Monday, March 26, 2007

The Best Things In Life Are $3.99

This is just not a simple time of the year! It seems like things that ought to be easy, uncomplicated tasks take on a certain frantic urgency during the Spring-feverish, pre-Pesach whirlwind. Like buying diapers. For ages, like SephardiLady, I was extremely well-stocked in the diaper department. And I still was, but I had to buy some this week anyway. I'll explain:

When Andy was a baby, I bought a box of diapers for him labeled size 1-2. Apparently, this is some kind of pseudo-size that's bigger than a 1 but not a full 2. However, the diapers were mislabeled inside, and all of the individual diapers themselves were labeled 1. After calling the company, they told me that they were not sure if the diapers I had were size 1's or size 1-2's or a hybrid diaper, or what. "Is there some kind of experiment going on here?" I wondered, possibly out loud to the sales rep.

The end of the matter is that they graciously sent me some coupons for significant amounts of savings on diapers, and I held on to these coupons, using other ones that expired earlier, until finally, the 31st of this month brings with it the expiration of these coupons.

We went to a large diaper-selling store to get the diapers yesterday, but it was earlier than the large store opens (Sundays!), so we went to an even larger store a bit further down the road that sells everything on Earth ever, including diapers.

Getting two big boxes of diapers for free was very cool. But it was also exciting (if a little frightening) to see rows and rows of summer clothing for kids. Sometimes I wish that the stores here were more like the stores in Europe. One store that sells only one thing. Boulangerie. Patisserie. Diaper store. (Maybe something like this?) Instead, you walk in for free diapers and wind up buying many, many other things.

In general, I consider myself a frugal and disciplined shopper. $3.99 for kids' clothes, however, did catch my eye (although this was not a special sale, and these are probably not the most durable clothes ever made), and so I chose some summer clothes for the RaggedyKids. Can't have them looking too raggedy come the warm weather!

There were some tough decisions to make about sizing, since Ann, who's turning 4 this summer, has a body that most resembles a piece of spaghetti and Andy, who's almost one-and-a-half, has a body that more closely resembles a shell macaroni. For those who truly care, we went with the size 24 months for Andy and the size 4T (5 was just too shlumpy and loose) for Ann. Although, in a laundry pinch, I bet they could wear each other's clothes!

All in all, there are a few returns and exchanges to make, but I feel like the summer clothes we picked are tasteful, appropriate, and tucked away into already Pesach-cleaned drawers. And a lot cuter than diapers.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Now that Andy is old enough to be a playmate for Ann, his biggest thrill is when she gets home from preschool and they can spend the afternoon playing together (with some strategic intervention by Mommy, of course).

Having kids old enough to play together can often lead to having kids old enough to fight over toys, but overall, they enjoy one another's company. Ann usually comes up with some kind of plan or idea for what the game is, and Andy provides a hapless combination of joining in and totally missing her point.

Lately, we've been in the midst of a super-family-cleanup. The poundage of "stuff" we've gotten rid of makes me feel lighter and calmer, but it also makes me not want to buy anything ever again! Apartments can get cluttered easily, so I'm hoping we can continue to stay ahead of the game and focus on using what we have.

Today's activity involved Ann setting up an obstacle course and trying to teach Andy to follow her through it (I've said it before: Who needs a puppy?). There were some falls followed by kisses, some moments of lying down on the various parts, some points where the corn-popper-vacuum needed to be brought out (though I am not sure why).

But overall, the idea of obstacles didn't frustrate, annoy, or worry the kids. It was thrilling and funny to them to face the challenge of something in their way. Another lesson learned courtesy of the RaggedyKids.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


"Titchazki" - literally - strengthen yourself (female).

On a Friday evening in July of 2003, I was getting in the car with Raggedy-not-quite-yet-a-Dad. It was nearly time for Ann to be born, though I wasn't sure whether this was really "it" in terms of going to the hospital. I'd been in various degrees of labor for pretty much the entire last month of the pregnancy, a phenomenon that repeated itself (only much earlier) the next time around with Andy.

A brief telephone discussion with the obstetrician confirmed that it was showtime, and that there ought to be no further delay. Since I'm not a fan of giving figures and details in a public forum, let's just say that once we arrived at the hospital, it was definitely time.

We left for the hospital from my parents' home. They didn't join us because of the oncoming Shabbos, and waited at home for any news, which came a couple of hours later. As we were leaving, I looked into my mother's eyes with what must have been a quiet panic, which I assume based on the fierceness of the hug she gave me, and the last phrase she said to me as my mother before I became a mother.

"Titchazki." Strengthen yourself. And in moments of desperation, fear, or panic that I encounter today, it is still the phrase that I think to myself.

In the past couple of days, my sister-in-law received some shocking and devastating health news regarding her father. Titchazki.

My grandmother is grappling with the loneliness of having just observed my grandfather's first yahrtzeit, with the oncoming holidays that at this time last year had us all so shell-shocked in the midst of a fresh loss begins again. Titchazki.

