Wednesday, November 29, 2006

the cure for badparentitis

In case anyone is wondering, I live down the block from the Big Dig. Named by the Eldest, the Big Dip in the Imperfect Neighborhood is actually a demolished convent, which along with a rectory and church, was sold to raise some cash needed to settle an unfortunate incident or seventeen.

This work site is naturally a source of much fascination for my trains and trucks crew, and we've salvaged some stepping stones from the site, to the Eldest's delight. All of this, you see, is part of The Plan.

"This is our fourth day here," the Eldest informs me. And so it is, depending on his persona.

Here is the story:

The Toddles and I were lost, in New York, on the sidewalk. We had no house, no family. The Toddles is just a baby, so he was lost-er.

Then he came to me and said, 'ah doh' (all done), and I pulled him into my lap. And we sat there, in New York, on the sidewalk.

Mummy drove by, going honk honk, honk honk, and said *gasp* 'Oh my gosh, those little boys have been lost. I had better go pick them up.' Mummy put us in the car and said, ' how come you two are lost?' And the Eldest said, 'because we had no house and no family and we ran away from our family. You are not our family, this is not our house, how come?' 'What do you want to do,' the Mum asked. 'I have lots of kid stuff, clothing for a baby who is 1 and clothing for a child who is 4 and 3/4ths.' And we said, 'oh, good.'

And Mummy said, 'Oh, but I don't know how to give a child factor.' So the Eldest said, 'don't worry. I'll teach you someday.' And now you know how to do factors, because I have taught you.

So you picked us up, and drove us and dropped Mary Jr. off at her house, and then we all went home. And this is our fourth day staying here.


And so a family is created.

This narrative offers me some insight, as I struggle with a case of badparentitis, also known as BadParentItis, or BPI. I am the nagging parent, who wont let the kid eat until he's helped set the table, I am greeting with a roaring protest when I walk in the door at pickup time at school, and the fuse for maternal interaction is short, where the Eldest is concerned.

Thus, The Plan. With the Man's help, I am trying to create non BPI moments, unpressurized (hah), fun, light hearted. It occurred to me that all of the BPI time was not being balanced by GPI time, to the extent that I was BPI by default.

* So, sans sibling, we have salvaged slate and created a stepping stone.
* We have been to the Museum of Science. Twice. (The second time, I wisely eschewed the gift shop, which I love, but which inevitably leads to the battle between what he wants and what I'll spend - which is nearly nothing)
* We went to a party thrown by the New England Hemophilia Association, where we watched a magic show and he sat on (true!) Santa's lap. Oh yes, and got some loot. And gave some away.

And onwards we go. It occurs to me that the downside of my energetic parenting is that I don't spend enough time just hanging out with the boys. Too much rushing around, not enough enjoying the scenery. And they are awfully nice scenery....
So what's with the story? The making of a family, the choosing to be together and care for each other? Certainly, a declaration that were he responsible, the Eldest would look out for the Toddles. (sneaky relief felt here) But also a declaration of independence, of something. Something. Something.

And maybe I'm over thinking it.

On a different note, check out US Code Title 42 Chapter 82, which states that it is ILLEGAL to throw away human waste. Human waste, even when tidily wrapped up in a poopy diaper, should be flushed. Hmmm. Where to begin, where to begin. Social vs. legal, stricture vs pragmatism, or is it laziness?

Nah. You can unravel this one for yourselves.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

reading matter

the Man has been staying up late, falling asleep early - and sometimes both on the same night. So the boys, wrapped around a large, sleeping adult, are rolling over and going back to sleep. Well, more than usual, anyway.

It makes for a pleasantly relaxing evening, though somewhat solitary.

In this little burst of time, I've been doing some reading. I branched out a bit with my blogs, reading some medical ones:
(scroll down a bit to read the post)
and this sweet blog

and some (paper) reading matter:

Dangerous Doses, by Katherine Eban.
I kept hoping that the book would be fiction. Alas, not so very much. Egan writes about the grey market spawned by the loosely supervised middlemen in the marketplace that takes our drugs from factory to pharmacy. As Americans, we pay top dollar for what we assume are the world's safest drugs, but Egan proves that our drugs are only as good as the people who sell them. And sell them. And sell them.

My son's clotting factor, for example, is heat and cold sensitive. What if it passed through the hands of a middle man who was not interested in maintaining the proper temperature? Protecting the vial from damage (and thereby keeping it sterile)? What if the vial was 'uplabeled,' so that a vial containing 500 units of clotting factor was relabeled to indicate that it contains 2000 units?

Egan writes a narrative so smooth that it seems fictional. Or maybe it's my own desire to stick my head in the sand that makes it all seem Grisham-eqsue. Faintly possible, clearly - hopefully - improbable.

But you betcha I'll be calling Wyeth tomorrow to see if they sell directly to of the medicines that Egan tracks through theft and resale is NovoSeven, an absurdly expensive clotting factor for people who cannot use other (and slightly less absurdly expensive) clotting proteins.

but more fascinating than all of this has been the ongoing discussion with the Eldest. About organ donation.

No, really.

It all started with that desiccated bodies exhibit currently at the Museum of Science. I explained that the man on the poster (which is all around the area of the MOS), had decided that, when he left his body, it could be used to help people learn about bodies. The Eldest asked what other things one could do with their body, once you'd died. When I struggled a bit, he prompted me:

your friend Malka was sick and she died, and her body went to the memory place, right?

Right. Malka had died of cancer when the Toddles was about seven weeks old, and I remember the shock of that vital, vibrant woman, disappeared into a box. Or out of it. God, I miss her. I explained that Malka's body was sick and tired, and she'd left it behind. And then I said it:

but some people choose to give a present with their body, once they don't need it.

I reminded the Eldest of the little girl whose roommate we'd been in the hospital once. She'd come from South America with her mother, broke, and gotten a liver transplant. The Eldest knows about organs, and how each helps the body, and is especially fond of livers - they make clotting proteins, which is a popular move around here. (The standard question on the hemophilia e-boards: what would you rather have, a liver transplant and a lifetime of immune suppressant meds, or hemophilia, and a lifetime of clotting meds? Many of the hemo guys in my generation have Hep C, and some have had a liver transplant when the virus trashed their livers. So it's a pretty vivid question in the bleeding disorder community.)

He was fascinated. I explained that the Man and I are organ donors, should something happen to us, but we didn't think anything would. After all, I promised, I would try to always look for cars before crossing the street...

