Monday, December 31, 2007

I just had some problems with Blogger, saying my password was incorrect, blah blah. The problem seems to have resolved itself (hopefully). If you never hear from me again, the insidious Blogger overlords have locked me out. Just saying.

New year's on the secular calendar means zilch to me, but if it means something to you, mazel tov. (Dad told me that 2008 is a very lucky year according to Chinese astrology, 8 being a magic Chinese number.)

And speaking of Dad, he's supposedly arriving on Wednesday morning. He sent his special "surprise box" about a month ago. My kids associate him with take-out food, so Rivky has already inundated me with restaurant requests. I hope the visit will be normal, but that's highly unlikely. Yay, Dad!

I was rummaging through a box the other day, and found a response card to my wedding: "I hope you don't have any long strange trips!" I also found the entire broken plate from my engagement, wrapped in 2 paper bags. I chucked it. I already have a big shard of it, why do I need to save the whole plate (nu?). For now, being organized trumps being sentimental.

Zalman seems to have recovered from his second bout of Rotavirus, though I still periodically have to scrub the carpets. The smell does not go away!

Today, I told a friend about some things from my pre-frum past. It seemed so far away, and yet it was such a part of me. And I felt kind of weird to tell her, but safe and loved at the same time. So it was weird and okay, all at once.

There are some unusually stressful things happening, which I cannot talk about at present. I hope to be able to share some good things in a couple of months. I know I haven't been posting a lot lately, but I'm still here. I hope you are, too.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007
The forgotten poem.

Last night I found something I wrote years ago:

One of the most beautiful things
I have ever seen
is not so infrequent;
yet each time,
it moves me so -
I stop to watch the scene
repeat itself yet again.
This morning in 770,
Two chassidim,
in a moment of warmth,
gave each other a tender glet on the cheek.
One, holding the other's face
gently in his wrinkled hands,
placed upon his cheek a kiss
of sweetest tenderness.
I have seen,
in moments of unabashed delight,
chassidim kiss each other squarely on the mouth.
There is no shame in ahavas yisroel,
no implications
no entendres
that engender fear of love,
or blatant affection.
I live in a world
where men laugh together,
adjust each other's tefillin,
chat nakedly in the mikveh,
and kiss,
and this is one of the most beautiful things
that I have ever seen.

Sunday, December 23, 2007
Once Upon a Time...

Today we went to Mom's house. She had computer issues that Yaakov could fix. I wasn't worried about Zalman, we'd be near a bathtub if he had an "episode." We brought lots of diapers, wipes, and changes of clothes, too.

While at Mom's, we watched a video of Chaya (first kid). In the video, she was 18 months old - same age as Zalman is now. I could not believe her verbal skills! I could not believe what I was doing with her! I was daavening with her, giving tzedoka with her, saying the 12 pesukim with her. My 18 month old! When I was saying aleph-beis with her on the video, she actually knew the next letter coming. Shocking!

In the video, I was pregnant with Rivky. Watching myself on the screen, I thought I looked so young and beautiful, yet it was only 6 years ago. I was amazed as I ran around the playground with Chaya, big and pregnant like that. I remembered how I would take Chaya there practically every day, walking down Eastern Parkway.

Then there's Chaya, Mommy, and Tatty in Prospect Park Zoo (it was Parshas Noach). There's Chaya feeding the goats! There's Mommy laughing at the cows! There's Tatty marveling at the chameleon! I spent the whole video laughing and chattering away with Chaya. And then, I got the biggest shock of all:

I was happy.

I wasn't anxious about my other kids and their whereabouts. I wasn't worried about their safety. I wasn't agonizing over the fact that this one was scratching that one and that one was biting this one and this one was tattling on that one. I didn't have to meet everybody's needs all at once. It was just me, Tatty, and our one beautiful child.


It's Official:

Zalman has Rotavirus again. Or as we call it, "The Poops."

Shabbos he had three crazy poops, all requiring bathtub clean-up. The poop is insane - liquid and insidious. Up his back and down his legs, in his hair and on his face. The weirdest thing is that generally, his hands aren't even involved. It sorta migrates up his shirt. And the smell - va voy! Not your average poop: putrid and sickly.

And the worst of it all? We have carpet. And yes, I've had to scrub it out. Vomit, too. I can't wait to get into a house that has tile. Yaakov reminded me that if this stuff gets into tile grout, it's hard to remove, too. But it can't be as bad as carpet, I reason. Carpet hangs on to microbes and things - I saw a movie about it in high school biology. They used scanning electron microscopes over household carpet. Every time I'm scrubbing them, I remember.

