Monday, April 30, 2007

Raggedy Nights (rated G)

I want to wish congrats to the JIB finalists, and to say that some of the "best post" nominations are going to give me a sizable amount of backreading to do.

But that shouldn't be a problem, as my nights are seeming pretty quiet, since RaggedyDad is currently embroiled in both finals at school and "month-end" at work. Somehow, month-end is a crazy time that goes a few days into the new calendar month. Don't ask me. If I knew why this was the case, I'd probably also have a clearer sense of what "exotic derivatives" are.

Note from RaggedyDad: My job is absolutely not as sexy as it sounds.

In the meantime, I find that the kids' supper/bathtime/bedtime and the accompanying activities actually go quite a bit more easily when it's just me. When RaggedyDad is around for bedtime on the weekends, there's more fussing, kvetching, and silliness. Even though I'm not really the type, with me somehow it's quieter, smoother, less monkey business.

Ann usually has one or two of her "kids" (dolls) to accompany her to bed. Tonight she got a third in there - a doll we got her for her first birthday, aptly called "Dolly."

Andy looked over from his crib tent (I still can't believe this contraption - but he's actually liking it quite a bit), and saw Dolly with Ann, and called out, "Baby! Baby!" which could only refer to our other lifelike-looking doll, called "Baby," who is also Andy's occasional girlfriend. So Baby joined Andy, along with his other nighttime buddy, a soft pink dolly called "Baby Ashira," named by Ann and often referred to as one of her "kids."

It's important to note here that Ann has several "kids" who she lives with in her "apartment in Florida" (Orieyenta, do me a favor and check on her once in a while?).

As you can see, Andy is a prototypical 'boy after a girl', very happy and comfortable with Ann's stuff, similar to my own childhood as the youngest and only girl, but in the reverse - handed-down, red-markered G.I. Joes alongside my own Barbies.

As long as it doesn't get crowded, I don't have too many qualms about what my kids take into bed. Whatever gets us through those Raggedy nights!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

B is for BeHatzlacha (Good Luck)

Although RaggedyMom didn't make it into the top two to qualify, it was an honor just to be nominated :) Thanks for the votes, guys, and I know we all got a look at some interesting blogs out there. Thank you to the organizers!

Here at RaggedyMom, things are usually fairly low-key and understated. I do what I do, and I think that for those who visit, read, and comment, we have a good time together.

I'm not a former grade-school macher, student body president, or team captain. Except for a brief, spoofed stint as "Communist Party Leader" of my high school, which as I've mentioned before, is a convoluted story for another day. Also, I think I acted as captain of the school trivia bowl team when the regular captain was sick. Otherwise, I've been a mostly 'behind the music' kinda gal.

But I was nominated for a JIB Award this year in the Best New Blog category, and I'm still blushing! Go Group B! And it's full of some other blogs I hadn't seen before, which makes for some interesting reading.

Until now, the only thing I associated with the term "Group B" was the test that the obstetrician does for Group B Strep a few weeks before a woman's due date. Now, it will forever be immortalized as my brief moment in the sun.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tzniut Meme

A Mother in Israel recently started a great set of questions for discussion among the she-bloggers. I'm going to try to address them in this post.

1. For married women, do you dress by the same standards as you did when you got married?

We've been married for 5 and a half years. I think that my standards for dress have remained pretty much the same during that time. However, I do think that in the last couple of years, I have come to a place of greater comfort with my own standards, rather than feel like I am falling short of others' standards, or worrying that I ought to be pushing myself to adopt stricter standards. I think this has more to do with becoming more confident in my decisions as I get older than it does with spirituality.

2. Also for married women, do you and your husband conflict about this issue?

RaggedyDad is pretty easygoing about these issues, and I get the sense that if I wanted to make changes in one direction or another, he'd likely be fine with it. I do get (negative) input from him if what I wear looks like an overly dowdy attempt to cover, cover, cover. But, I try not to take fashion advice overly seriously from a man who wears socks with sandals.

3. Have your standards changed from when you were growing up, and why?

Yes. I wore pants and short sleeves (though not sleeveless - not sure why) until some point during college. Covering my hair is not something I really thought I'd ever consider. As I started to take on more in terms of observance, I waited until I really felt ready to tackle my dress. When I felt more comfortable in skirts, and later, with covered elbows, than not, I was ready. But without any immediate, absolute decision or public proclamation.

4. Do you often feel uncomfortable when you are in the company of a group keeping higher or lower standards than you?

Being around those with looser standards in tzniut is usually totally comfortable for me. Many of my family members, and some friends, hold to looser standards, and I wouldn't say that this is a concern for me (or my kids as they get older - that's just another challenge of comprehensive chinuch).

