April 30, 2011

Karmic Balance

Quiet Time
SI on a tricycle at the park
It's been a very difficult week.  As with any difficult time in our lives, we sometimes lose perspective.  Fortunately for us, we can always refer to our mantra of eternal levity, "At least it's not brain cancer!"

Also as with any difficult time in our lives, there is a balance of things that are wonderful and then things that ruin the wonderfulness.

My parents came into town for a visit!   We hadn't seen Grandmommy and Poppa for about three months, during which they've been jet-setting across Europe.  Because that's what they do.  We spent the week taking turns being very ill.  First, M with a nasty cold.  Then me with the same cold.  Then Poppa with food poisoning from the airplane.  Then DD with roseola.  Then Grandmommy with that same stupid cold.  We only had two nights out of about ten where we all got to enjoy each others company simultaneously.
DD LOVES the swings!

But the thing that made this week so difficult?  One of our cars is about to die, and through a series of unfortunate and unreasonable events, this means that after taking one of his two sick days for the year (yes, two for the year) in order to deal with keeping our car legal, the DMV actually slammed the door in M's face and locked it.

Then he came home, discovered that he'd somehow infected his computer with an extremely vicious and malicious virus, and it's looking like the recovery is beyond our scope of expertise.  Remember, this is while he still needs to use the very specific software on this computer to study for his finals... which start on Wednesday.
SI has decided that Poppa needs a shovel

But like I was saying... karmic balance.  Yeah, all of that stuff above sucks.  But there was something truly wonderful going on simultaneously.

Our kids.  SI and DD were on their best behavior, in the happiest of moods, and feeling entirely cooperative for the entire week.

Even while she was sick, DD was full of smiles and laughter and snuggles.  They LOVED having Grandmommy and Poppa around!  Every day was just one adventure after another.  DD learned a few new skills (Poppa showed her how to shovel sand into a bucket), SI learned a few new words... they were basically perfect.

SI climbing to the slide
Every time I'd say to my children, "Who's ready for a nap?" they would both go running off to their bedroom, grab their frog loveys, and patiently wait to be plopped into their cribs and tucked in.  Then, as the grownups would leave the quiet nursery and close the door, my father would look at me and say, "I hate you."  His kids didn't let him sleep through the night for about the first seven years, and they did not take naps.

Last night, after reading my daughters a few bedtime stories, after chasing them around in their silly towels, and after getting some hugs and kisses, we turned out the lights and watched a movie.  And the children, who could hear this activity, hung out in their beds and giggled a bit, and then peacefully went to sleep.  He joked that either me or M must have made some sort of deal with the Devil, and M laughed as he said that we did.  Brain cancer first, perfect children afterwords.
DD will never abandon her shovel

And I know it sounds ridiculous.  But I really think they pretty much are.  Perfect children, that is.  I know, I know the old Jewish proverb: "There is only one perfect child on earth, and every mother has it."  But I do think my kids are pretty much perfect.  They're just EASY.  They're mild tempered, they're cooperative, they're snuggly and loving and sort of clowns.  They're smart, and different, and they play adorable games with me.

The sand box is a big hit with my kids
DD turns nearly everything into a phone, which she wanders around talking into and occasionally passing off to me.  SI wants to read absolutely everything- from Grandmommy's pamphlets about her vaccinations (they're off to South Africa next) to every single book she can get her hands on.  A few nights ago she tried to get Poppa to read her Little House in the Big Woods for her bedtime story.  And when he explained to her that it was too long and that he'd read it to her in a few years instead, she simply sat in the rocking chair, flipping through the pages and pointing out the occasional phrase.  She did this for about fifteen minutes while DD played "Simon Says," perfectly happy to let her sister have all the attention.  After all, she was busy reading.

Today we had a really lovely moment.  I was sitting on the couch, reading a book to SI, with DD snuggled in next to me, pretending to talk to somebody on a mirrored rattle.  Roger's and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" (a life-long favorite of mine) was on the TV, and I kept pointing out the dancing to DD while SI tried to sing along a little bit.  They both just wanted to hang out, in a relaxed, stress free sort of way.  It was beautiful, and more than anything it was easy.
SI loves landscaping

My kids are easy.  Sure, they're still toddlers.  It's still impossible for me to get everything that I'd like to do DONE, it's still difficult to go new places and visit all our friends... but they are ridiculously easy children.

