Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pancake Social

For some reason, people who meet me sometimes assume that I'm into healthy food, or possibly a vegetarian. I am really not sure why. Maybe because I'm so pale they think I'm probably anemic from a lack of red meat. But I really have no idea how I got the healthy-eater reputation, since for the most part, my eating habits are not the greatest.

My mother has a notoriously unhealthy approach to eating, but as far as meals went, they were always solid and square. However, she often just ate nosh for dinner herself, almost always skipped breakfast, and was known throughout the land for giving my brothers and me the best (junky) snacks in our school lunches. Ring Dings were typical. I guess you pick up more by example than anything else.

The real supper in our house was often something in the meat/chicken family, but as I got older and more vocal about my finicky-ness, I often just toasted a Lenders bagel with some melted cheese on it and called it a night. My poor mother.

When I first married RaggedyDad, I had little to no knowledge of cooking. My mother never asked us kids for cooking help, and it was never "my night to prepare supper" growing up. I think she was mainly concerned that we'd make a mess. When RD and I got married, he and my mother tried to show me the ropes, and I caught on for the most part (with a little help from my cookbook bible, Spice and Spirit), but I personally would be happy to eat macaroni and cheese for supper.

One of RaggedyDad's first jobs was at a small financial company where one of the bosses also owned a popular kosher (fast food) restaurant in NYC. In an attempt to keep employees in work mode without a break, there was basically an unlimited policy on ordering food from this guy's restaurant, and later other restaurants. So if RaggedyDad got a big, free fleishig meal every day at work (don't worry, he brought home plenty of leftovers for me!), he certainly was not going to be eating a big dinner at home. Thus, my proclivity towards scant, lame suppers managed to live on.

Once Ann got old enough to need real food, I got back into supper mode, and shortly after that, RaggedyDad started a new job, minus the food. Little Andy and his famous appetite have also ensured that I keep cooking something, even if it's just reheating leftovers.

I do manage to get away with making pancakes for supper on a fairly regular basis. Pancakes are one of my favorite foods ever. Road trips as a kid often meant stopping at Denny's where they had several flavors of syrup and ridiculously high stacks of pancakes. Don't even get me started on IHOP. Yum. RaggedyDad's nonkosher memories are a little more interesting, but for the most part, my own family dabbled into the world of treif in more minor ways. While his former faves were bacon and liver-and-cream-cheese (ugh) sandwiches, all I really want is to be able to be in the middle of nowhere and go have some pancakes.

Being Russian, RaggedyDad and his mother taught me that pancakes don't always have to be fluffy and high with syrup (and I'll admit to adding a pat of butter on top). They showed me how to also make pancakes that are more like crepes, topped with sour cream and brown sugar and then rolled up.

Thanks for indulging me and my eating habits, RD, and for your eagerness to eat pancakes (both ways) for supper now and then!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Grocery Shopping After Hours

Due to a glitch in planning, and some adjustments regarding company for Shabbos, I made a quick dash to the supermarket last night. Those who know me realize that this is miraculous. It is very difficult to get me to go anywhere at night. In the dark. In the cold. By myself! Let's just say there is only one "consistent" example of this in my life, and otherwise I'm a daytime person 100%.

I'm not sure why this is so. Likely because, as the youngest child, and the only girl, my parents were loathe to let me go anywhere at night, even in a group. For all of my "It's not fair"s, I can safely say that I'll probably be as overprotective as they were. Although I know that overprotecting your kids usually just leads them to lie. We'll see. Thankfully they're still very little, and these are not my worries yet.

This is what I learned from my excursion: Thursday night at around 8:30 on Main Street is hopping. I may not be out there, but just about everyone else is. And they probably don't even miss me. When I finished shopping, there was someone eagerly awaiting (nearly salivating over) my shopping cart. It was BUSY.

Never mind that it hasn't been this cold (-6 with the windchill) in NY in 2 years. (Stop rolling your eyes, Ezzie and PT). People simply bundled up, and headed on out into the night. Who knows what insanity is unleased come 9:30?! Luckily I didn't stick around to find out (hey, some of us have a Thursday night TV show, ya know).

I was reminded of the Journey song "Don't Stop Believing" which RaggedyDad is quite sure is called "Streetlight People" due to the one lyric he could make out. (You're too cute, RD!) He's a sufferer of foreign-born "lalala" syndrome when it comes to song lyrics, whereas I'm the one who generally knows almost all the words. At night, the streetlights, car lights, store signs - everything seems kind of eery and blinding and ominous. Maybe just to me.

