Monday, November 17, 2008

Mommy, I Don't Feel Good

When it comes to sick days for the kids, I tend to err on the side of compassion. My mother was much the same way. If we weren't really all that sick, but she could see that we just needed the day, and it wasn't abused more than a small handful of times over the year, she was fine about us kids staying home from school. My father's policy was more along the lines of, 'If you have no fever, you're going to school.' High school was tough enough that even if I was sick enough to stay home, I often tried to insist that I be allowed to go anyway, lest I miss something important.

RaggedyDad actually (successfully!) performed the thermometer-to-the-lightbulb trick as a kid to get out of going to school in Russia (Soviet schools? Who wouldn't?!), and certainly at this age, Ann and Andy are not missing much if they stay home from nursery and Pre-1A (Kindergarten to the uninitiated. More on these silly grade-level name differences another time).

So yesterday, when we discovered that Ann and Andy have ear infections, Andy also has strep, and everyone's got a cold, it became clear that we were going to get another Sunday on Monday. As in, another day to be home. This comes closely on the tails of Little Rag being deemed a possible 'strep carrier'.

[Pediatrician: He's got strep for the third time in a row.

RaggedyMom: What? Why? What does this mean?

P: Well, I'd venture to guess that he never actually had strep to begin with.

RM: Doctor, is this some kind of phantom-strep conspiracy-theory? Have you and I been watching the same prime time tv shows?

P: Here's the number of a good ENT I know.

RM: And you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"]

Aside from the whole kvetchy-sick part, it is rather nice to be together.

Here's a roster of some of our sick day events:

*"Lunch for breakfast" - macaroni and cheese at 8:30 a.m.? Sure, kids!

*"Wine and cheese tasting" - er, choices of pomegranate juice or Kedem grape juice in 'fancy' plastic shot glass cups, American and 'Gorilla Cheese' (Andy's pronunciation of mozzarella) on party toothpicks

*Camping with blankets - because that is a given on at-home days

* Freestyle project-athon - Cutting up old magazie collages, pom-pom gluing, sticker applying, googly eyes, early-birthday-card-for-RaggedyDad production, etcetera

* 'Helping' Mommy to refold clothes in drawers and resort toys in bins, or ensuring that Mommy will have to do this job all over again

* Play-Doh or fingerpainting, depending on how much of a glutton for punishment I feel like being.

*Sick day cuddles

*PBS hour . . . or two.

*"Breakfast for dinner" - Pancakes, anyone? Yes, The Apple, I know we just had them yesterday -- but we're siiiiiiick . . .

We won't be doing laundry, as our machine is having "issues" and Our Man of Maytag, Jerry (referred to by Andy simply as "Jelly") is not available until tomorrow afternoon. Luckily, we were all caught up before it stopped working.

We also don't need to devote any time to paper decluttering, as I mostly did all that yesterday, nor will we be evaluating and saying goodbye to old school and camp projects, because we successfully purged all but the most special last week.

Whew! The only caveat to today is not making sick days so much fun that they never want to go back to school. Ah, well. They're only this little once. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go find the mini-marshmallows for some hot chocolate.

Friday, November 14, 2008


The number of people you run into on Main Street is directly proportional to how bad you look on any given day.

Bonus points if you did not manage to match your clothes, or if you happen to see friends of your parents or an old high school teacher. Super bonus points if you see an administrator at your kids' current schools, or if the baby is wearing only one sock and has a crusty nose.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Produce Shopping

Although my food's probably still too salty, one thing I have tried to do over the years is to make as much food as possible from basic ingredients. What this means is, in practical terms, is frequent trips to the fruit and vegetable store. I usually do a large-ish produce shop once a week. Sometimes I have to fill in later that week, and sometimes I can even skip a week if things aren't busy around here.

In our neighborhood, there are a few independent fruit stores, as well as kosher supermarkets and chain supermarkets that carry produce. In general, I try to shop for produce in the independents, because I like the prices and freshness there, and I do sort of like that 'earthy' fruit store feel. That earthiness is precisely the reason that some people choose not to shop in these places. To me, it's not grungy as much as it's close to the source of where all of these things actually grow.

There's one giant fruit superstore a few minutes away. People generally find it disgusting. I don't mind it much, and used to shop there from time to time. The kids like the lobster tank, and the prices and variety there are very good. They carry more interesting, ethnically-diverse produce than anyone in town. The sanitary level does leave a good deal to be desired. I once found a clementine crate full of kittens in the first shopping cart I wheeled out. Yikes. Also, the grocery prices there are not very good, so it definitely necessitates a trip to another store.

The chain supermarkets display clean, shiny produce, but the prices are high, and it doesn't seem like the turnover rate is all that good. The apples look so waxy-perfect - to me, that's not what I expect from fruit and veg.

The kosher supermarkets are also good for veg and fruit in a pinch, like when you're shopping for Shabbos, and only need a couple of produce items. In general, the prices (aside from occasional hit-or-miss store specials) are rather high there, too.

One of the independent stores carries very nice produce. A bonus is that it's one of the many stores on Main Street where I get to practice my Hebrew (and invariably get asked by someone if I'm French). Another bonus is nostalgia - it's named after a town that neighbors the town where I was born. This store is very popular in the neighborhood - I know quite a few people who "only go there." It is on the small side, and I'd say that it's one of those places where people seem to hate me for having a stroller.

Never one to conform, I've lately been loving a Bukharian-owned fruit store a few blocks further south. It gives me a chance to practice my other erstwhile language - Russian (just kidding - I totally don't have the nerve to speak Russian in public yet!)

