Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Power of Punctuation, or Queens, Represent!

While perusing the news, I came across a story that simultaneously surprised, delighted, and embarrassed me.

I've lived in Queens for 24 years. And I've always known what an undervalued asset Queens is to New York, to America, to all of humanity, even!

Queens and her integral airports! Her majestic Unisphere! Her endearing Archie-Bunker-style houses! Her confusing street names! My lovely borough of Queens! Finally, the recognition we deserve, albeit in the strangest of ways.

Not to mention, if I am able to get in on this bizarre scheme, tuition bills will be a joke!

And then I looked at the link more closely.

Queens Underwear Sells for Thousands

No. Wait. There's an apostrophe there, isn't there?

Queen's Underwear Sells for Thousands

Oh. Right. Not us.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Goodbye, July

The summer always seems to end before it begins. Summertime in my mind lasts for about ten weeks, firmly between the end of the school year and the start of a new one. Go into the stores now, and school supplies already line the shelves! Talk about a drag for kids!

This year's summer Sundays are more constrained than usual, due mostly to the fact that (this year) the period of Jewish mourning known as the Three Weeks both begins and ends on a Sunday.Two of the Sundays are Fast Days, and a third is during the even more serious Nine Days. And our upcoming trip starts on a Sunday and ends two Sundays later (more on that in an upcoming post), so there go another three Sundays.

Oh, and those nice still warm Sundays in September? RaggedyDad will be in school all day for two of them, and one of them is the day before Erev Rosh Hashana.

Now that the kids are out of camp, I'm trying to do some summer things with them on my own, since I know our Sundays with RaggedyDad are so limited. Until I was five, on just about every day that the weather allowed it, my mother and I took the bus from Givatayim to the beach in Tel Aviv. So although I am a Very Pale Person, I also feel very much at home at the beach.

Beach air is great (unless someone's smoking near you - yuck), and the Coppertone smells exactly the same as it did when I was eight years old and on a bus to day camp.

Yesterday, we went to the beach in Far Rockaway. Going alone to the beach with three small children, while fun at times, well, I can't really recommend it to anyone sane.

Thankfully, everyone listened, and stayed close, and the baby barely ate any sand, and we sat within spitting distance of lifeguards. But as anyone who has been to the beach, or especially taken kids, it's not the beach time itself that is the challenge. It's the sandy, messy, disastrous clean-up. Despite it all, we had a great, great time. And -- there is no sleep like the sleep after time spent at the beach.

Although the summer is not quite waning yet, when July ends, it reminds me of the poem that ends Alice and Through the Looking Glass:

. . . Echoes fade and memories die
Autumn frosts have slain July
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes
Children yet, the tale to hear
Eager eye and willing ear,

Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream --
Lingering in the golden gleam --
Life, what is it but a dream?

Friday, July 25, 2008

No Complaints

There is nothing like a routine visit to the children's hospital with one of your kids for a totally no-big-deal, planned follow-up, to bring up feelings of gratitude and a little philosophizing. A visit where thankfully, what you'd been following is fine, and resolved, and all you take home is your child and some films. Baruch ata Hashem elokeinu melech haolam, hatov vehameitiv!

I had a discussion with a friend the other day about the idea that we shouldn't try to minimize the challenges of another person. We do this a lot as moms, sometimes without even realizing it.

My kids are nearly 5, nearly 3, and nearly 1. We're firmly in diaper-tantrum-toileting-sleepless-crumbs-holdme-helpme territory and will probably be there for a while. I know what my challenges are, but I also (hopefully) am able to keep the complaints to a minimum and sense the immense blessings of this stage. Talking to a relative or friend with school-aged kids or teens or kids of an age range that runs the gamut, can sometimes lead to a laundry list of "just-you-waits" and "so-glad-that's-overs".

What does it mean when we compare challenges? When we're vying for the title of Biggest Sufferer? I read recently that the allure of complaining is that if we demonstrate just how difficult our life's challenges are, we come across as all that much more heroic for overcoming them.

I think that there's a great deal of truth to this explanation. Kvetching to one another is not sinful, but there's a hidden motive that can lurk: If I've just described the myriad of difficult scenarios I face, the mere fact that I'm standing upright in front of you makes me some kind of Superwoman, right?

Well, momentarily, maybe. But in the long run, I think that we're drawn to those with buoyant spirits and with a grateful perspective on life. Those who are cheerful and insist not that "it was nothing" but that they were happy to do it.

The gist of it for me (and this is a major work in progress) is to minimize my own complaints while at the same time, hearing and being empathetic towards the complaints of others, without minimizing or judging. It's a tall order. It's our life's work.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You Mean You Want Supper, Too?

Tonight's theoretical supper is:

Leftover carrot soup
Smoked mackerel from the Russian fruit store/grocery
Corn on the cob
Green salad

And maybe, if I manage to whip the cream, berries and cream.

Wednesday is when the pressure is on to get the Shabbos cooking started. It's hard to believe that, in the middle of that, they want supper on Wednesday and Thursday night, too!

The summer teaching job I took means that I get home with Andy and Little Rag at a little after 1 p.m. and have more limited time to contemplate supper, including buying what's needed (hopefully not, if I've prepared well and/or can get by on what's already in the house), preparing it, making lunch for the next day, etc. I'd say that the time frame is sufficient for getting it done, but that it is definitely an adjustment in terms of the time I previously needed to get the same things done.