So of course school is awful for me and M.  Of course we keep rotating illnesses and car or computer related catastrophes.  Of course M only gets two sick days a year, and our finals correspond but our vacations don't.  Of course we don't get to go to all of our family baby showers, pre-deployment BBQs, holidays, and birthday parties.  Of course we don't get to do about seventy percent of the stuff we'd like to do.  Because we're already paying for it.  We have achieved some measure of karmic balance.
DD could live at the playground and be happy forever

So whenever we're feeling down, hard-done by, and generally angry at the universe, it's not just reminding ourselves that, "At least it's not brain cancer!"  It's also taking a deep breath, and re-reading a Dr. Seuss book.  And all the sweet laughter, the tiny little arms giving tight and sincere hugs, the endless adorable fist-bumps... all of that is an emotional refund.  The universe reminding us that parts of our life suck, but the absolute most important part that there is... our happy little family...

That's perfect.

April 27, 2011

Checking in with you, my lovely readers

Everyone in this house is constantly exhausted.
Hello, lovely readers!

I'd like to have a little chat with you about what you'd like to read.

You see, recently I've been doing a bit more explorations across the mommy-blogosphere, and what I've found surprised me somewhat.

Always the last one to get to sleep...
Like you (I imagine), my blog-reading is sort of focused on voyeurism.  I want to read about other people's children, other people's lives.  To feel connected in this increasingly isolated yet interconnected world.  And as parents, I know that a lot of us are VERY isolated.  No matter how much we love our kids, they're not exactly much for stimulating conversation (unless your kids are a LOT older than mine, in which case just ignore my assumptions, which as you know make an ass of me).  As you might remember from a few earlier mentions I don't have a lot of friends with kids.  And it's hard to get out and make more friends with kids.  So I spend a lot of my non-school time just on my own with the girls.  But I digress.

Much of the mommy-blogosphere is a money oriented enterprise.  And I had no idea.  I didn't realize that it was reviews, giveaways, coupons, contests and promotions.  Of course there's a place for that, but I really don't want it to be here.  I want this to continue to be my happy, vaguely zen space in which I ramble without any particular goal.
Possibly the last time I took a nap

I've always loathed the idea of being made into an advertisement.  Sure, if it's a product I believe in I'll promote it like it was my job, but I'm picky.  The only band t-shirts I've ever worn were a home-made Radiohead hoodie (I embroidered a Minotaur onto the back myself) and my Harry and the Potters, "This Guitar is a Horcrux" t-shirt.  Yes, I am a giant nerd.  Still, I kind of want to sell out.  I'd love to make money writing, especially something as close to my heart as this blog.

I've been joining up with a lot more blog-hops and whatnot recently, but I'm disheartened.  I don't want to sign up for endless giveaways, I want to read about people and their children and their lives.  People are so much more interesting than stuff.

Yup.  Totally jealous.
So here's what I'd love to know from you- do you actually read about my silly life?  Do you want to know about all the wonderful products that I adore and use on a daily basis?  Do you want me to stop writing about myself so much and get back to writing about the amazing little people I was supposed to focus on in the first place?

I'd love to get your feedback.  I write mostly for myself, but I am humbled and honored to have an audience, and I want to give you what you want.  I want you to be happy every time you stop by.  And nobody can tell me how to do that for you better than you.

I await your answers with bated breath.  Or I would, if I wasn't so exhausted.

I wish I was doing this right now.
All my best, lovely readers.


April 24, 2011

Ode to an Egg

I have an Easter confession to make.  About what makes this holiday so incredibly precious to me.

Being Jewish, there's not much about Easter that ever particularly appealed to me. Eggs hunts? Why can't we just play in the sun? Fake plastic grass? What's the point? The Easter Bunny? This has never been satisfactorily explained to me. But there is one part of Easter that I cannot deny carries appeal. Not just appeal, but that sort of giddy excitement usually reserved for the first snow-day of the year, picking out Halloween costumes, and birthdays.

I'm talking about Cadbury Creme Eggs.

Oh, those amazing confections. The soft, creamy chocolate shell. The whimsically egg-like insides. The sweet, sweet nectar of the filling.

As a child, there was no time that I longed to NOT be Jewish like Easter. If only for the delicious, delightful, decadent Cadbury Creme Eggs.

Each time they appeared in the stores, I would lose my head. "They're here! The eggs are here!" And I would stand, frozen, before the displays of their majesty.

Of course, they were EXPENSIVE as far as one-shot sugar explosions go. So their simple availability didn't guarantee that I'd get even one a year. Imagine, as a child, seeing those eggs on the shelf and thinking to yourself, "WE'RE ALMOST OUT OF TIME! SOON THE EGGS WILL ALL BE GONE!" It was harrowing.

My mother understood the appeal of the eggs. The day after Easter was an occasion. The day after Easter, the Cadbury Creme Eggs go on sale. So frequently, the day after Easter was the day that I got to eat an ovoid capsule of creamy dreaminess.

