Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Foolish Progress

I've blogged about construction outside our home in the past. Over the last week, another interesting project has been underway. Namely, the bus stop, along with others along major routes, have undergone renovation.

Now, instead of a glass with black sides with light shining down from within, we've got sleek glass with sleek grey metal sides, and soft white lights glowing on the sides. Come to think of it, the light is not all that soft, and glows rather brightly into the windows of those of us who don't have black-out shades. And it's possible that they've switched from glass to heavy-duty plastic, since people would periodically vandalize the glass.

While the new bus stops look nicer by virtue of being new, to me, this is a clear case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Why waste time and money getting rid of something that served its designated purpose just fine? I wonder if they've been doing this throughout all of the boroughs?

One improvement has been that there's now a bench that seats three slim people within the bus shelter, though something like this could have been put up without dismantling the entire old bus stop.

Then again, it's possible that as someone born under the sign of Cancer, it's just my strong sense of nostalgia and love of the familiar that's causing me to dis the nice, shiny, new bus stops. Betcha didn't have me pegged for an astrology person. My mother practically read me Linda Goodman's Sun Signs as bedtime stories, so some of it stuck. Poor RaggedyDad really hates it when I start talking about astrology.

It got me thinking about what we prioritize in our relationships, in our religious growth, and in our improvement of our lives and our surroundings. Sometimes I'll hear of something that's being "worked on" and I wonder to myself, "That's what they're doing? That's what they're worried about?" I guess in truth, we all have our order for progress, our hierarchy for improvement. I tend to relate more to improvements that are internal rather than external, but I really can't purport to know what another person needs to get busy with first, or whether what seems external has a significant impact internally.

When riding the bus of judgement, it's good to get off at the next possible stop.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Soup, and other mind-altering substances

When you're feeling a bit down, few things help more than a fresh pot of soup. I've had a butternut squash out on the counter for a couple of weeks, and today I decided that since it clearly is not going to look cute and decorative forever (as evidenced by a couple of brown spots on the peel), it was time to figure out what to do with it.

On the spur of the moment, I decided to make a soup out of it. The first recipe I found was for Cream of Any Vegetable Soup from the original Kosher Palette Cookbook that my sister-in-law gave me when I got married. Of course, since then, these cookbooks have become somewhat of an empire, with a new one every year or so, and increasingly long and obscure lists of ingredients. But what would life be without the occasional, elusive search for Panko bread crumbs, crimini mushrooms, or Chilean sea bass? I enjoy the variety, but I really do reach for that old standby, Spice and Spirit a.k.a. The Big Purple Cookbook, about 93% of the time.

I must say, butternut squash is absurdly difficult to peel with a knife, unless I was doing something totally wrong. But this recipe was relatively straightforward, and didn't take too long. I followed the instructions carefully for the roux, an interesting mixture of flour-margarine (I made it pareve). This recipe totally had a funky, Food-Network-vibe to it.

There should be a cooking show about cooking with small kids. "Yes, Andy, you can smell this next ingredient, too, but take my word for it, flour doesn't have much of a smell." "Ann, you can't pick those pieces up from the cutting board to put into the pot until the knife isn't moving!" "I have to go see why Little Rag is crying. Please stop touching the garbage!'

Anyway, I didn't know what to expect from this soup because whenever I'm at a wedding (though I think it's been a couple of years) and they ask if I want "cream of whatever" soup or another option, I ask for the other option. The stars aligned properly, and the soup came out well. It was exactly what I needed. It was similar to a carrot soup I've made, but smoother and milder. Since it's pureed, I sat the kids down with straws in their bowls, and they got to work.

This was one of those days when I had a bit of a sniffle, and was a little bummed out (maybe I'll post about that soon), and what really brought a smile to my face was one thought: "Soup's on!"

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More Vintage Sheets - Animals of the Seventies

Back in the 1970's, animals came in many interesting patterns and colors. Nowadays, wildlife is still thrilling in its variety, but unfortunately, many of these particular species are extinct. Times have changed, and sadly, Paisley Zebra, Floral Camel, Plaid Giraffe, and several others, have vanished with the years. Their images stay with us, however, immortalized in this bedding. This pair is on Ann's bed currently. It's also pictured in my 35-year-old brother's baby album. How did my mom keep this stuff so well?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Open Door Policy

My carpooling buddy, who lives two doors away from me on a little path of apartments, is, among other things, a genuine sweetheart. She's got a very distinct way of framing things in a positive, constructive tone, with her own two boys as well as with my kids.

Her apartment's front door is situated immediately behind the stairway leading from the sidewalk up to our own door. Thus, this isn't a carpool where I need to drive anywhere. In essence, I cannot get to and from the car without passing her place. It's been a great arrangement for this year and last, but there is one caveat.

The Raggedy kids, though they can be shy in certain settings, are generally quite friendly. As in, they make themselves right at home in lots of places. As in, they try to barge in on my neighbor whenever she opens the door to let her son in. And as she is so sweet, she'll graciously invite us all in for what turns into an improptu playdate.

Andy loves it there, because it's boy-land, with a fire-truck bed and testosterone-toys. Ann loves it because she and my neighbor's son are in different classes this year, and they don't get much chance to play together anymore.

There are a number of times when I've been able to quash the playdate idea before it got started, and a few occasions when I've allowed the kids to stay for a couple of minutes before rustling them up and getting them back home.

But yesterday proved to be a real challenge. A few minutes turned into a half hour (we moms got to talking about the elementary school dilemmas we're imminently facing), which turned into nearly an hour.

At that point, Little Rag was hungry and crying, and there was not much hope of getting to make the dinner I had wanted to quickly prepare while the big kids played. Ann and Andy tag-teamed to give me a really hard time about getting out of there, and my neighbor's son kept bringing out more enticing toys, which had them totally hooked.

After an agonizing 15 minute battle involving my neighbor holding my wailing baby, and me basically wrestling Ann and Andy into putting their shoes and coats back on, we finally did the walk of shame back to our apartment. Whereupon I told Ann that I'd made a decision:

I asked my neighbor to open her door while I would bring out her son alone, and then to let him in and close her door. Only afterward would I bring my own kids out and lead us all home. She understood where I was coming from, and agreed to it, with the added stipulation that we should still see each other and set up occasional playdates in advance.

She's expecting another baby in late spring, and hasn't been feeling too great herself, so I can imagine that she's not always up for the intrusion. And it's been disproportionate in that we live upstairs and further down the path, so somehow it never winds up being here.

Would anyone have handled this any differently?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Vintage Sheets

While we're on the topic of sleep, I wanted to get to something that I've been interested in posting for a while. Ann started sleeping in a bed when we stayed with my parents for Pesach the year she was nearly 3. When we came home after that week, RaggedyDad and my father brought over the bed that was mine since we came to America from Israel when I was 5.

Ann's bed is my old bed, and what better to complete the look than having my mother give us a big shopping bag full of the bedsheets used by my older brothers and me when we were kids. Realize that my mother is the type to keep things in impeccable condition.

I tend to be a sentimental, nostalgic person, and I really like the idea that the old kiddie sheets are now in our home. However, this notion can be taken to the extreme. I know someone who actually found the old potty seat (bleached down I presume) that she used, and uses it for her kids. For me, however, the intermingling of sentiment and excrement is where I draw the line. Take a picture of the old thing if you need to, and then toss it, please.

Back to more pleasant things, like bedsheets. Aside from some fading from being washed a million times, the sheets are in great condition. And I get a kick out of watching Ann (and Andy now that he uses some of the pillowcases) fall asleep while watching and thinking about the same colorful sheets I remember from being a kid.

Can anyone identify all of the vintage Disney characters on these sheets?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Yes Sir, That's My Baby

Because some battles just aren't worth fighting.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bechorah Soup

Back when I first got married, I knew how to cook just about . . . nothing. Enter my very patient husband, who, thanks to his upbringing in Russia, was accustomed to occasional bouts of hunger.(Okay, that was a terrible joke.)

One of the first recipes I tried out in my new life as a Mrs. came from a magazine my mother gave me when she was finished with it. It was probably Family Circle or Parade or something like that. Coincidentally, the week I tried out the recipe corresponded with the weekly Torah portion of Toldot, which includes the well-known story of Esav selling his bechorah, or birthright, to Yaakov for a bowl of red lentil soup.