As it happens, organ donation was banned in Orthodox Judaism for a long time. Eventually, there was a shift in technology that, among other things, made organ donation a matter of saving a human life - something for which any halachik (Judaic law) rule could be broken. Or argued around. Thanks to technological advances in tracking, transportation, the rabbis can now argue that at any moment, somewhere in the world or country, someone's life is at risk for lack of an organ which could be provided to them. Furthermore, we can now fulfil halachik requirements for the donor to be dead, as defined by Judaic law, which is alternately defined as cessation of brain activity or heartbeat.

Israelis have begun to embrace the idea of organ donation, while the Americans have lagged behind. Either way, here is a link to this carefully written perspective to an article, as well as this article in the NYTimes, showing the halachik minds at work (note: you'll have to rotate the NYT article to see it right-side up - there's a little button on the toolbar to let you do it).

Having just read doulicia's post on bereavement, my feeling is simpler: I won't need my body once I'm gone. But maybe I could help someone who isn't done with theirs.

today's quote: To err is human. To blame someone else for your problem, is strategic.

Help the Mama pick a new blog format! The Son of Moto template is wearing on me (eye searing green!) and I'm looking for a new one...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

forget the turkey...

I just got offered a job working on The Book on parenting children with a bleeding disorder.

Hot diggity damn.

Second thought: oh, dear. This means that someone thinks I know what I'm doing. It worries me when people think that.

On the subject of things that astonish and delight, try this link to a study about overcoming egg allergy, by researchers at Duke University. We used a similar method when the Eldest was making antibodies to his clotting proteins (called 'inhibitors' because damn, those things inhibit!), and we gave him daily infusions of clotting protein into the blood stream, for 18 months. Worked, mind you, and the Pater has been asking ever since why the docs don't do this for food allergy, too. Hmm. Pater, it seems that the boys at Duke have been listening.

Thanks we be giving, plus bonus!

Oh my god I am FULL. Thanksgiving was two nights ago, and I still feel like much like I did when I wore that awful, too-tight dress to my brother's wedding.

Which is to say, stuffed. (Minus the really bad hairdo the hair and make up person inflicted on me, at least. At least that.)

The food was okay, in parts quite good. I did, however, forget the turkey in the oven just long enough for it to dry out a bit. So much for my track record of moist turkeys. Menu is below, and recipes for anyone who wants, but let's talk about something really interesting:

what did the Toddles eat this weekend?

Geez, Louise, the kid ate all kinds of things, so long as they weren't being served to other people. (No mass production for our boy, no sirree.) He ate:
rice pasta
rice crackers with sunflower seed butter
green olives
a massive quantity of green beans
a dribble of whole milk.

O yes, and lots and lots of mama milk.

Part of me is impressed. Much of these foods is new to him, and it's lovely to see him branching out. Part of me is appalled that now, when berries and melon are ruinously expensive, he's fallen in love. Oy. But no turkey, no stuffing, no sweet potato streusel... Of course, he does have a painful swollen bit inside his mouth, since he banged his mouth into one of his two lower teeth, cutting it, last week. So maybe that's why the soft fruits? Or maybe he's really a wee rabbit, and he's been keeping up this baby thing as a part-time affair.

Menus and Tables
It was a motley group around our table this past Thursday. Mary Jr., partner and fascinating friend, the Pater, the MIL/FIL, some delightful lab rats and their equally delightful daughter, and of course, we merry four. The group worked really well, I thought, and we all walked away from the table reluctantly.

And in case you were wondering, most of us are grateful this year for the people and opportunities in their lives. Oh, and one person is grateful for George Washington. All in all, not too shabby.

First course:
green olives, yoghurt honey rolls, avocado/hearts of palm/radiccio/lettuce salad, tapenade for olive haters (see recipe below), a roasted eggplant dip that needs some work.

Main course:
Toikey! Dead, dead bird galore
wild rice sausage, pear and fennel stuffing. There were a few more things in it, but you get the idea
steamed green beans
curried chickpeas
streuseled sweet potato casserole
whoa, nelly.

lemon rice crunchies (cookies - see them under 'bonus recipe' here)
apple ginger crisp


Curious? Ask and I'll post the recipe. Oh yes, and other than the chickpeas, everything was Toddles and Eldest friendly. So no dairy, beef, sesame, poppy, tree nuts, peanuts, legumes (barring chickpeas), wheat, oats, barley, corn, spelt or eggs.

For we Imperfects, this was a Thanksgiving when we felt embraced by our odd little community, joined by snippets of family (some of whom stayed the weekend - yay for the Pater and Amtrak, brave journeyer!). The Eldest's attempt at invoking Murphy's Law of Hemophilia (the kid will get a nasty, visibly freaky bleed just as guests arrive) via an unexpected mouth bleed sailed right under the radar screen of Things to Focus On, as we dispatched bleed and re-bleed in excellent form. Serve and return. Ha!

Hoping your Thanksgivings were indeed times for giving thanks, and for happy and safe munching, not to mention clotting.
Olive Tapenade for Olive-Haters
1 clove garlic, peeled (select the clove's size as per garlic preferences)
two pinches salt
juice of 1 lemon
handful parsley (avoid stems)
1 can tasteless black olives (the non-Kalamata, house brand supermarket black olives)

In a food processor, finely chop garlic and salt. Add remaining ingredients and process until finely chopped. Serve!

Keeps well in the refrigerator for at least a week. Liquid will separate from tapenade, just stir before serving.
Excellent with bread, celery, cucumber and as a spread with sandwiches.

Ask Shifra, an occasionally annoying blog that I look at, offered up this morsel on the subject of modesty (tzniut) and lookin' a little too good. See here for Shifra on the Hot Chani problem, or this thoughtful blogger for his approach. As for me, I'm throwing my hands up. Those rabbis - first they're in my bra, now in my closet. Oy.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

how far away is December?

Not far enough.

Around here, December is the beginning of K-8 school applications for the Jewish day schools. I've sharing serious subconscious space with the issue, going on dream-tours of schools, sitting over pages of unhappy looking numbers.

I want it to all be over. And yet, I'm not ready.

In this post, I mentioned that I went to a day school Q&A, at which three of the six? local Jewish day schools were present. The ranking went like this: the Reform school, the Conservative school, the pluralist school. Missing were the Orthodox school and two of the Lubavich, or ultra-Orthodox schools. I'd hoped to talk to the Ortho and pluralist schools, our two top choices, with the Conservative place a back-up in case of major spousal deadlocking. Phooey. And, by the way, not so very much the Q and A - more the schools' directors of admissions talking about how wonderful the school is and why everybody should give their kids a Jewish education, and the parents talking about how much they love the schools. Blah blah blah.

finally, I raised my hand, and waved my sheaf of papers. I sort of took the Q&A part literally, I said somewhat sheepishly. And then took over the meeting while the other parents sat in silence.