There is a ritual in eating a Cadbury Creme Egg. You can't just gobble it all up. No, far too precious. A Cadbury Creme Egg requires time and attention. And ever so much care.  So here, without further ado, is the method by which I recall the childhood enjoyment of consuming a Cadbury Creme Egg reaching its pinnacle.

First, you peel away the top of the wrapper, but not the whole thing. You don't want to actually touch the chocolate with your tiny, grubby little fingers. No, that's a recipe for disaster. Your warm, eager hands will melt the chocolate, waste it.  You might melt through that fragile chocolate shell and spill its ooey gooey contents all over the place.  And then that would be it.  The end.  Until maybe next year.  No.  You only partially unwrap the egg, carefully exposing the tiniest portion of the crest of the chocolate coating.  You use only the tips of your fingers to support the egg, gently supporting its gigantic psychological bulk with every fingertip you have.

Now comes a delicate operation.  You nibble, ever so gently, at this exposed bit of chocolate.  You savor the unique creaminess of Cadbury's Dairy Milk, so unlike our American Hershey's milk chocolate.  You close your eyes, roll the rapidly dissolving chocolate around on your tongue.  You breathe slowly, filling your nostrils with the aroma of chocolate.

As your heart rate quickens, your tongue finally breaks through the barrier- that solid, creamy perfection of all confections.  You don't taste the creme immediately, holding the egg upright allows the contents to settle towards the bottom.  This leads to a moment of panic.

Once in a while, the egg is damaged.  This damage EXPOSES the magical creme, and it dries up before it can be properly consumed.  This is a disaster.  A catastrophe.  One of the worst things that can possibly happen to you in your entire life.  Because it will be a whole year before you even get another opportunity for an egg, let alone the egg itself.  There is no sight sadder than the crustified contents of a Cadbury Creme Egg.

But not this time.  This time, the egg is perfect.  Its contents liquid, viscous and shiny.  Reflecting the hungry, desperate gleam in your eye.

Ever so delicately, you extend the tip of your tongue, and dip it into the eggy contents.  You must try not to moan aloud, or your mother might take the egg away.  But this is a sacred moment.  The gloop begins to coat the inside of your mouth, and a sharp intake of breath causes a burst of sugar to burn the back of your throat.

This is the sacrifice you must make to the Cadbury Gods.  This sugar burn.  It hurts, but it's good.  and now that the moment has passed, the consumption of your egg can continue.

You slowly lap up the creme inside, until your tiny tongue can no longer reach.  The nibbling of the chocolate recommences.  Again, you must be desperately careful.  If you nibble to quickly, you'll crack the egg.  So tiny, tiny bites- only scrape away at the chocolate with your teeth.  Only peel away as much foil as you must.  Gently juggle the egg, don't allow your greasy fingers to let go, even for a moment.  The foil between your hands is slippery with your sweat, but there is not putting the egg down once the process has begun.  Not even on the Equinox can you balance a Cadbury Creme Egg on its end.

As you work your way down into the belly of the egg, the sides open up for you.  A veritable ocean of Cadbury Creme shows itself, and there- suddenly, is the yolk.  That peek of yellow, that incomprehensible smear surrounded by white.  How does it remain?  How does it stay apart and intact?  You may never know.  You carefully lick out the yolk, made even sweeter through the alchemical process of desire and amazement.

Soon your tongue begins to scrape the bottom of the shell.  The cream is nearly gone, and you are left with a concave, and somehow heavy, disc of Dairy Milk chocolate.  Victory is yours!  "Hallelujah!" you cry, and as you finally discard the colored foil wrappings, you pop this disc, roughly the size of a nickel, whole into your mouth.

It is somehow imbued with the flavor of the creme.  It is somehow hard and still soft, mystically difficult to chew.  Again, the sugar burns your throat.  This time you breathe into it, relishing the last, perfect bite of Cadbury Creme Egg for the year.  Letting it fill every inch of your psyche and soul.

Once the egg is gone, the time has come for silent reflection.  You sit back, licking your fingers and running your tongue over every tooth, reliving each moment of Cadbury Creme Egg glory.  Already desperate to find even another morsel, any taste of eggy perfection to tide you over the next long, twelve months.

And then, with a sigh, it's over.  You return to your activities, but the rest of the day has a bit of a glow about it.  A touch of magic.

Because today was the day that you had your egg.


April 22, 2011

Breakfast with the Grublings

My cooperative eaters
I hear tell that toddlers are picky eaters.  Therefore, it is with much pleasure that I introduce to you, our biggest breakfast staple: Green Eggs.