The recipe is called Pot Luck Soup, but in the Raggedy household, it is known as Bechorah Soup. It's a good, hearty soup pefect for this time of year when the chillier weather is upon us (please stop laughing, Fudge and Ezzie. In my opinion, it is colder these days). Make sure to have plenty of challah or bread for dipping purposes. Doubling it works fine. My own notes are in brackets:

Pot Luck Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter [margarine or just a bit more olive oil]
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves [I don't like cloves in food so I leave them out]
1 can (35 oz.) Italian plum tomatoes
3 to 4 cups canned broth (chicken or vegetable) [or dissolve bouillon cube in water]
1/3 cup dried lentils, green or brown
1/4 cup dry red wine [I use the inexpensive cooking wine]
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley [I leave it out if I don't have it]

1. Place oil and butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot; cook, stirring, until the vegetables are wilted, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cloves during the last 3 minutes.

2. Puree the tomatoes with their juices in a blender and add to the pot [I think this is an unnecessary step. Just use the pureed tomatoes to begin with. Or mush them up as you cook.] Add the broth and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium; simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes.

3. Add the wine, season to taste with salt and pepper, then simmer gently for 20 minutes more. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Here's hoping the only thing our children fight about is who gets the last bowl of this soup.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

I'm not sure if it's because Andy just misses Ann when she's away at preschool most of the day, but one of his favorite things to do sometimes is to wear things that are hers. Some days, it's shoes (although they both loooove wearing my shoes). Today it was this pair of pajamas that run a bit big even on her.

This is one of those times when I'm not sure what to do. On the one hand, she may get upset to find that he's been wearing (and now, napping in) her pajamas. "Those are very special to me!" is a line I'd typically hear from her in a case like this.

On the other hand, they share many things, and there are two pairs of warm fleecy pajamas that were bought for him, that they have both been wearing lately. If she's wearing his, she's got to be willing to have him wear hers. We're not very territorial as a family, but it's also important that we respect one another's belongings.

I'm hoping he doesn't extend his love of the pink and flowery beyond pajamas and into clothing worn outside, because that's a battle of wills I wasn't eager to have. Oh well. At least he's dressed today.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Steady Growth

Miraculously, a styrofoam cup plant that Ann brought home last year from preschool has been thriving on our kitchen windowsill. Ordinarily, the school plant and the carnival goldfish are more vulnerable than the California condor. Nestled between the "egg-checking glass" and another plant, at home among the flour, sugar, and our kitschy Belgian kitchen chicken, Ann's plant has been growing up and over the frame, straining leftward toward the sun.

When I was pregnant with Andy, I remember someone telling me that the first time you change your bigger baby after bringing home a newborn, the older sibling suddenly seems huge. "Look at those giant legs! And you can talk! Why am I still changing your diapers!?" But in actuality, the bigger baby is still quite little, thought it's easy to forget with those tiny, chicken-y newborn legs in your house again. I do remember how big my scrawny Ann suddenly seemed that day during Sukkos when Andy came home.

This week we celebrated Andy's second birthday. He's coming into his own, and holding fast to his reputation as the Raggedy who probably adds the most fun and excitement to our brood. Although Andy's our resident displaced baby since the arrival of Little Rag, he really does feel like he's still also the baby. It was just about a year ago that I started this blog with a picture of him in the laundry basket. (Happy Blogiversary to me!)

Ann, on the other hand, has suddenly struck me as such an independent girl. I'm realizing daily that there are so many ways in which she doesn't need me anymore. Getting dressed, washing up, and keeping busy (usually) are, for the most part, within her domain. Watching the way she plays, and the way she teaches Andy to play, makes me realize that she's gotten very mature in just the last couple of months.

Yesterday at the little playground they built behind our apartment, two big boys came along after we'd been there a while. One of them was passing by Andy on the way up to the slide, and said something like, "This slide isn't for a baby!" I just watched from the sidelines for a minute. Although Ann is usually reserved with strangers, she stood up tall and said, "He just had his birthday on Sunday, and now he's two years old [showing two fingers]. He's actually a very big boy now. Come with me, Andy."

It has made me kind of wistful that she doesn't need me the way Andy still does. For the most part, she knows what she's doing and isn't going to take the same crazy risks. She certainly doesn't need me the way Little Rag does, desperately clinging to my neck for dear life, still totally bewildered by this world.

They're growing up every day, but the truth is, I'm the one who still needs them.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Wild-Eyed Madwoman is Me

Somewhere along the way, I let the reigns slip, and there seems to be little chance of getting them back.

Have you ever done errands with a bunch of little kids running amok? The littlest one is helplessly screaming. Again. The oldest one is whining about a coloring book she needs, and also, she has to use the bathroom. It's a 'mergency'. The middlest one is knocking into glass bottles in stores and screaming "Me too money! My turn money!" when you pull out a quarter to feed the meter. And finding the most embarassing things ever to yank off shelves at the pharmacy (use your imagination). And anytime there's a playground in his field of vision, running, running, at breakneck speed to the PWAAAAAYYY GWOOOUUUNNDD!!.

Thank you to all of the kind people who held doors open for me on Main Street this week. Also, though less helpful, thanks to those of you who gave me long, pitying glances. Making eye contact with others can be unexpectedly gratifying.

My lists of errands didn't seem that crazy on paper. Carpool. Bank. Post office. Pharmacy. Pediatrician (little did I know, I'd wait there for 2 hours!). In actuality it was like some kind of absurd triathlon.

Oh, and also, Mondays are apparently pants-switching and sweatband-wearing days for Ann and Andy. (They look like they are here to pump . . you up!)

Thankfully, every day brings with it its own hour of salvation. Naptime. I'd better keep on sleeping when I can. I'll need all the strength I can get.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Inside Out

Over the past week and a half, although it's been a bustling time with holidays, cooking, and a preschooler on "vacation" from school, it's also been a time of personal reflection for me.

I once read about something called Impostor Syndrome in which people feel as though the world views them one way, while in truth, they are somebody quite different (and usually worse). While this is a real psychological disorder, I think that on a lesser scale, some of us really do put on minor guises that can be deceptive.

One of our Yom Tov guests remarked that I'm very calm with my kids, and it got me thinking that I know that that's not the case, but that it may seem to be so, to others, some of the time.

Being a calm, upbeat person is not my nature. In fact, the expected redheaded temperament is much more like it. Plus, worry is my middle name. In short, the way I see it, I'm a crabby, easy-to-anger, anxious person, even as I realize that people would be surprised to learn that.

It's an ongoing effort to be more of the person I want to be, and to be "on" for my kids in the way that I know I need to be. It's also a struggle to retain the genuine side of myself that I see as more interesting because it's a little more biting and edgy, Being better can sometimes get confused with being sweet and bland, like a stale, cheerful cookie. The trick is to still be me, but a version of myself that doesn't make me feel guilty and uncomfortable in retrospect.

We were lucky to be able to share a meal over Rosh Hashana with a family that I consider positive and inspiring, though not in a saccharine way. In some neutral context, the wife mentioned that she'd recently seen a refrigerator magnet at someone's house that said "The very thing you're complaining about is what someone else is praying for right now." (That's paraphrased.)

It took me some time to really try to internalize how true this is for me. Whatever irks me - a mess in my house, RaggedyDad not helping "the right way," a child showing chutzpah - while irritating, I'm lucky to have each and every one. And even though I'm human and I can complain, I'd be crazy to only complain, and not quietly (humbly) realize the truth of that saying on the magnet.

That thought, and the fact that these years are forming the basis of my children's experiences and memories, is what hopefully propels me when I'm feeling like being more of who I want to be, and trying to cut down on the hatefulness, negativity, and resentment. And to be able to mentally agree when someone compliments the real me.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Life Baffles Me

Washing instructions tag on Andy's reversible winter hat:

Machine wash cold. Gentle cycle. Separately or with like colors. Inside out.

What? What's inside out on a reversible hat? The side that I like the least on the outside? Is this a riddle?

(Cross-posted to Our Clothes Speak)

Coming soon, a post and some pictures about The Raggedys' second annual apple picking trip. Last year's trip was right around when I first started blogging.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Postcards from the Edge

An ongoing series

Postcard #1
From: RaggedyMom
To: Litte Rag

Hey there, little baby. You know I love you. But why is it that you sleep so well in Mommy's bed and so poorly . . . everywhere else? Learn to talk ASAP so you can let me know.


