Sunday, December 31, 2006

Our Current Favorite Toy

Until this past Chanukah, we owned a nice amount of MegaBloks, or those jumbo-sized legos. RaggedyDad almost always spends time every weekend with both kids and these blocks. When we first got them a couple of years ago, RaggedyAnn was big enough to understand and enjoy the concept.

Once Andy started getting around, the main activity was for RD and Ann (3 1/2) to build something before Andy could destroy it. Now that Andy's a little bigger (14 months), he has started adding on pieces to their creations as well. He enjoys walking around and searching for the right spot, and calling it "tatta" before plopping on another block.

Watching them play with this toy for big stretches of time is great. It's not a messy toy, nor is it a noisy toy. The only noisy thing is the occasional "crash" of a tower, usually followed by Andy saying "tatta" or more recently "uh-oh".

When RD and I were discussing what might make for a good, unannoying Chanukah present this year, he suggested "more MegaBloks!" mainly because he wants more MegaBloks. My husband actually enjoys these things all on his own once the kids are asleep. Shhh, don't tell him I said that! He gives long-winded explanations about the structure, style, and durability of his creations. He studies other people's "building styles" and gives suggestions for making their MegaBloks towers earthquake proof. No, I'm not kidding.

When I was in Babies R Us, that bastion of combining diaper sales with diaper coupons, they had 80-count bags of said MegaBloks on sale for less than the 70-count bags. I think they came to about $10 and change each. So, two sacks full of MegaBloks made their way surreptitiously into my bedroom closet and remained there until Chanukah. Eventually all of the MegaBloks were combined into one giant comforter bag.

Here's the latest Raggedy creation that uses nearly every MegaBlok we own.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Act Weird and Let Them Wonder

The title is taken from a pin I used to wear on my backpack before I sold out to the man and became a grownup. SWFM tagged me with this meme. I like the idea of finding out six quirky things about fellow bloggers. I do think that if I filled this out tomorrow the list would be totally different. Weird, huh?

Without any further delay . . .

Six Weird Things About RaggedyMom

1. Growing up, I always felt very weird and out of place in my family. I’m the only girl (besides mom), the only real redhead, the only one with blue eyes, the only lefty. Will RaggedyMom’s real family please come to take me back to our home planet already?!

2. Macaroni with cottage cheese and ketchup is a great meal as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know anyone besides my brothers and my own kids who would ever eat this.

3. In the hottest of weather, I must have the blanket up to my chin and around me like a cocoon. Embrace the cocoon.

4. As a child I hated being photographed so much that there are several family shots that include me completely turned around with my back to the camera.

5. I love to sing out loud around the house, in the car, and even in a very low undertone in a parking lot or other public place. Having kids with you makes this look a little less crazy.

6. My birthday is the same as my area code. (7/18)

Let's see . . . I think I'll tag Table Nine, Hila, and Oriyenta. Good luck, weirdos. Venture forth.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Night Out on the Town With the Raggedys



Tonight was one of those rare nights at the Raggedys that called for a babysitter. Close family friends were making a vort (engagement party) for their son and future daughter-in-law in a nearby shul's hall.

Now, I could tell you about the frenzy involved in getting ready and getting the kids off to bed in time for them to be asleep for the babysitter. Let's just say that there were several false alarms for Ann going to sleep involving needing to drink and needing to use the bathroom . . . hmm . . .correllation, perhaps? That about 20 minutes before the babysitter was due to arrive, I checked on Ann who gave me a big smile from her bed? That I called the babysitter and asked her to postpone her arrival by 20 more minutes? Note: The original babysitter was sick and sent us her sister, so I wasn't eager to introduce the kids to someone brand new on a late night.

I could also tell you about figuring out what to wear (actually, I will, later in this post). However, in the spirit of the type of blogging I admire most, the self-deprecating kind, I will instead regale you with the Thought that gripped me and my husband. Namely: Do you think there'll be sushi at the vort??

Don't get me wrong - we've been to many, many beautiful simchas of all kinds and by no means do we measure them against this standard. However, because of the nature and location of this vort, we had strong reason to suspect that sushi would be featured. I know that most people who live in the civilized world are totally over sushi, but I still can't get over the fact that it's sushi and I'm eating it.

In fact, once we arrived, we were not disappointed. A very respectable array of sushi did indeed await us at the vort. After talking excitedly to the baalei simcha for a few moments, RaggedyDad and I got to work. Since we did not know anyone but the hosts, we wasted little or no time mingling. We went straight into stealth sushi-machine mode. Yes, there were plenty of salads of the pasta, leafy, or bean persuasions there to distract us from our goal. There were even some marinated mushrooms, of all things. And of course, the dizzying selection of desserts. But the Raggedys remained undeterred. For us, it was all about the sushi.

After eating enough sushi to either make us sick or meet the equivalent of twice our babysitting costs, we attempted to catch up with the "boy's parents" once again. To be fair, there were quite a few people also demanding the attention of our family friends. What choice did we have but to swoop down for yet another brief and final round of sushi? Luckily, after that, we had a chance to talk to the baalei simcha once again and we inwardly reminded ourselves that there was a reason we came to the vort having nothing to do with raw fish, rice, and soy sauce.

In the final analysis, RaggedyDad and I were able to point out several key mistakes in our strategy.

1. The clothing we wore was unintentionally conspicuous. RaggedyDad was one of just about, oh, no other men who was not wearing a suit and tie. My clothes were equally wrong, since they weren't lacy enough, tight enough, or high-heeled enough. Also, the color of my top was a little bright to be subtle about our sushi-fress-fest.

Of course, as RaggedyDad so thoughtfully put it, "It's not that you're out of fashion. But you're not exactly in fashion, either." Thanks, RaggedyDad. Time is quickly running out for you to excuse these types of remarks as the innocent ramblings of a foreigner. Suffice it to say that I've been wearing the same things to these events for about a decade. Before which I was in high school.

2. We continually returned to the same sushi area, and then returned to the same seats. If anyone was watching, it was very noticeably exactly what it looked like. A young, married couple eating as much sushi as they possibly could in 45 minutes.

3. We travelled to and from the table as a team. Tag-teaming would have been more suave and undetectable. Poor RaggedyDad - trying to be undetectable while working the room with a redhead is a lost cause.

I'm sure there were several other critical errors we made, but, er - the point of this thing wasn't actually the sushi. Right?

When all is said and done, however, all the sushi in the world doesn't amount to coming home to the kids snoring in stereo in their room, and the scent of their shampooed heads while they sleep.

Local Heroes

Today I had the pleasure of accompanying RaggedyAnn's class to the local fire station. Since I'm usually available during the day, I like to come along on class trips when I can. I was even lucky enough to be able to leave Andy with my mom for the hour, instead of bringing him along like I'd anticipated. He's a little young for anything but being shlepped around and held by Mommy the whole time, so leaving him at Grandma's house made it a little easier.

When the kids arrived on the van, the firefighters actually had to go on a "call," so the class waited on the van and munched some cookies until the other fire truck returned. When one of the firefighters asked me if the kids were allowed to have some cookies baked by a firefighter's wife, and I had to say that they couldn't (kashrus), it helped that I told him they'd also had treats while waiting for the truck to return.



What is it about firefighters that just makes me so grateful and so proud at the same time? Every time I tried to talk to these men, I got kind of choked up. There's something so humbling about seeing the inside of the firehouse, all of the gear and equipment lined up, the chalkboards and the trucks. I'd never been inside a firehouse before today, so this was as exciting for me as it was for the kids.

For most of our brief visit, I was helping to snap pictures, holding Ann's hand, reassuring the kids who inexplicably started bawling (mostly boys, I might add!), and making sure nobody stepped in any oily truck reside puddles. I did mention to several of the firefighters that I give them a lot of credit for their willingness to open the firehouse up to the kids and talk to them about fire safety.