Green Eggs make me feel better about whatever my kids eat for the rest of the day.  I know that they've had an awesome and healthy breakfast, and if they just load up on carbs for lunch or dinner, I have a sense of calm because I know that they've started their day with a belly full of good stuff, anyway.

Green Eggs are ridiculously easy.  Take a plain, ordinary cheese grater.  Use it to grate up about a third of a cup of zucchini.  Saute the zucchini lightly, and then scramble four eggs with it.  Now you have green scrambled eggs for two toddlers.
Cooperative eating at its finest

I top it off with a little cheese (for some reason Parmesan is completely unacceptable), and then serve it to my grublings with a cup of milk, and some fruit.  Usually bananas or clementines.  And on most mornings, some crackers.  But this week, matzoh!

I particularly enjoy calling it "Green Eggs," because I know how much my kids LOVE the Dr. Seuss book.  And the Dr. Seuss cartoon from the '70s.  (I'm a big fan myself.)

In fact, I think everyone should experience this amazing cartoon.  So here it is:

And thus, my children eat a healthy, balanced, quiet meal.  And then I abandon them in the living room to watch the above cartoon (or Sesame Street) while I clean up, get dressed, and generally make myself more like a living person.

...and hello all you blog hoppers!

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April 20, 2011

The Birthday Crazies

Pretty girls in pretty dresses
Today was my birthday.
SI eating matzoh

As I've already said, it was a non-event.  And this was fine.  So how did I commemorate the anniversary of my birth?
  • I personally responded to all the very nice things people said to me on Facebook.
  • My husband ditched class to drive to the 'burbs to surprise me with a GIANT kosher-for-Passover cheesecake.  Nom nom nom...
  • I harassed some of my classmates via email to get their share of our group project to me (with no success).
  • I got involved in a fight about circumcision online with some very rude and offensive other mothers.  (Yes, circumcision is a very touchy subject.  No need to tell me that I'm a child abuser and pedophilia advocate because I plan on having a bris for my sons if they ever come into existence.  And please, dear readers, do not start sending me links to websites run by "intactivists."  And please, don't compare it to female genital mutilation.  They are entirely different, even if they might both be considered either "circumcision" or "mutilation."  For once in our lives, let's just be nice to each other.)
  • I played a lot of Bananagrams with my mother, and did a bunch of winning.
  • I ate a chili rellenos burrito
  • I got irritated with Aunt Genocide for crashing my facebook in a tequila induced bout of silliness while I tried to play Scrabble
  • I accidentally missed my chiropractor appointment
  • I nursed a NyQuil hangover and ate leftover charoseth all day
DD and a crayon
And thus I aged.  Nobody in this house seems quite sure how old I am, not M, not Grandmommy, and not yours truly.  We all have to stop and do the math.

And I don't care.  I don't know how old I feel, but I think I might actually feel my age.  It's not something that I'm used to.  And it's really, really nice.  I like being my age, whatever that is.

I like having two little girls who want to give me hugs and kisses and don't care that it's my birthday.
I like that my husband prioritizes giving me a sweet surprise over going to class once in a while, even if it's a bad idea.
I like that I'm on top of my school work, even if everyone else in my class seems incompetent.
I like that I can remain civil in a conversation with a horde of angry people spewing vitriol.
I like that I can beat my mom at Bananagrams, but I like even more that she's here to play games with me.
SI the angel
I like leftover charoseth and cups of tea.  I like cheesecake.

I like my life.  I love my life.  No matter how irritated with Aunt Genocide I get, no matter how exhausted or sick I might be, and no matter how much work I still have to do in the morning.

I'm pretty freakin' happy.

I'm 27 years old today (right?).  I'm the 27 year old mother of two beautiful little girls.  I'm a 27 year old student who's getting so close to finally graduating that she can taste it.  I'm the 27 year old wife of a 28 year old brain cancer survivor.  I'm a 27 year old skin cancer survivor (I lost another bit of flesh to that particular monster on Friday, btw).  I'm a 27 year old artist and writer, learning every time I practice the crafts, and coming to terms with the idea that this will never be what I "do."

I'm a 27 year old crazy person, goof ball, spaz, what-have-you.

DD the angel
I don't know what life is supposed to be like for 27 year old women.  I get the feeling that for most of our generation, our 20s are some sort of limbo, where we don't really know what we're doing or why or how we're going to start doing something else.  And that pretty much sums it up for me, too.  Except that I'm doing the wife and mother thing, instead of the clubbing and partying thing.  Because I was never into clubs or partying.

I know that I'm supposed to be freaked out by nearing my 30s, but I'm not.  I couldn't care less how old I am.  All that matters is how I feel, and how I feel is wonderful.

