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Archive for November, 2006

The sun is out! The sun is out! It is sunny! The sun is shining right now! Blue sky! Oh happy, happy day!

It has been cloudy and rainy here for about 2 months, and I don’t live in Vancouver. I didn’t sign up for that. It was awful. This is better.

It actually came out yesterday too, but I had to edit my pieces for the little TV show I host so I was actually stuck in a small dark editing booth for much of the day yesterday. But it wasn’t even that bad, because I knew it was out there. Today is the one making the big difference, because not only am I sitting in the sun – home after running some errands during which I had to resist singing out loud as I bounced happily across the parking lot – but I feel much better, physically. I had some energy back. Having FM is like being a lizard – we slow down when it is cloudy and damp.

So, I was going to write about the TV show House today. I love that show, but it has really been pissing me off lately. But in honour of the sunshine, I’ve decided to only write about happy things. Today is a happy day.

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There’s a big, old-fashioned Santa Claus doll watching me as I type. Funny for someone who complains that Christmas decorations go up too early. And who’s Jewish.

When I went shopping with all the kids, we stumbled into the Christmas section at Loblaws. It is huge and impressive. They had nice Santas there. They also had some quite lovely hand-blown decorations, which the kids loved. I let them pick out a few for their grandparents’ tree, plus a Santa, as my mother has several nice old-fashioned dolls and this one will fit right in.

The kids had so much fun and it made me realize that what I said earlier about my kids not being on the outside of Christmas looking in is true in more than one respect. They don’t miss Christmas not only because they have strong Jewish identities, but because Christmas isn’t forbidden fruit for them. There’s no mystery. They get to go to my parents to decorate their tree every year. They put presents under the tree for them, eat roast turkey and pop open Christmas crackers. I have overheard them gloat to friends about getting to go to their grandparents for Christmas, and hear the surprise (and sometimes envy) in their friends’ voices, “What is Christmas like there?”

It is true that they really in no way consider it their holiday – they tell everyone that their Oma and Grampa celebrate it, so they get to go celebrate it with them. We don’t even spend Christmas day there any more, since my brother and I kept producing children and my parents decided having us all around at once was too much of a good thing. We go snow tubing at a great empty ski hill that blasts ultra-religious Christmas music out of the loudspeakers on Christmas day, totally mis-reading their clientelle of the day – us and all the other Jews up there.

So my kids are doubly lucky, having the best of both worlds and the nicest part is, they know it.

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My kids have recently become re-obsessed with their tamagotchis. Asher, of course, has lost his, but thanks to a just-lost baby tooth, had just enough money to buy himself a new one. Maya and Asher were playing with them last night and Boo made some vague comment about wishing she had one, but didn’t seem that hung up on them. Asher said he wished she had one too and I shushed him, saying that since she wasn’t too upset I didn’t want to dwell on it, as I don’t want pay to get her something she’s not quite old enough to figure out on her own. He kept trying to bring it back up, only to be silenced by my glares.

Then Maya and Asher appeared in front of me holding a couple of handfuls of change. They explained that they knew they didn’t have enough money to buy Boo a tamagotchi, but this was all they had, and if they gave it to me, would I kick in the rest? I was amazed. Boo wasn’t crying or begging or trying to get them to lend her one of theirs. They weren’t doing this to keep her away from their toys or get her to stop bugging them. They were doing it because they love playing with the tamagotchis and they wanted to include their little sister in the fun. So I took their money – about $6 after it was all counted – and when I pick Boo up from school after lunch, we are going out to let her pick a tamagotchi, because how can I say no to generosity like that?

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I was listening to Sounds Like Canada on the CBC this morning as I puttered around (for the Americans, CBC is our version of NPR). The host, Shelagh Rogers, was interviewing several women about a book they contributed, called Nobody’s Mother. It is about women who have chosen not to be mothers. It sounds like a fascinating book. The conversation certainly was.

I found the topic so compelling I wrote a letter. (It isn’t the first time, but I don’t do that often, either.) The gist of it was that I wish more women would make the same choice.

I really wanted kids. I always wanted kids. I wanted them so much that I was convinced something would go wrong when we started trying to have kids because somehow the fates would punish me for wanting it that much. I was very lucky. And yet, I find this job exhausting. Having kids is tough work, mentally and physically. Little kids are boring much of the time. Big kids can be remarkably cruel. None of them come with a manual and most parents I know live in fear of messing up, because messing up means ruining a life. Erk! The pressure.