Since I wasn't able to express my real gratitude to these men in person, I thought of mailing a thank you card including a picture of the guys and the class, and telling them how much we appreciated not only the visit, but all that they do every day. What do you think?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Chocolate Phraseology

I think I may have just coined a new phrase.

Snacktivity: (snak-'ti-vi-tee) A snack that also involves an activity.

RaggedyAnn is not a junk food kind of kid (I know: Thank you, G-d). Therefore, the small stash of chocolate Chanukah coins she received held little appeal after she tasted one and felt compelled to spit it out into my hand. (Why does she still do this at three-and-a-half years old? Is it too late to institute a "No spitting out food into anything but a napkin rule?).

Ann decided that since she doesn't like the coins, and Andy is a little young for me to let him experiment with chocolate, that gateway drug to candy . . . RaggedyDad and I should eat her coins for her. No problem, Ann. I settled down with a cup of coffee and the coins, and it struck me that these things are all the more enjoyable because of the effort involved in first peeling off the gold wrapper. This part was always tricky for me growing up, since I'm a recovering nail-biter. It was difficult to actually get to the chocolate with minimal melting and smashing while I really struggled to get the peel off altogether.

Of course, now that I have, for the most part, left this nasty habit behind (how anyone could change poop diapers on a regular basis and maintain a full nail-biting schedule is beyond me), it's far easier to sit back and enjoy this little snacktivity once in a while.

Lastly, I'm not sure why I get such a kick out of this, but I think it's hilarious.

**Update** Upon further research, it has become evident that I did not, in fact, originate this term, although I think my usage differs somewhat from the example given on Urban Dictionary. And once the Canadians are in on something, it's pretty much last year's news. Alas. I'm going to need some more chocolate coins to get over this.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Play-Doh

There's something about Play-Doh that takes me back to being five years old. The texture, the smell, the cute little Play-Doh tools . . everything about Play-Doh is very sentimental.

RaggedyAnn enjoys playing with Play-Doh, and it's the perfect activity for when there's not much to do but avoid stores and public places on this most hectic of calendar dates.

The downside of Play-Doh is, of course, the way it will stick to and ruin carpeting, clothing if it gets entrenched in the fabric. We have a Play-Doh rule that involves laying out wax paper on the table and playing only on the wax paper. I also am a big stickler for one color of Play-Doh at a time. Lastly, any Play-Doh crumbs that land on the rug (we do live upstairs, and have to carpet the majority of our floor) are summarily picked up or cleaned up. And a little carpet cleaner never hurt anyone either.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cooking with My Crew

I always enjoy cooking with Ann, and now that Andy's getting bigger, he'll be darned if he gets left out of the action. Cooking with them pretty much means letting them touch, smell, look at, and gently mix some ingredients, and then ushering them out of the kitchen and over to some toys while the actual heat-related stuff is taking place.



They say that the best cooks are the ones who love to eat, and thankfully, that applies to these two! It's farmer cheese latkes for supper over here, and because the kids had a part in making them, I think that ups the chances of them eating this meal by about 200%. Although Andy, to his credit, needs no prompting when it comes to food.




Andy got to mix a few drops of water in a bowl with a little spatula. Ann helped design this made-up job to keep him away from her job, which is to beat the eggs, a task at which she has become quite proficient. Afterward I added the other ingredients, and she helped "make them all 'corporated" which basically means mixed in thoroughly. Aside from accidentally trying to eat Ann's imaginary friend, Andy did pretty well for his first time on the stool, especially with me hovering about 3 inches behind them.

Finally, it is our first night this year of lighting the Chanukah candles without RaggedyDad, who had some vacation time earlier this week, so I'm including a picture of the menorah that I recently asked my mother to borrow, one that I remember from my childhood as "the lion one," as in, "It's my turn to get to light the lion one this year!" Considering that Ann is a Leo I guess it is fitting. And that's the end of the astrology voodoo portion of this post.



Happy Chanukah! Chag Urim Sameach!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Raggedys and Too Much Consumerism




Fortunately for the Raggedys, RaggedyDad was obligated to take 3 vacation days before the end of the calendar year, and was able to roll over the maximum remaining five for next year. (Important, since it's a weekday-heavy Yom Tov year.) Even better, he was able to coordinate these three days so that he could attend RaggedyAnn's school Chanukah performance, and be home for the two days of school Chanukah vacation.

Growing up, my father worked six long days a week at a business that had to be on his mind even when the gates were down. He did miss a lot of performances, but he was there for the ones that really mattered, and he always managed to make his kids feel like there was nothing he wouldn't do for us, despite being out of the house nearly all the time.

Although I know RaggedyDad won't be at every performance for every child, it was really nice that he was able to be there for our first child's first school event.


Yesterday (Sunday) we visited the Long Island Children's Museum, and like all frantic parents, became members. I laugh because ten years ago, this would have been the most lame thing on the planet. RaggedyDad and I have moments where we look at each other and think that we have totally fallen into step and become "Mom and Dad" (or Mommy and Papa, in our case) and not much else. But, in the same breath, we say, baruch Hashem, thank G-d. It was surprisingly uncrowded, but full enough of frum Jews at the right time for there to be a mincha minyan!


Today, since RaggedyDad was off from work, it was a big "accomplish all the things you need to take care of during the workweek" day. First off was a solo journey for RD to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Thankfully, I've got a few years left on my license before I have to return to endure that hellish place.

Afterward, it was still very early, so we ventured over to some stores to buy some stuff. Necessary evils. Aluminum foil. Ziploc-type bags. Overnight diapers. Even more childproofing paraphernalia. I think we're done for the next three years, but then again, it always seems that way after a nauseating morning spent shopping with the kids. I hate stores. I hate shopping. This is possibly the worst week of the year for someone like me to have to set foot in a store. The crowds. The grabbing. The hysteria. I even saw an ambulance outside one of the stores.

I'm glad we got it done, and I'm glad I was with RaggedyDad and the kids. But tomorrow, on RaggedyDad's last day of vacation, we'll be the ones staying home!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wrist Blintz

A while ago, my mother told me that she was having a lot of wrist pain, and after seeing her doctor and then an orthopedist, the recommendation was that she wear a splint on her wrist. Oddly, just wearing a simple $7 drugstore device for a few days and nights actually made the pain stop. Or the pain just went away, and the splint was merely a strange accessory to wear while passing the time.

Unfamiliar words can sometimes get garbled over the telephone, and when my mother described the "treatment" recommended to her, she said "wrist splint" and I heard "wrist blintz." (Okay, maybe I'm just always thinking about food.) So we henceforth took to calling the contraption a "wrist blintz" and got a little laugh every time we said it.

Months later, I developed some wrist pain of my own. Off to the pharmacy I went to get my very own "blintz" and just wearing it for a couple of days actually got rid of the pain. Shlepping my heavy boy Andy is not the best for a sore wrist, but some time with my blintz every few months keeps the pain at bay.

Whether you prefer blintzes or latkes, Happy Chanukah!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ode on Two Kugels

five pounds of potatoes
so hot in here
is that the end of the barney video already?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Book Things Come to Those Who Wait







After living in our current (upstairs) apartment for over three-and-a-half years, we finally, finally closed off the ledge of doom!

This was so unnervingly dangerous that I'm sorry we let it go for so long. We had considered just putting up a wall to close off the ledge (think: ugly and industrial-looking), or limiting the openness with closely-spaced bars (think: giant crib), or even plexiglass (think: bird flying into closed window).

Ultimately, though, the best idea was to close off the entire L-shaped ledge with book shelves. Several carpenters came over to scratch their heads and pick their wedgies while considering the plausibility of this venture. Most of them wanted exorbitant amounts of money and would not have been able to start the job for weeks or months. The prospect of putting aside any of our tax return started to elude me like a piece of lint floating down over said ledge.

Finally, a messenger from the One Above, under the guise of a hardworking Polish carpenter, came along to ensure that my safety nightmares would stop. Kazik did the job in about a week and a half, charged literally just over half the cost of the other guys, and installed the whole thing last night with another worker.