I'm back below my pregnancy weight, even if it's distributed differently now.  I'm happy with my new mystery dysentery lifestyle, even if it means I pay for eating cheesecake in a whole new way.  I'm happy with my family.

And now I know I'm starting to ramble, to drag on a bit.  Because I'm tired and I have to get up and do the whole student/mom/wife/daughter thing again.  And it can be exhausting.

But I'm happy about it.

Happy Birthday to me.  :)
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SuperMommy's Passover Traditions

Grandmommy and SI after the seder
Chag Samayach to all!

Passover began at sundown on Monday evening, and lasts for eight days and nights.  The start of Passover is a seder, which is the reading of the Haggadah (similar to the Book of Exodus), the eating of the festive meal, much partying and revelry, and of course a host of personal traditions passed down through the generations.

This year we had our family seder in Michigan, at Aunt Genocide's house.  DD, SI, and Grandmommy (Poppa is still in Europe) stayed with Aunt Genocide, and me and M got to stay at a hotel.  Two whole nights, off duty from children.  On the other side of town.  In the traditional Mid-April snow.

It was magical.
DD and SI like Yul Brennar as much as I do

Passover is, for many Jewish families, what Christmas is for many Christian (or even those who identify as secular) families.  A time to get together, to celebrate, to be with family.  As with Christmas, there are a many traditions around Passover.  Some families read "A Christmas Carol," or "The Night Before Christmas," when the season come's 'round.  In our family, we watch my great-grandfather's copy of "The Ten Commandments," which he taped off of the television.  It's not just that it's the Passover story that makes this tape great, it's the commercials.  The tape is from 1986, and things have changed somewhat.  To save this masterpiece of American and Jewish culture, I've burned it to disc.  Just in the nick of time, too.  Just when Moses approaches Ramases to demand the freedom of the Jews, we get a nice four seconds of blackness, with static bars roaming the screen.  Aside from that, the tape is preserved in all of its glory.  Cadbury Creme Egg commercials, complete with camels and lions in bunny ears.  Double Mint twins, riding bikes and sporting matching '80s shoulder pads.  The chant of, "Buuuuuuuy Mennen!"  Lincoln advertising their longest car ever.  Previews for the NEW episode of "Moonlighting."  Highlights of the Mets, off to a great start of a baseball season that they'll go on to actually win.  (Poppa might want to pay more attention to this tape, huh?)

Aunt Genocide leads the seder, surrounded by children
It's a wonderful thing.

There are a few other traditions that my family keeps.  Aunt Genocide makes the ingberlech.  Ingberlech is a kind of traditional ginger candy- it is DELICIOUS.  And it's tricky to make.  It's one of those things where you have to be apprenticed in as a child, and then you can grow up to become a master artisan.  Of ingberlech.  Aunt Genocide has been making it since she was about seven.

I, on the other hand, make the charoseth.  Charoseth is also extremely delicious, but plays a very different role.  It represents that mortar with which the Jews in Egypt made the bricks to build the cities and tombs of the Pharoah.  I make awesome charoseth.  And then it becomes my primary food source for the rest of Passover.

My daughter the plague
I also am the traditional crafter of the place cards.  Place cards are important, because seating cannot be a free-for-all.  It is family tradition that married couples aren't allowed to sit next to each other, that children and those who have never been to a seder sit close to the seder's leader, and most importantly that the people who are running back and forth from the kitchen be close to the kitchen.  Seating is a complicated art, and I am its master.

Because we were slaves in Egypt but now we are free, we recline while we eat.  That means that collecting pillows is important.  Usually this task is delegated to the children- "Go, kids!  Find all the pillows in the house!"  Because we're supposed to get all chametz (bread, or other leavened items) out of the house, that's another slightly older child task- "Go, kids!  Get all the bread out of the pantry!"  This one is super fun because then you get to set it on fire.

DD playing with her salty herbs
Then there's the seder.  Our seders are, I think, fairly traditional.  They last more than three hours.  We read the whole Haggadah.  We eat heartily.  We drink four glasses of wine (at least) apiece.

Yeah, that's in the Haggadah.  Jews are pretty much party people.

But most importantly, in our family seders we invite any and all questions.  The more questions, the better.  Everyone learns when somebody asks a questions.  This is one of the reasons that the children and the "uninitiated" sit near the leader, so as to be all the closer in order to ask questions.  At the beginning of the seder, four questions are always asked- traditionally by the youngest person present.  "Why do we recline tonight?"  "Why do we eat the matzoh tonight?"  "Why do we eat bitter herbs tonight?" and "Why do we dip our herbs in salt water tonight?"  All under the blanket questions, "What makes this night different from all other nights?"

Our youthful questioner
And the leader of the seder responds that those are the questions that we will answer as we tell the story of our liberation from slavery in Egypt.