Also, it is very, very miserable shlepping the groceries to your car in the bitter cold and dark because you wanted to be nice to that man who wanted your shopping cart in the store and you casually threw a glance at your pile of bags, and shrugged "Okay" trying to be cool. It's not cool to carry bottles of milk, random heavy fruits and vegetables, and a couple of dozen eggs (crack!) to your car. It's foolish.

In summation, though none of the "streetlight people" tried to kidnap me, and I did warm up when I started the mirth-mobile's heating system, and even more when I got to the blasting heat in our apartment, I remain a species you will be more likely to find running out at 7 a.m. when the store opens and RaggedyDad still has 25 minutes to catch his bus.

What are your shopping/outing habits?

Good Shabbos!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hakaras Hatov (Appreciation)

Without going into too many extraneous details, I want to briefly blog about something more for my sake than for my readers'. I think that when something makes a strong impression on us, we need to act on it in some way, or at least write it down, before the moment passes, and with it, the accompanying thoughts and feelings.

I remember doing this growing up when it was my birthday. Having a summer birthday sometimes made me feel like the day came and went and was just another hot, sticky, long July day. The thought that tomorrow would be another, nearly identical day, with nothing much to distinguish it from my Big Day, made me kind of pensive.

I kept a notebook where, among other things, I would start a fresh page for each birthday I remembered to do it, and would write something to the (teenagerish) effect of:

I'm 14 today. Happy 14th Birthday to me! Some of the things I'm thinking about this birthday are . . . Some things I hope to have done by my 15th birthday are . . .

just in an attempt to capture something tangible. Time has a very fleeting and sad quality to it. Well. This is turning into a Very Intense Blog Post for me. Sorry.

A case in point for withered inspiration is the way that nearly a month ago I visited one of the local firehouses with Ann's class.

I came home full of resolve to mail a thank you card with a picture to the firefighters, and possibly donate a small amount to whatever their equivalent of a benevolent fund is. Well, of course, I have yet to do it. Not that it's too late. But these things are better when they're done "fresh" in my opinion.

Anyhow, let me get back to the main subject of this post.

Today I had to take both of my kids to a relatively routine follow-up appointment related to a specialist they see. At the start of this calendar year, we switched to a new health insurance provider, and part of the fun is that the specialist's office does not do the procedure in-house with our current insurance.

Instead, I have to take the kids to the hospital to have it done there, and bring/have sent the resulting films and reports to the specialist appointment.

I'm sure it's trite, but today was my mega-dose of hakaras hatov. I've been to this hospital before, and my reaction is the same each time. There is nothing, NOTHING, like going to a childen's hospital to make you realize that all of the worrying, the shlepping, the complaining, the stress that you have in your life is so blessedly minute compared to the thoughts, fears, and concerns of families of kids who are Really Sick.

The walk through the corridors of this institution is so somber and humbling as one scans the various names of the departments, unimaginable to a parent regarding their own child, until, for some, they suddenly are not only imaginable, but horrifyingly real.

It takes a lot of composure for me just to walk the halls, and I know that that's nothing compared to the composure and resolve of the very brave doctors and braver patients.

Thanks, Hashem. That's it.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Olde Tyme Entertainment

Living on a busy street has some, if very few, advantages. It's kind of neat that RaggedyDad literally walks 12 feet or so to the bus stop. It's fairly easy to give people directions to our house. But one of the best advantages by far to living here is that our living room window gives our kids a view of all of the major neighborhood action.

Two bus lines pass by with stops in front of our apartment. Nearly every ambulance, police car, and fire truck that needs to get from this neighborhood to the next or to one of three main highways passes by our place. Noisy, but we're mostly used to it. The kids' bedroom is on the other side of the apartment, so it doesn't often keep them up.

There are usually lots of trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, dog walkers, and pedestrians carrying all sorts of interesting things out on the street. Right now we can see the first snow of the season coming down in its quiet, carefree, yet deliberate way. For my kids, the spot right by the couch that overlooks the window is the most coveted and fascinating spot in their home.

I recently commented about our own family's take on TV at DaBoysof905. Here's an excerpt of what I said over there:

I also think that TV today is more of a blatant assault on the senses and morals than it was when I was growing up.

