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


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?


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!