The work is professional, functional, and much nicer than I had imagined it to be. I thought of closing off the ledge as a necessary evil, and was willing to sacrifice asthetics and a feeling of openness to achieve peace of mind. However, now that it's done, RaggedyDad and I both feel like the wraparound bookshelves give a warm, classy, home-library feel to an otherwise dead space.

We have LOTS of books. Many of them are still in boxes, waiting to be given their spot on the shelves. Our other bookcase unit, bequeathed to us when my brother made aliyah, also has plenty of room on it now, and I'm eager to organize toy bins for the kids on the lower levels.

What's great about having more space in our shelving is that books can actually be stacked single-file in terms of depth so they can all be seen, and books can be organized in a logical way. For instance, my cookbooks (without which I'd still be making only toast, macaroni, or microwave popcorn - WITH the help of an adult!) have a home that places them nearer to the kitchen. RaggedyDad's Russian books along with his father's chess manuals can have their own section.

Religious books can be organized (somewhat) by type or topic. Our relevant college textbooks can all hang out together in a nondescript place and look intellectual all they want. Childrearing books, billions of childrens books, creepy Russian sci-fi books, lame used novels picked up at garage sales, etc., etc., etc. have finally been placed! It's almost movingly beautiful.

Like all home improvement projects, this one is a work in progress, but I'm posting some of the photos. Have a look! (The top photo is "before," the next one is our old set of bookshelves, and the bottom two are views of the "after". p.s. the top molding on the shelves isn't as dark in real life as it looks in the photos)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mommy-Tracked






Today we took the kids to the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. This was the Corporate Sponsorship free day for this event, and the Raggedys are not ones to pass up something for free ;) RaggedyDad reminds me of the Russian saying that for free, even vinegar is sweet. Tell me that that's not the most Russian of sayings. I love it. Though today's outing was no vinegar. It was great.

The show was really fascinating. First off, we'd only previously visited the rose garden in late June, and a fraction of the remainder of the gardens. Walking around inside the Conservatory on the way to the show was amazing. So many different climates and regions were recreated inside the area, which itself was a sort of labyrinth of greenhouses.

Once inside at the actual event, we were able to see amazingly accurate replicas of dozens of NYC landmarks - buildings, bridges, The Statue of Liberty, everything - made entirely out of natural things like branches, bark, berries, and leaves. I really wasn't sure what to expect from reading this description ahead of time, but in actuality it was very beautiful. More exciting still was the fact that working model trains were circulating on tracks throughout the whole exhibit.

The truth is, our kids, at 3 and 1, are totally too young for all of this stuff. Definitely baby Andy. If we were paying, it would run our family ($18/adult, $5/child 2-12, free/2 and under) over $40. Pricey, no? It really was one of those things that we adults wanted to do, and shlepped the kids to, though Ann did find the trains fascinating, and also adored the "The Little Engine That Could" puppet show (also free for corporate employees - score!).

I cannot ignore the fact that for me, the train show fell decidedly between a 4 & 5 on the "other people's holiday's scale" immortalized by JT at DaBoysof905. It wasn't a Christmas show per se, and there was a big effort to use the term "The Holidays" often, but who are we kidding? The decorated trees, the color scheme, the music, and the atmosphere all had a very December 25th feel.

Having gone to a secular and then a Catholic university, and taught in public schools, this didn't really get to me that much, but I see that Ann is getting a little *jealous* of our neighbor's decorations, and going to see a holiday-ish show is a little bit confusing when you're 3. It sounds kind of lame, though, if I tell her that I know our neighbors have all those lights and candy canes outside, and I know she really likes how they look, but we have our own beautiful menorah . . . and by the way, look at the holiday trains!

In summation, the show was beautiful, and the Statue of Liberty makes me cry every time I look at it, even in a replica or in a book, and two great things we did were to bring sandwiches and to get an early start (Street parking! Shorter lines! Being home by 2!). Happy . . er, holidays!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My very first meme

Many thanks to Baleboosteh for tagging me with this meme. I'm not going to go all rock-star here and pretend I don't like these things, and ain't this a drag, and blah blah blah. As a very new blogger, this is kind of exciting. I put my "yes" answers in capital letters. But naturally, I felt the need to comment on several of my "no"s too.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN. Maybe more like a hill.
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive. No, although I sat inside a Jaguar at the car show once and had an emotional little moment there.
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. TAKEN A CANDLELIT BATH WITH SOMEONE
08. SAID "I LOVE YOU AND MEANT IT"
09. HUGGED A TREE. This was a hobby of my five-year-old self.
10. Bungee jumped. Noooooo Waaaaay Everrrrr.
11. VISITED PARIS. RaggedyDad and I once took a one-day side trip from Belgium, land of "Family of RaggedyDad"
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. STAYED UP ALL NIGHT AND SAW THE SUN RISE
14. Seen the Northern Lights. Unless you count the fire trucks going down my street at all hours.
15. GONE TO A HUGE SPORTS GAME. Jewish Day at Shea, anyone?
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa. Woah, talk about shlepping.
17. GROWN AND EATEN YOUR OWN VEGETABLES
18. Touched an iceberg
19. SLEPT UNDER THE STARS
20. CHANGED A BABY'S DIAPER. There hasn't been a day in the last three and a half years when I have NOT done this.
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. GOTTEN DRUNK ON CHAMPAGNE. Not hard for RaggedyLowToleranceMom
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. LOOKED UP AT THE NIGHT SKY WITH A TELESCOPE
26. HAD AN UNCONTROLLABLE GIGGLING FIT at the worst possible moment
27. HAD A FOOD FIGHT. Note to self - RaggedyDad will always win the food fight.
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. HAD A SNOWBALL FIGHT. Note to self - RaggedyDad will always win the snowball fight.
31. SCREAMED AS LOUDLY as you possibly can. Childbirth, anyone?
32. HELD A LAMB. Note to self - RaggedyDad will always win the lamb fight. Just kidding. I'm getting really good at throwing lambs.
33. Seen a total eclipse of the moon.
34. RIDDEN A ROLLER-COASTER. Barf!
35. Hit a home run
36. DANCED LIKE A FOOL and not cared who was looking
37. ADOPTED AN ACCENT for an entire day. Likely without even noticing I was doing it.
38. ACTUALLY FELT HAPPY about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer. Maybe. Ask RaggedyDad.
40. Visited all 50 states. Wait, Ezzie - there are other states outside of New York? :) I've probably only about a dozen or so, if even.
41. TAKEN CARE OF SOMEONE WHO WAS DRUNK
42. HAD AMAZING FRIENDS
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales. What's with this meme and ocean life?
45. Stolen a sign. No, just took it off a shelf at Brach's to prove that, in fact, salami was on sale.
46. BACKPACKED IN EUROPE. Actually, this should read Diaperbagged through Europe. With a double stroller. And enough kosher food for two weeks. And a massive headache.
47. TAKEN A ROAD TRIP
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach. Who stays up that late on purpose?
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland. Everyone thinks I'm Irish, though. Why?!
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. MILKED A COW
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. LOUNGED AROUND in bed all day. Maybe about 10 years ago.
60. Played touch football. No, just had to hold the football while my brothers practiced tackling. Really.
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed IN THE RAIN
63. Played in the mud
64. Played IN THE RAIN
65. GONE TO A DRIVE-IN THEATER. When I was a camp counselor, this was considered the coolest day-off thing to do ever.
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. FALLEN IN LOVE and not had your heart broken
69. TOURED ANCIENT SITES. Like freaky Belgian monk crypts.
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight. What is that?
72. GOTTEN MARRIED
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. MADE COOKIES FROM SCRATCH
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
83. GOT FLOWERS FOR NO REASON
84. PERFORMED ON STAGE
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. BOUGHT A HOME. Bought an apartment that is.
91. Been in a combat zone. Does Shimon's Pizza the night after Pesach count?
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. SPOKEN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE FLUENTLY
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. RAISED CHILDREN. A work in progress.
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. SANG LOUDLY IN THE CAR, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery. Does fixing toys count as doing plastic surgery?
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived
105. WROTE ARTICLES for a large publication. Which publication is larger or more significant than the Queens College Knight News?!
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback. What??
108. Piloted an airplane
109. TOUCHED A STINGRAY
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. BROKEN A BONE. 1987. Jungle Gym. Left arm. (and I'm a lefty!)
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. FIRED A RIFLE, shotgun, or pistol. We actually did this at my crazy camp.
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. RIDDEN A HORSE. Note to self - If your horse is named Jughead, don't be surprised if he tends to walk into trees.
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. SLEPT FOR MORE than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours. Benadryl. Massive mosquito bites. Same camp.
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states. RaggedyDad has done this.
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. EATEN SUSHI. Whenever I can - I'm not over how cool it is yet.
128. HAD YOUR PICTURE IN THE NEWSPAPER
129. CHANGED SOMEONE'S MIND about something you care deeply about
130. GONE BACK TO SCHOOL. I went back every day until I was finished, degrees in hand.
131. Parasailed
132. TOUCHED A COCKROACH. With a shoe, that is.
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. READ THE ILLIAD AND THE ODDYSEY. Mainly I just listened very, very well in class.
135. SELECTED ONE "IMPORTANT" AUTHOR who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. Eww, what is this, survivor?
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. COMMUNICATED WITH someone without sharing a common spoken language. RaggedyDad's Babushka and me - Smile and Nod 101.
139. BEEN ELECTED (DICTATOR) to public office. I was elected Communist Party Leader of my high school, if you can believe it.
140. Written your own computer language
141. THOUGHT TO YOURSELF that you're living your dream. This is oddly phrased.
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair. No, but old ladies used to stop me and ask me to come to the salons because they wanted my color. I'm very popular with the 65+ set.
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone's life