Anyway it's after 6am and Zalman just had another "episode." He was sleeping in bed with me when I heard the familiar gurgling. Uh-oh. I gingerly removed him from my bed, and went out to get gloves and some plastic bags. Now I'm not squeamish about body fluids, not by a long shot. But this poop gets everywhere. By the time I got back, he was crying hysterically and the poop was on the carpet. Yay. It was also of the migratory variety. Sigh. So I cleaned him up and walked him to our shower, but not before he peed somewhere else on the carpet and then on our bath rug. (In our family, when we do a job, we do it right.) The good news is, when we got out of the bathroom, Yaakov was awake and scrubbing the floor.

I'm reminded of what his pediatrician told me last time: there's a vaccine for rotavirus. "I'm sure you're not interested." I dunno - right now, a vaccine sounds pretty nice! Of course, I won't - it would only be for my convenience. It doesn't really bother Zalman so much. Initially he gets upset, but calms down when he's all cleaned up. I'll put him on the "BRAT" diet and see how that goes.

Yesterday, when Yaakov was leaving for shul, I had another poop episode to contend with. "Could be worse," he noted. "We could be praying for years and years to have children." He's right, of course. Nonetheless...

Life with kids can be pretty crappy sometimes.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Just a Geek...

Today was Yaakov's 39th birthday. He was also in NY on business. So I was brainstorming on what to get, hoping to have a nice present waiting for him when he gets home.

I couldn't think of anything. I've bought him ties before, so that's old news. He doesn't wear jewelery. He has enough Patchouli oil in the bathroom cabinet. I found his book-light, so I don't need to buy another one of those. He doesn't smoke anymore, so I can't buy him pipe tobacco or fancy Nat Sherman's. I thought of getting him a gift certificate for a massage, but I knew he wouldn't be into it. I even thought of calling his Grateful Dead buddies, to ask if they'd let him sit in on bass. But I knew if I did that, Yaakov would think I was
being "pushy."

So what to get for such a man? I decided that a book would be the way to go. But which one? He owns practically every sci-fi book known to man. I bought him the Steve Wozniak autobiography already. I recently purchased a book on steam trains for him, and he has tons of NASA/space books. He's been learning Rambam's "Mishneh Torah," but I don't know what sefer he's in. I couldn't think of another Jewish book he would like, and I wanted it to be a surprise.

And then it hit me: "Just a Geek," by Wil Wheaton. I was so proud of myself! Wil Wheaton is the counter-culture star for nerds and trolls. And since Yaakov is happy to be alone, all day long, programming computers, he can safely be put into that category (and I say that with great affection).

So anyway, I started to call the local bookstores. "Just a Week?" "No no, Just a GEEK, by Wil Wheaton." "Wheaton: W-H-E-A-T as in Tony-O-N." I started calling other bookstores. I called bookstores that were an hour away. Nobody had this book! I was getting so tired of saying the book name, over and over again. The worst was when when an employee actually read the subtitle to me: "Unflinchingly honest tales of the search for life, love, and fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise." I wanted to die in a pool of nerdiness.

Each book store told me they could order it, but I can do that from Amazon. What I want is a wrapped present for when he arrives home.

So Yaakov, if you're reading this, happy birthday. I really tried to get you a gift.

Friday, December 14, 2007
The Beauty Queen:

I've long held a notion about the power of beauty. It's undeniable. It can be a force for change. I can't really explain myself well on this matter - it's a strong feeling, though.

So there's a woman in my community who's a total knock-out. She's also immodest. She wears short skirts (with slits), tight shirts, and no socks or stockings. Her wig is long and flowing, like a shampoo poster girl's. Every time I see her I think, "Man, she is really something." You cannot help but be affected by her!

Now let me backtrack a little and talk some chassidus. There's a concept of, "you spot it, you got it." In other words, if you notice something about someone else, likely it's a problem you have yourself. You might say, "Well how can a person fail to notice certain things about another?" Aha! So the concept goes a little further: If what you notice makes you angry, you can be certain it's a trait you share.

To be fair; I personally feel I have modesty issues. They don't manifest in clothing, but my thoughts could use some work. This lady doesn't anger me, she intrigues me. Does she realize her power? How does she feel when she looks in the mirror? Does she dress that way knowingly? And then I wonder, am I the only woman who notices her? I can't imagine that men don't. How does her husband feel that she dresses this way?