The results were rather fun, a sort of duel between the spin doctors, but here's what I don't understand:

how can you have no questions? These institutions will wield an extraordinary influence on your child's attitude towards learning, his moral sense, his social interactions.

why do these directors of admin think that a slick line and a quick tour is enough? Even if I had the most ordinary child in the world (anyone out there with one of those? somewhere? no, didn't think so), this would be like buying the first car the car salesman shows you. Directors of admissions are selling a product, and they should be viewed as such.

And alarming to me is the influence that rumor holds here. So and so pulled their kid out, is the school going down hill? So and so switched back, and did you hear that they are losing enrollment? Yes, they say they are happy, but did you notice in shul (synagogue) that their kids aren't singing along? Sigh.

My plan was simple: visit the schools, ask a million questions. Then, sit in classrooms for most of a day, watching various teachers at work. Finally, meet with the director of the Eldest's preschool to discuss his learning style and what environment will best support him.

Here's how I've been foiled:

stage one: visit schools, ask a million questions.
After the tour, there is a typical fifteen minute period of time. This allows max, four questions (none of which are answered without speechification). Walk away muttering about content versus seizing the opportunity to hold forth.

stage two: sit in classrooms.
One school calmly accepted this idea. Another called me over and over, passing me from High Personage to High Personage, trying to figure out how to accomodate me, and whatever was wrong with me that I would attempt such a thing.

  • Am I overly attached to my child, and will have separation issues? no.
  • Am I trying to pre-select my son's teachers? no.
  • Am I worried about food allergy? yes, but that's no reason to observe a classroom.
  • Am I a wierd, possibly pedophilic person? Good grief, people. Wanna see my CORI clearance?
  • Am I going to be critiquing the teachers, making them nervous? of course I'm going to be evaluating the teachers! That's the whole point. But not out loud...
Finally, school # 2 invited me to come, and escorted me nervously from room to room. I got maybe 5-10 minutes per room, then the requisite four questions. I was left with the following gem of advice: if my family truly wants a (religious style X) education for our child/ren, we'll choose that school. It should be simple as that.

Ah. So it comes down to a question of religious identity, does it? School #2 has been losing enrollment over exactly that attitude, as the liberal Orthodox, smelling pedagogical blood in the water, take their kids over to the pluralist school. And so sinks a once successful school, even with a whopping 10 million dollar grant.

If only school #2 had been impressive in snapshot format. But it wasn't. Too many indifferent teachers, too many classrooms with glossy posters instead of the kids' work. And when the kids' stuff was hung up, it was way too uniform.

And the biggest strike? teachers mixing interpretive narrative (midrash) with the biblical text, and making no distinction. Never mind that while I was in the classroom, boys were called on twice as often as girls. Never mind that 'wiggly kid' to the principal means 'ADHD/ADD,' or that when asked what their goals are, the administration showed nothing beyong 'Keeping Up With the Kerrys.' Their communication skills lag, yes, but above all this is a school that is purporting to teach Orthodox Judaism, and they are being sloppy about it. Phaugh.

Author's note: yes, this is a minor point, mixing text and interpretation, but it rings a specific alarm bell. A school that allows confusing of pshat (straight up text) and drash (intrepretive narrative/text) may also mix minhag (custom) with halacha (law), or fail to give the range of practice on a single law, giving only one variant, as if it were Law, rather than practice of law. I find this to be intellectually dishonest, and actually discouraging to the student who might otherwise be taught that the Talmud's dialectic is still on-going, and that s/he could join in or observe the conversation in process.

Really, it comes down to the kind of religious mind you want to train: mimetic or active choice and study. My experience is that mimetic religion is far too dependant on environment (a community of like practicing individuals, friends and family, easy access to things like kosher food, etc) and falls apart more easily than active choice when, say, a kid leaves the Orthodox bubble to go to a secular college. Or mimetic religion is the kind that is easily swayed to the right or left by charisma (anyone remember the kids who seriously frummed out, becoming super-right during their year in Israel? and where are they now?). Seems a risky foundation to be building, if the goal is a child who grows into a thoughtful, religiously invested adult.

Oh, yes, and that keeping me out of the classroom thing? Way to inspire trust, people. Jeez.

And yet I wish it worked. I went into this knowing that #2 would make us happy, religiously, but with vague alarm bells ringing. I pursued #2, hoping to find some glaring flaw, some awful evidence that would show it clearly as Bad For The Child. I saw mediocrity, poor communication, lack of innovation and awareness. But no Great Educational Evil, unless that evil is expecting middle of the road thoughts and work from children. And not listening to them.

(Actually, I think Dante was remiss in not having a circle just for people who do not listen to children, and teach children to talk to them. Corruption, perhaps, but not listening to earnest young spirits? Burn, baby, burn.)

I waited for the heavenly voice to decree that yes, for my son I am absolved, I do not need to place religious training higher than shaping a thinking, questioning brain. Or maybe that with this sea of money, wonderful transformative things will happen to school #2. Possibly next week.

The hell with the heavenly voice. This is the right thing, my bones tell me, my brain tells me. On Friday, the Man threw his hands up and stalked off, muttering. He knows enough, he says.

And yet, I can't just start filling out applications. Because I have a process, damnit, and I don't yet know what stage three will show. Okay, so maybe I do, but see earlier grouchy comment re:process, cross-referencing with hope regarding heavenly voices.

a small, irritable voice in my brain is telling me that this obsession with gathering every relevant scrap of information is part of the reason I haven't finished that chapter in my dissertation. I hate when those wee voices are right, therefore I shall ignore it.

Ah, the hell with it all. The new Sharon Shinn book is here, courtesy of, and I'm going to dive into it and let this all sit.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

picking it up

6.20 am: the Toddles, nursing, bites me. Crap. Are we doing that again?

8 am: the Toddles flings a toy at my head, shrieking with joy.

6.35pm: running out the door, I lift a bulk package of toilet paper, which rips, sending rolls bouncing across the floor.

I tell The Man: today, if I picked it up, I dropped it. If I dropped it, it had liquid in it. If it had liquid, it spilled on me.
Man, carefully, Then don't pick it up.

Resisting an urge to throttle him, I ran out the door to the umpteenth meeting about kindergartens. (I am now having dreams about talking to admissions directors. They are more interesting when my subconcious produces them, I think.) And promptly got lost at the intersection of Rts 2, 3, 16 and Concord Ave. Some days are like that. Luckily, someone had thoughtfully built a Starbucks at this intersection, so I was able to find solace.