Postcard #2
From: RaggedyMom
To: Anonymous Neighbor

It's great seeing you from time to time. What's less than great is when you say, "Everytime I see you with Little Rag, he's crying!" I'm still figuring out what to respond to you, other than the odd smile I gave you, which hopefully implied, "I don't speak English."

Ani Mitzta'eret, Lo Hevanti Otach*

*I'm sorry, I didn't understand you

Postcard #3
From: RaggedyMom
To: Tom the Mailman

We chatted the other day, and that was lovely. Who ever said that people don't know their mail carriers by name in a city like this? And thank you for almost never mixing up our mail with the downstairs neighbor's. However, when it comes to your weather prediction skills, you are totally off, dude.

Remember your sweater next time,

Postcard #4
From: RaggedyMom
To: Fruit Store Man

You're my hero of the day today. Thank you for saving me today when Ann's lunch was left behind at home. A roll and the piece of fruit that you washed somewhere in "the back of the store" (hmm . . ) were great stand-ins.

Trying hard to be less of a flake,

Postcard #5
From: RaggedyMom
To: RaggedyAndy

Is there a book of crazy ideas written by little boys, for little boys? The one that tells you to do things such as, but not limited to:
-Throwing your sweatpants into the bathtub
-Cramming used tissues behind the dresser for Mommy to find (or not find)
-Riding the vacuum cleaner like an enchanted broomstick (you're too young for Harry Potter, kid)

I know Mommy's been kind of boring tied up with the baby lately, but these shenanigans aren't quite the excitement I was looking for.

Get off of there right now,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Life's Blessings

Tonight, I'll be saying one of the last brachos (blessings) for the Jewish year of 5767:

"Baruch ata . . . hamotzi fish sticks min ha-freezer"**

Wishing everyone (including me) luck with the last hectic preparations, hoping that the kids won't be too traumatized from a couple of really lame suppers, and most of all, a wonderful, sweet year to come.

**("Blessed are you, Hashem, who brings forth fish sticks from the freezer" - no, this is not an actual blessing, but a play on words of a real one.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The "Stuff"

I worried at some point in the last few months that for Ann and Andy, this would go down as "The Summer Mommy had Little Rag," or "My Mommy had a Baby This Summer, and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt."

That's probably what made me determined to overcompensate and make sure that the kids had a lot of fun this summer. Today we tried to grab one of the last couple of days before the start of preschool and headed to a shady playground nearby (across from the post office for any of the locals).

Although I had brought along a good deal of "stuff," Andy paid no mind, and launched himself right into the sprinklers with gusto. Clothes, sandals, hat, and all. Nevermind that I had brought along a bag full of watershoes and bathing suits.

I usually dress the kids in the water-gear for the ride to the playground, but since Labor Day was yesterday, I wasn't sure if the sprinklers would still be on (technically that is their 'off' date) and I didn't want to set anyone up for a letdown.

Fortunately, after a little over an hour of splashing, sliding, falling, and keeping the baby's kvetching to a minimum, I did some surreptitiuos clothing changing and we were able to head over to get some frozen yogurt on the next corner.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Let's go!

I will probably never be able to get out of the house in a timely manner ever again.

Or maybe it just feels that way for now.

Somewhere in the last three weeks of new baby euphoria, I realized that it's a good thing the end of August is an unscheduled blur, because that's exactly what I needed at first. RaggedyDad leaves for work, and the rest of us are able to take the day as it comes. Pajamas for everyone until 2 p.m.? Sure! Cereal and milk for lunch(again)? No problem!

Now that Ann is about to begin another school year, though, I'm looking forward to getting into some kind of routine. In the spirit of that typical early September idealistic optimism, I've been resurrecting some of my notebooks and lists. I'm dusting off (or starting) plans for school lunches, weeknight suppers, Shabbos meals, general grocery lists, and household tasks, some of which had gathered dust long before giving way to four months of throwing up, two good months, and nearly three months of bedrest.

For now, getting ready to leave the house with three little ones in tow has been humblingly chaotic. Ann is pretty self-sufficient in terms of getting dressed and ready, with a few road-bumps along the way. Andy is equal parts helper and destroyer, and tends to get his finally-dressed self full of something like food, water, milk, soap, or worse. Little Rag is three weeks old, and anyone who's been the parent of a three-week-old knows what that means.

And then there's the part where we're actually out the door - with all of the "stuff", of course - Heaven forbid we forget any of the "stuff" - none of which we actually wind up using, but all of which we would surely need if any of it were left behind. Once upon a time I had it pretty together, and I know I will again, but for now I still seem to be at that point where my flustered demeanor gets me some knowing smirks and pitying stares from people on the street.

I tend to be a stickler for leaving the house without a mess lying around, so the kids are on toy-clean-up patrol while I hit the morning dishes. By then, there are more diapers to change, a fit of hysteria over my having chosen "the wrong shoes," crayon has somehow decorated the table surface, Ann and Andy are "sooooo thirsty" and, of course, Little Rag is crying. Again.

I do have to stop answering the telephone, because invariably, the caller will ask, pointedly, "Is everything okay over there? Are you managing?"

To which I like to say, "What?? I can't hear you. Is that on my end or on yours? I guess I'll call you back later, then. Bye!"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Late Summer Daze . .

We've been getting adjusted to life with our Little Rag. Mazel tov to Little Frumhouse on the Prairie for winning our pseudo-naming contest! LFP, be on the lookout for your prize. You'll know it by the (unused, outgrown) diapers I'll be using as bubble wrap.

The past couple of weeks have been sort of a whirlwind tour of parental emotions: elation, worry, relief. RaggedyDad and I have looked over at each other countless times, thinking the same thing: being a parent is really intense sometimes. Whew.

Little Rag was whisked away to the NICU shortly after he was born with a condition called TTN. Thankfully, HE'S FINE (RaggedyDad suggested that I make that totally clear in the beginning), and got to go home after three days, but it was a hell of a scare for us. This was our third baby born at the same hospital, but the NICU is not a place I had been to before, aside from visiting my nephew who was born a preemie a few years ago (and is now a major bruiser, famous for his penchant for peeing into open washing machines).

Let me just say regarding the nurses who work in the NICU - if society were just, these are the people who would be earning tens of millions of dollars, not professional athletes and movie stars. Because they really deserve it.

I remember Ann and Andy as newborns snuggled up next to my hospital bed in their cozy isolettes. With Little Rag, I had to walk about 10 minutes down confusing sets of hallways and heavy doors (a few hours postpartum), "scrub in," and try to find his little face under various beeping contraptions. I couldn't nurse him for the first couple of days and he was fed by IV. There was a night I spent camped out in the NICU "family room" chairs (and using public hospital bathrooms) after I was discharged but before Little Rag got to go home. As I said, he got better quickly, and we've thankfully gotten back on track with feeding and the like, though the ordeal did naturally delay the bris by a couple of days.

Now that that's over with, Little Rag has been somewhat jaundiced, leading to more hospital visits, blood drawn repeatedly from his scrawny arm with a rubber tourniquet (!) wrapped around it, and more stress. As a public service announcement to phlebotomists in training - if you aren't sure whether you're capable of drawing blood from a newborn's arm, please DON'T try to.

Most of the people we dealt with were terrific. Some were less so. The main issue I had was when the 'medical people' forgot that I was a parent, and not a fellow medical person, and were a little callous in their explanations. Eg: "Don't worry, TTN is not as bad as [that other thing], where we'd have to make an incision in his chest." What?!

Or when some very young student-type doctors who clearly don't have kids of their own yet asked how I was coping when Little Rag was in full hooked-up mode. My response - "I know he's where he has to be, but it's taking a lot of restraint for me not to grab him and run out of here as fast as I can." If I'd said that to the nurses (likely most of them are moms), they'd probably have understood what I meant and jokingly offered to drive the getaway car. But the Doogie Howser crowd actually took me literally, got a little alarmed, wrote stuff down in notepads, and asked me to please, please let them know the next time I felt that urge. Tough crowd.

Or the doctor at the Urgicenter who flippantly guesstimated at the baby's bilirubin count and said he was fairly certain that the baby would be re-admitted to the hospital for 'possibly a few days'. Yep. Some of you definitely fell asleep during the mandatory sensitivity training.

I'll update soon about my first solo outing with all three kids, and other things I've been doing (Preview - I've been saying "Don't kick the baby, Andy!" a LOT.)