I was referred to an account of an eloquent, optimistic woman facing some major and overwhelming news in her life with mixed feelings. Titchazki.

There is much strength that we have to offer each other, and even more strength that somehow comes from within ourselves when it seems the least likely that we'll be able to.

I'm not much of a dvar torah blogger, but I do think that this strength relates well to the persistent, continual sense of renewal brought on both by the start of Spring and by the holiday of Pesach, also called The Time of our Redemption.

To all of us: Titchazku.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Great Debate

The topic of this debate is something that still surprises me. You see, before I married RaggedyDad, it didn't occur to me that there was any other way to eat French toast besides sweet. That occasional Sunday morning treat when the challah quantity was too plentiful, draining on a paper-toweled plate, makes me think of nothing else but raspberry jam or maple syrup to go with it.

RaggedyDad, however, sees French toast and thinks - dare I type this - ketchup! Ugh! Ketchup! On French toast! I shudder nauseously just thinking about this. But so be it. Forget about adding cinnamon or some vanilla extract to the egg coating for him. Sweet things are for dessert and not for the meal, he tells me. Stop being so uptight, I say!

Yesterday morning, while RaggedyDad was at shul, I made some French toast, and lo and behold, Ann asked for ketchup to go with hers! "Like Papa," she smiled, innocently. "No problem," I said. But inside, a small part of me felt defeated.

You see, this phenomenon is not exclusive to French toast. In a couple of weeks, at my parents' Pesach table, we will likely sit to a lunch meal of matzah brei. Matzah brei is one of those foods that's so entrenched in my family experience that to have RaggedyDad violate it with anything other than sugar and/or raspberry jelly is devastating. But I know it will be ketchup he asks for at the table. (At least it's that Pesach ketchup that always tastes so sweet!)

My father grew up non-religious in Israel, a child of Holocaust survivors, both ob"m - a Hungarian mother and a Polish father. Which meant that my grandmother's raison d'etre was cooking the best food on earth, but also that she had adapted her cooking to accomodate my grandfather's Polish need to add a little sugar to any and every dish. It can't hurt, right?

When my father first spent Pesach with my mother's family, Boro Park Jews whose oldest daughter (my mom) had rebelled, it was, needless to say, a significant clash of cultures. It helped a lot that a distant relative on my mother's side knew my paternal grandfather and his family from Jaworzna in Poland. It also helped that my father knew how to make the best matzah brei (only on the last day for them) that they'd ever had. Layered and baked in a frying pan like a large pie, and then cut into triangular slices like pizza. And topped with sugar or jam.

Over 36 years later, my father is still making our matzah brei, until 120. Of course, there are the inevitable arguments from my mother about the tremendous mess he's making. And the oil splatters, crumbs, and tendency of us all to eat a little too much of it. And in the midst of it all, I'll be the mom hoping my daughter chooses the sugar instead of her Papa's ketchup to go with it. For old time's sake.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Forgive Me

Do the JIBs have a sappiest post ever award? Because if so, I'm going to nominate this post. It's very sappy. But it is also very true.

Ann has had a little red bowl for most of the time she's been eating real food. In the classic style of the unique personalities of my kids, Andy destroyed in mere moments what Ann kept in great condition for years.

Unfortunately, while Ann was at preschool today, Andy was eating some dry Cheerios put of the red bowl. Between my own fixation on Cheerios lately, and his, I can't keep enough of them around, even pre-Pesach.

Andy dropped the bowl, and the nature of the piece that cracked off and the resulting sharpness meant that the only option was to throw away the red bowl.

Knowing that Ann is a pensive kid who does well when things are explained to her, I saved the bowl and the shard for a post-preschool discussion. With one significant deviation from the truth.

Ann has seen quite a few of her things get ruined by Andy. Torn book pages and demolished projects are something I do my best to prevent, but sometimes they're among the inevitable little brother nuisances. I decided to cover for Andy this time.

Instead of telling Ann that Andy broke the bowl (by accident) I sat her down, showed her the two pieces it had become, and explained that while I was washing the dishes, it slipped from my hands and broke. And that I'm so sorry, but we're going to have to thank it for being a great bowl, and say goodbye to it.

Ann had some questions about when and how it had happened, but overall, she was very calm about it, and less emotional than I'd worried she would be. I asked Ann if she forgave me for what had happened to her little red bowl, and she told me, after a moment, that she did. No tears, just a little confusion, and a glimpse into that world that exists here when she's not home.

But the essential nugget from this whole exchange came a couple of minutes afterward.

Ann looked at me with those eyes that probably take up at least half her face and said, "Do you forgive ME, Mommy?"

"Forgive you for what?"

"For when I sometimes break YOUR things or don't do the right thing."

Wow. Are you really three-and-a-half?

Because Ann is little, she asked her question with an honest, innocent seriousness. Not the bargaining, rude, self-righteousness I can probably expect in about ten years.

"Yes, Ann. I do forgive you. And I'm sorry that I get upset about the things you do sometimes."