But no driving directions.

On a different note, the gDiapers are back! The Toddles got that irritated skin thing under his diaper (I admit it, I second guessed myself and used the last of the cheapo diapers with maybe, maybe not corn from the company who never called me back), so I went out and bought some more flushable inserts.

Last night: no leaks! And his skin looks much happier...

The Eldest has a book by Stephen Johnston, called My Little Blue Robot, which has all the necessary bits to build a robot-ish figure. The robot talks when you press on his chest, to the Eldest's concern (it makes me jump, Mummy). He figured out how to disconnect the circuit, and feels better having that degree of control.

The robot, when toggled appropriately, says Hello! I'm your friend! Let's play. Having built the thing and connected the circuit, the Eldest listened to this for a bit. Thoughtfully, he said, We should put Pedro (the robot) away on Shabbat, so that the Toddles won't accidentally make him talk. (We don't use electricity on the sabbath.) Then he thought some more. But if the robot does talk on shabbat, he'll say, 'Hello, God! I'm your friend! Let's play....'

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

translations and navels (and a joke!)

Okay, for those of you who avoided, patiently waded or Googled your way through, here is the quick explanation for this post. I promise to follow all explanations with the Toddles' first joke, so stay with me.

Or skip down to the line of stars, your choice.

Right, then. Assuming that boredom needs no explanation, let's jump right in. The Judaic laws of taharat hamishpacha, or family purity:

Please be aware that you are getting my perspective on these, my religious positioning, and while I'll try to be somewhat even-handed, that's what I've got on offer. Another place to look might be this nicely balanced explanation, or this one, which offers only the more stringent approach - as if it is the only option, mind you. Yup, as with all things Jewish, taharat hamishpacha exists on a spectrum of observance, with people modifying the practice (though they may object to the term) based on community standards and even to personal needs.

In case anyone is wondering, my brand of Judaism is called Modern Orthodox, which means that members of my community may or may not practice some of the farther right wing traditions. For example, we may wear hats instead of wigs once we marry, or we may wear both or neither other than in synagogue. (more on that from me here, if you can bear it.)

Briefly, then: taharat hamishpacha means a husband separating from his wife during a woman's time of impurity. Most literally, this means during her period, when she is considered impure. Now, I should remind you of two things here: first, that Judaism is a patriarchal religion, so turn off all feminist parts of your brain while reading this. (I often find this difficult, and sit in synagogue with a tiny, Seven Sisters voice deconstructing the events. Oh, well.) Second, many compare this impurity to the kind assigned to a mourner, who also should abstain from sex. I like this idea, because the concept aligns with a number of other points, all not important here, but the bottom line is that during her period, the woman is mourning for the life that is not growing in her womb. As I noted here, sometimes we notice it. Sometimes we don't.

After the time of impurity, the woman goes to the mikva, or ritual bath. But the exact length of the 'impure' time is a bit debated. Most Orthodox Jewish women wait one week after they stop bleeding (and there are various ways to check to be sure the period is over), and then go. Separation from the husband continues for this week. The night of the bath, you soak in a tub, remove all nail polish, makeup, contacts, jewellery and in nothing but your skin, go dip yourself in water that has either fallen from the sky or running water (mixed with some rather chlorinated ordinary stuff, mind you). The idea is to strip away everything, and to cleanse. It's relaxing, a bit sybaritic (tho' no bath oils allowed) and a distinct PIA in a lifestyle aching for time to do anything. And yet often rather nice.

Really, it's rather nice. And then, as I mentioned, whoopie.

Because this trip to the mikva is really a precursor to sex, some people feel it is private. So the women in those communities will avoid each other's gaze, the mikva might even have private cubicles instead of a big open waiting room, and schedule you so that you meet noone either coming or departing. This annoys me, as I know that the statistics for an Orthodox Jewish woman having an orgasm are alarmingly bad, and I think some open, frank talk about sex would be good for us. Preferably with diagrams.

Having said that, there is something about avoiding sex for half of your married life. Given that too many of us aren't that good at it anyway, the marriage is forced to a foundation built on communication, and all of the interaction that characterizes the pre-marriage stage, when the Orthodox Jewish couple are courting without, as the kids say, benefits. Ah, yes. I remember that well. Paul, I believe, has something to say on the subject - or was it Augustine? Either way, yes, they are so very right.

Now, some quick glossary:
harchakot: the measures taken to prevent sexual contact during the period of impurity. Now, for the Orthodox, who avoid pre-marital sex, pre-marital contact (no kissing, no hugging, no hand-holding, etc), harchakot mean no physical contact of any kind. Many avoid even handing an object to their spouse, to avoid brushing fingers. A sort of feeling of flirtation emerges, and this is either irritating or kind of fun. Some find this distance upsetting, however, and difficult. They work to set limits that balance their need to feel connected to their spouse, while respecting taharat hamishpacha.
machmir: strict, stringent
seven nekiim: seven 'nekiim,' or clean days, post-period
shomer: observant. Someone who observes the Jewish sabbath, or shabbat, would be shomer shabbat.
yoetzet: a woman who can answer halachik (Judaic law) questions. Here is the relevant website: The marvel of the yoetzet is that, instead of having to discuss the state of one's undies with a rabbi, one can ask another woman. Infinitely more comfortable for all involved.

And now, the Toddles' first joke:
We were sitting in the car, waiting for Mary Jr. The Toddles was grumping at me for having put him back in the car, again, and why hadn't I pulled him out and cuddled him (I had) or at least fed him?

That last, I could answer. I pulled out crumbly rice cookies, and he and Mary J. made a wonderful yummy mess in the back seat. Then, I gave him his sippy cup. Bah! he excalimes, and grabbed for it.

He guzzled a bit, and then, with the gremlin gleam in his eye, considered the cup for a moment. Solemnly, he put the his eye. I laughed, and said, silly baby, that goes in your mouth, not in your eye!

Again, he considered. Then he turned the cup upside down, and put the bottom of the cup up to his mouth. Yes, your mouth. But silly baby, I said to the grinning child, that end goes underneath!

He laughed, and put the wrong end up to his eye. Then reconsidered and started drinking from it again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

sabbatical salutations

Last weekend was The Grandparental Marathon.

(Editor's note: I promise a post soon about the jargon in the comments on navels and the Judaic laws of family purity. One is in the works. For now, sabbatical grandparents.)

To everyone's surprise, including my therapist's, it went extremely well. Nonetheless, it was a bit marathonish, and I regard it as pre-Thanksgiving training. (pause while my shoulders are rubbed with a precise degree of gentle and firm by the Man. ???? ah.)

