ben E. King's classic, Stand by Me. Oh Hashem, Hashem please, bless so-and-so, bas so-and-so...won't you please, bless her...oh Hashem, please bless her, with more children...healthy, healthy children... (does this count as elevating secular music?)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Ba'al Teshuva Dissonance:

The Alter Rebbe said, "Words are the quill of the heart, music the quill of the soul." Music comes from a deep part of a person's essence, and connects the listener to that place. That is why (at least, in chassidic circles) we're taught to be careful in regards to music.

Oddly enough, when I first became frum, it wasn't hard for me to stop listening to secular music. I found solace in eclectic Jewish musicians. Shlomo Carlebach helped a lot. Simply Tsfat was another one.

As the years went by, I would sneak in music here and there. Of course, The Grateful Dead. It's not beneath me to belt out Kenny Rogers' "Lucille." Old, twangy Neil Diamond always works. Cheesy 80's pop is great for depression. I could go on and on about different music that interests and inspires me.

Yet The Alter Rebbe's words reverberate as clearly as the music does. I'd like to say, "Well, I was a Deadhead. It's different for me." But everybody loves the secular music they grew up with. And I wrestle with the idea that it's not okay. For me, listening to secular music is a rare treat. It's fun, relaxing, and therapeutic. Yet I know deep inside that I'm doing myself a disservice by listening, and it drives me crazy. I have a friend who grew up in a non-chassidic home. Her father is a Rav, and she listened to secular music all the time. For her, this is simply not an issue. Sometimes I wonder; why does it have to be an issue for me?

I believe it was Reb Shmuel Munkis who was with the Alter Rebbe when a gentile farmer tried to shoot the latter. He used his spiritual powers to prevent the assault, yet he asked R' Shmuel why he didn't try to protect him. Reb Shmuel replied, "If you're a Rebbe, no bullet can hurt you. But if you're an imposter, you deserve to be shot for the worldly pleasures you took from the chassidim."

(The Alter Rebbe was the inspiration behind Jedi Mind Trick, nu?)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
My kids and my money go to...

...A Lubavitcher yeshiva.

I was only planning on sending my 2 girls, and keeping Srulik at the local playgroup. But 2 days ago the playgroup teacher informed us she wasn't doing the 4 year old program. We decided to send him to the yeshiva. We looked at our numbers, and figured we could only afford X more. And when I say that, I mean we're taking money out of the grocery budget. So I called the school, and spoke to the money lady. She called me back, and agreed on the number.

First, let me tell you about yeshivas and money. They ask you a million questions, wanting to know about every penny earned and spent. I can't even deal with the money forms, too much anxiety. I make Yaakov do it. One friend described it as "taking your pants off for them." ("Oh, I see you're wearing briefs. Ten grand.")

Okay, I'm exaggerating. But that's basically it. You can hem and haw and haggle, beg and cry and plead. But somehow, some way, they're gonna get your money - and lots of it.

Now, I can't blame them. It costs a lot of money to run a school. But there's a yetzer hara I have that hates spending money like this on school. I resent it terribly. I hate that the rest of America can send their lovely kids to lovely public schools with lovely taxpayer money - a system we pay into but don't reap the benefits of.

I spoke to a mashpia before making the decision to send him, and she reminded me that G-d pays the bills. I'm glad to know somebody will.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Yaakov is a "systems administrator," the techie label for the programming he does. He sometimes moonlights as a sound guy at simchas - weddings, bar mitzvas, yada yada.

So tonight I surprised him by popping in at a wedding he was doing. I couldn't find him, so I called his cell phone.

"Hi, where are you?"
"What do you mean, where am I? I'm at the wedding! Where are you?"
"I'm at the wedding, too!"
"You are? Where?"
"On the side of the orchestra, where are you?"
"On the other side!"

So we both peered across and started giggling like idiots. I made my way over and watched him fiddle around with the soundboard. A guy walked up and Yaakov introduced us. "This is the trumpet player, Yehuda." Yehuda grinned at me and said, "Your husband drives me crazy." "What a coincidence," I laughed. "He drives me crazy, too." He leaned in conspiratorially, "But I've learned how to deal with him." "Uh-huh," I nodded.

"Me too."