For the 5+ years we've been married, we've never had cable, so that cut out a large part of the available offerings, combined with the antenna reception we get that leaves much to be desired on certain channels.

When it's repeats time, I get much more into books, magazines, even more housecleaning and cooking/freezing ahead.

As far as TV for kids, with my 3 and a half year old, we let her watch TV, and it became obsessive, so about a year ago, I just stopped turning it on for her, almost 100%. If she or I are really sick, or on the occasion that my mom comes to watch the kids (e.g. I have a Dr.'s appt), there's maybe about a 30-60 minute show. Honestly, it's a drop in the bucket at this point, and my daughter is more than willing to go shut the TV off herself when it's over.

My fifteen month old has had such limited exposure to TV that it doesn't really interest him. I have found for my older daughter that eliminating TV has helped her to be more relaxed all around and also to play more creatively.

As for the news, RaggedyDad relies on the internet for 95% of it, and us parents watch about 3 hours a week, give or take a couple of hours if there's something very interesting going on.

I'm sure that as the kids get older, the window will grow less fascinating, and we may have to make some tough decisions in our house about whether we want it around or not. I think that as a medium, and in moderation, TV has its place. I'm just glad that, for the time being at least, we've got an alternative nearby.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dr. Mom?!

I woke up not long ago from a panic-inducing nightmare. Apparently, pediatricians were tired of the constant parade of kids who may or may not have an ear infection, and decided instead to empower all of the moms and dads by insisting that we buy our own otoscopes and DIY. (Note - I had to look this term up. I am NOT a doctor is what I'm trying to say.)

Anyway, in the dream, I couldn't tell if what I was seeing in Andy's ear was wax, pus, fluid, reflected light, maybe some crumbs, or what. It was kind of terrifying. When I went back to my pediatrician, just like in the Don McLean song, he just smiled and turned away. Then he shrugged and said, "Mrs. Raggedy. If I keep doing this, you'll never learn. What do YOU think it is? Learn to trust your instinct."


I'm pretty sure I know why I had this dream. In real life, one of the pediatricians in the practice we use has the habit of offering parents a peek in the otoscope and saying, "Look at that. Do you see that fluid? That redness?" Unlike in the dream, however, he's the utmost professional and wouldn't leave me to flounder.

But to my untrained eye, I feel like saying, Dr. G., I'm here because I trust you. I have NO IDEA what you're talking about. Having never seen Ann's ear when there's no infection, what does it mean to me that it looks kind of yellow in there right now? It means NOTHING!

I've joked around with a friend who heard the same thing from this doctor. Is it ridiculous to ask moms to do this? Is it somehow empowering? All I know is I hope not to see the day when I've got my very own otoscope and have to make the call without relying on Dr. G.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Memory Girl

You know how just about every single blog that has ads on it currently has an ad for "The New Serbia - A Model for Democracy" or whatever?

Ann (3 and a half) was sitting at the table and saw the laptop open to a page showing that ad. She turned to me and said "Oh, that's Kazik."

I said, "Who?"

"You know, Kazik. Saba's friend. The fixing man. From the complex. He made the bookshelves, Mommy."

It dawned on me that she was referring to Kazik, the Polish guy who works across the street from my father's store, who built and installed our bookshelves last month. Actually, the Serbian guy really kind of does look like Kazik, albeit with darker hair (hey, it is a black and white photo).

Nothing gets past Ann. Her visual memory has proven itself to be pretty astounding. Last week she recognized a package of Ensure protein drinks at the pharmacy as "what Zeida used to have" although he passed away last March. Who knows - Raggedydad's father did have a photographic memory.

Sometimes kids are amazing.

Some bloggers have pretty solid memories, too. Jack, for one, is a blogger who tends to a)remember a lot of interesting, albeit random information and b)link back to it later on for those of us who forget to read it the first time around! Happy Jack Day!

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Sometimes parenting feels like walking a tightrope.

It's hard to know how much is enough, and how much is too much. Like most parents probaby do, I find that I rely on a combination of my own upbringing, extended family practices, Jewish parenting hashkafas, what I see being practiced around me, and current parenting "thinking."

For instance, in a family in which Sunday is a "day off" such as ours, I'm wondering how to balance wanting to have fun and do activities together with the expectation on the part of the kids that there will very often be a fun activity to do on Sunday.