Just know that I'm still around, if a little worse for the wear, and getting back to reading and commenting over at a some of your blogs.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Names, Pseudonyms

Things here are in that delicious post-baby's arrival upheaval and nowhere near settling down.

In the meantime, we're preparing for the upcoming bris, and as RaggedyDad and I get ready to name our son, I'm also trying to come up with a blog name for him.

Needless to say (or is it?) our kids are not really named Ann and Andy. Rather, they do have names that sound somewhat similar to one another, and it goes with the whole Raggedy theme. Those names are more or less how this blog name was born.

Now that we've got a third Raggedy in the picture, I'm trying to think of how to refer to him on the blog. I'm not familiar with the extensive lore of Raggedy Ann and Andy and whether there are any another character names.

We're open to suggestions.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Raggedy Update

Mazel tov!

The Stats:

Baby boy Raggedy
Born Sunday, August 12 at 1:15 p.m.
6 lbs., 11 oz., 19 inches long

Everyone's doing well!

YAAAAWWWWNNNNN . . . I'll talk to all of you later . . . much later.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Make Mine Skim

Since I became Ann's mother four years ago, a significant part of my life is spent doing a lot more TALKING than I ever did before. I was never the biggest blabbermouth. Except for those moments of redheaded temper, I am usually able to weigh my words fairly carefully.

As someone who majored in linguistics in college, this would seem to be a dream come true, since witnessing my own children's language development is the best real-life playing field I could ever have imagined for seeing the applications of my studies. In reality, though, not always.

With Ann and Andy, there are chunks of time when I hear so much chattering going on that I sometimes feel like challenging them to a silence contest (anyone else remember those?). And then I'm taken aback to realize that a good deal of the talking is coming from ME! Constantly describing, encouraging, suggesting, explaining, answering, reading, narrating all fall within my job description.

One of the major features of our home is that there are always many books available to the kids. I've written before that RaggedyDad and I share the rude trait of often reading at the table. The kids aren't quite up to that, but they do feel very comfortable pulling out a book, doing their thing with it, or asking for it to be read. Lots of my books are the ones I kept in my classroom when I taught English as a second language. The library was also a major part of my life growing up, and I take the kids there fairly often.

On days when I feel like all I've done is talk, I sometimes try to make my read-alouds more of a skimming, or a "let's describe what we see on each page," or, lately, "Why don't you read this to me, Ann?" It is amazing to hear the very close narration after months of her hearing the same story. With Ann, skimming a book is not covert. With Andy, there is a little guilt, since he doesn't always realize it's happening.

There are times when I feel like I'm on autopilot with the things I say to my kids. I've explained the same thing so many times! I've read that story about 43 times this morning! It's tempting to tune out a little bit of myself, and of them. When I feel like that's happening, I know I have to focus on consciously responding and talking in the moment. Do I always? That's another story.

As Ann gets older, I find that she's become far more of a mental challenge than a physical one, and it spurs me to really think about what we're saying to each other. And although a lot of Andy time is spent keeping him safe and helping to direct his actions, he does mimic all that I say, from content to tone to cadence. Which means being more aware with him, too. There's nothing more eye-opening than seeing our negative traits, including negative speaking style, reflected back to us in our kids. It's pretty humbling.

Another story, kids? I'd love to, but how about if we make this one skim?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Lots and Lots of Shots

This morning, Ann was subjected to that other birthday rite of passage, the annual physical. I was warned by the receptionists when I made this appointment that the four-year-old visit would be rough in terms of shots and blood drawn.

I tried to play up the exciting parts of a well-visit to Ann early this morning: "Dr. L. has known you since you were born! I remember when he held you on your belly suspended over the palm of his hand to see you holding yourself up! Now that you're bigger, you can talk to him yourself and answer his questions about how nicely you're growing up!"

Ann knew there were shots coming, and sure enough, after the hearing test, vision test, blood pressure, weighing (still a skinny beanpole! 32 lbs. at 4 years, Ezzie!), etc., it was time for drawing blood from her fingertip (will the squeezing never stop?!), a forearm PPD (heading back to check it on Wednesday), a tetanus shot (aaack!), booster shots (I think it was 3 boosters and they combined 2 of them into one shot). Yikes! For her part, Ann was a real trooper, stoic at times and quietly whimpering a few times. I don't think I'd be able to take it as well myself.

I'm glad I was able to be there for her, and I'm glad it's over with!!

On an unrelated note, Happy 100th Post to me!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Crumb Coat

Later today we're having a small family barbeque in my parents' backyard for Ann's birthday. I'm glad that despite having attended a few more party-ish parties, this is what Ann has been most excited about related to her birthday every year. I do realize that as she grows up, she may change her mind . . .

With a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms for this afternoon, we may have to bring everything indoors in a hurry at some point. I hear some thunder rolling, so chances are, we'll be indoors! We've got the paper goods, we've got the meat, and I even had a few of those infamous party favors left over from Ann's camp party (how many parties are we having here?!) to give out to the cousins who'll be there.

The only thing left to do is to finish decorating Ann's cake. For now, I put on the crumb coat, which is a thin layer of frosting that apparently should help the chocolate cake crumbs not show through as much in the final layer. I'm not a cake professional by any stretch of the imagination, but I think we'll wind up putting together something cute. I got the idea for a CandyLand-board type cake from a parenting magazine, and decided to try and adapt it for this party.

Although there'll be an excessive amount of sugary, nauseating candy (on top of a frosted cake!), I don't imagine too much of the candy will actually be eaten. Ann tends to lick a couple of pieces and then sort of hide them in a napkin. On the other hand, Andy may just have a field day with this cake! I'd better tell my brother and sister-in-law to bring along some toothbrushes for their kids!

The semi-finished product (minus the writing in the top-left corner and some lollipops in the middle of the left edge that will make it too tall to transport):

Monday, July 23, 2007

Conference Call

Conversations that involve a combination of medical and halachic issues usually sound like some version of this:

Doctor: "Look, RaggedyMom, I'm not your posek, but . . . "

Rabbi: "Listen, RaggedyMom, I'm not a doctor, but . . . "

I'd say that the two of you kind (other) men in my life need to just get together and talk it all out!

Imagined conference call (sounds a lot like planning a date):

Doctor: Hey Rabbi, what do YOU want to do?

Rabbi: Dunno, Doc. What do YOU want to do?

Okay, guys. Give me a call when you're done.

In other news, I had to run a brief errand today before bringing Ann to camp. The rain was at its prime out-of-control phase right then. Mistakenly, I parked not out on the street, but in a back parking lot. The lot had basically turned into a giant cess pool of slimy, deep puddles full of garbage and who knows what else. By the time I realized this, though, Ann and I were immersed and surrounded by the puddles.

Poor Ann got totally soaked. At one point, I thought I lost her in one of the puddles! I wish the store had had the consideration to post a sign at the parking lot entrance that it was open only to deliveries. Of course, we went straight back home afterward for clothing changes before heading to camp. What a dripping disaster! As for me, I got drenched too, diving in to rescue her. There'll be no leaving the house for me and the kids tomorrow, though. Video, anyone?

I'm wishing everyone to whom it applies an easy, meaningful fast tomorrow. Hopefully, this will be the last year we fast on this date.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Competition Blues

A week from today will be Ann's fourth birthday. (Same as yours, Ezzie). On the day of her birthday, I'll be going to her day camp with the standard school/camp party implements as dictated by the school.

The school asks for either a bought cake or bought cupcakes, and a half-gallon of juice. They provide plates and cups. Elsewhere on the memo, clearly stated, are the words "We do not permit the distribution of any party bags or favors. Each birthday child may present the class with a gift of a small book or tape if you wish."

Ann and I went to choose a CD of children's music ($5.99) and wrapped it for the occasion. I've got juice in the house, and we'll get the cupcakes next week. The usual cupcake choice has been mini-cupcakes that come 18 to a package, with alternating rows of rainbow sprinkles and chocolate sprinkles on top. They are small and don't cost much.

I was quite surprised when Ann came home from camp today with a substantial "goody bag." It was the first birthday party this summer, and I'm really ticked off that by flouting school policy, this child's mom has upped the ante. A party hat, a few little chachke toys, a sheet of stickers, some crayons, and, my personal least favorite, a giant lollipop, all came home with Ann today. Grrr.