Tagging: TableNine, Hila, SWFM.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Singer-Song ReWriter



Ann's Chanukah presentation at school is coming up, and I've been hearing bits and (mangled) pieces of some of the songs around the house for weeks now.

One gem: (classic Adon Olam tune that I learned in elementary school)

Antiochus, the weekend king (I'm assuming wicked, but I give up on this word)
To the Jews, he was so mean
He made the Bais haMikdash unclean
And besides, he was so . . clean!

RaggedyMom: Ann, shouldn't it be "he was so mean?"
Ann: No, he was so clean. He was very, very clean. Yes. Clean.
RaggedyMom: Okay. It's good to be clean. Let's eat.

p.s. I finally figured out how to link, and I'm having way too much fun with it. And besides, I'm sooo clean.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Picture Day



Tomorrow is RaggedyAnn's very first preschool picture day. I'll admit to a lot of trepidation here. For the past several months, Ann's reaction to having her picture taken has been a classic example of the "confusing smiling with dentistry" phenomenon so aptly described by PsychoToddler.

So of course I'm nervous. Our best shots of Ann are when she's being caught off-guard and doesn't have time to squint her eyes closed and open her mouth in a demonic way.

Lately, I've been going about it almost in a fashion-shoot kind of way: "Ann, tell me about where we are today." Snap, snap. "The Botanical Gardens with you, and me, and Papa, and Andy." Snap, snap. Sometimes in that moment where she's thinking of her response, before she contorts her mouth into saying the words, picture magic happens.

When she was a little younger I used to say, "Where is my face, Ann? Look at my ears/eyes/nose," etc. The trouble with this approach is that nowadays, Ann will just point at the part of my face I mention. To further complicate matters, Ann has the funny/not-so-funny habit of pointing with her - ahem - middle finger, no matter how many times we show her that it's not her "pointer." After half a dozen or so shots of my kid flipping the bird, trust me when I insist that this approach needed to be abandoned, and fast.

Three-and-a-half year olds are not the neatest of eaters, and every Wednesday, her preschool orders kosher pizza for lunch from across the street. Ann's teacher allayed my concerns that pictures would be taken of crusty-pizza-cheeked kids. No, no, she insisted, as soon as they come in we get it done so they can relax the rest of the day. The photographer even hands out little combs to each child. I told Ann's teacher that she might want to lightly wet Ann's hair first, since my daughter's hair tends toward the wispy and fine, nothing like my own long, thick braids at her age.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall tomorrow and watch these goofy three-year-olds get their pictures taken. I wonder what the kids will be thinking. What the outtakes will look like. What in the world the photographer (and his assistant?), with nerves that must be made of steel, will say or do to make it all happen. What a massive effort it will be to pose the whole gaggle of them for the group shot. Let's hope for some beautiful smiles tomorrow! Cheese!

**Update** Ann and her teachers told me that Picture Day went smoothly. Ann said that the photographer was asking her about what she loves (apparently bananas, cookies, and ice cream) and helping her style her hair. Ann's teacher also combed her hair. The photographer climbed on a big ladder. He took two pictures of the whole class. Seems like she found the whole thing fun and interesting. We'll see the final product in a few weeks!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Rockin' Moroccans

This week the Raggedyhome hosted two young, married couples for Shabbos - one married for a little over a year, the other married barely more than a month. Aside from being cute and lovey-dovey, these guests showed no signs of aggressively rude behavior. Which is a big step up for us! Au contraire, these guests were gracious, sweet, and pleasant every step of the way.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about our company. For one, they are all native speakers of French, which, aside from two years in high school that were mostly spent devising new and creative ways to cut class, I have little or no experience with. Basically I remember the initial three-sentence greeting we learned that has to do with entering French class, sitting down, taking out my textbook and notebook, and saying hello. Fin. That's about it. At that point I think I excused myself to go plot my communist takeover of the school.

RaggedyDad, international man of mystery that he is, had no trouble conversing with our guests in rapid-fire French. It's okay. I was able to follow the topic if not the details of the conversations, and each guest made a concerted effort to steer the conversation back to English. Or RaggedyDad would turn to me and give me a quick rundown. By now, I’m pretty accustomed to being surrounded by Russian or Flemish being spoken around me, picking up the few words that I recognize, smiling, nodding, and eventually excusing myself to the kitchen to “prepare something.”

In truth, it was a very interesting thing for me to observe, since languages, and particularly bilingualism and/or multilingualism, fascinate me a lot. Watching these couples in action, from backgrounds that were culturally similar, yet geographically diverse, and the interplay of languages, was like being a linguistics major in college all over again. Those were the days . . .

Aside from the Frankish aspect of the Shabbos, the main thing that got my RaggedyNerves in a knot, was the fact that my husband kept emphasizing that the food I usually cook may not appeal to Moroccan tastebuds. Can I help it if I grew up with Polish cooking where a little sugar in anything never hurts? (Except I guess it does hurt my father who has type 2 diabetes, and maybe children who tend toward hyperactivity. But besides that, is sugar really such a bad thing?!) So I rifled through my spice cabinet and tried to incorporate, among some of my classics (sorry, but we are NOT adding cumin to the potato kugel!), some interesting twists on the Shabbos food. I mean Shabbat food. Everything was devoured regardless of the extent of its spiciness.

This Shabbos, RaggedyDad learned that guests from other backgrounds can enjoy chulent as much as flounder in spicy tomoato sauce. I learned that if you want to hear some of the most beautiful singing to ever grace your Shabbos table, invite some Moroccans over. My kids learned fluent French (just kidding!). Our guests learned that Ashkenazi people can be cool. A little. In a word, it was magnifique!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

International Promote-a-Blog Week


[Updated: In the interest of not getting lost in the erev Shabbos shuffle, I am going to extend this to a week-long festivity ;)]

Who says I can't start a new holiday? Despite my own (highly) limited readership, I'm going to see if I can promote two blogs, and encourage others to do the same. Most of us do this already via our blogrolls and posts, but I'm going to go ahead and suggest that the first week of December henceforth be known International Promote-a-Blog Week.