Life is about to change around here. In the fall, Ann will be in school from 8:15 to 3:45. The current closest bus stop is a ten-minute walk for me, walking fast. We'll see how Ann handles it, along with me shlepping the little boys along at around 7:30 in the morning or so. In the cold, or the heat, or the rain, or the icy slush puddles that linger. Or we could just drive there, taking around 15 minutes each way. Yikes! She's just turning five on Shabbos! Are we ready for this?!

The days of her going to gan that starts at 9 just a few blocks away are about to be a distant memory. Which means we'll all have to be awake and productive at a far more earlier hour.

Combine that with the fact that we have less than 4 weeks until we go away, and I'm going to get an earful from RaggedyDad's family if he doesn't drop a few pounds before then. The trouble is, he's only got about 10 lbs. to shed, but his face gets round right away. So he looks like he's got more than that to lose. I'm the opposite - even if I'm at the end of a pregnancy, my face pretty much looks the same.

Mothers who work outside the home a full day - I have no idea how you have time to do what you have to do! Mothers with more than 3 kids, and multiple homeworks/school meetings/etc. - ditto! We seem to be on the precipice of some intense Raggedy times.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Counting Sheep

The Raggedy kids are known to be poor sleepers but good eaters. It seems you can't have both.

Ann was a baby who simply did not like to sleep. For a while, it seemed like she never slept at all. There were novels that I started and finished in one long night while I stayed awake nursing her and taking care of her.

For the first two years of her life, I taught on Sundays and also two afternoons a week (big thanks again go to my mother who rearranged her part-time schedule around mine) RaggedyDad's hours back then were better and he wasn't in school. And baby Ann did not sleep.

Before becoming RaggedyMom, I didn't have much experience with babies or children, so I thought this was a cruel joke no one had told me about. We were the first ones in our neighborhood chevrah with a baby. Some of them were expecting soon, and I wondered, "Should I tell them how insane this is?"

During Ann's babyhood, there was a period of time when RaggedyDad would come home at around 8 p.m. and we'd do a 10-minute version of "hi-how-was-your-day?" and then I'd go to sleep. My shift of sleep was 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. and RaggedyDad would sleep from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. Then it was time to be awake and start a new day all over again. If either of us got the baby to sleep during our 'awake shift', that was a bonus. Life continued this way for a while. As difficult and cranky a newborn Ann was, she turned out to be extremely sweet and good-natured.

Andy was the only baby to take a pacifier. He slept a lot better than Ann did, and all those extra hours of sleep helped him prepare for his current role as the lively, hungry two-and-a-half-year-old creature he has become. Part Curious George, part Animal from the Muppets, Andy adds a lot of, um, fun to our lives.

Little Rag is his own unique brand of Raggedy. But his sleep habits definitely fall along the lines of another Ann. He thinks that the big kids are cute to look in on when they're sleeping and he enjoys having another supper time with RaggedyDad. He's very close to being a year old (!) and sleeps more poorly than some 2 month olds I know of. Sigh.

We still check on the big kids several times a night. Watching them sleeping is one of the few quiet enjoyments out there. Ann's gangly arms and legs inevitably sprout their way out of the covers. Andy's pajamas twist, or he is halfway off of his little toddler bed. As for Little Rag, when he's actually asleep, he is firmly in tush-in-the-air territory.

I do try to tell them how much they'll want to sleep when they get to be teenagers. But for now, they don't quite seem to believe me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I've missed blogging. I really have. There were so many false starts in my mind, so many things I wanted to say, that just sort of fizzled as they were consumed by the great time sucking forces that invaded for good.

For the past three weeks, Ann, who is turning 5 on Shabbos, and Andy, who is turning 3 in October, have been going to day camp. They're going for the first 'half' of the summer, after which they'll be home for three weeks, and then we'll be away for two weeks visiting RaggedyDad's family.

In my fuzzy, early childhood memories, Hachofesh Hagadol was spent taking the bus from Givatayim to the beach in Tel Aviv, or tagging along as my brothers waged war against the ants in the yard of our apartment building, looking at picture books, and yes, being bored sometimes. I'm attempting to recreate that sense of vast downtime for my kids for the remainder of the summer.

In my imaginary universe, I have a little backyard with a little spot for a plastic pool and some grass. In reality, New York summers are oppressively muggy and hot after 10 a.m., the streets reek of garbage juice, and we live in an upstairs apartment with no balcony or yard space. Hence, camp.

I'm glad that they have been enjoying seeing one another at camp. I'm glad that Andy seems to be doing fine for his four daily hours without me. I'm glad that Ann is, as always, unfazed when she recognizes practically no other kids ("Guess what, Mommy?! Even more kids to be friends with!!")

In the meantime, I've dusted off my grad school textbooks (Okay, it wasn't that long ago. Not that much dust) and I have been teaching reading one-on-one for ten hours a week while my mother watches Little Rag. Whew!

Add that to the usual array of laundry, my quest to serve less processed food to the family (we are really into soups lately), a nearly-one-year-old who still sleeps like a newborn, RaggedyDad bogged down with work and school, extended family drama (for a change), and getting ready for The Trip, and you have a rather raggedy mom.

But I am trying to start writing here again to clear my head and reconnect with my blogging friends. I have been reading (and sometimes commenting) over at most of your places. Thanks for coming back.