Ann is not a demanding child (though I can already see that Andy's got a whole different temperament). And until now, we've celebrated her birthday by making a small barbeque in my parents' backyard for us, my parents, and my brother who lives locally with his family. (11 people, mostly cousins, in total at this point) I either bake the cake or buy one.

When we go to Toys R Us for diapers, or Amazing Savings for foil tins, and don't buy anything else in the face of toys and chachkes galore, I almost never hear any protests or requests from Ann. But of course, after camp today, Ann told me that she was excited to give out "surprises" to her friends next week too.

I know how kids are at four years old, and if I stick stuanchly to my original plan, Ann will certainly hear from some of the other kids about why she didn't give anything out for her birthday when "Child A" did last week. She's not a fighter, but it will hurt her. And why should she always be the one to be the understanding "big girl" that I'm often asking her to be? I don't think it is fair or realistic to expect a child Ann's age to have the grace and fortitude to calmly reply, "Well, I did give a CD to the class, and besides, we aren't supposed to give out goody bags."

I can think of a couple of other bloggers who are likely to disagree with me, or at least strongly share in my frustration, but I think that at this point, my hands are tied and I need to come up with some modicum of party favor. Perhaps something actually useful or appreciated, like an inexpensive little book or coloring book (I'm open to ideas). It won't be because I wanted to.

I had no issue with the goody bags when Ann was invited to a birthday party held outside of school. I felt that it was unneccesary in that child's case for the parents to go all out at a dance studio, but it was not subject to school policy, and fortunately, it was the only party as far as I know.

Tonight, (before I lost my nerve!), I called the head counselor in Ann's group, who was also her ganenet/teacher the previous year, and expressed my surprise and disappointment that this had occurred altogether, and a week before Ann's own party to boot. She agreed with me, although I understand that from her perspective, having this other mom simply show up with a birthday boy with 20 prepared yet unnanounced bags really barred her from creating an ugly scene and prohibiting her from distributing them. She understood where I was coming from, sympathized, and understands why I'll be showing up with something for Ann to give out (albeit small). Thanks, teach.

Sigh. The whole thing irks me, though.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Yesterday, on the spur of the moment, RaggedyDad and I decided to take the kids to the beach. Since I am a Very Pale Person, even more exacerbated by the fact that I am mostly relegated to my couch for the next few weeks, I broke out the SPF 50 and we all got ready.

In truth, since I'm not very good at being spontaneous, I really would have preferred to have our bags ready and sandwiches sitting in the fridge from the night before. But for yesterday's outing, we hadn't had much of a prior plan, so there was an early morning flurry of activity trying to figure out what we needed to bring along.

To me, the logistics of the beach are very complicated with small children. More extra clothes, more mess, and more damage control (of course, not wanting to turn the RaggedyVan into its own private beach). Let's estimate our 'plastic bags of stuff' count at about 6. The cleanup proceedings for leaving the beach are lengthy and gritty. As always, I took home the award for Most Dressed Person at the Beach.

It was certainly a far cry from the daily routine my mother and I had until I was 5, hopping on the bus and going to the beach in Tel Aviv for the brief morning hours when my brothers were at school. I don't think we ever brought much more stuff along than a pail, shovel, and busfare. The choko-banana ice cream pops sold by beach-walking vendors was more than enough provisions.

Thankfully, a few simple toys were more than sufficient. Due to their ages and temperaments, it really was enough for Ann and Andy to just be somewhere special, without necessarily doing anything in particular. Splashing with their Papa, coming back to my outpost for a bite of sandwich, and digging until they could reach the water provided more than enough fun for a couple of hours. And I got to see the progress the kids have made since last summer. Instead of treating the sand like lunch, Andy used it more sparingly, perhaps as more of a condiment.

As we were leaving, a family was setting up a few feet away. Three adult women and four kids (aged maybe 4-11?)between them, they were probably well suited for a show like this. Cursing, smoking, rudeness, and carrying on were the order of the day. The language of the oldest two boys was yikes-inducing, as was the extreme chutzpah with which they spoke to the parents. And of course, there was the hard plastic ball they chose to bat around with force right near us until a few choice glares we sent their way put a stop to it. During our short overlap time, one boy in this family in particular did not stop carrying on, kicking sand in anger, complaining, insulting his mother, and whining about nothing to do and nobody to play with.

My concern is this: How do parents make sure that their kids don't morph into these types of creatures as the years go by? I know it's a matter of chinuch, but what,if any, are the specifics that successful parents can identify in the quest to avoid these results? I realize that my kids are very small, which makes them satisfied with the basics. There is definitely a culture of respect, of appreciation, and of not having every little thing that RaggedyDad and I try to cultivate at hom. But at some point, our children will grow into their own identities, and we just have to hope that they stay more beauty than beast.

What do some of you, parents or not, think is the key to brat-proofing?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Raggedy Road

For about the past month, the Raggedys have been enjoying the sounds of a metro-New York summer. Including, but not limited to: jackhammers, drills that bore holes through bricks, roof overhauling tools and materials, and the like.

The large apartment complex where we live has been actively trying to justify the high maintenance fee we pay, and it has translated into major work projects throughout the summer. While I'm not opposed to the eventual beautification of the grounds, the arduous work being done in the meantime feels endless!

Giant tarps, mesh enclosures, precarious hanging ladders, and men in the windows for much of the day - it gets a little intense! At times, the noise has been mind-numbing. Often, I'm scared to watch what these guys are doing and I'm busy cringing and hoping that none of them get seriously hurt.

On the bright side, Ann and Andy have been very entertained and fascinated by everything giong on around them. Ann is at camp for a good deal of the day, but Andy has been more or less homebound with me for weeks. It has been a sort of blessing in disguise to have these guys out here for him to watch with awe. Especially cute is when some of them respond to his excited shouts of "Man-worker! Hi mans! Hi worker!" etc.

Today's project was one of the more invasive ones. In front of our apartment is a concrete path that leads to all of the apartments on this stretch of the block. The path is being repaved in sections, and for the time being, there is no paving over much of our area. It was pretty tricky navigating getting in and out of the house with the kids, Andy loving the newfound pile of dirt and Ann insisting on avoiding the dirt while staying on the narrow strip of grass near it. Of course, as Mommy, I get the honor of walking on the rockiest or messiest part while holding the 'stuff' and frantically trying to keep everyone from tripping and maintain hand-holding at all times. While whistling Dixie.

When the workers pack up for the day come nightfall, and the kids finally stop talking from their beds and conk out, I'm pretty sure I'll head to bed myself.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Happily Ever After

It's official. RaggedyDad is a wuss-Papa. I know this because of the box of cereal sitting on top of our refrigerator right now.

A week before yesterday, my husband traveled to visit his family in Belgium. Originally, we were all going to go together, as we often do in the summer, but that trip will have to be saved for another lifetime. I mean, year. Have I mentioned what a pleasure it is to travel with small children and babies?

When it became clear that we weren't all going to Belgium, the question remained whether any of us would go. As in, just RaggedyDad. We'd briefly contemplated sending Ann along with him, but ultimately, the timing was wrong for me to have her go, and we felt that she's a little bit young (very almost 4) for that sort of thing.

After exhaustive deliberations, we came to the conclusion that since there were extenuating family circumstances in Belgium, and this was an important trip for RaggedyDad, he would go alone for a week. Sunday to Sunday. He even managed to work remotely from his mother's apartment in Belgium on Monday, thereby saving a vacation day.

As for me, let's just say that I hope not to be in my situation without him again for a long time. Or ever. I hope I was enough of a good sport about it, but I am just . . me. Most of the time, between school, work, and saving the world, RaggedyDad is not home at all during the kids' waking hours, except for about 20-30 minutes in the morning. And I do have parents, friends, and neighbors closeby. But let me reiterate that this was not a picnic. Unless you like picnics that are scary and lonely.

In any case, RaggedyDad gallantly did a major supermarket/fruitstore shop shortly after landing and arriving at home. Andy was sleeping, and Ann, ever the 'Papa's girl' went along with him on the outing. I usually bank on a few exchanges, ommisions, and extra items coming home when RaggedyDad does the shopping. I'd be a fool to complain about these, and he knows which things on the shopping list are really urgent and non-negotiable.

But one item that came home made me smile and took me back to my own days of tagging along on grocery trips, and the ensuing begging and bargaining that little kids are so good at. A box of cereal called Disney Princess Fairytale Flakes. Seriously. They're actually like Frosted Flakes, but dusted with . . pink. Also, less tasty than Tony the Tiger. "She said that she's my princess, and I'm her prince," he explained sheepishly. Did she now? Sigh.