Thank you for reading this blog. This blogger apperciates your readership. We will return to blogging shortly after this, ah, break.

Damnit. The toddles woke up.

Right, then, where was I? Oh, yes.

One of the best bits about the weekend, aside from the checkers lessons and mania that followed it, was Friday night. The Man and I are continually thinking and rethinking our religious observance, and the more obvious aspects of it, such as what do we do on the sabbath. While in the midst of considering a pluralist Jewish school, this conversation has taken on a sharper urgency. And this weekend, of course, we had an audience, one whose observance seems to be more strict that our own, a member of a family who has occasionally asked nervous questions as to our religious choices, even going so far as to expressing concerns. My family, alas.

Imagine this: at the end of the week, we drag our sorry tushies out of bed in the wee early hours of Friday, the Man to zip off to work, me to take the Eldest to school, run to the grocery store one last time, before handing the Toddles over to Mary Jr, while I cook everything we'll eat until dark Saturday night. I have until sunset, which right now is about 4 freaking p.m. It's a gallop, folks, no trotters allowed. By sunset, all is ready: the food is cooked, the family assembled, and the Man and I are hopefully showered. Hopefully.

And wiped from a long, long week. Without sounding defensive, have I mentioned that the Toddles does not sleep through the night? Sigh. Dog tired, drained dry, ready to use putting the boys to bed as an excuse to fall asleep and not do the dishes tired.

In general shabbat for young families is an evolving target. The baby might be having the evening howl during Friday night dinner, or needs to nap halfway through shabbat lunch. After a while, juggling the miserable child, you realize that he doesn't care about your ritual, and just wants to be tended to. And he has the lung capacity to make a fairly compelling argument. So you adapt. For years, when the Eldest was too young to participate or understand, this was our excuse for rushing the sabbath rituals, lighting a pair of tealights, tossing back some quick grape juice and challah, and ritually falling asleep before grace after meals.

Ah, the things one can get away with when one's children are young! Now that the Eldest is older, we make an effort. Shabbat is a good one to start with, as most of the other holidays are variations on the theme. And on Friday night, the Grandmere got to watch us do it. Our way.

We don't have elaborate sabbath meals when we're on our own, we have quick, kid-friendly ones, preferring instead to throw the kids' limited zitsfleisch into singing and talking. We sang part of the Friday night service, the Eldest made the blessing over the bread (pseudo bread doesn't rate a real, adult blessing), and we sang zmirot, songs of praise specific to the sabbath. And, of course, grace (in Hebrew, natch), sung with emphasis on the rhyming bits and with as much table thumping as we can muster.

The zmirot have a range of tunes, and we like the bouncy ones, to keep the kidlings interested - they can beat out the rhythm, even before they learn the words. We sang one to a tune that we call the Drinking Song, and had so much fun that we had to get up and dance.

So there we were. Tired, not terribly clean and dancing, each parent with a boy in the arm, singing and celebrating our day of rest.

That shabbat, the Grandmere fell in love with the boys all over again. And clapped along as we danced. Today during lunch, however, a carelessly left on baby monitor gave us orchestra seats to the Eldest's concert the bathroom. Delighted, we listened as he sang Grace - until, He's pooping all over the religion! said the Man. Floosh went the toilet. And we dissolved into silent giggles.

No Way Can It Be...Tortillas!
makes 4
This recipe is courtesy of the Allergy Self-Help Cookbook, by Marjorie Hurt Jones, and the indefatigable MIL, who lent me the book. This is a rather uneven cookbook, but this recipe is a winner. It may replace my much mourned pita recipe, which is saying something.

1 cup barley/brown rice/buckwheat flour (for more options, see below)
1/2 tsp salt
(I added a bit of freshly ground black pepper)
1/2 c. water

Mix dry ingredients, then add water. Dough should be damp but not sticky - if necessary, add an extra, cautious tablespoonful of water. More if necessary. Dough will likely form a ball as you stir, or you can use the Kitchenaid cake mixer, as I did. Easy peasy.

Roll bits of dough into golf ball sized balls. Flatten until 1/4 inch thick (or use a tortilla maker for absolute simplicity). Heat a griddle, (I sprayed my ancient, no-longer non-stick griddle with high-heat sunflower oil spray) cook 3 minutes on each side.

Cool on a rack. Eat as soon as it won't burn your mouth. Delicious!

Flour options: replace he above 1 cup of flour with any of these flours. 1 c. oat/rye/teff, or 1.25 c amaranth/spelt, or 1.25 quinoa + 1/3rd c tapioca starch flour.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

navel gazing, humph!

I believe that I am bored.

Bored with food allergies, with posting about food allergies, with talking about breastfeeding, bleeding....bored, bored, bored. And yet, the urge to talk about the Democrats' power play escapes me, I do not with to discuss whether Egypt can dictate what happens to Saddam, nor do I even feel an urge to review my opinion on the MBTA's planned rate hike.

Yes, another one. Phooey on the lot of them - and that's all I've got.

Oh yes, and I'm bored with self-flagellation for being a mother with a gasp temper, and for getting annoyed with my kids. As the Man said tonight, from time to time the Eldest pulls a stunt that was tolerable when he was two (we were prepared for it then), and would be acceptable were he, say, the Toddles' age. But he's not, so we look at him as if to say, What the hell happened to you? And then we grump at him, offer him consequences, let natural consequences take their course, whatever.

This is all reasonable. I can deal, I can accept it. Thus, the ennui.

Let's talk about something else. How about taharat hamishpacha, a.k.a. the laws of Jewish family purity? Why is it that, when I go to the mikva (ritual baths), I'm supposed to pretend that I don't know anyone there? We're all women, we're all about to have a dunk in reasonably clean water, and then take our shriveled selves home to make whoopie. I know it, you know it, so if we're going to do this in a formalized fashion, why do we all look so embarrassed?

At dinner tonight, a very reasonable woman suggested that a bunch of us should get together and talk about this. Not in an academic, investigate the phenomenon kind of way, but rather as an honest acknowledgement that this is something we do which is odd, occasionally inconvenient, and even sometimes difficult. Building a language for it, she said, might make it easier to talk about.

And I bet nobody will mention cornstarch the entire evening...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

autumnal rituals

I know that it's autumn, and that winter is coming...

I've bought mitten clips for small hands, careless of their coverings

I've planted my usual 100 or so bulbs, this year buying mostly naturalizing bulbs, and imagining drifts of color in spring when I know I'll get mostly spikes of color - the ones that escaped our marauding squirrels

I've actually remembered to rake leaves, spread manure and mulch, trim deadwood against the coming cold.