The seder (finally) ends when we eat the "desert," which is half of a piece of matzoh called the afikomen.  Because the seder is so fun, and children are so clever, the children STEAL the afikomen.  The adults, who understand that they've been reclining at the table and drinking wine for four hours, and would very much like to go to bed, must ransom the afikomen back from the children in order to start cleaning up the dishes and singing merrily.  And thus, the children are bribed with presents to return the afikomen, and the merriment can continue.

There are songs, and more wine, and everyone becomes very silly and sleepy.

And before we all go to bed and pass out, we remind ourselves, "Next year, in Jerusalem!"

DD and M eating Hilllel sandwiches together

April 15, 2011

We were slaves in Mizrayim...

For those of you who are unaware, Passover begins this Monday at sundown.

Passover, or Pesach, is the celebration of the Exodus from Egypt.  It is for Jews what Christmas is for Christians, the time of year when we get together as a family to celebrate.  We eat, the children get presents (actually bribes), and we relax as much as possible, because once we were slaves.  And now we are free.

I'm sure all of you are familiar with the culture that goes along with Christmas.  There are endless films that show dysfunctional families, coming together to try to have one nice night.  That's very much what Passover is like.  Only instead of going to church and having a nice dinner or party, all of those activities are combined into a Seder- a three plus hour long event including the reading of the Haggadah (the book of Exodus plus a ton of commentary from historic Rabbis), dinner, desert, and festivity.

It frequently goes horribly wrong.  This is the one Christmas-style film I've ever seen that deals with the chaos that is Passover.

We have our own family traditions.  Including the watching of my great-grandfather's copy of The Ten Commandments.  He taped it off of local television in 1986, and as a result it's about seven hours long.


And I love it.

This year is going to be CHAOS.  Between the fact that M and I are gearing up for finals, that we're driving into Michigan with my mother (who will have only been in the country for about twelve hours), bringing with us all of our dishes and chairs, and that sometime between now and when we leave (that's about 36 hours) we need to pack, clean, and buy an additional travel crib.

We're staying in a hotel while the girls stay with Grandmommy and Aunt Genocide.  That will make it almost like a 36 hour vacation.  Almost.  The seder is being hosted for the third time by Aunt Genocide and Aunt Something Funny.  They've never done this before, but I have.  Four times.  Once in a dorm, once in a tiny studio apartment, once at me and M's first place together, and then last year.  And it is a lot of effing work.  I worry that my sisters have no idea what they've gotten themselves in for.

This is going to be fun, right?  22 people in a tiny house, a five hour drive each way, unpaid leave for M (because you don't get Jewish holidays off but you do get Christmas off), and one big happy dysfunctional family seder.

Stay tuned for the results.

Because, as M keeps singing, "Everything's coming up Moses!"

April 14, 2011

Giving the People What They Want

Am I screwing up? 

Remember when I wrote about getting a thoughtful award from another blogger?  And how terrible of a person I am because I utterly fail at finishing things that don't immediately register as "essential?"  Or how remiss I've been in writing posts about things that don't involve my children's bodily functions?  Or that aren't prolonged complaints about my life in general?

No, I didn't exactly say that, did I... but at any rate, I'll get to my point quickly.

Not one, but TWO lovely blogging ladies have presented me with another thoughtful award:

To Janet of KY Klips and Annie of And We're Off To..., I thank you.  From the bottom of my heart.  I've put a lot of love into this little blog, and it's wonderful to hear that it's pretty.  Because, as it features prominently caricatures of yours truly, that means that you think that I'M pretty.  And that's enough to make a girl blush.

As is the modus operandi with this sort of thing, it is my duty upon accepting this prestigious award to provide you with seven random facts about myself, and then to pass it along to another ten stylish blogs.  Blogs that, regardless of what you like to read, are pretty freakin' awesome to look at.  So I'll start with those.  I must warn you, however, that I am going to break with tradition.  Most of these are not parenting related blogs.  These are just marvelous, beautiful places to waste a few moments of your time.  And here they are:

Daily Painter Amy Hautman, who paints truly lovely watercolors of her garden every day.
Post Secret, if you're not familiar with this project already, PLEASE go check it out!  Truly inspiring and always good food for thought.
Visually Inclined, my dear friend's photography blog.  She's a genius with a lens, and leads a glamorous and fascinating life.  And the pictures are always wonderful.
Paulo Coelho's Blog, one of my favorite contemporary authors, keeping up not only with his intellectual pursuits but his silly daily life as well.
The Fall of James, a father and photographer.  His pictures are beautiful, and frequently hilarious.
Momma Data: Debunking Children's Health News, with whom I may have briefly quarreled, but respect deeply.
Mila's Daydreams, who if you aren't already familiar with... again... check her out.  Her art (photograph of her baby daughter's dreams) is amazing, and I can't wait for he book.
Noa Green Photography, a New Jersey based baby photographer, her amazing pictures of newborns and their families, and her own family.  It's lovely.
Neil & His Magnificent Oracular Journal, yes, i saw him tonight and yes, I'm a total geek, but I think it's lovely and silly.  And I'm handing out the accolades.
Uptown Chicago Blog, a collection of photographs from more than the last century of this EXTREMELY interesting neighborhood of Chicago.  I could surf that blog forever.