Welcome home, RaggedyDad the Valiant.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Eight Things Meme

I'm going to go a bit counterculture here and neglect to paste in the rules of the meme. I don't feel like these rules are so crucial to understanding what this is all about, and I'm not always that big on thinking that the rules always have to apply!

1. I often drink water (cold NYC tap is the best) with a few drops of lemon juice concentrate added in. Or sometimes seltzer with the same add-in. Ann has the habit of referring to this as "melon water" and can't get the word "lemon" straight. I'm so used to hearing it that I now refer to it as melon water myself. Speaking of, RaggedyDad, can you make me some melon water with ice and a straw?

2. I like to bake, and baking means eggs. I use a specific glass for cracking the eggs into for checking blood spots, and I still mentally think "No red!" whenever the egg is clean (almost always). Since Ann and Andy are usually on the step-ladder next to me, I taught them to check from on top and from underneath the glass and to call out "No red!" too. Andy's egg announcement sounds more like "Aaah-Re!"

3. For several years after moving here from Israel at age 5, I hardly used my Hebrew (aside from being able to coast through Hebrew language tasks at school) but luckily I got it back for the most part when I was ready to get into it again. These days I push myself to use it whenever I can (with Ann's teachers, in half of the stores around here, etc.), glaring errors and all.

4. Usually, at some point on my birthday, I cry. Not because of getting older, since I still feel like I'm about 16. I guess it's probably out of nostalgia and the sadness of time passing. As a kid, I was often away at camp on my birthday, and it just felt very empty being away from home on my birthday.

5. My aunt is a nurse-midwife and delivered me. And I spent my first day in the world in an incubator because I was small.

6. Even though I cook a good deal these days, I have a mental block when it comes to potatoes. When it comes the differences in cooking and peeling approaches to mashed potatoes vs. potatoes for potato salad, etc., I have to quickly consult with the man of the house.

7. I don't know how to ride a bike. Awful, I know. My brothers were teaching me and got impatient. If I remember correctly, they took the training wheels off too soon and then got bored and went to go play Pole Position or something (I can still hear that droning sound in my memory!). Hence, I still can't ride a bike. RaggedyDad, who rode his own bike for miles to and from school, tried to teach me last summer in Belgium, but his sister's bike was a poor fit and I was pretty hopeless in my apprehension.

8. My mother has two sisters and one brother. Her sisters both have only sons. So I'm my grandmother's only granddaughter through one of her own daughters. Being that I'm my mother's only daughter, Ann is (so far) the only continuation of the "chain of women" phenomenon in our family.

I think that most people I'd tag have either done this already or been tagged. If anyone who hasn't been tagged yet wants to do this meme, consider yourself tagged!

p.s. triLcat, the Polarity Meme is my next one, although I may do a somewhat abridged version!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ending My Tenure

For the past year, I've been one of the class mothers in Ann's preschool class. And now I'm glad I'm not.

Don't get me wrong - everything went pretty smoothly over the year. But as with all such roles, there were a few, ahem, issues that irked me.

Now, this was not that complex a job, as it basically entailed:

*Collecting money for the teachers' gifts at Chanukah

*Collecting money for the teachers' gifts at the end of the year

*Calling parents about school cancellations due to inclement weather or other unforseen events

Initially, the head teacher also suggested running a little program where instead of sending lunches on Monday, each parent would send about $1 or $1.50 and she'd buy bread, spreads, vegetables, etc. and the kids would make their own sandwiches. Since the preschool director was not a fan of this idea, the teacher left it up to the class mothers to poll the other parents and see if the majority would be interested. The response was a little lukewarm, so the idea was shelved.

I would have gone along with the sandwich idea, but I can certainly understand that in families where the preschool child is not the oldest, school lunches are made assembly-line-style and there's no major purpose served in being spared the making of that one lunch for the little one. Even in our smaller household, I typically make RaggedyDad 3 sandwiches for his long work-and-schoolday, and making one more for Ann is no big deal.

This year, we had no snow days at school. None. So basically, I was just a banker twice a year. Actually, my job was made even easier because there were 18 kids in the class and the teacher requested 3 class mothers, so my part of the class list amounted to just my family and 5 other families.

Of the three class mothers, one lives in an outlying neighborhood, works half-days, and sends her daughter to preschool by bus. The other is more of a queen-bee type who had filled the class-mom role once or twice before. And then there was me.

When it came to the biannual teacher gifts, we came to the consensus that rather than take the pooled cash and buy something for the teachers, we would present them with a nice card and The Cash. Having been a teacher myself (and received my fair share of Korean Jesus statuettes, etc), and having a mother who is a preschool assistant, I firmly believe that while less "personal", cash is most appreciated by teachers. Particularly in Ann's assistant teacher's case, where I'm aware that personal finances are tight, a gift card to a particular store would also not be ideal.

However, two issues came up at Chanukah time that irked me. First, since both the Chanukah performance and the graduation took place on Fridays, I thought it would be appropriate to present each teacher with a small bouqet of flowers, with a small amount of money taken from the amount collected. When RaggedyDad brings home flowers, he typically spends very, very little on them, so it can be done.

Queen Bee Mom nixed the flowers idea, and for no reason other than the fact that she felt that particularly the assistant could use every dollar. I hear her point, but the amount collected was sizable. I believe that even when someone could really use the money, if, say, a small, small fraction of it gets taken out, they're just as likely as anyone to appreciate a little pick-me-up like flowers. But I didn't push the point, and acquiesced. And it's possible that those few dollars would indeed mean a lot.

What bothered me more was that Queen Bee Mom insisted on presenting the teachers with the money in the same denominations in which it was collected. Which meant some larger bills, but also a Lot of small bills. I asked her if she thought we might go to the bank to change the money for larger, though not impractical denominations, which would be a little more presentable.

She decided against it because a)going to the bank would be a tirchah (imposition) on the class moms and b)[My blood is still boiling over this one] the assistant might have a hard time with larger bills "at the types of stores where might shop".

I probably bit my tongue hard enough to bring up blood. I saw that there was no headway with this mom, but how rude can you get? It's not as though the assistant teacher buys her groceries from vending machines! There really aren't that many stores nowadays that give you a hard time over a $20 or even a $50 bill.

I just can't stand it when, in the name of thinking they're doing what's best for someone, people get so self-righteous as to govern how and what is done for someone else. Queen Bee Mom would have you think this was a huge favor she was doing for the assistant. Grr.

Suffice it to say that when I was in charge of assembling the cards and cash at the end of the year, I skipped the flowers but made sure that there were kavodik (respectful) denominations of money in those cards. And Ann and I baked two little chocolate cakes for the teachers as well.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Life, Catalogued

If you're like me, you feel an occasional niggling guilt over not having your family photographs arranged in a way that allows you to enjoy them most.

We got a digital camera in July of 2003, when Ann was born, and since then, have printed very few pictures. We used to upload them to photo printing websites, get the prints by mail, and give them out to family. Since RaggedyDad's family lives overseas, it's often more practical for them to view the pictures in emails and let us know if there are any (very occasional) shots they want to have in physical form.

My parents, on the other hand, are able to see the pictures via email (and I'm so proud of them for figuring that out!) but really want a few real photos for frames, albums, etc. Now and then I hear, "I don't think I have one picture of Andy!" and he's nearly 20 months old. Guilt!

Tonight I've been organizing the pictures on the computer by month and year, since they're automatically stored by date. But this is just a tiny drop in the bucket of what I ultimately would like to do:

1. Upload photos to some kind of sharing site (I'm open to suggestions) that my parents can use to order prints. Some of them even allow users in different countries to order prints locally, which would be ideal for RaggedyDad's mom in Belgium, and grandparents in Israel (who don't use email but have a neighbor who'll help them order shots).

2. Print some of our nicer shots over the past couple of years and get some nice albums going on. Or at least photo boxes. It's hard to share photos with Shabbos guests when they're all on the computer! This also connects with the guilt about not doing anything nice/memorable with some of our vacation memorabilia, other than stashing it in a Ziploc bag for that trip.

3. Backing up the photos onto RaggedyDad's external hard drive and/or a CD. Actually, since I don't really know what this entails, I'll leave this to him.