One of my brothers, A and his wife K decided against kids long before they got married. Many people (but not those of us in his direct family who knew him well enough not to be remotely surprised) thought he’d outgrow it. Their decision was dismissed by most people as immaturity for as long as they could get away with that, but now that A and K are heading solidly into their 30s with no sign of wavering, the ‘immaturity’ label is getting old. The ‘selfish’ label just keeps on working, though.

These are two very productive members of society. They have good jobs, they volunteer. As vegans, wearers of organic clothing and careful recyclers, they step more lightly on the earth than most Canadians (because really, once you have kids, who has the time?) They are great with kids and their nieces and nephews, who despite not getting to see them for months at a time because they live across the country, adore them.

I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the people who attack my brother and sister-in-law for their choice and try so hard to drag them into the fold are just jealous that A and K figured out not to have kids before it was too late. Their attackers just wish they’d had enough brains to come to the same conclusion before they threw their lives away and got trapped in parenting hell.

I’m not saying all parenting is hell. (Although all parenting is hell some of the time.) It is utter heaven at others time, as long as you are happy being a parent. But for those who just bumbled along, conforming to society’s expectation, and had a child they didn’t really, really want because they didn’t think about they really really wanted beforehand, parenting is hell. And I bet they wished they had the wisdom and self-awareness to realize that this is not the life for them, before they actually had a kid and found out the hard way.

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Shabbat

I pretty much hate making dinner. I hate trying to figure out what to feed everyone, I hate the chopping and I hate the fact that no matter what I make, someone will make an awful face and demand to know why I would try to kill him/her with this crap. I hate cleaning up worst of all.

I like baking, probably because no one ever looks at brownies and says, “What is this? Ick!” And they never say, “Brownies, again?” either.

But I love making Shabbat dinner, which is a special Friday night dinner many Jewish families make to welcome in the sabbath, which in Jewish tradition starts the evening before. I love it for two petty reasons: it is easy and no one says “Yuck.”

When the kids were little, I’d make whatever and we’d light the candles, maybe say a blessing over the wine, and that was it. But somewhere around when Boo was born, I decided I wanted to go whole hog (so to speak) on Friday night dinner. Matzah ball soup, roast chicken, challah, the works.

It turned out to be much easier than I expected. Frequently, we buy the challah, but sometimes the kids and I make it, particularly on holidays or when they are off school early, because making bread – especially bread you can braid – is just plain fun.

Soup is random, since I have to start it a couple days before. That’s my big goal – soup every week. I only make it from scratch, which means much boiling, deboning and fat-skimming.

I make great roast chicken. I get many compliments. Here’s my secret: buy a kosher bird. That’s it. Buy, put it in a pan, roast it. If I’m feeling energetic, I smush garlic cloves into its armpits, but that is as much as I ever do.

The other big compliment-getter, the potatoes. I roast them too. Those take a little work, because I have to scrub the potatoes. But then I just cut them up, place them in a pan and pour a little olive oil, lemon juice and salt in. Since I just pour random amounts in, sometimes they are too salty or lemony, but really, they hard to screw up.

Lastly, a vegetable and I go easy here too. I use the excuse that the kids like basic better, but it is also just laziness. Last Friday, I steamed green beans, but got inventive and tossed them with sesame oil and sesame seeds. Big hit.

My big deviation from the traditional Shabbat dinner is that I make gravy – this is my WASPy addition to dinner. I swear, no Jews I know make gravy. Since J can’t eat wheat, it took me years to perfect gravy, but I was determined. The trick turned to be to just use straight chicken stock and thicken it was cornstarch.

We do other good stuff around Shabbat too, now. We have this cool contraption for pouring the kiddish wine (grape juice), and another cool thing for letting the kids light the candles safely. A couple of years ago, I spent hours sneaking off for a bit of time here and there to a paint-it-yourself pottery place to make the kids their own Shabbat candleholders. (Only Maya and Asher have one, as the store had only two left of these shaped-candleholders. I’m still in search of a third to make one for Boo.)

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When I was a kid, my grandmother came over every Saturday for dinner, and for many years, a bachelor uncle did too. He brought us treasured yellow apples as a treat. He also gave me the crispy skin off his piece of chicken. My mom made roast chicken or beef (and always gravy!), and I have many warm, fuzzy memories of those dinners. When I was a kid, we had no religious rituals, which didn’t mean we had no rituals, and the familiarity and family made me feel warm and safe. I’m sure my kids love Friday dinners for the same reason, and so do I. I love to sing the prayers with my kids and see their delight when they light their candles.