And now, seven random facts about me.
  1. I picked out my first tattoo when I was thirteen.  It's a blue flame, in the middle of my chest.  No, I had never seem Foxfire.  No, it has nothing to do with Angelina Jolie.  Actually, it was originally intended to be two tattoos- the flame on my chest, and a deep purple crescent moon just below my widow's peak on my forehead.  I never went through with the forehead tattoo.  I have no regrets.
  2. My least favorite of my own personal parts are my pinkie toes.  I have a tendency to get really nasty blisters on them, blisters that rapidly become infected and need to be lanced.  The first time this happened, the infection began to spread to my foot, leading to a swift and alarming surgical procedure in my pediatrician's office, who then informed me who lucky I was that I was going to keep the foot.  Since then, I've built up an alarming amount of scar tissue on these toes, which makes the infections all the worse.  Shortly before meeting M, I decided that I was going to get rid of those pesky toes once and for all.  In an insomniatic fit, I took a cab to the closest 24 hour hardware store, and spend much of the night picking out the perfect toe-removal device.  I never actually cut them off, but I do have an extremely useful hedge trimmer that I purchased just for that purpose.  I was going to make sure I dropped the toes into some sort of preservative before going to the hospital, first of all to make sure that they couldn't be reattached, and second of all to allow me the glorious option of keeping a jar with toes floating in it in my medicine cabinet.  Just to freak out snoopy guests.  Again, no regrets.
  3. My favorite flavors of ice-cream are Blue Moon, which is nearly impossible to get my hands on, and Mackinaw Island Fudge.  Which is almost as difficult to find.  That's the trouble with having all of your childhood nostalgia located in Michigan.  When you're not in Michigan, you can't wallow in your nostalgia. 
  4. I'm a neurotic art collector.  As an artist, I could easily cover my walls in my own art.  Unfortunately, having so much of my own art ON the walls makes me feel like a self-obsessed weirdo.  So, I collect art by other people.  Yes, there's still some of my own art up, but it's significantly less than half.  And I'm constantly on the lookout for more fun prints, paintings, and found objects to adorn my home.  My kitchen, in particular, is becoming a gallery in its own right.  My favorite pieces in there are a framed and mounted 8-track of Disco Sesame Street, a print of a silk painting landscape that M and I picked up in New Zealand, A reproduction of a WWI era Cream of Wheat ad, and a painting of an elderly couple polka-ing painted on a keg lid.  If you make art, I would love to put it in my kitchen.
  5. Since becoming a mother, I have managed to kill six house plants.  It makes me nervous about the girls' chances.
  6. If I had a whole day, just to myself, just to do ANYTHING that I wanted, I would probably read.  And I would probably read comics.  And they would probably have zombies in them.  Back when Walking Dead was showing on AMC (I was already a longtime fan of the comic) the girls' nap time was also my zombie time.  I would torrent the latest episode and spend a nice, quiet hour of grown-up time watching horrific scenes of people being ripped apart by the departed and eating tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches (I refer to this sandwich as a "Tom Robbins," for reasons that I'm sure a savvy Google search could explain).  M had no interest in joining me for this macabre activity.  I am very much looking forward to reviving this routine when the new season starts.
  7. Bonus fact: This mask terrifies M.  I love it.
  8. As I decided when I was 15 and my chiropractor explained that I would have back pain forever because of my gigantic boobs, I will be getting a breast reduction as soon as I'm certain that I'm done breastfeeding forever.  I have absolutely no memory of what it's like to live without back pain.

And there you have it!  More about me!  Stay tuned for the future, wherein I will once again write about my children.  Which is why you're here, in the first place.

...and I apologize for the weirdness of this post.  It's been a long, long day, and it's not even close to over.  Cheers!

April 12, 2011


The grublings playing on the lawn
As most of you are probably already aware, I'm in school these days.

I'm a perpetual student.

I've majored in Opera Performance, in Philosophy, in Creative Writing, in Fashion Design... and now, here I am.  Narrowing in on my degree at last.  In Public Administration and Urban Policy.