Saturday, August 11, 2007
Young and Beautiful Love.

My brother met a girl last summer in Israel. They maintained a long distance relationship for a year, and she just moved down last week to be with him. In November, they're off to Israel again (18 months) for a co-ed yeshiva program.

I adore my brother. He's smart, deep, yet totally laid back. Despite his being 9 years my junior, we've always been tight. We talk often. Yaakov and I took him to his first Phish show when he was 11.

His girlfriend is also brilliant, but very focused. He says she motivates him. She's beautiful and real, complex and assertive. They're a good match. They love each other.

I admire their earnestness, how unfettered they are by life. They're young, with the whole world ahead of them. They're learning about being in a relationship, and they're committed. They know they can get help to make things work.

My joy for them is almost tangible. Though I'm sad they'll be going to Israel for so long, I'm rooting for them. I sincerely hope they stay together and get married. I know that's their hope, too.

I think I love them because they take me back to a beautiful place in my own life.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Houses of the Holy.

So today at camp carpool I rolled down the window to greet a friend of mine. "You're on the market to buy a house, aren't you?" she asked. "We're looking," I answered, wondering if she had a house in mind. "Did you see the house two doors down from Mrs. Stein? We just looked at it today." In my heart, I felt defensive. What's she doing looking at my house? Even though it's out of our price range, I still know where I'd put my furniture. I love that house.

I decided to kill this defensiveness immediately. I smiled at her. "We made an offer and were expecting a counter-offer, but she never came through. Good luck with it," I said. I thought of the Rebbe, who taught about correcting a flaw in the manner of chitzonius (outwardness). If you don't feel something inwardly, behave the proper way outwardly. The inside will eventually catch up. Fake it 'til you make it.

The whole drive home I thought about sincerity. I didn't feel sincere. But I wanted to. I wanted to feel that my friend should get the best house, even if it was the one I wanted. Plus, I really like her. A lot. I didn't want a sense of competitiveness between us.

I had the chance to see her again, tonight at a camp presentation. I was sitting right behind her. During a lull, I tapped her on the shoulder. "You know, there's a few things you should know about that block," I said, wanting to fill her in. We started to schmooze. "I didn't know you were interested in that house," she said. "We'll retract our offer if you want." "Chas v'shalom!" I answered, startled. "G-d has a house for you and a house for me, too. There's no need to do that." And at that moment, I really felt it. I felt aligned with my friend and with G-d.

She spoke about how she was worried about affording a house. I commiserated. I told her that she should have her husband get in touch with Yaakov - they could talk about the housing market together. Yaakov is very savvy about this stuff, I know he'd be able to help. It felt good getting my husband on board. It feels good to behave like a Jew.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Spies. K-Mart. Cellphone.

I called a friend today and her husband answered: "We were watching you last night." A wave of paranoia swept through me, as I tried to figure out what I got caught doing. Smoking? Researching Carl Sagan online? "You were in our wedding video." Oh. not as exciting as smoking, I guess. Or Carl Sagan. Or smoking with Carl Sagan.

Today in K-Mart I had a bad experience on line. When does that not happen to me at K-Mart? I think it's mandatory that their cashiers are given downers before they start their shifts. They're slow as molasses, and rude. And my kids were going bananas, too. Plus, I held up the line trying to convince her that my items were on sale.

Yaakov's cell phone got waterlogged and it stopped working. He put it in the oven to dry it out. I'm not kidding. Do not try this at home. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. Do not put your cell phone in the oven at 170 degrees for half an hour. (The weirdest thing is, it worked!) Paging all engineering drop-outs: your Nerd Overlord has arrived.

Sunday, August 05, 2007
Sail on, silver girl...

Today we went out on my father-in-law's boat. The last time I was on a boat (15 years ago) I puked my guts out.

Yaakov wanted to go, the kids had life jackets, why not? Let's give it a whirl. BAD IDEA. As soon as we started I wanted to get off. I was so nauseous. Then I had to deal with my father-in-law's little platitudes: "Well, if you're not going to let yourself enjoy the experience..." I was secretly plotting to never let him in my home again.

It was 95 degrees, there was no shade. The baby was kvetchy, I was sea-sick.
I tried going downstairs but that made me feel worse. There was no refuge. I hated how my father-in-law calmly steered with his foot while eating a nectarine. I hated that I had no control of my circumstances.