We talked for a minute about how things like bowls and books and toys and papers are nice, but they aren't the most important part of our life, because they are just things. And that the main thing that we care about is each other.

By now most of my readers are either smiling tenderly or throwing up. Hopefully it's the former. For the latter group: How is Ann going to recognize those sappy but true cliches in life if she's never heard them before?

Thursday, March 08, 2007


In my previous post, I described how disgruntled I'm becoming with grocery shopping these days.

Andy, on the other hand, loves grocery shopping. He loves outings of all kinds, which I like too. The cold weather and the cough/cold combos that Andy and I are both working through have been hampering our long outings, but . . .

I've decided that at 16 and a half months, Andy needs to start pulling his weight around here. And he's heavy!

Today, Andy did some last-minute grocery shopping for me. I tried to make things easier for him by illustrating the shopping list and pointing him in the direction of the store.

He wasn't gone very long, and got almost everything right. Also, he didn't bring back any more tea or other unneeded items, which makes him a better shopper than RaggedyDad!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Thank You For Not Shopping Here

Of late, I've begun to feel that one of the supermarkets I frequent simply does not really want mine, or anyone else's business.

This actually goes back a long while, back to the days of trudging out to the stores on foot with my mom all the way down the hill and across the neighborhood, and then back again, only with heavy bags. The closed circuit televisions and the unfortunate treatment of store employees by the management never sat well with us, but as non-drivers, choices were not abundant, at least back then.

Several months ago, I saw a handwritten sign advertising a particular salami-type thing on sale. When it failed to ring up with the sale price, I gently informed the (semi-management) cashier that this was an item on sale for x amount. I was told, "No, it isn't." I walked over to the sale sign and carefully peeled it from the shelf, bringing it to the cashier. "Yes," I said, "It is."

After examining the sign, she informed me that the sale price referred only to the item in the one-pound size. Whereas the item I was holding clearly contained not one pound, but, in fact, 16 ounces. So there. (This is a totally true account). After doing my best not to sound conceited as I enlightened her on some basic mathematics, one manager came over and said, "This sale sign must be very old. Maybe it was under another sign." No, it wasn't!

By now I was fed up. "Fine," I said, "I don't want the item."

"No, no, we'll give it to you this time," I was told.

"This is not a personal favor. Your merchandise is not being advertised clearly," was all I said, and I finished making my purchase and left. I can't even remember if I got the salami in the end or not.

A friend saw a sign at this store's fish department stating "Fish prices subject to change according to customers' attitude." Which could be a little cute if it had a smiley face on it or was actually part of an otherwise pleasant shopping experience. Neither was the case.

The other week, I was at this store again, on a day of icy rain and bitter cold. There was little parking to be had, and whatever I bought would have to be shlepped on flimsy stroller handles back to the car while helping Ann navigate the sidewalk.

At checkout time, the (truly deranged) man who bags groceries on a line I hope to never stand on again was bagging some heavy things in single bags. Considering the walk that awaited me, I said, "Please double the bags."

"No, no. Very strong bags." (What?! Did he say no?)

"Sir, I need to walk with my kids. Please double the bags."

"My boss said one bag. Strong bags."

There was a line behind me. I am not a fighter by nature, but this was simply ridiculous. I did not need to contend with spilled groceries and a stroller carrying Andy that would surely tip back with the weight of the bags if I needed to retrieve fallen items, while keeping three-year-old Ann safe on the street.

"Fine," I said loudly. "I'll double the bags myself. It's a shame that other people are waiting, but I can work here too. This seems like a great way for the store to save money." (I can't believe I actually said that. Get ready to be mortified as you grow up, RaggedyKids.) I cannot think of one other supermarket ever where a request to double bags by someone with kids would be outright refused.

At this point, the deranged bagger procured some flimsier bags that he was willing to double for me. "No, thank you," I said. I had just four bags in total! and bagged my things quickly, and left in a huff.

Of course, the new barrier to prevent shopping cart theft (?) did little to help smooth my exit from the store. We'll see if the decent prices tempt me back despite all the cons.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Purim Rundown

Princess Ann's costume - $17

Swashbuckling Andy showing his Piratitude - Arrrgh! - $11

All the NY cousins looking out the window together - priceless.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pre-Purim at the Raggedys

It's been a busy week here at the Raggedys, getting ready for the hectic, sticky fun that is Purim. Above are some of Ann's Purim projects from school.

Aside from trying to kick my cold-cough-etc., I've been cooking ahead for the Purim Seudah, finishing up Mishloach Manot, and hemming Ann's costume.

Also, I've been having fun laughing about how much RaggedyDad seems to like that weird Ford The Edge(uh) commercial.

Here are some photos from this week:
Our cakes for Mishloach Manot (the other nearly 20 are crammed into the freezer -these are for Ann's teachers and some other people at her school). These are giong out along with a mini grape juice bottle.

Some shots of our early morning hamentasch-baking adventure before Ann went to preschool

And finally, some meat-filled borekas for the seudah appetizer. Yum! And yawn! Good night!