RaggedyDad has a corporate job and so, like many other workers, he's off on Sundays. Aside from his (often significant) MBA homework, there's no work on Sundays. He tries to leave schoolwork for when the kids are asleep, which is feasible because they go to sleep on the early side around here.

As a child, Sundays at our house were very different from what my kids experience. My own father still has the same appliance store he worked at with my mother's father and uncle. (Anyone need 220v?) "The store" took up almost all of my dad's time, 6 days a week, all year. And it was definitely on his mind when he wasn't there. If our lives had been a play, "the store" would have been a character all its own. They've since moved from the Lower East Side to Long Island City, but I'll never forget the original "store".

Also, my mother did not drive, nor does she now. To us kids, this majorly limited what we could do on Sundays. Even going to a friend's house who lived a bit further away involved trying to shnorrer a ride. To be fair, Mom tried to have fun with us. Once in a while, we took the bus to the train to Manhattan. Greenwich Village was a favorite of hers and she reminisced about what it was once like. I remember a particularly shleppy day on West Eighth Street, going into just about every shoe store (on a block of nearly nothing but shoe stores) to help Mom find a particular style of boot. We did find it in the end.

As we got a bit older, Sundays meant one or both of my brothers helping out at the store. Mom and I would walk down to the stores on Main Street. Maybe times were a little less scary, but I was old enough to be left in the public library for an hour or so while my mother picked up groceries. Staying at the library while my mother shopped was a big treat as far as I was concerned. I had to temper my desire to take home a huge stack of books with the knowledge that we were walking home, uphill, almost up to Union Turnpike, and then another couple of blocks in. Choices were whittled down, and the take was limited. Sundays were often boring, but usually relaxing.

So I worry as I see Ann getting older, getting more savvy and asking, expectantly, if we might get pizza or bagels, and if there's a visit to a zoo or a park awaiting her. RaggedyDad and I are cognizant of our mutual aim to counterbalance every parent's wish to give their kids the world, and (most) every parents hope that their kids don't turn out, well, spoiled. There is certainly a difference between spoiling kids with "things" and spoiling kids with "time and attention", but I think that overdoing the "experiences" reeks more of "things" than of "time and attention".

I think we're working it out, and I think we're coming out ahead. However, it's a long, fun road ahead.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Mid-January in New York generally falls into indisputable winter territory. While we're not always buried in snow this time of year, temperatures are usually much colder and drearier. I know there are some other bloggers who probably consider NY winters a relative joke, but it's usually cold enough for me. Let's just say I'd often rather be sharing a forecast with those bloggers who regularly enjoy a toastier forecast. (I tend to think of all of you - and others - in a very geographic kind of way.)

Today's temperature in NY reached the high fifties which is really unusual, though when something keeps happening, it becomes more and more difficult to refer to it as unusual!

My neighbor and I carpool, and today she was planning to pick up the kids. I had plenty to do at home. My parents are sleeping over for Shabbos, which, though they're relatively easy company, does require a small amount of additional cooking, but mainly a much more intensified cleaning effort. There was definitely plenty to do at home.

However, at about 12:30 p.m., I got a call from Mom at work. "Just wanted to let you know," she started, "It's a beautiful day today in case you wanted to walk with Andy to go pick up Ann from preschool!" Thanks, Mom! I know what this means!

I was actually out doing carpool this morning, but that was a quick outing and it hadn't actually warmed up quite that much yet then.

Truth be told, my parents hardly ever pressure me to do anything, but implied in the 'nice weather' call is the knowledge that, indeed, the kids haven't been out walking much in the past few days, and wouldn't it be nice for them and you to get some fresh air, especially since they're predicting rain tomorrow - just a suggestion!!

Andy was so excited to see the stroller that he threw himself on top of his jacket and started laughing. I shlepped out with Andy and huffed and puffed to get there on time so that Ann would see my face when the preschool classroom door opened. Thursday is the day that projects go home, so into the under-stroller-basket they went, along with Ann's backpack and lunch remains.

After a quick bathroom stop at school for her, we headed to the library. We crossed Main Street to get some fruit "lekavod Shabbos" and made another quick pit-stop for Ann at the pizza store. Upon realizing that we weren't actually getting any pizza, Andy attempted to kamikaze himself out of the stroller and started to screech pitifully. Ann tried to reassure him ("We have spaghetti at home for supper, Andy!") while I tried to smash him back into place enough to fit through the doorway.