If I'm not looking particularly put-together or am in a large crowd of women dressed in looser standards of tzniut, I do sometimes feel a little self-conscious. I'm not focused on being the most fashion-forward, and I think that it's sometimes easier to look 'cute' in pants for a casual look than a casual skirt-outfit. Or, rather, harder to look frumpy in the pants.

If I'm surrounded by many women holding to stricter standards of tzniut, I'm also a little uncomfortable, more so than among those with looser standards. If I know I'm going to be in such a situation, I often won't wear something "borderline" and will try to conform for that occasion. In that regard, I like that my neighborhood and chevra is rather mixed in this regard.

5. If you have ever suddenly changed your standard of dress, did people treat you differently or make approving/disapproving remarks?

I haven't made many sudden changes, though covering my hair was an obvious exception - before my wedding and after! - but that was anticipated. It's interesting, I have one sister-in-law, "S," who covers every strand of hair, and holds to a very strict, chassidish interpretation in all aspects of tznius. I have another sister-in-law, "L," who wears pants, sleeveless, and uncovered hair.

A family acquaintance once approached my mother in a pizza shop (I was there with my daughter, and I was in earshot) and said, "What did you do wrong with [RaggedyMom] and what about "S"?? The only one who turned out normal [vis a vis dressing style] was "L"!" Ouch. But I have gotten some positive feedback from a more right-wing member of the family.

6. How accepting is your community of women who "deviate" from the generally accepted mode of dress?

It's difficult to speak for an entire community. In my experience, within the more traditional bounds of Orthodoxy and tznius, this community (KGH) is a diverse and open one. It has moved more to the right a significant amount over the last couple of decades. But there are really all kinds of people here, and I think they all fit in.

There are women who are sheiteled and very dressed up (though not that many). There are women who are sheiteled and more 'heimish'. There are women who totally cover or partially cover their hair with all range of hat, tichel, bandana, or snood. Or not at all. I see pants with covered hair on occasion, and quite a few skirts with uncovered hair. Lots of Israelis live here, and they run the gamut vis a vis tzniut. I see bare toes, socks, stockings, thick stockings.

I'm glad that I don't feel self-conscious about my clothes, both in terms of tzniut and style, living here and going out to grocery shop or pick up Ann from preschool.

7. If you have a daughter, has tzniut become an issue yet?

Ann is turning 4 this summer. As of now, I don't have an immediate plan as to when she'll wear just skirts. In some ways, since my own decision about this was so pressure-free and up to me, it feels awkward to think of setting this guideline for her. However, I realize that her upbringing is quite different from my own.

Some moms have told me not to shop too heavily for pants in advance at this point, since the girls themselves sometimes say they don't want to wear pants if that's the way most of their friends are dressing. We'll see. I do find that girls' clothes (and even shoes!) these days are sometimes way too sexy or suggestive for our very young girls, and that bothers me. Even if I were not religiously observant, I would not feel comfortable with tight, very short, or revealing clothes for Ann.

Reading the responses of others, and posting my own, has been thought provoking. Thanks, Mother in Israel!

I forgot about tagging - SWFM, Baleboosteh, TorontoPearl, and Orieyenta - I'd be interested to hear your thoughts if you'd like! Sort of a cross-world geographical weigh-in.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What Do You Call Them?

Secretly, I married RaggedyDad because he planned to have his kids call him "Papa" which I thought was so cute.

Okay, not really. But I do think often about what children call their parents. I grew up calling my mother "Mommy" or later, as a teenager, just "Ma!" We're back to "Mommy" now. She's not really the type to be called "Mom" and although my Israeli father refers to her as "Ima" when speaking to us kids, we never really called her that.

With my father, there was no question he'd be "Abba". Anyone who has heard his gravelly voice and blend of teddy bear/intimidating has probably wanted to call him "Abba" themselves. When we moved to America, I had a brief phase where I wanted to call him "Daddy" but it just felt too silly with him and didn't stick at all.

I think most of my friends growing up lived in "Mom and Dad" households.

RaggedyDad is Russian, and it was clear that his own kids would call him "Papa." Once Ann started referring to him as Papa, I do remember some emotion on his part. His own "Papa" died when RaggedyDad was just six. After so many years without a Papa, it came with mixed feelings to actually be the Papa.

While speaking to Ann and Andy, RaggedyDad often refers to me as "Mama" and sometimes they call me "Mama", but not usually. When Ann was smaller and wanted to get the attention of both parents, she cleverly decided to call us "MaPa." I hear her and Andy use the MaPa term once in a while.