I have a list of winter-proofing things to do, inside and out and it's endless.

I'm beginning to look wistfully at my garden, missing the darkness that comes with too many trees and too little space, regretting the light where I once wrathfully swore vengeance on the trees for blocking it.

Abandoned by MIT students afraid of frostbite, the Eldest, Toddles and I have played happy soccer on the nearby MIT field. Panting, we peeled off layers in happy abandon. It's easy to be so reckless, of course, with a nice warm cafe across the street...

I'm happily paging through my gardening porn, planting the ideal garden in my mind's eye, with swells of flowers and green, drooping ferns and spiky iris next to a small pond, splashing water...sunny open grass and a pragmatic kitchen garden, with warm ripe tomatoes. Clearly, the Burpee and Brecks people are bad for me.

And I'm resisting the urge to plaster the first copy of my column all over my house. I got a sneak preview and the photo of the Eldest is wonderful, though the editing makes my prose a little odd. But such is the life of the edited, I suppose.

Rabot M., I am thinking of you tonight. May your toe be only erroneously dipped into my wading pool.

g-Diapers: days 3-5

Well, the experiment has fizzled.

On Day Three, we ran out of gDiapers, both little pants were in the wash, one having been stained (inside) a lovely orange, courtesy of a sudden carrotty infatuation. The little pants in the wash, I cast about for an opportunity to go and buy more absorbent liners, and possibly some more little pants.

Then it began to rain. It rained for a night and most of a day, and I folded. The kids and I spent the day at home, slowly and steadily getting on each other's nerves. The Eldest has been given a set of checkers by the MIL/FIL and is absorbed in it. He'd beaten our babysitter Sunday night, much to her surprise, and was even skipping his morning TV show to play with the Man. Disappointed in my refusal to play (I'm bad at games and hate to lose), he was grumpy and frustrated with me. I grumped right back, while the Toddles looked on, astonished. I comforted myself with the thought that the day had begun well, at least...

Eventually, the Eldest looked at me anxiously and said, 'Mummy, let's clean up this entire house! Will that make you not be angry?' I had to laugh at myself, and hugged him. Sweet kid, that one.

Today, I marched off to Target for our monthly paper goods run. I arrived at the diaper section, poked about, and went home empty handed. g-Diapers have made it to our local supermarket, but not to Target. A metaphor? Or just inconvenient reality?

Whatever. Either way, I now have to schlep four blocks from my home to get the dratted things. I think I'll send the Man, instead.

Monday, November 06, 2006

serenades and other adventures

When he was the babes, he'd make these humming, creaking sounds at the breast, telling me he was ready to go to sleep. It was a sweet little self-lullabye, so of course we called it the Creaky Doorhinge Sound. The Eldest had made it too, and it disappeared somewhere around 4 months.

It's back. The Toddles is humming to himself at the breast, singing himself to sleep as he nurses. It's so gentle, so relaxing, that even post-biting, nursing has regained its role as a bubble of peace. And I am just a touch tickled that I'm being serenaded, even if accidentally!

gDiaper: day two

had our first poop today, as well as our first leakage. The leakage was last night, possibly from an imperfectly fitted diaper, more likely from an overflow courtesy of the nightime marathon nursing champ. Next time, we'll have the extra flushable insert, as the gDiapers folks recommend.

Poop a la flush was easy, although I forgot to tear the insert on both sides, as the gDiaper folks recommend. With a lot of pee, the insert is heavy, and one tear allows the absorbent core to just fall out. Easy. With poop, it's a bit trickier.

Two things, however, remain to be resolved: first, the gDiaper folks are right - I did need more than the two little pants in the start-up kit. (If they know that, then why are there only two in the start-up?) Second, what to do with the diaper wipes from the poopy diaper? Seems to me that I still need my diaper pail, which is a real disappointment.

Tomorrow: considering buying another pair of little pants and a set of liners. Will we really commit to this experiment?
NAET: session one

Today was the energy balancing, meridian first session of NAET. I have a thin book to read to understand it further, but from the Eldest's perspective, this was easy. After all, there were 'no needles,' he said.

During the procedure, he focussed furiously, cooperating to an extent that actually caused a backlash (I have a theory that the kid has only so much cooperation in him at one time, and if you use it up, you need to brace yourself until the next batch kicks in). We had to maintain skin contact while the practitioner did 'strength testing,' then she did some energy management on me (lots of swirling of hands), and finally simulated stresses on the spine, having me do some stressed breathing (holding a breath, blowing it out, panting). All with the Eldest (or the toddles) in skin to skin contact with me.

Intriguing, and certainly harmless. The boys were perfectly happy with the experience, and I'm content to continue. Oddly, I walked away far more energized than I would normally be at 5pm, when I typically crash a bit. Was it residue from the NAET, or was it relief at finally trying something new? Either way, I was as effective a parent as I normally am...when I am buzzing from a giant cup of coffee, loaded with sugar.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

gDiapers: day one

I recently bought a gDiaper starter kit ($22.95), after discovering corn in Huggies and the Especially for Baby diapers. And after wrestling a bit with Pampers and Luvs to get the information I needed, and thereby feeling a bit uncertain as to how far I could trust the information I did get.

My conclusions were that the safest diapers on the market are also the crunchiest ones: 7th Generation and gDiapers. Both companies are excellent communicators, both eco-conscious, both more expensive than cheapo diapers. And, of course, there is cloth. So I bought the gDiaper kit and stared at it uneasily for a while. Here is the start of a series about our trial:

Well, we've made it through our first gDiaper night, without the second liner they recommend. This was not, mind you, a deliberate move, just me diapering the kid and sending him off to bed before I read the 'night time tips' section on the website. Whoops.

Kept waking up, alert for a whiff of ammonia. None. Given the enthusiasm with which the Toddles nurses at night (minimum one feed plus 1-2 marathons), I would have expected a wet baby and a wet bed. Nope.

So far so good during the day, flushing is easy, and the only challenge is keeping a diaper or two lined and ready to go. I can see now why they give an extra little nylon layer, since once you've used the little pants once or twice, they smell a bit of pee. But, rinse the little layer and let it dry (snapping in the extra), and you are all set.

Still, it's extra steps: flushing the liner, rinsing the swirling stick, rinsing and replacing the nylon layering bit. Will it become second thought? I hope so - the idea of not having a diaper spend 600 years in a landfill for my convenience is a hefty thought.