Here are the two blogs I'm promoting:

1. Swedish, single, and Jewish - Hila is a cool girl who often has perceptive and witty things to say over at RaggedyMom. Her story, the bits and pieces that I've gathered by reading, is fascinating. How many of us actually know someone Swedish? Who's also converting to Judaism? And in college in the Midwest? I particularly like reading about the quality of relationships between Hilahoney and her family members. Go check out Hila's blog!

2. Table Nine is a brand-new blog by my very good friend, neighbor, and, according to some, the girl who could pass for my sister. And I don't have any sisters. So just in terms of biological improbability, this is of high interest to our national security. A brave, intelligent, gluten-free gal, Table Nine is sure to have some crazy-amazing (crazamazing) things to say in the future. Having friends who start blogs is almost as great as becoming frum and then encouraging your family members to become frum, too. Well. Of course I'm kidding. It's better than that. Have a look at what Tableninemama is talking about!

So there you have it. It's the first week in December. Go out there, and promote two blogs you feel deserve an extra boost of attention!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shlepper's Paradise



Lately it seems like my days involve shlepping and more shlepping. The problem lies mainly in the fact that we live in a second-floor apartment with about 14 steps to get down to the front door, another 8 steep steps to get to a path of other apartments, and a final set of 10 steps to get down to street level. The final set of 10 steps can be bypassed by walking to the end of the path which leads into a ramp. Once on street level, the car can be anywhere from 'right there' to a block or more away across a major street.

Major street = buses, ambulances, fire trucks, delivery trucks, bikes, steady car traffic on a regular basis. Ugghhh. Why do I live on this street again?! Most sane people like Ezzie and other friends of ours probably use this street only for giving directions to their homes, or waiting for the bus.

RaggedyAndy is extremely heavy to carry to the car these days. RaggedyAnn fortunately walks nicely and stays close to me during this trek, but is certainly given to bouts of refusing to carry her own school bag and/or whining about staying outside to run and play for a few more minutes. Plus the other boy we take in a mini-carpool has a funny habit of sometimes just standing still and not . . . progressing . . . in our walk . . . to the car. With my bag . . . and baby . . . steadily slipping . . . from my hands.

Once at the car, our doors are manual of course, so there is the manic flustering of trying to get the key to open the door, getting these kids into their carseats, strapping everyone in, unfolding my side mirror (remember: busy street), reassuring the child who does not get to choose the music that yes, next time it will be their turn (isn't all the kiddie music exactly the same, kids?!), and getting to our destination. Whew.

When making short errand-stops, I used to just carry Andy around, but his squirmy desire to try to walk, try to grab anything and everything, and generally forage for food wherever we go, has made me realize that the $16.99 umbrella stroller is going to be a must, even for just making a quick bank deposit, or to pick up a bottle of milk. The idea of carrying him, the milk, getting money for it from my own backpack (I can't do the one-shoulder diaper bag anymore - too unwieldy) and fielding that perfect-timing phone call from RaggedyDad asking for someone's phone number or what's for dinner - well, it's just enough to make me want to go home, put my feet up, and eat some bon-bons. Since that's all I do anyway (see last post - I'm still apparently not over it, guys!)

Since RaggedyDad works long hours and goes to school part-time, I try to leave no grocery shopping for the weekends in order to maximize "family time." As in, I don't want to spend most of Sunday navigating through supermarkets and other stores. Only problem is, getting the groceries home is a major ordeal. Let me just disclaimer this rant right away and say that I kind of enjoy the whole "iron-woman-how-am-I-going-to-do-this-what-was-I-thinking-buying-flour-and-sugar-and-juice-and-milk-and-potatoes-and-EGGS?!" aspect of it, and that the challenge of it thrills me. Somewhat. That being said, it is a serious, serious pain getting all of this food, and my kid(s) into the house.

Of late (including today), the system has been as follows:

(Note: This is when RaggedyAnn is at preschool from 9 am to 2 pm)
Park the car in front of my front door
Take out groceries and lock doors (Andy in car)
Run up the hill with groceries, in shifts, while looking down at Andy in car
Bring groceries from top of hill up set of 8 steps to front door
Run down to car and take out Andy
Bring Andy inside and secure him (highchair, crib, pack-n-play)
Run down and bring up groceries in shifts

Sometimes there is a (double)stroller thrown into the mix, which would add the step of running back down to bring in the stroller. Just this post is making me tired! (bon-bons anyone?)

Yes, some of the supermarkets here deliver. To date, I have never availed myself of this service because

My preferred supermarket, where the prices are the best for what I buy doesn't deliver.
My next favorite option delivers, but for $5, and IMHO their items are already about 20% more expensive than everywhere else.
My least favorite neighborhood store delivers only after 1 pm and only on $60 or more, which I don't often have, since I am kind of a "filling in here-and-there" style shopper, and afternoons get hectic here anyway.
My favorite (cheapest) non-Jewish supermarket does not deliver. Or maybe they do, for $10 or something crazy.

So many people - RaggedyDad, friends, my mother, my grandmother - have told me I'm crazy for not doing the $5 delivery. Try as I might, I just can't seem to fahgin (agree that I deserve) myself that luxury. I always think, I'll do it one of these days. But just not today. I can push myself one more time.

Until then, I remain, the hunchback of Queens. And if you see me running up and down the hill, trying not to crack an egg, just smile and wave.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Foot in Mouth Disease

Guests are wonderful, entertaining, enriching, and rewarding when they join you for a meal at your table. HOWEVER . . . some guests are hapless souls who truly are their own worst enemies.

There were many, many things said by a recent guest of ours (whom we'd never met before) that were . . . off. That pointed to a high level of social ineptitude. Most related to dating foibles that did not need to be shared, certainly not with virtual strangers.

When I don't know someone very well yet, there is a delicate balance between disclosing my own thoughts and opinions while learning about this other person. In this interplay, I try to come to an estimation of how to talk to this person, what to ask and what to share. It is not merely unwise to state everything you think in a proclamatory, absolute way. It can also be hurtful.

Had "Foot in Mouth" known that both my husband and another of my guests lost a parent at a young age, he may not have quipped that it is better to marry an orphan (!!?!) because they don't come with a set of in-laws (?!). Or gone on to say that even with an orphan, there's the chance of an uncle who is particularly close to her, or a cousin, or something.

While it can be useful to share your dating preferences with people who may be able to set you up, "Foot in Mouth" informed us that he is only interested in women who are ready to return to work soon after having a child. "There are no free rides with me. No sitting on the couch eating bon-bons!" (This is verbatim). Well. Clearly FIM did not realize that, in fact, his hostess is a stay-at-home-mother, I mean, bon-bon inhaler. Likely because FIM did not ask too much about us. Did he not know how offensive this would sound to all moms, regardless of one's taxable employment status? Or how socio-culturally loaded the bon-bons comment was?

I have not included in this post some very strange, embarassing, and awkward details that FIM related - only the ones that irked me on a personal level. I was torn between wishing RaggedyDad would have put him in his place, deciding whether I wanted to tell him off myself, and just wanting to end things as quickly as possible without a debate so I could put my kids to bed and forget the whole episode. Which clearly I haven't :)

I enjoy hosting guests at my table. It usually adds to the discussion and to our chinuch (education) of the kids on a social level. I try to accept guests for who they are and not for who I wish they'd be. I only hope to be similarly accepted and respected by my guests.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Subtle Hint

RaggedyAnn: So, Mommy, maybe while I'm at school, and Andy's sleeping . . . you could . . . you know . . . like . . . clean the house?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Leftovers (lovingly termed "LO")



In our house, food is rarely, if ever wasted. It is served, reheated and served again, recycled into other dishes, anything but thrown away, unless it is past the point of no return. I inventory the fridge often enough so that doesn't happen often. And I've been known to eat a questionable food item or two in my day (I know I'm not alone, bloggers!).