Since this is what they've always heard, my kids view the term "Papa" as the original, basic meaning for "father." Ann tells me that other kids call their Papas other names, like Abba, Daddy, or Tatty. But, she tells me, it all means "Papa". When we did a round-robin playgroup and sang "The Wheels on the Bus," we had six kids and four terms for father. So our circle time lyric was a rushed combination - "The Abbas/Daddies/Tatties/Papas on the bus say 'I love you!'" Whew! Funnily, all the mothers were called "Mommy."

Readers: What do you/did you call your parents? Did you feel like it was the norm or something unusual? Did it change as you grew up? What do your kids call you/do you plan to have your kids call you?

Lastly, I want to express how sorry I am for the loss that my very dear sister-in-law "L" has just sustained of her own "Dad", nearly 20 years after losing her Mom.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Meet Curious Andy

If my son is a monkey, I guess that makes me the mom with the yellow hat.

While I related in my last post that I love living in an apartment because of the flatness and lack of climbing, apparently, Andy apparently doesn't take after me in this regard - ANDY CLIMBED OUT OF HIS CRIB TONIGHT!

We had a relatively busy day. Rather than go to pick up some Shabbos provisions with Andy after dropping off Ann and my neighbor's son at preschool, I decided to take both Ann and Andy with my before school, and come straight home after dropoff. Andy's been waking up quite early since we have been eliminating the pacifier from his life, and an early nap was definitely in order.

The morning went according to plan. The supermarket was blessedly quiet at 8:20 a.m. (though it's even better on the mornings when I go alone at 7 and RaggedyDad is still home). The kids were happy and helpful in the store, and my neighbor helped me in with my bags while I got her son in the car. I even got to say a quick hello to another blogger on the street, and then I got the kids to preschool very punctually.

Andy's nap came and went, things got busy at home, and when Ann was home, we baked two batches of corn muffins. After a messy supper of leftover meatballs and spaghetti, even I was ready to sleep! After a quick bath and storytime, the kids were ready for bed.

I put them down and got to work on some more Shabbos cooking. The chicken cutlet blobs needed to be butterflied in the ridiculously thin way I like, breaded, and fried (I know that nobody's supposed to fry food anymore, but this is one thing that just doesn't work baked for me).

For a short while Ann and Andy were cracking each other up, giggling about something together from their respective bed and crib. After listening to it for 15 minutes or so, I came back to get them to settle down again.

After I left, Andy was crying, and somewhere in his pacifier-free frustration, he managed to climb out and fall onto the (thankfully carpeted) floor. I realized this because his cries were getting closer and closer until my crying baby in a crib suddenly appeared before me, shocked himself at what he'd done!

As I held him and comforted him, I asked Ann if she saw how he'd done it. "He was trying to do it, and then he did!" is what she told me, eyes open innocent and wide.

I put a calmer Andy back in the crib, but he proceeded to quickly lift one leg and then his torso right back over the corner! I realized that a quick fix was needed for tonight, and fished out a pacifier.

Andy is turning 18 months old on Shabbos, which I consider way too young for a bed. I don't think he's mature enough to grasp staying in there all night, though he knows the concept of getting in and out of Ann's bed.

For now, we're going to try out a friend's contraption - the crib tent. No more am I the smug mom of a calm kid! We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jolly Rancher

I've said it before, and it bears repeating: I love living on one floor. One of the things that I really enjoy about our apartment is that although there are quite a few steps until I get in, once I'm home, there is no more shlepping up and down.

When I spend a couple of days in a place where there are stairs (okay, my parents' house is probably the only frequent example) I get so winded going up and down within the home. Yes, getting into our apartment involves a set of 8-9 steps leading to a path, another 7-8 stairs leading to our front door, and then about 13-14 steps leading upstairs. But once that gate is closed, that's it. Bedrooms, bathroom, living/dining rooms, kitchen, washing machine, dryer - it's all there on ONE level. And I love it.

Until I was five, we lived in Israel, on a first-floor apartment in Givatayim. Since then, we lived in houses in Queens - but being that by then, I, the youngest, was old enough to shlep my own self and stuff up and down, it was more feasible. Not as easy for my mom I'm sure, with the laundry area being two steep flights away from where the clothing drawers are. I'm wary of the shlep-mania involved in having babies/young kids while living with internal steps (Mountains of laundry! Infant car seats! Etc.!)