Sort of a left turn from where I started out, no?

I've been in college, a variety of colleges, for the past twelve years.  It used to be exciting, exhilarating.  I used to learn and have my preconceptions tested and debunked.  Not anymore.

Now I'm just getting by.  Killing time.  Closing in on the end.  And this is an endless source of depression for me.

You see, there's a reason I've never finished my degree.  It's not that I'm lazy, or disorganized.  It's not that I was ridiculously young to be embarking on a college career, and sort of confused about it.  No, it's a matter of integrity.  Once I realized that I had no intention of building a career, of using the degree I was working towards, I couldn't continue towards it in good conscience.  When I realized I would never be able to be an artist (which is to say, never be ONLY an artist as opposed to waiting tables or telemarketing), I left art school.  Once I realized that I could never work in an industry that is fully conscious of the exploitation of its laborers (had a lovely conversation with the accessory buyer for Sears that devolved into a shouting match), I dropped out of fashion school.  Once I realized that being a working philosopher was, in most respects, worse than being a working artist, I joined AmeriCorps.

But now I'm almost done with my degree.  A degree that I can use, that I can move into non-profit management, or walk into the public sector and find meaningful work utilizing.

And I'm miserable.

Why?  Because I am learning nothing.  In these twelve years that I have been school hopping, the standards in the Universities across this country have dropped dramatically.  Here I am, juggling two toddlers, a fairly complicated personal life, and completely half-assing my school work.  And even though I'm completely aware of how much I'm half-assing it, putting in three times the work of my fellow students.  Self-entitled slackers who make excuses like, "It was my boyfriend's birthday so I had to go to the club instead of preparing my presentation.  I even lost my sweater."

...these students are getting As.

The work I'm doing now, this work MIGHT have gotten me Bs at my first community college, over a decade ago.  And the degree I would have gotten with these grades?  It would have gotten me a really good job.

This degree is only going to get me a good job because I've also got the experience and the networking skills.  By itself, I'd be looking at grad school.  And this makes me feel like a fraud.

This degree, it's meaningless.  It means that anyone in my classes can get this degree, which is to say that they can limp along, never doing the reading or the homework, coming up with sob stories and excuses, and walk away with this degree.

When I started this program, it was a pilot.  It was entirely taught by graduate faculty.  And they made me WORK.  They made me LEARN.  One of them even gave me a B, and she was right.  I could have done better.

Now they've hired on a whole faculty of undergrad professors.  Who mostly just care about making sure everyone passes.  Already knowing the material, knowing that I'm half-assing it... I feel like a cheater.

And I want to teach my children about integrity.  I want to teach them that they should stand up for professionalism, for intelligence.  For doing their best.  Regardless of how unpopular or isolated in might make them for a time.  No matter how many people might tell them that they're wasting they're energy, or making them look bad.  I want my children to know that they should always do their best.  Should always BE their best.

So for me, this degree is going to represent a betrayal of my ideals.  And that really hurts.  But it's just as important that I set an example for my children that they finish what they start.  No matter how long it takes.  So I'm going to finish.

And maybe I'm going to learn something important, too.  Maybe I'm finally going to learn a lesson about shutting up and doing what I'm told.  I've never been good at that.  I've never wanted to be.  I still don't.  I would always rather be the lone voice on the side of honesty and decency, and not blindly following along when it makes no sense.  But isn't that what you really need to succeed in this world?  Isn't knowing how to put on some blinders and just get things done because you HAVE to a good thing?  I had a supervisor tell me that once, right before he sent me home without pay to decide whether or not he was going to fire me.

So often, I find myself looking at a crowd and seeing a mass of ignorant, angry, or frightened strangers.  People who are looking for any excuse to follow- not to have to think for themselves.  And there are two kinds of people who can see the crowd and stay out of it- people of character and integrity, and people who want to lead the frightened masses.  Who want to tell them who to blame, who to castigate, who to attack.

I don't want to be that kind of person.  I want to be the sort of person who slowly but surely opens their eyes to the crowd around them, to the dangerous wackos pointing them in meaningless circles, and help them find a way to their own path- and their own mind.  I want other people to find that integrity within themselves, to hold themselves up as the best example of themselves that they can be.  Not to half-ass it when they can be so brilliant.

M and his children
This time next year, despite my husband's cancer, despite my complicated pregnancy, despite my wedding and my children and my own illnesses, and despite changing degrees seven times and changing schools five times since I was a terrified and green 15 year old freshman, I'll be getting myself a cap and a gown.  I'll be getting ready to do something I've never done before in my life.  I'll be getting ready to graduate.

I just hope I can set aside all of my disappointment and disillusionment and enjoy it when it happens.

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