But I also love it because it is the one night I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner and everyone loves what I make. Let’s hear it for ritual!

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then again …

I was complaining that my kids missed the prime cute saying stage, but Boo demonstrated today she’s still there. Well, maybe not cute, but pretty funny.

J has been away for several days and is coming back tonight. While driving Boo home from school today, she said out of nowhere, “I think it is good that Daddy was away for a few days so I could get a break from him.” This was funny in itself, since she adores him and usually whines heavily when he is away. Maya, who is home sick(ish) today, asked her why. She said, “Well, he smells kind of bad.” Trust me, J is a very clean guy. He doesn’t smell bad. In fact, he usually smells pretty good. When Maya and I had stopped choking back the laughter and could once again speak, I asked Boo, “What does he smell like?” and she said, utterly sincere, “Like you.”

Charming child.

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bravery personified

I went grocery shopping with my children. I went grocery shopping alone with all my children after school.

 When Boo started daycare part-time, I swore I’d never go into a grocery store with a kid again. The whining, the begging, the complaining – no more! But we really, really needed groceries and thanks to the doctor’s appointment and UTI and medications that made me even more tired, I didn’t get to it before I picked them up. So I ventured into the store with all my children.

And they were great.

Not only were they great, but it turned into a really useful learning experience. Instead of just snapping “No!” whenever they asked for something I didn’t want to buy, I explained my reasons to them. At one point, I had both Maya and Asher reading the nutritional information on practically every cereal box in the aisle, trying to find one they wanted to eat that actually had a reasonable balance of sugar and fibre. They actually understood.

They also pushed the cart, suggested food I hadn’t thought of that wasn’t bad for them, unloaded the groceries at the cash and reloaded the bags, then repeated the experience at the car and helped me put everything away at home, without whining. They actually made shopping easier, in some respects. Go figure.

Now, it was probably just because all the stars aligned in my favour for once and next time they will be back to the whining, begging and tantrum-throwing, but just the way Bogart would always have Paris, I’ll always have today …

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I think I missed the boat

The latest in my health saga (because I know my faithful readers are on pins and needles!) is a very unpleasant urinary tract infection. More drugs – yay! I actually have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, but phoned and insisted on coming in today. The receptionist told me I could only talk about the bladder thing today and would still have to come back tomorrow for the other stuff. But the doctor told me I’d done the right thing and letting this thing grow for another 24 hours would have been a Bad Thing. Sometimes, I think I should just have a standing semi-weekly appointment with her, but even then, that wouldn’t be enough, clearly.

I had a meeting at the school with their Occupational Therapist. Until we needed one, I had no idea schools had such things. I’m happy they do, though. Asher has difficulty writing, and he tested over 90% for visual perception, but under 30% for motor control. No surprise there. The OT woman went on and on about what a perceptive, bright and aware child he is, so I like her. All that isn’t working in his favour right now, though, beause it means he’s more aware of his learning difficulties than other kids the same age might be. We’ve always thought of Asher as a little clued out, but he’s really not at all.

I was reading over an old journal yesterday for a few moments, as I do sometimes. I’ve kept a journal for almost 25 years, and I realized I missed the boat, blogging-wise. When the kids were just learning to speak was when I should have been blogging, because then I would have been full of stories of the cute things they said. This is something I found from when I was 3 months pregnant with Boo. Asher was three months shy of three years old:

“We told the kids about the baby yesterday. We weren’t intending to do it this early. We didn’t tell Maya about Asher until about 18 weeks. But Asher asked. He gave me a hug while I was standing and patted my little pot belly, which is just about his eye level. Then he asked, “Do you have a baby in there?” I couldn’t figure out how to lie, so I didn’t. He was impressed, telling me he’s sure it’s cute and he loves it. When I told him it wouldn’t come out for a long time, he said, “Bedtime?”

See! He never says stuff that cute now. Maybe I should just be transcribing my journal from when my children were younger and cuter.

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Weeee!

At this moment, the children are sliding down the stairs on a thermarest mattress. They are shrieking and laughing and having a great time. And co-operating with each other. And leaving me along to make dinner in peace (and now, write this).

I suppose this makes me a bad parent?

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