I suppose I'd get used to it the way I'm accustomed to the mountain climb involved in getting groceries into the apartment and getting a double stroller up and down the narrow, steep stair jungle. Somehow I'm in shape enough to accomplish those tasks fairly often. Now that Andy's climbing the steps with help, it does take a literal load off.

As long as there's enough space (and what a subjective concept that is!) I don't believe that there's anything detrimental to kids about growing up in an apartment. In other countries where my husband and I have lived (Russia, Belgium, Israel), apartments are almost always the standard for families through the years. I don't really believe that kids suffer for it or grow up feeling boxed in.

For as long as I can, I prefer to keep it flat. Happy ranching!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Linguistics and the Art of Acceptance

This year's Pesach sedarim were on the larger side for us. Since one of my brothers, his wife, and their kids made aliyah 2 years ago, and the other brother with his wife and kids live near her sisters, it is usually just the four Raggedys at my parents' house. Going to Belgium for Yom Tov is not on the agenda, since RaggedyDad's family there is quite secular/assimilated. And since my parents live rather locally, we're there by default on Sukkos (no outdoor space for a sukkah) and Pesach. We've had all of the other holidays at home at this point, sometimes with my parents here, sometimes with friends, or alone.

This year, my oldest brother (who lives in the U.S.) came with his family for the first days of Yom Tov. For the first seder, my parents also hosted my mother's sister, and my father's brother's family from Israel. Specifically, my aunt and her 3 teenaged/20's kids - my uncle had to stay in Israel for work.

We moved here from Israel over 20 years ago, and it has been a long time since we've had a seder together with that side of the family. Having a seder with non-religious yet marginally traditional cousins who you feel close to yet have very little shared upbringing experiences with is an interesting way to get reacquainted! We had a nice time, and it was great to actually have them meet RaggedyDad and my kids.

They stayed almost until the end, since they were catching a flight to Orlando early the next morning.

The next night, a whole discussion got started (not by me!) about how "Israelis don't pronounce Hebrew words carefully or properly" which drove me a little crazy from a linguistic point of view, plus I just disagree with this take on things. But then again, the slang and alternate grammatical usage my students used in public school didn't bother me, beyond wanting the kids to also be comfortable with standard English for life outside the barrio. When I majored in linguistics, the philosophy was descriptive rather than proscriptive - describing and analyzing the way people DO speak rather than how they 'ought to.'

I tried (probably in vain) to convince everyone that if Israelis (including my father) are altering some obscure vowel construction to fit most closely with a Hebrew word they already recognize, it's not "wrong" as much as it's the nature of language used by native speakers of that language. Since to them, there is no prayer concept of every sound being relevant and exact, they are using the language as we all use our native languages. To communicate the meaning effectively. And in that regard, they are accurate and successful. If the word is "veyeKUDASH" and they recognize it as close to "veyeKADESH" and pronounce it that way, to me this is not only totally understandable, it is alright.

Sigh. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Season of Our Redemption

I'm going to put my helmet on because I'm sure to be pelted with stones by acknowledging that I am not in post-Pesach collapse mode simply because we are lucky enough to spend all eight days of the holiday at my parents' house. That being said, it is so nice to be back home in my own bed. With almost all of the immense amounts of laundry done and put away. Surrounded by our own stuff. And not by stuff that is decorative, sharp, breakable and dangerous.

There is nothing like spending time away from the 933 square feet of this apartment to make me long for it. We hear occasional well-meant comments from extended family members who "would love to see us in a bigger space," but I have no immediate desire to move. The kids share a room, so there's still an empty third bedroom here, and I'm just not feeling the pinch.

My wish list is 1) An extra half-bathroom to up the number of toilets from one; 2) A driveway or other adjacent parking spot; 3) Backyard space big enough for a couple of kids to let off some steam and maybe splash around in a plastic pool in the summer.

What I find with a house with stairs is that the kids always want to be downstairs when I'm up, and upstairs when I'm down. The wrought-ironness of the banister at my folks' house means that if I lived there, I would find some way of putting up a gate, but for occasional use, it's not a simple 'whip up a simple, pressure-mounted gate and worry no more!' situation. So there's a lot of monitoring, chasing, rescuing, and cringing. I think Andy heard the words "Oh no!" more than he heard the word "matzah". Sorry, Andy. You won't be 17 months old forever.

We had a really nice time with my parents. But it really was priceless to see the kids delight in being reintroduced to their surroundings. Redeemed. Post-Pesach.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Have a Raggedy Pesach!

I want to wish the readers of RaggedyMom a wonderful and happy Pesach! I'm sure there will be lots for us to share with one another after the chag.

Enjoy it!