There's a Jewish concept of "Kol hakevuda bas melech penima" - "All the beauty of a king's daughter is within." In other words, a woman's beauty should be private, and precious, and shared with the appropriate person at the appropriate time. Yet when I see this woman, I feel like a total idiot.

Does the raging power of feminine beauty trump all?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Getting my Game on:

I don't like playing games with my kids. I'm not proud of this! If we're all home together, I expect my kids to amuse themselves while I do laundry, wash dishes, read a book, yada yada. I'll set out a game or projects and let them play by themselves. Then I get upset when the game/projects are all over the house, or destroyed. Who's to blame? ME!!!

Shabbos is the worst. I'm the biggest shabbos bum there ever was. Although shabbos is "yom menucha" - a day of rest - I might be taking the concept a little too far. All I want to do is become one with the couch (or my bed). Unfortunately, this is the time when my kids need me the most. They're not in school and not in structure, and they go absolutely crazy. If I could schedule some "game time" with them, it would greatly enhance their shabbos (and possibly mine).

I have a friend who plays games with her kids, and that impresses me. I want to do that, too! I don't want to be a bum anymore. So tonight, when Yaakov took my girls to a Chanuka concert, I played games with Srulik. First, we played dreidel. Then we played a game my mom bought for the kids; "Cootie." Now I must admit that "Cootie" drove me crazy. Yet I soldiered on, even though Zalman was constantly threatning to wreck the game. And when we were done, I found every piece of the game, and neatly put it back in the box.

WOW! I played a game with my kid and cleaned up afterwards, too!

I'm proud of myself.

Friday, December 07, 2007
Attention Space Nerds / Russophiles:

We were going to drive North yesterday and watch the shuttle launch. We debated back and forth whether or not to go, when Yaakov said, "You know, it's always been a dream of mine to watch a launch." How could I argue with that? So we got all ready to go, and then...the launch was scrubbed. Thank G-d they scrubbed in the morning, before we got on the road. I was nervous we'd get all the way there and they'd scrub closer to launch time - or worse - during the countdown. If it was just Yaakov and I, that would be okay. But to schlep the kids all that way...

We went to a park with the kids instead, and had a great time. There was even a little science museum on site, with a model of the shuttle Endeavor. So we did manage get a little NASA in our day!

And speaking of shuttles, does anybody remember the Russian program? They had a beautiful bird named "Buran." It only went up once, in an un-manned test flight, orbiting the Earth twice. I know you're all dying to know, what happened to the mighty Buran? My internet travels have offered some possibilities. One report is that it's sitting at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, forlorn and alone. Another is that it's in Gorky park, re-modeled as a ride. The third is that it actually got destroyed in a hangar collapse. There were actually two other Russian shuttles in design, so maybe any/all of the aforesaid involves the other vehicles.

Anyway, here's a clip of the Buran Launch. Notice the fuel emissions, how they stream from the orbiter so nicely. The Russians had a different fuel source than the American shuttle, so the there's a noticeable difference at lift-off.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Our house. In the middle of our street.

We're looking for a house, and I find it very draining. Yaakov and I have different perspectives on the matter, different needs. Yaakov looks at houses dispassionately. I, on the other hand, get emotionally involved. Maybe it's a man-woman thing?

House hunting creates mixed emotions: Hopeful (Could we live here?). Disgusted (How could you show a house with a dead roach on the floor?). Incredulous (you want 300k for this? Are you on crack?). Loathsome (I hate the disgusting house we live in now!!!). Scared (Will we ever find a house?). DRAINED.

The other night, after a day of house-hunting, I called my mom and started to cry. The first thing she said was, "Calm down, Maven." I got pretty indignant, let me tell you. "Mom, it's not like I constantly break down and cry, this is stressful for me!" I felt abandoned. I needed support, and I felt like she was basically telling me to shut up.

The next day, she sent me an email apologizing. She was sorry for not sympathizing with my feelings, she said. She wrote comforting words and signed off with "I LOVE YOU!!!" That was nice. The whole email made me re-evaluate some long-held feelings I've had towards Mom. It helped me look at her in a more positive way, and forced me to acknowledge my own judgmental-ness.

So that's where it's at. Looking at houses, healing the parent-child relationship. Now if Yaakov and I can survive (without killing and/or psychologically maiming the other), everything will be just dandy.

Happy Chanuka!

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

fancymaven at gmail dot com