I was feeling miserable and I was cranky as all get out. (I later confessed to Yaakov: "When I'm cranky like that, I like to take everybody down with me." "No, really?") I realized I had a bad attitude, and I tried to think happy thoughts. It didn't quell the nausea.

After lurching in someone's wake, I finally puked. It was totally humiliating. But it did make me feel better for about 10 minutes. And I think my father-in-law started to feel compassion for me. "This must be a daughter-in-law thing," he mused. "The only other person who ever puked on this boat was Carrie."

I told my father-in-law I was sorry for puking on his boat, but I really wasn't. I'm glad I puked on it. On our way home I told Yaakov, "I'm never getting on a boat again." "Bli neder," he said. "No, I'm never getting on a boat again."

Friday, August 03, 2007
La seƱora de la limpieza.

My regular cleaning lady, whom I like a lot, is on hiatus. I'm not even sure if she'll be returning. Therefore, I am on the hunt for more help. Yesterday, I got phone calls from three different friends asking me if I needed cleaning help! I gratefully arranged for someone to come today. We all want cleaning help before shabbos, so to find a cleaning lady with time on Fridays is a real blessing.

This lady only spoke Spanish, but that's okay with me - I took three years of Spanish in school. Though I am by no means fluent, I've never had problems communicating with cleaning ladies. I speak "cleaning lady Spanish."

Oh my lord, this lady did so many things wrong. I caught her cleaning my kids' tub with the broom. HELLO? That's gross. But what the hell, I took anthropology in college. I understand the concept of cultural relativity. Maybe in her country that's what they do. So I politely asked her - in Spanish - to use a sponge. She complied. I asked her - in Spanish - to spray the garbage can. She didn't. Zalman took the bag out of the can, and I noticed. So I asked her again to spray it, and she didn't.

When she went to clean my bathroom, I asked her before she even started to use the sponge in the shower. I found a broom bristle in there. She put one of my husband's blankets on sideways. Okay, maybe she didn't realize which direction it went, and that's fine. But the quilt was put on totally upside down. There's no way to miss that - one side has patches and the other is just plain material with the quilt knots. The pillows on my bed were just thrown on haphazardly. It's not such a big deal, but with all the other things that happened, it just proved to me that she didn't care about her work.

She mopped the floor in the playroom while there was still things on it, which totally didn't impress me. She kept trying to chat with me. Zalman had knocked the books off the bookshelf and she put them back all a mess, some standing up, some laying down, some completely the wrong way...

She also kept disappearing into the bathroom. She started late and ended early. She asked me several times if I wanted her to do anything else, but I was so annoyed with her that I just wanted her out.

She asked about coming back next week, and I thanked her but declined. She asked me if there was anything wrong with her work. I smiled politely and told her everything was fine. (Lady, I don't speak enough Spanish to tell you all the things you did to piss me off.)

p.s. She smelled, too.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007
T.V. = TabooVision

I got a call from Hinda this morning, asking me if I knew any 5th grade girls in the neighborhood. A new family moved in, and she's helping their daughter.

So she tells me that she knows a family with a 5th grader, "but the mother was talking about a TV program
once, and I didn't want to send this little girl there..."

I said I didn't know any 5th graders, but I recommended two lovely 3rd graders that I knew. Hinda was delighted! "Oh yes, they're aidel girls. Perfect." It was only after I got off the phone with her that I realized that one of those girls had a television in her house.

This whole conversation struck me.
TV is a little taboo in the chassidishe velt. You always hear stories about chassidim sneaking TV's into their homes in refrigerator boxes.

When I lived in Crown Heights, I only knew of three families with a television. No doubt there were many, many more. Here, I can think of lots of families with them. All are lovely people. One is even a good friend. It bothered me a little that Hinda was so quick to judge.

And here's what's ironic: Yaakov and I have never owned a TV, but we do have internet. And you know what Yaakov finds on the internet? Star Trek! So we're not watching TV, per se, but we like to chill every now and again with Captain Picard. I almost want to call her up and tell her. What would she think of me then?

Who knows? Maybe she's a closet Trekkie.

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

fancymaven at gmail dot com