4. Scanning old photos. RaggedyDad's sister did this with their old family photos dating back to the 1920's (!) and did a very nice, organized job. Complete with backup CDs in different locations. For those of us who have those occasional fire nightmares, I think this would help me sleep that much better at night. Not to mention how nice it is for us all to have copies of those photos.

5. Understanding how to lift movie clips and create real, normal home movies (DVDs nowadays I guess) from those funny little cassettes that our video camera uses. I'd really like to have some movies that make sense and that we can watch properly.

So there you have it. My guilt list regarding family photos and movies. I don't think anything on this list is all that complicated, though I have to learn it, and it is time-consuming. If a little bit gets done after hours on a regular basis, though, it's feasible.

For now, my task focus is finishing up the sewing of name tags on Ann's camp clothing. But I'll bet I'm not the only one feeling photo guilt!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Genre Study

Most people who know me know that I am a big reader. Growing up, my father always read the Israeli paper, but not books. My mother has phases of reading - sometimes voraciously, sometimes more emphasis is put on other recreational activities like needlepoint. I don't recall my brothers being the biggest readers. But for me, reading was like breathing.

I've mentioned about my childhood that as a non-driver, my mother would walk to do the grocery shopping, and would often leave me alone in the library for an hour or so while going in and out of stores(different times, folks). By the time she returned, weighed down with supermarket bags, I had a tall stack of books ready to take home. Of course, since it was a 20 minute, semi-uphill trek, some of them had to be whittled down.

Once my oldest brother was driving, on Friday afternoons, he would be forced to take me on a quick library trip. Of course, he wouldn't start the ignition until he made me sing parts of a good three or four Led Zeppelin songs. I guess it was funny having his kid sister sing the opening part of "Immigrant Song". That song still makes me want to . . go to the library :)

One area of contention was the fact that I always wanted to read during mealtimes. It's not that our family conversations weren't scintillating(ish). But I was usually in the middle of a book. When I went to Belgium to meet RaggedyDad's family, one of few similarities we shared was reading at the table! Finally! It wasn't rude anymore if everyone was doing it!

These days I tend to read light novels or parenting-related books. Sometimes non-fiction, sometimes Jewish books. RaggedyDad, however, almost always reads the same thing: Russian sci-fi or fantasy novels. I laugh when I see these books because there is the inevitable sorcerer/three-headed-creature/dwarf-colony etc. on the cover. These books look so strange. And being that the text is in Russian letters (somehow connoting a sense of weird mysteriousness) they're even freakier-looking to me. Let's just say that from a very early age, if I asked my kids to bring me my book, they'd never mistakenly think that one of these colorful Russian oddities belonged to me.

This past Sunday, we were in Brooklyn for an early bris. On the way home, we made the cursory couple-of-times-a-year visit to Brighton Beach to stock up on RaggedyDad's reading material.

I don't really emphasize what someone is reading, provided that they are reading. Or maybe that's a quote from when I went to grad school to become a "Reading Specialist" - not that I claim to be a big specialist! But reading in general gives you a greater sense of vocabulary, grammar, and spelling, not to mention the creative benefits. Best of all, it's QUIET! Leftover children's books that I kept in my classroom as a teacher line many of our bookshelves, and to me, there's nothing greater than watching the kids feel comfortable to sit, explore, and read. Or, of course, reading to them.

But maybe they'll go easy on me and not get too much into Russian sci-fi.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Nice Kids Finish Last?

One of my more painful challenges as Ann progresses through the preschool years is seeing her navigate the murky social waters. It's tough to let go and worry about how she manages when I'm not there to help direct her environment and experiences.

I know that these years are fraught with ups and downs. One day two kids are best friends. The next day one of them doesn't want to be friends anymore. The next day they're friends, but another child has stepped in too, forming a tricky triangle. It doesn't seem like these patterns change much with time, but rather, become slightly more sophisticated versions of the same thing.

Like many kids, Ann thinks very deeply about what she sees and experiences. She's shy yet friendly, and a total chatterbox at home. She narrates a good deal of her inner thoughts when she feels comfortable. Her observations are often punctuated with a resounding, " . . . and that's how it goes!"

Over the past year at preschool, Ann has sporadically mentioned either hearing or sometimes being the brunt a few of the usual kiddie barbs. When Boy Y called her a baby at the start of the year, she matter-of-factly told me, "But he's wrong. I'm not a baby. My brother's still a baby, but I'm big!" Today Girl S told Ann that her picture was 'not beautiful' which had Ann a little down in the dumps. Thankfully these incidents haven't happened often. Ann's not an unpopular kid, but she's no queen bee either.

Ann is the product of two non-queen-bee types who are also sensitive. Chances are, there'll be a good share of hurts over the years. My report cards always said things along the lines of "good student but overly sensitive." And RaggedyDad asked to be changed from one first grade class to another because the teacher was too harsh with some of the other kids and it was too upsetting to him.

It's difficult to see Ann face the usual peer-meanness, because, though she certainly has her other faults, she's not the kind of child who tries to knowingly insult or hurt the feelings of another kid.

Though much of this is just typical preschool phase stuff, sadly, what happens a lot is that the rude kids turn into rude grown-ups who often do get their way. Maybe they're less liked for it, but they don't seem to mind, and in the shorter version of the long run, they even come out on top.

And while I'd rather be the mom of the nice kid, I'd rather her not be relegated to finishing last.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Erev Shabbos Entertainment

Finally, the concrete, rusty-nail, ancient "playground of doom" behind our area of the apartment complex where we live has been replaced!

We've been watching the various stages of tearing down and rebuilding over the last week, and it has been really fascinating. Sometimes, progress was amazing, and sometimes it just looked like a bunch of workers in the hot sun all scratching their heads, simultaneously baffled.

They seem to be nearly done, with just a padded floor to lay out and a few more finishing touches. All the local kids can't wait to get in there. I'm glad because the equipment seems age-appropriate for my kids, with more closed-in sides and easier access to the slides than some of the other play-structures within close walking distance.

I never bothered taking any before shots of the eyesore monstrosity, but here's where "our playground" is holding now:

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Is it just me, or does having kids around mean that there are very rarely times when I get to eat without one or two extra little mouths hovering about, vying for a bite?

Accompanying these attempts to hijack my meals are cute phrases like, "Me too! Me too!" although Andy usually prefers to call out, "Iwannin!" (I want it) and Ann has taken to coming up close to me and trying to flatter her way onto my plate ("Mommy, I really love you, Mommy. I like you. Can I have some please . . ?").

I like to eat in peace, and while I realize that, for the most part, those days are over, it sometimes seems as though I only get to taste every fourth or fifth bite! I guess it would be different if early on I had been very adamant about "Mommy's Food," but it seems this is not the most territorial of households.

Thankfully my kids are good eaters, with nice appetites, healthy-ish tastes, and the willingness to try new foods. But I think there's still no greater way to make a food appealing to them than to start eating it myself. Anything from a bowl of cereal to a real meal to a glass of water lends itself to frequent meal-jacking.

When Ann was just starting to eat regular food, I could get away with continuing to cook for just me and RaggedyDad, and taking off a bit of food to give to her. Now that she's a bigger and hungrier kid, she actually needs to be counted in the shopping and cooking equation!

But Andy puts us all to shame. Eating is his forte, and he tries to eat each meal several times by meal-jacking every other member of the family. I remember when my brothers were teenagers and food would literally disappear before it had more than a few minutes to get comfortable in its spot in the fridge. The day Andy's big-boy appetite really kicks into high gear is going to be a momentous (and pricey!) one around here.

Another hidden un-benefit of all this meal-jacking is that it's also a great way to ensure that when one of us is sick, we all get sick very quickly. Just another way we like to spread the love around.

Considering that the RaggedyKids' bedtime runs rather early, I do often have the option of waiting until they're asleep to eat. But I kind of like to eat together with them and then get everything cleaned up together.

I just have to be prepared to be meal-jacked. Yet again.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Naming Pressures

It's a busy week for extended family simchas.

Tonight, my cousin is making a modest bar mitzvah party for her son, the oldest of 8. This is the first great-grandchild's bar mitzvah for my grandmother, and it comes just after the first yahrtzeit for my grandfather, ob"m. I won't be there, but RaggedyDad is on his way to the party now. I know it will be pretty moving and emotional for my grandmother.