Without the help of a shrink, I know that I completely take after my father in this regard. And we both take after the mother and father of my father. My parents were never big 'fighters' but I do recall some particularly bad arguments that sounded like:
Mom: But it's spoiled/old/been served 3 nights already/nobody likes it
Dad (Israeli accent): Don't trow nothing away!!! I will eat it, don't worry.

The night my father discovered that several cans had been shoved to the back of the pantry to the point of puffed-out botulistic grossness, and had to be tossed out en masse, stands out as the one moment when I felt like my happy, mostly-normal family was really in jeopardy. Thankfullly, we worked it out. And began rotating our food more carefully, which is a habit I still keep up.

I know my father is like this about food because this is what he saw at home, growing up in a fledgling, young state of Israel, with parents, of blessed memory, who survived the concentration camps. I know that food, preparing it, talking about it, describing it, hoarding it, and buying it, pretty much covers the bulk of my grandparents' hobbies. I remember that on his return from visiting Israel during the last few years of my grandfather's life, he told us about the cabinets full of flour and sugar that my grandfather kept, and how he was torn between needing to explain to my grandfather that it was infested with worms and had to be tossed, and not having the heart to do it.

RaggedyDad is "very good" about eating leftovers, as far as husbands go. I know that sounds arcane, but there are some people I know who really dislike leftovers, and put up a fuss. And they're usually the husbands, although exceptions abound. I joke around with him that our leftovers are probably way better than the quality of fresh food available in Russia when he was growing up there, but in truth, his family lived under fairly good circumstances as well as food goes.

Ann likes to ask me if we're going to have leftOVERS (emphasis on second syllable.) and doesn't seem to mind at this age. Andy will eat anything that's not moving.

Leftovers on my mind.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Did I Ask Too Much? Subterranean Disappointed Blues




I try to be reliable. And when other people are unreliable, it makes me grumpy. Such as when the exterminator (famous last words: preventitive, I swear!) is supposed to show up, and doesn't. After countless calls on my part to make sure that he's coming, that I'm on the co-op's list, that he has my address, etc. After making arrangements for someone else to pick up Ann from preschool (if you miss these guys when they do show up, you don't stand a chance). And the contractor who is supposed to finally look at the ledge in our apartment (see anniversary photo on 1 November) also can't make it. Sue me. I want my kids to live in an apartment that is waterbug-free and doesn't present a major falling hazard. Grrrrr . . . If you don't want to turn RaggedyMom into CrabbedyMom, by all means, JUST SHOW UP!!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Final RaggedyHarvest







A quick update on our "farm" in the common backyard space of the apartment complex: Almost all of the tomatoes turned red and were eaten. Just a few rotted. My gardening buddy (read: really sweet lady who did some of the planting with me and wound up doing the lion's share of the drudge work - thanks, N.!) uprooted the tomato and pepper plants, but the zucchini plant had to "fall" and get less spiky before we uproot it.

I went back there with the kids this afternoon to see if there was anything left and found a few last renegade zucchinis, and this will probably be the last of our harvest, and the last of our gardening while living here for good. According to the "house rules," there shall be no vegetable gardens anywhere on the premises, a rule that I didn't know about until after all of this stuff had been planted. Something to do with attracting fleas, but I think that's bunk. I was hoping I wouldn't be told to uproot our vegetables this year, and luckily, I wasn't. But I wouldn't risk planting vegetables again since I'm sure it would really disappoint the kids to plant together and then have to tear it up.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rules and Regulations





Last week, we received a copy of the sacred "House Rules" of our apartment complex. The topics covered span the logical (I know, not to everyone), the silly, the annoying, the absurd . . . but most of them are good rules. This is a long manual of about 10 pages, and it is full of a lot of lawyer-ish lingo that immediately translates into "blah, blah, blah" in my head.

In truth, I am great at following the rules. Although I may fancy myself an unconventional non-comformist, and was actually Communist Party leader of my high school (a story for another day), the Raggedys are a pretty boring clan. My family and I live in calm and quiet (save for those 4 a.m. feedings) and generally keep to ourselves. Loud parties and property damage are just not our thing.

Here's a sampling of our house rules. Some of them make this place sound like a prison or a mental institution. Some of them make me very curious as to the real-life situation that occurred in violation of these principles in order to inspire their inclusion into the house rules:





  • No ball playing of any kind, or other sporting activity on the grounds.


  • No tree climbing or playing in trees. Lawns and trees shall not be abused.


  • Windows should only be covered with blinds, shades, curtains, or other products designed for window coverings. At no time should inappropriate items, such as bedspreads, sheets, or shower curtains be used as window coverings.


  • Toilets shall not be used for any purpose other than those for which they were constructed, no shall any rubbish, diapers . . . or other article be thrown into the toilets.


  • No group tour or exhibition of any Apartment or its contents shall be conducted . . .


  • Vehicles may not be washed on the Property.


  • Commercial Breeding of Pets in apartments or the Property is prohibited.
    . . . [F]eeding of animals that are not pets (including squirrels, birds or strays) in apartments or common areas [is prohibited].


  • At the end of the summer season, barbeques should be covered with a green or black covering . . .


  • Except in the event of a health and safety emergency no individual may enter or exit any apartment through the windows.


What are some of your opinions? What do you think of these rules? What I really want to know, though, is: What are some of the stranger rules you have been subject to, in an apartment, a neighborhood, a city, or in any situation?




Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pragmantis




Today, on arriving home with Ann and Andy from Ann's preschool, we had a visitor outside our door. Although my knowledge of wildlife is usually limited to squirrels and pidgeons, I believe I can identify this as a praying mantis. It's big! See both photos for the perspective on just how large this creature is! We live very close to a very large park in Queens, and I'm not sure if that's the reason, but we get some very interesting visiting wildlife right outside our home. There are lizards of all sizes that hang out on the stairs leading to our front door, and occasionally get in the house. I'll post those stories someday.

As for the praying mantis (someone correct me if that's not what this is!), this is the second or third time I've seen it. Aren't these supposed to be endangered or something? With all of the leaves and branches around, these are very easy to miss. Ann thought it was a spider (if only!) and Andy just wanted to get inside and eat. RaggedyDad, that suave foreign gentleman, thinks that this insect is called a "pragmantis" and this is a language error that has fossilized for him, meaning he can't seem to get rid of the mistake.

Ann calling the pragmantis a spider reminds me of the time we were trying to catch a mouse that was in the crawl space/attic above the apartment. There were traps all over the place. Needless to say, when we had Shabbos company, we did not inform them of the situation and had put the traps away in advance. When the husband mentioned in passing that he was very afraid of spiders, RaggedyDad and I looked at each other both thinking the same thing - "If only you knew, buddy . . . !"

Since I am afraid that the praying mantis will lunge, fly, or creep me out in some way, I didn't move it away. I tried clapping loudly near it, and knocking the stroller into the side of the doorpost a few inches away from it, but the thing didn't budge. No will to live, that's what I say. So instead, I just got the kids inside, got Ann to the toilet ASAP since she was doing 'the dance,' and locked the door, which thankfully seals airtight on the bottom. Goodbye, pragmantis.

Monday, November 06, 2006

RaggedyAnn Explains it All

As we were leaving preschool today, Ann bit her tongue and started to cry. Her morah (teacher) attempted to reassure her by saying, "I know that must hurt. I've done that many times, too. I even have a bump in my mouth because I do it too sometimes."

A few minutes later, during our walk home, I said to Ann, "It must have hurt a lot when you bit your tongue. But the pain goes away quickly, and I bet it's almost better."

Ann's reply? "But Morah A. still has a bump in her mouth from when she did it before!"

What was I thinking trying to pull one over on this kid?