And, of course, the Eldest has just learned about recycling and landfills, and young sponge that he is, he is fascinatedly watching over my diaper-changing shoulder. Learning exactly how far his parents think one should go to preserve our planet, how much trouble the planet is worth.

Oh, dear. And all I wanted was to avoid corn!

Next up: the first poop.

producing and reproducing

I am having the oddest month. For a variety of reasons, I have spent a number of weeks wondering if I am pregnant. Now, I don't expect to be pregnant, this is very very bad financial moment to be pregnant, and I am not, in fact, pregnant.

Thus spake the pee-sticks. Twice.

So here I am, having let the glimmer of the idea into my head, the possibility of another small person flickering through. Not being, of course, pregnant. Which makes me curiously sad. Could I be mourning an idea?

I suppose so.

It's hard to be wry and funny about this, especially when the memories of trying and failing to get pregnant with the Eldest seem stubbornly fresh. Or perhaps it's a relative's proud announcement of his family's fertility that is making this not-embryo linger in my thoughts. Three times, he said, each time right away, bam! A baby. It makes me believe in God. I tried not to dislike him for this. Well, dislike him more than I already do.

Some people have easy babies, I think, they come easily, they are cared for (relatively) easily, and the blessing of that is not seen by those families. Ah, well. shrug

The Eldest has been wonderful this weekend, laughing and delighted to have Grandmere visiting. So happy, in fact, that at one point he collapsed quite suddenly into tears, overwhelmed by the valley that followed the emotional peak. He was, to be precise, unable to deal with his water glass not being on the table. Catalyst to a brief storm, he and the glass returned to the table, all smiles. I forget sometimes, the potency of his emotions.

What comes up must come down, eh? Hemophilia, after playing nicely for so long, is also speaking up. The Eldest's veins are collapsing on us a bit right now, bruising and staying bruised for weeks. This happens sometimes when he has a virus, making his veins flat and fragile - unusable, in short. But he has no virus, and complains of pain when we press on the bruised/formerly bruised veins, feeling for their accessibility. And yet his umpteen bruises are healing elsewhere. The factor is working, but his veins are not. Over-use?

I've called in the nurses, who promised to try to use other, smaller veins, or spots tricky for we rookies. But, they warned, we're already using all of the good spots. No promises. Still, we'll have a week off, and the Eldest will get a chance to heal. And, as one of our favorite RNs pointed out this morning, he'll get his clotting factor at school. He loves that. His classmates, fascinated, pull up chairs, ask questions, make him the center of attention. My little diva will explain things, answer questions, and come home glowing. So long as we keep an eye out for errant water glasses, we'll be fine.

And through it all, the Toddles, well, toddles. Arms raised for balance, gap-toothed grin beaming sunshine upon us, he goes on his merry way.

What *would * it be like if you believed in God because he rewarded you with immediate fecundity? With healthy, uncomplicated babies? It seems so hopelessly naive to me, so cock-sure that your happiness is evidence for the divine. Milton is floating through my head here...untried virtue and all that, but this might be just sour grape-ish of me.

Our virtue now respectably tried, on Monday we begin NAET, courtesy of the MIL and FIL. Who knows, it might actually work?? First session: the meridian session. And just in time, I think, if it does work. Both boys have eczema creeping up their skin, and the Eldest's legs are red with scabbing and rescabbing. They are who they are, but oh, if they were better.

For dinner tonight we had this pasta, based on a recipe from a playdate mum. I have, of course, changed her name to suit my ideas of privacy.

Alison's Quick Tuna Pasta (slightly adapted)
(serves 4-6)
1 pkg pasta
1/4 c. olive oil
2 onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped a bit
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/3 c chopped parsley
2 (6 oz) tins tuna (or replace with smoked trout in oil)
1 (4 oz?) tin smoked trout in oil (Trader Joe's has a good, inexpensive one)
optional: capers

Cook pasta. In a pan, saute onion and garlic in the olive oil. Once onions start to brown, add curry powder and mustard seeds, stirring to coat. Saute another 2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Toss pasta with onion/garlic/oil mixture, adding everything else. If keeping until the next day, toss pasta with everything but the parsley and fish.

Taste, adjusting flavors as necessary.
Something to think about: what does it cost to save a child?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

banana muffins for the muffin-deprived

I'm fresh from an empowering visit with the nutritionist, who tells me that the kids are well fed given their issues, and that I should give them a multivitamin and continue playing in the kitchen.

Oddly enough, this does make me feel rather playful. I'm thinking I should hang a sign on my kitchen:
ingredients come in, food comes out.
Or maybe, the Impossible Gourmet works here.
Hmm. This is fun. How about: This kitchen has been rated U (for unlikely) by the local parents council. Small children should enter only at the risk of expanding their vocabularies in unsettling ways.
Or... Complex eaters seek delicious food. No recipes under eleven ingredients need apply.
And finally, Please be patient. Chef is twisting self into culinary pretzel.

Yes, that was therapeutic. Feel free to offer your own suggestions!

In true pretzel form, tonight I tried a much revamped recipe from Whole Foods Market, one of those 'special diet' recipe cards that I tend to accumulate, sticking them in my coat pocket where they sit, forgotten, emerging upon their reincarnation as paper napkins for small grubby faces.

Whole Foods is rating high in my books right now, even if they are making organic food into a big corporate moneymaker, because of their Kids' Club. Or possibly despite it.

The goal of the Kids' Club (as I see it) is to persuade parents to come in with their kids, who will get free food, which the kids will then nag their parents into buying. If sufficiently successful, the kids will also nag their parents into repeatedly blowing the week's budget at WFM, because they want the free food. And stickers. But what if the free food is no good for your kid?

The Eldest, who is a KC member, was very patient about not being allowed the cheese crackers on offer, but I was somewhat irked. I left an irritable note about the issue, and today got a phone call. The next time the Eldest and I are in WFM, he may choose a free apple or banana, instead of their chosen freebie. I wholeheartedly approve...and asked the nice person on the phone to find out if the ascorbic/citric acid in the EFM house brand canned goods is corn-derived. She promised to try.

Here is the banana muffin recipe, and the texture is just like I remember, if a bit drier than my pre-allergy banana muffin. I think it's only fair to warn you that it made 11 muffins (I filled the tins a bit sloppily), and only four are left. Oh yes, and we don't like buckwheat. Not at all. Nope. Not us.