On Shabbos, the bar mitzvah boy will read from the Torah in his community. However, my grandmother will be in another neighborhood, at the bris of the first baby boy born since my grandfather's passing. The baby was born to another cousin (different family) and his wife, the newest member to join the family. I hope the new mother realizes what's riding on this bris!

The level of emotionality surrounding the reaction to the illness and subsequent loss of my grandfather is hard to describe. To say that it has been a genuine heartbreak for every single member of this large extended family is an understatement.

It is a very strong assumption on the part of some of the elder family members that the name given will be my grandfather's. And I would say that there's a good 98% chance that that'll be the case. But when I talk to my grandmother and it's clear that this is a done deal in her mind, inwardly I cringe at the thought of the very remote possibility that another name will be given. Stranger things have happened.

It's rough sometimes, as young parents, feeling that very intense implicit (or explicit sometimes!) pressure to give a particular name. Or to choose between names that both sides feel ought to be given. Or to find that you just don't like the name you feel like you're "supposed" to give.

I can be objective and say that although I hope to have the merit to use it for one of my own kids someday, my grandfather's name is not on any top 10 or maybe even top 50 list of popular Jewish baby names. And the nickname options it provides are extremely limited. With our kids, we were fortunate to be able to go our own route in combining naming for people and ensuring that we actually liked and wanted to use those names / combinations of names. There was also not the same degree of emotional pressure at the times when our kids were born.

Sigh. I really do wish the new parents nachas from the newborn and the confidence and intuition to make the best of this first of many of their own parental choices.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Not too Raggy

It's the end of an era.

The Raggedys are in the midst of preparing to say a fond farewell to our only family car to date, and the car I myself have been driving a few years longer than that.

Our loyal '95 Corolla, affectionately called "Ninety-five" or "Jimmy" for what you have to do to get the driver's side door to open, is ready to be retired to my father. Together, they'll enjoy great gas mileage, a smooth(ish) ride, and if there's ever a famine, there's a Snicker's bar somewhere in the glove, and some splattered stains on the ceiling (!) upholstery from a Coke can that exploded years ago. Those can probably be licked off in desperation.

Today, RaggedyDad shlepped with Ann and her heavy shleppy carseat by subway to Brooklyn in order to bring home The Van. This is the van we've deliberated over for so long as to almost take all the fun out of it. We test drove several vans. We consulted with some experts in the field - a guy from my parent's shul who finds "deals," the very van-astute Mrs. Balabusta, and of course, the Psychic Friends Network.

Actually, Ann and her Papa had quite a big adventure today, van notwithstanding. They took the bus and the subway, which was very new and exciting, to his office near Rockefeller Center. After hanging out "at work" for a little while, it was back on the train to the car dealer in Brooklyn. Afterward, they drove the van home, where thankfully, only one of them (the right one) fell asleep in the shlepped carseat.

As for me, I'm getting adjusted to the new wheels. Sentimental spirit that I am, I'm already a little nostalgic for our former little road-hugging black car. And now I have to learn to drive (and park!!) all over again! So far I've just been assuming that the car is about 5 times bigger than what I'm used to. But, as my eloquent brother said, "If every Shaindy out there can handle driving a van, so can you!"

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dairy Queen

Growing up, I was not a big fan of fleishig (meat) meals. But we had meaty dinners almost every night. My father is just not a lasagna and salad kind of guy. Trying to pull a weekly "pizza night" would have been a sort of unappreciated joke at our home.

But I always wanted dairy. Very rarely would I actually like or not make a fuss over the dinner my mother prepared. More often, I would beg or insist on making myself a dinner of a Lenders bagel with cheese, melted on it in the toaster. Having come to the point of running my own household, I've since apologized many times over to my own mother!

In any case, I really look forward to Shavuos. Or Shavuot. Or Shvi'is as RaggedyDad learned to say it when he was becoming frum in Antwerp. Gaaaah! Too many names! (And that's aside from some of the other descriptive names for the holiday.) "Burning out" (or in this case, self-cleaning) the oven for that yearly switch to a milchig cooking bonanza is one of my most anticipated activities.

Dairy cooking is tricky because I feel like it somehow requires a lot more refrigerator space, though I'm not sure why. I'm not a last-minute person by virtue of the fact that I don't have the strength or time-frame to do things alone, quietly, late at night, and all at once. So I typically do a few things each day.

A kink in my agenda this year came when my downstairs neighbors called to say that their refrigerator and freezer blew out some kind of crucial fuse, and could they transport everything (!) to ours? Luckily they were able to eventually move non-essentials to another neighbor's fridge in an empty apartment across the street, and gradually start keeping fewer things at our place. But for a couple of days we've been so crammed that I couldn't find (or store!) a thing!

RaggedyDad finds it funny when I take photos of things I've cooked. It's not that I sit there and look back on them lovingly. But it is nice to have some remnant of my hard work besides the crumbs! And it's kind of exciting for my two short assistants to look at the photos of their own hard work/major Mommy interfering and mishaps.

This year, the RaggedyClan and their guests can anticipate:

Blintz Souffle:

Eggplant Parmesan (or as Ann calls it - Parmesano Reggiano):

Scalloped Potatoes:

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake (recipe available and so worth it):

Crumb Cake:

Of course, no holiday cooking is complete without that classic staple of "what to make for dinner the night before" - Spaghetti! This is the second box - the first uncooked box was scattered by Andy all over the then-sticky kitchen floor. Another fun activity for Mommy!

Tomorrow's cooking list consists of flounder, French onion soup, and possibly pasta (although - do we need it? Not sure). Hopefully nobody will be running for the toaster to make any alternate meals (though I'd deserve it)!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Turning Into My . . . !!!!!

Tonight, I sunk to a new low. I realized mid-supper that my food choices were designed around the goal of eliminating clutter from our home by eating remainders of nearly empty containers. You see, tomorrow is recycling pickup, and I want this stuff gone. When Ann's teachers ask for empty bottles and containers, I faithfully and gladly send in all of my empty junk.

The coop where we live has garbage pickup every morning (!) but recycling only weekly, and between our own kids and the two-year-old twins downstairs, that little blue can really fills up to overflowing. Which is not pleasant during the warm, muggy New York weather.

Nearly empty large seltzer bottle - gone. Barely there chocolate spread container - gone (with the help of some bread). Smidge of milk left in the bottle - gone. Peanut butter lingering in the corners and crevices of the Jif jar - sayonara. A few dozen last Cheerios amid a bag of mostly dusty bits - ciao. Not the most well-rounded of meals, but hey, I did also finish some tomatoes that were on their way out. Tonight I was a bit of a human trash bin, and I'm not proud.

RaggedyDad, if you're reading this, I can already hear you saying, "Please don't get overly obsessed by cleaning." Don't worry. There's no danger of that. But we know that I do get into my cleaning spurts. Don't fight it - enjoy it!

I've mentioned before that I grew up in a very neat and orderly environment. I really don't ever remember a mess at home, clutter (besides chachkes - RaggedyDad subtly informed me early on after seeing my parents' home that he wanted minimal chachkes around!), or piles of random things looking for their proper place.

I'm not that kind of homemaker. My kids will have a different backdrop for their memories. Things are neat over here, but in a much more relaxed sort of way. Unlike my mother, I don't dust every morning at the literal crack of dawn, Windex the phone after someone hangs it up, or wash the floors constantly. If there's some disarray, but I can't or don't get to it, I don't mind leaving it overnight. However, I have noticed that I'm taking after her tendency of picking lint off of the carpet. Yikes!

To be fair, as the youngest child in my family, I don't have very clear memories of the cleanliness status during the years when we were all little. My mother has told me that she wasn't as much of a neatnik when we were all younger. It would have been a constant, fruitless effort.

Luckily, my mother's also not the critical type and I generally hear very positive impressions of our home from her. I do have to say that having grown up in a spotless home, I'd rather err on the side of being overly neat. There's something great about always knowing where things are, having a sense of order prevail, and being ready for that unexpected ring of the doorbell at any time! Hopefully, I've also almost managed to reform RaggedyDad's inner slob-man.

There's a little chachke plaque somewhere at my parents' house that says, "Mirror, mirror on the wall. I am my mother after all" that I thought was mildly disturbing. I don't really want to be that much like anybody. As for my mother, I don't look like her at all, but we do have a lot of similar tendencies. Overall I wouldn't mind taking after my mother. Just without the crack of dawn part.

Now excuse me while I go find some more stuff to toss.