Shhhheerios


I had heard about the bias that exists against people with small children. But lately I've been feeling it, as have lots of people I know! Don't get me wrong - many people who encounter me and my kids are sweet, kind, lovely, and helpful. In all fairness, there are a good number of people out there who hold doors open, inform you about dropped toys and sippy cups, and smile or ignore it when other people's little ones act up. But . . . this post is not about them.

I always joke that when it was just Ann, taking her places was fun and easy, and generally met with appreciative glances and smiles. One child is almost like a cute accessory or a purse – take it anywhere with you, and people admire your cleverness in bringing along a little extra something. Once you have two (or more, as others can surely attest to), suddenly you are not so cute anymore. You aren’t welcome almost anywhere but at the pediatrician’s office and maybe at the grandparents’. Strangers will say things like, “Wow, you sure have your hands full!” (dude, it’s just two kids, not 11 like my cousins!). Often it is just a look in their eyes that combines annoyance and bewilderment. In their heads, they are likely thinking, “How could she come here with those sticky, vile creatures?”

In all fairness, the double stroller I use is big, and I try to be considerate of the space I’m occupying, and allow other people to pass me or get around me whenever I can. The places to which I shlep my crew are almost without exception suitable environments for little kids (the library, the supermarket, the pharmacy, the pizza shop to name a few). I know that the days of toting one cute, clean child to a clothing store, restaurant, family wedding, etc. are a thing of the past, and I avoid those situations. But the glares, the remarks, the unsolicited ‘advice’ is getting to be a bit much. Personally, I find people’s pets annoying. I have a really hard time sharing air space with smokers. I find the huge cars barreling by my little one on the highway annoying. It seems, however, that the feeling some people have against small children and the parents who love them, is one of the last acceptable biases around.

My suggestion to parents? Err majorly on the side of mentsch-caution. Be as polite and courteous as you can while going about your business. Don’t avoid going places, just plan wisely. And when all else fails, bringing along some Shhhheerios (shhh, honey, have a Cheerio – hence the title of this post.) never hurt anyone.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Overheard in my living room



Ann: "Okay, Andy. Listen. (Covers eyes) Baruch Ata Ado-N Elo-H Melech HaOlam Asher Kiddishanu Al Candles.
We're not going to eat the challah yet. You wait, Andy."
Good Shabbos!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Five Years


Five years ago today, RaggedyDad and I got married. When we were married for a few months, whenever we met other couples and they asked how long we were married, saying "three months" always elicited reactions like, "awwww, how cute." Those people were in the 'years' category. Five years is really our first big milestone anniversary - after the first year when my homesickness wore off, lol :) - and now we're the ones doing the awww-ing. It's cliched, but it feels like yesterday and forever at the same time.

I get a kick out of really young couples, like the engaged eighteen-year-old kallah (bride) who stayed at our place, and introduced me to her intended as 'the lady whose house I'm staying at.' Yikes! When did I start getting referred to as some "lady"?! I guess in my mind, when I see high school kids, for a minute I feel like I'm in their approximate age range, and then I realize I am . . so . . not. Although my field in education ranges from grades K-12, my public school teaching jobs were always in elementary schools, never in high schools, since those kids looked waaay older and more sophisticated than I did. But I digress.

Traditionally (I looked it up), the fifth anniversary is the "wood" anniversary. This comes from that hokey list in the back of some daily planners, or in my case the internet, and is where those lists of gifts or symbols are - the first is paper, 25th is silver or whatever. Wood seems kind of like where we are now - sturdy and durable, although not in the flashy sense like the silver, gold, bronze (is there a bronze one?) anniversaries. And more importantly, wood is what I need this year. Namely, to close the ledge above the stairs leading in to our apartment. We could probably use another set of bookshelves too, but the ledge is an urgent job. Andy seems to be shaping up to be a real climber, and there's a table and chairs right next to this ledge. The apartment looks more open and spacious with the ledge clear, but I have to prioritize safety over looks/resale value since we are here now, and have no immediate plans to move, and our job is to keep the kids safe. The temporary fix is to simply move the table away from the ledge. But ultimately, we're going to need to close up the ledge. Whether it's with wooden slats or a sheetrock wall, we're not yet sure about.

Happy Anniversary, RaggedyDad! See, I'm not nagging you about the ledge - I am writing about it on my "outlet." Now let's get the job done!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You Votin' For Me, Punk?

Big news in the Raggedyhouse - Robert DeNiro called! Really! Well, maybe it was a recording of Robert DeNiro. And maybe he "wanted to talk to me about Hillary Clinton's voting record . . . blahahablaIdon'tknowbecauseIhungup" Grrr . . . Few things irk Raggedymom more than celebrities who endorse politicians, (ab)using their fame as a platform to sway votes. Or, as a wise friend of mine said, "Celebrities are politicians, they are just paid much, much more."

I resent this almost as much as people who engage in "electioneering" right outside of the polling places, when it is illegal to do so within 200 feet of the building (as far as I remember, maybe 100 feet?). There is nothing like trying to pressure me into voting for someone, to make me vote for the other guy. When I was in Queens College, I wrote an incendiary article about this very topic.

Even though I'm not a politics person at all, I take civics very seriously. Particularly as the only member of this household eligible to vote, and as an immigrant to America myself, albeit as a child. So if Hillary ever had my vote (as if), she and her buddy Bobby DeNiro just lost it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Besides, comparisons are odious" (Jack Kerouac, On the Road)

Ann (3 years old): "Papa, you love your family. You are lucky. Mommy, you like your vacuum and you are lucky too!"

Thanks, Ann!

Friday, October 27, 2006

On Children from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children."

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.




As the year progresses with Ann in preschool, it is bittersweet to see her make friends, become attached to her morahs (teachers) and generally be . . fine without me. Ouch. It's humbling to no longer be in control of everything she sees, hears and learns, but the fault was mine for ever thinking that I was in control. For thinking that as long as she was home with me, by delineating the parameters of her environment, I was somehow the owner of who she would become. When I come to pick Ann up at 2, I overhear her class benching (grace after meals) in song, the same song I know but was not the one to teach her.

My parents fell pretty high on the overprotective spectrum, and it was only magnified for me as the youngest and the only girl. I remember those struggles for independence (not that long ago!) and once or twice even considered showing my parents this piece by Gibran (teenage arrogance!) but decided against it - "It'll hurt them and they just won't get it and I still won't get to go!" Seeing Ann, and even Andy, start to test their wings and make their first tentative attempts to break away from me and their Papa, brought this piece to mind.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Where did you get that accent?!


Parsha time
Originally uploaded by momraggedy.
Ann told me today that Noach (Noah) was a good man. But all of the people around Noach were "weaken."

"Weakened?" I asked. "No!"

"Wiccan?" (Maybe, sort of . . .) "No! Weaken!"

"Oh, wicked?" "Yes, weaken."

The irony is not lost on me that we moved to the U.S. from Israel when I was five and I really sound like a native English speaker, but my daughter's preschool teachers are both Israeli, and she's becoming the one with the accent! The paper shoes she made at school for Yom Kippur were pronounced "sleepers," (slippers) and new, funny examples of this phenomenon happen every day.

Considering that RaggedyDad has a Russian/Belgian(Flemmish)/etc. accent and speaks to the kids in Russian, and my own Israeli father still refers to lettuce as "letters," these kids are going to sound very interesting as they grow up. Fortunately, RaggedyMom has degrees both as a teacher of English as a second language and as a reading specialist. We're going to need all the help we can get!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Three Words


Almost at the orchard
Originally uploaded by momraggedy.
Spectacular. Fall. Foliage.
Enjoy!

I think I can, I think I can


Parked at a 'scenic overlook'
Originally uploaded by momraggedy.
This is the RaggedyMobile. We love our car, but it was totally not made for driving around upstate (see apple posts below) on dirt roads and within the apple orchard on paths with a lot of mud and several hilly ditches. I was not made for this kind of driving either (barf). But, we got there, we got back, and we don't disparage the car while in the presence of the car. '95 Corolla, baby!