Shockingly Good Banana Buckwheat Muffins
1/3rd c. brown rice flour
1/3rd c. tapioca starch
1/3rd c. potato starch flour
2/3rd c. buckwheat flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 Tb baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 Tb flaxmeal, mixed with just under 1/2 c water, microwaved until bubbling, then let cool to a egg-white texture (a.k.a. flax gel). For the rest of you, just use two eggs.
1/3 c. oil
1/4 c. molasses

Oven to 425 degrees F. Grease muffin tins (12)

Whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (except banana). Add wet ingredients to dry and banana, stirring briefly until just combined. Divide batter between muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick comes out cleanly, about 16 minutes.

Let cool 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Try not to eat all at once.
Note: these muffins are a bit dry. They are lovely the first day, but not so the second. Consider adding applesauce or yoghurt, or even oil for extra moisture. Nonetheless, they are 'shockingly good' because, well, they have buckwheat. Low expectations? You betcha.

Author's Note: a later version of this recipe is far better - see here:

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

the value of equipment

I just finished reading It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons, edited by Andrea Buchanan. Let me save you some time here: mostly, it's women writers saying things like, my God, what is that thing down there? (pause of some length, depending on author) Well, I suppose it's okay.

Some even allow as it might be loveable, this penis-equipped, Y-chromosomal creature. Big of them, really. But by and large, they sound stunned by the phenomenon of the Small Boy.

The book is, however, worth reading for the section on trying to figure out a response when your little guy wants to wear pink. With your shoes, and possibly a boa. As the parent of a boy whose favorite color is occasionally pink, I have hit this one every so often, and it's a fun place to be, as a woman. Part of me wants to cheer him on, part of me is sitting on the bits that want to shout, but it's a girl color! And part of me is playing the mental tape where he gets teased by his classmates (that whole beating up on the playground thing being outre, you know). Gender identity - we construct it (societally), but we shouldn't instruct it (individually), if you follow me.

With that in mind, I offer the following vignette:

I came to pick up the Eldest at school a couple of weeks ago, when he was deep into his Mama is Evil phase. (I was especially evil when I was trying to pick him up at school, while everyone else was getting deep into a playtime, and I wasn't that less evil when insisting he flush the toilet, for example. And don't get me started on the evilness that was mine about the taking of toys from the Toddles. Mwooo ha ha, mwooo ha ha!)

He ran off when he saw me, shouting no, no no no no nonononononooooooooo, and happily joined some boys in the far corner. (Note: the farthest of far corners). The kids equipped themselves, and went to play fireman on the climbing structure. I sauntered over.

So, you guys are firemen?
Yup. We have all the stuff.
Oh, like what?
Well, we have helmets (pointing to the helmets), and we have the protective gloves (pointing to the elbow length evening gloves), and we have the fireman bags, with all of the stuff we might need (pointing to handbags).

I looked at the boys, busily spotting and putting out fires from their eyrie. Yup, I told them. You guys have got it all.
Naturally, they ignored me - a serious emergency was happening in the dress-up corner.
tonight's dinner was fabulous, made more wonderful by the rare M sighting, not to mention the friends who were popping in from Chicago!

Apple-Spinach Salad:
this was pretty simple, and is a salad born for variation.
baby spinach
scallions, sliced
sliced green olives
apples (crisp), sliced
optional: avocado, dried cranberries, pralined almonds/pecans

dressing: I used the MIL's trick for this one, and it finally worked! Start by tossing the salad with salt and pepper. No, really, toss it.
Then, add a bit of curry powder. Toss again.
Drizzle with olive oil (yes, the lack of quantities is annoying - sorry), and toss a third time.
Finally, drizzle with vinegar, but LESS vinegar than you put in olive oil (the ratio is 3:1 for oil:vinegar). Toss one last time.
The result is a very mild dressing, because the oil coats the leaves, making the vinegar a mild presence. But toss with the spices first, or the oil on the leaves will also make the spices a mild presence - less desirable.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Lasagne!!!
at the end of the night, I had only one piece left of this, and was eyeing it wistfully myself. This is surprisingly good.
1 package Tinkyada lasagne
1 pkg dried mushrooms (porcini or mixed wild)
10 oz mushrooms, sliced somewhat thinly
1/4 c olive oil, to be divided up as needed
2 onions, sliced
2 14-16 oz cans tomato puree
black pepper
baby spinach (a few handfulls)
6 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife & peeled
1/3 c chopped fresh parsley
1 container firm tofu, pressed to get out excess water and chopped

Soak the dried mushrooms in 2 c hot water for 30 minutes. Then drain, saving soaking water and chop mushrooms.

Saute garlic, onion, fresh mushrooms in olive oil. Add dried mushrooms, soaking water and parsley. Stir over medium heat until liquid is just about gone. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the lasagne noodles according to the package instructions. Be careful to drain immediately, running cold water over them. And they aren't kidding when the instructions tell you to pat the noodles dry before using. It really does help.

Oven to 375. In a casserole dish, layer like so: tomato sauce, noodles, tomato sauce, mushrooms/tofu, spinach noodles, tomato sauce, mushroom/tofu mix, spinach, etc, ending with a layer of noodles topped with tomato sauce. Be pretty thorough with the sauce on that top layer, since you aren't finishing with cheese, which would normally insulate the noodles from drying out during baking.

bake 30 minutes. Serve! It is unclear as to how well this reheats, so unless you are feeling brave, eat it the same day with company, and in private for the leftovers. If you have any....

Brown Rice Pilaf
courtesy of magid, who found this recipe on the Kosher Blog, this has seen a few adaptations under my aegis. But not many. What I can say for it is that it's easy, even for me - I'm lousy at rice - and it's delicious. I do have leftovers, but I suspect it will survive reheating well.
1.5 c brown rice, medium or short grain
1.5 cups water/broth
1/2 c dried cranberries
zest of one orange
olive oil (perhaps a Tb, maybe 2 Tb, depending on how good your nonstick is)
2 stalks celery, sliced
kosher salt
6 fresh sage leaves, sliced thinly
1 pkg firm tofu, cut into sizes pleasing to you, plus 1/3rd c olive oil for frying it

In an oven friendly casserole, mix rice, zest, cranberries. Heat broth to boiling, then add. Cover dish tightly, bake at 375 degrees F for 1 hr.

When rice comes out of the oven, let sit for 1 hr, still covered. (The value of this is uncertain, but as I am a rice idiot - a.k.a. I make 'crispy rice,' I'm not messing with it. If you do mess with it and deem the wait time unecessary, let me know!)

Shortly before rice is done sitting around, saute the onion and celery, seasoning with the salt and pepper. Set aside. Fry the tofu until crispy on most sides, let drain on paper towels.

Toss rice with everything else (veggies, tofu, sage). Taste to check for salt/pepper allotment, then serve.