It seems like their prices are the best around, and groceries there are a decent buy. I'm talking about a bunch of asparagus for 99 cents - where I see the same quantity in other places for 2.99/lb or more! (Although it's not always available) I used to buy the giant 10 lb. bag of onions for 2.99, but I find that there are always a few in there that aren't going to hold on for more than a couple of days. When I know there's a Yom Tov coming up, or that I'm making onion soup, I'll still buy the big onion bag, and sort it out right away.

The staples are always around, and for the rest, I try to go in there with the attitude that I'll see what looks good, and devise the veg portion of my menu around it. Beets and cabbage? Okay, we'll have borscht. Butternut squash looks nice and is 59 cents a pound? Sounds like a good side dish or soup.

Do you prioritize prices or a more pleasant shopping experience in your produce (or any) shopping? I enjoy shopping in pleasant places, so I promise not to judge you if it's the latter. For groceries, I've mostly given up on the places that are a few cents cheaper on some items, but treat customers disrespectfully and are difficult to shop in.

The part about produce shopping that is a big drag (even with a car) is the shlepping. I hate wasting weekend time in overcrowded food stores, so I shop almost exclusively with Little Rag (and sometimes Andy), and just get the stuff home without RaggedyDad. The system I use has been described here before. I love my fruit store - now if only they delivered!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hoping I Can

I work as a reading teacher, and these dayts, I tutor for a few hours a week. Ostensibly, I ought to be able to diagnose a child's reading difficulties, come up with a plan for remediation, and carry it out. I've been trained to do these things, and I enjoy my work.

But, like all people, I worry about my effectiveness. I'm sometimes plagued with the thought of, "I hope I can actually make headway with this child." Not because I perceive the student as ineducable (haven't met one of those yet). Not because I don't have confidence in what I need to do (although sometimes I doubt myself, as do we all). But mostly because sometimes, I know that you can do everything you are supposed to do 'by the book' and it still may or may not happen.

Sometimes there are underlying issues that you aren't aware of, be they emotional, neurological, or otherwise, that will stand in the way of the effectiveness of the work. Sometimes the rapport between a student and a teacher doesn't create the most conducive learning environment. Sometimes a student's retention is weak, and the headway you make during one session is lost the next.

I currently work with two great kids. One's father is a marine. The other's father wears a long beard and peyos. The boys are almost the same age. Their issues differ, and their lives differ even more. But in each case, before and after leaving their homes, early on a Sunday morning, late on a Sunday night, after Shabbos, or on weekday evenings when my own mother tells my kids that Mommy will be home shortly to get bathtime and bedtime underway, my silent thought is the same, "I hope I can help this child."

Friday, November 07, 2008

Hold It

I know that I need to eat healthier. These years, it's really about setting a good example for the kids.

For some reason, lots of people have had the (mistaken) impression that I am a supremely healthy eater. I've had people assume that I'm a health nut, or a vegetarian, countless times. I'm really not sure why. Maybe because I'm so pale, they assume that I'm anemic due to a lack of iron from not eating meat. Or maybe that's a real stretch, and I just give off a healthy food vibe.

The truth of the matter is, I'm not the healthiest of eaters. I do love fruit, but vegetables usually require me just convince myself that I like them. I like to bake because I like what it yields: namely, baked goods. My classic response to a supper made by my mother that I didn't like was to go and toast a Lender's bagel with melted cheese. (Sorry, mom! I realize now how insulting and rude that was!)

One of my other vices is SALT. I like things salty. I tend to have a heavy hand when it comes to salting the potato kigel (very healthy, I know), or mac and cheese (classic supper for me when I wasn't cooking for the kids), or eggs. How can you enjoy sunny-side-up eggs without some salt?

On Wednesday evening, RaggedyDad and I went to Ann's Parent Orientation at school and the director of the preschool division was talking about an article that came out in the NY Times last week. It seems that all these higher salt foods have let to a rise in kidney stones in children! Kids, who almost never had something like kidney stones are suddenly developing them with much higher frequency.

I've tried a salt substitute, but I found it rather disgusting. So I'd rather just cut back on the salt. It's not good for any of us, and certainly not for RaggedyDad as we get, er, older. I'll just have to try to eliminate it a bit at a time from the things where it doesn't really matter much. As it is, I serve very few processed foods, so it's really just ME adding the salt myself (not sure if that makes it better or worse!).

It'll be a little less tasty, but hopefully, it'll be well worth it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Coming Back - Low Key

I'd like to blog more often. Really, I would. I can't even say that I don't have time to blog, because some very busy people I know are active bloggers. I do have chunks of time now and then when I, ahem, must sit still with Little Rag, and that's often my computer time.

So the time is there, but then there's the emotional part to contend with. Nothing major, but just this overall feeling that if I am going to Put Up a Blog Post, it has to be a Grand Event with Something Meaningful to say. So thoughts of what to post about quickly get shooed away:

"People have already posted extensively about that topic."

"That's not important enough to warrant a blog posting."

"What will [insert particular imagined reader] think about THAT?! Forget it."

"It will take way too much time and effort to make that sound as eloquent as I'd like."

And so on. So the quest for perfection/pleasing people/impressing people with some witty observation about life actually becomes a major Blog-Kill.

Clearly, we are all flawed and simple in our own way. With the intent of writing something special, I usually wind up writing (or finishing drafts of), well, nothing.

So I'd like to post on a more frequent basis. And I think I will. But I'll be doing less self-editing, and less self-evaluating. Sometimes it'll be silly, or lame, or my ideas may be deemed insignificant or even wrong by some of you. But I think that at nearly 30, I'm starting to grow up enough to realize that that's really . . . okay.

So hi again!