We stopped at 7-11 for some milk and I dorkily gave the Korean salesman my best "Yo bu se yo" that my students taught me. Imagine hearing that from a redhead! Ann was a terrific sport about the rest of the walk home which feels a bit long at that point.

I'm so glad we had our walk, aired out the house by opening all the windows, and generally did most of the other things Mommy told me to. I just wish it hadn't been out of guilt!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hey Gingi!

While I never thought of myself as the type to have friends in hot places, it seems that Hot Chanie has taken a stand for the Red and Raggedy among us.

That's right, after a brief hiatus, HC herself has put up a fresh post regarding an article from my father's bible, Yediot Achronot. She's addressed her concerns that the sweeping edicts issued will crimp my style, and vowed her defense. I thank you, Hot Chanie, and I share your hope that I'll be allowed to continue to just be me.

Yediot doesn't intimidate me much. Likely because a fresh, inky copy of this paper was on the kitchen table in my house every morning while growing up, so despite some of its disparaging views on religious life, it just feels like coming home. That is, the Hebrew print edition does.

Sidenote: Yediot is the paper of the common man, and at least it doesn't get all hoity-toity and intellectual about its Chareidi-bashing like Haaretz does.

HC is concerned that in the efforts of the rabbinic powers that be to buckle down on modesty, not only will clothing that is red and form-fitting be deemed unacceptable, but even women with red hair (!) like yours truly may be at risk for being deemed too flashy and not making the grade, simply by virtue of the hair color granted us.

Now, as far as red and tight clothing, I thought these guidelines were already in place in the Chareidi world at large. Perhaps the difference lies in the institution of across-the-board rules and the kashrus stamp of approval being granted to stores selling strictly appropriate clothing described in the article.

Let's remember, everyone, that we're talking about Bnei Brak here. I can't foresee this happening on Main Street, Central Avenue (as Orthomom discusses) or even 13th Avenue just yet. Maybe I'm partial to finding Bnei Brak extreme because until age 5, I grew up in a highly secular enclave about a stone's throw from Bnei Brak known as Givatayim.

I don't know about you folks, but there's something fun about walking into a mainstream clothing store and realizing that off the bat, 85% of the clothes don't fall within my guidelines for modesty. Of the remaining 15%, 10% are totally unaffordable. Of the remaining 5%, 3.5% would look terrible on a redhead. It's fun narrowing down and then trying on that remaining 1.5% with two tired kids in tow. I like to refer to this exercise in shopping futility as "the thrill of the chase."

Life as a redhead is certainly interesting. For those who've never met me, or only met me after I was married and covering my hair, my hair was always kind of intense. Curly, and a dark-strawberry-blonde, people almost always referred to me as "the girl with the curly red hair."

Older ladies would stop me and ask me to accompany them to their hairstylist appointments to show the hairdresser the color and look they were trying to achieve. I'm not bragging here - how many of you want to be at the forefront of 70+ fashion? People were forever assuming I was Irish. I got called "Red" by strangers on a regular basis. In short, it was a thrill that I sometimes miss and that can't quite be duplicated even with a good sheitel.

It was a major part of my identity, and covering it was a huge adjustment, though not an entirely negative one, since I do believe (not to sound all kooky here) that as we grow up, those physical things that are not the real us need to fall away gradually anyway.

To sum up, from a proud Gingi, I thank Hot Chanie for her concern, (though a big part of me figures that she's totally kidding here) and for being a guardian of the inner part of every woman that strives to be attractive and desirable.

Monday, January 01, 2007

First Misheard Comment of the Year

My parents once remarked that they knew they were old when all of their kids stayed up later than they did. Of course, it didn't take long for us to achieve that. They're very much the "early to bed and ridiculously early to rise" type.

My kids' bedtime is around 6:30, so although I won't be using that measure for some time, RaggedyDad and I have definitely hit a degree of fogey-dom. I was asleep well before the ball dropped about ten miles from here.

Today, I turned to RaggedyDad and said, "Happy New Year!"

To which he replied, "You have pain in your ear?!"

For a moment, I forgot all about it being January 1, and thought, "One second, maybe my ear does kind of hurt."

I don't think I'll ever hear someone say "Happy New Year" without laughing to myself inside, or being tempted to ask them if they have "pain in their ear."

Is it that we're getting over the hill (even though we're babies!) or is it just another chapter of life with a foreigner?

I can't wait to see what other kooky mix-ups transpire in 2007.