Ann at the orchard


Ann at the orchard
Originally uploaded by momraggedy.

You Sure Know How to Pick 'Em


RaggedyDad and his girl Ann
Originally uploaded by momraggedy.
We had a big family outing to Masker Orchards in Warwick, NY (about 60 miles away) this past Sunday. My brother, sister-in-law, and their 3 kids were going there and we decided to join them rather than visit the 'park with the big red tree' a.k.a Caumsett Lake State Park, which we will probably try to do another week, weather permitting.

The drive was beautiful. I was about to write spectacular, but I feel like that word is totally overused to the point of being meaningless on every website's description of every autumn activity that exists. As in, "Visit Park XYZ, it promises spectacular fall foliage" or "Just outside the museum, visitors will appreciate the spectacular fall foliage" or "The zoo is located in close proximity of some spectacular fall foliage." Every single place is using that three-word term. Spectacular. Fall. Foliage. Aaaahh!!! Enough already!!

I had never picked apples before this past Sunday. We really enjoyed it, although I think coming 2-3 weeks earlier might have meant more apple varieties, more apples closer to the bottoms of the trees, and weather a few degrees warmer. Because of all of the holidays, though, this was the first Sunday we've had for going places in a long time.

I think what made it the most fun was being with family, especially extended family. Even though we live about 30 minutes away from each other, we don't see my brother and his family all that often. My other brother and all of RaggedyDad's family live overseas, so we should get together more.

My sister-in-law is one of those people who is funny without intending to be. She has a knack for asking for help or directions from the person least likely to actually know the answer or speak English. And she's very sweet and naive about it. Case in point: our cars were parked on "Sauce Lane" within the orchard (apple terms abounded here) and we were trying to get back there. RaggedySIL sauntered up to someone about three times her size who probably just broke out of Sing-Sing and was picking apples to throw at the prison guards and help break out some of his friends. "Excuse me, do you know where Sauce Lane is, sir?" The guy did not even know what to make of her question. He certainly did not know how to help us get to Sauce Lane.

RaggedyDad did a good deal of the drudge work on this outing - including but not limited to: lifting the kids onto his shoulders since most of the apples that remained were of the waaay up high variety; lifting all of us over some of the more intense muddy ditches that are just part of the fun at a country orchard; most of the driving; wiping down the apples for any eating we did while at the orchard. RD gets the good sport award for the day, and we all have enough apples for apple cake, applesauce, apple pie, apple kugel, baked apples, ad infinitum. And the fall foliage was spectacular!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Harvest Time



Originally uploaded by momraggedy.
Ann and I were very ambitious this summer. We planted vegetables in the communal backyard space of our apartment complex. A neighbor of ours who moved away had used the space for gardening, and another neighbor and I decided to plant some veg there this season. She was mainly interested in planting Swiss chard for some kind of dumpling recipe. I wanted Ann to see the process of planting, tending to, and harvesting our own vegetables, on as much of a scale as possible in this semi-urban area. Amateur gardening was a great chance to talk about science, the Creator, healthy eating, and to get our hands dirty and just be outside, which I love. Poor Andy kept trying to eat the grass and had to be relegated to a stroller during most of our gardening sessions.

When I taught English as a second language, back before Ann and Andy came along, one of my more language proficient students told me that he knew how to make an apple. He must have been around five or six years old. I asked him to explain (humor me, kid). He said, "First you take apple sauce (I can still hear his raspy, lispy voice - so sweet). Then you make it like a ball. Then you wrap red paper all around it." Wow. "Erik," I had said at the time, "What about apple trees? Have you ever seen one?" Let's just say I didn't want Ann thinking the same thing in a couple of years.

We planted green and red peppers, which all turned out to be green. Those grew nicely, but we tended to pick them before they got very big since squirrels around here are very aggresive and vicious. Must be a NY thing ;)
We planted zucchini, which grew into the biggest, leafiest thing ever. And really spiky - who knew? We got quite a few beautiful zucchinis which I use in soup and sometimes just as raw matchsticks dipped in dressing.

And then, the tomatoes. Although we staked the plants (don't ask me, I'm a city girl - my swiss chard buddy and my dad were very helpful with the staking) I don't think they got enough sun exposure, and many, many of them stayed green for weeks. Now that it's getting chilly, it was time for my buddy and I to harvest it all and cut our losses. I am trying to figure out what to do with the green tomatoes (frying?) since they aren't getting any redder sitting in this bowl. In the meantime, I just like how they look.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Good neighbors


102_0096
Originally uploaded by momraggedy.
I locked myself out today. Yikes! This is a recurring nightmare of mine, and today it came true. I was on my way to walk with Andy to pick Ann up from preschool and I closed the door behind me with that annoying automatic locking button pushed in on the doorknob. Yep. Luckily our neighbor downstairs has a copy of the key, and after some confusion and paging my neighbor at her job, her babysitter located the key. The only trouble is, Andy is so heavy, and holding him for that long (not just today but on a regular basis) has given me a major crick in my hip. If you see someone limping around with the above pictured set of keys on a string around my neck, just say "Hi, RaggedyMom, how are you enjoying your exersaucer? Are the kids over their colds yet? Watch out for that doorknob!"

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

You may already be a winner!


102_0095
Originally uploaded by momraggedy.
I know everyone says this, but we really never win anything. Ever. So imagine my surprise when we were chosen to be inflicted with, I mean blessed with this toy for "research purposes" (haha) by the Kids2 company. Apparently, I responded to an email survey (why, oh why?) and Andy fits the criteria in terms of age and weight for this exersaucer type toy.

I never owned one of these with Ann, and frankly, feel that they are expensive (this one retails for about $80!) and take up way too much space, which we don't have a ton of in our apartment. Ann was a very calm child who almost never tried to get into the sort of exploring-mischief-making of which her brother has proven himself to be so fond. He's very, very different than she is. As in, "Quick, run and close the bathroom door before Andy goes and swishes his hand around in the toilet bowl!" I know, I know, wait until he learns how to open that door!

Although at a year, and getting ready to walk any week now, Andy is really at the upper end of the age limit for this thing, I figured it was worth a try and it might be a great way to, shall we say contain him, for the five minutes necessary to prepare his food, use the bathroom, etc. We had been putting him in the Pack n Play used as a playpen, but I was eager to try something else.

Of course, Andy haaaates this contraption. He stiffens his legs so that it's really hard to get him into it, and once he's in it, he flips his torso manically. He just does not like to be contained, like most kids I suppose. Swishing around in the toilet is a lot more fun. Ann, on the other hand, although she is over 3 years old, weighs about a pound and a half over the weight limit of this thing. She's too tall to bounce in it, but she stands up. As luck would have it, my preschool child thinks this toy is a blast. The irony . . . ! Maybe I can ask her preschool teachers if they can take Andy from 9-2.

As RaggedyDad told me, there is a saying in Russian that for free, even vinegar is sweet. Enjoy the vinegar, kids!

Laundry Party

As my favorite writing professor once told me, skip the intro stuff - (as in "I'm starting this blog to blahblahblah . . .") and just jump in with both feet. Give the reader credit for being able to catch on.

So let's begin. My kids, "Raggedy Ann" (3) and "Andy" (just turned 1) are sick. Not doctor sick, but sniffly, congested, sneezing and snoring sick. Which makes a tired RaggedyMom (me), and enough laundry to fill a cruise ship. I'm not sure why having bad colds has produced this much laundry. Let's just say it's a good thing I gave up the dishwasher space in my little kitchen for a washing machine, and found a way to stick a dryer in one of the bedrooms, because otherwise I'd be really, really overwhelmed right now.

On the bright side, Ann cheered me up when she asked where we got a CD of gratingly annoying yet mesmerizing Barney music and I told her I thought it was from Babies R Us. Ann said, "Maybe you mean CDs R Us, Mommy." Gotta love her.

Basket Case

Andy helps me with the wash!