Monday, August 27, 2007

a walk, a life, too many memories (updated)

I have too many phone calls where the other person asks me, 'so, how are things going with you guys?' and that is the entire sum of the conversation. Me, me, me. Oh, the wonderfulness, the complexity, the fascination - oh, fine - the self-absorbedness of me. There's some correlation between my level of overwhelmedness and the periods of time where I'm so absorbed in the details of our lives that I fail to make the time for the second half of the conversation. Enough about me, how are you?

If I've done that to you, forgive me. I'm a navel gazing idjit, and I apologize. Or I will, right after I finish making dinner - did I tell you that we're having a new version of the bean salad tonight? You see, I found this in the pantry, then I sauteed....

Um, right.

Over the years, any number of family habits have developed to counterbalance the lousy behaviors that just don't seem to shake themselves out. The Man recited numbers to our babies, to balance out their number-phobic (okay, dyslexic) Mama. I have spent hours teaching my smaller Y-chromosomes how to mix flavors, to balance out their 'mmm, I ate plain sushi rice and it was perfect' father. And then there's the annual tzedaka (charity).

Here's the Eldest, self-appointed cheerleader for last year's family undertaking. I'm not talking about the smaller things we do, like collecting magazines and books for Children's Hospital (yes, adult mags and books are great, as well as kids' - just bring 'em over!), or donating clothes and toys that I manage to pry out of the children's hands, but the big stuff - teaching the kids to step outside of our focus on the miniutae of our lives, to make an investment in something so big that they may never see a return. Like the environment, like curing cancer.

So, the Man walked the Boston marathon route last year for the Jimmy Fund. It was hot, but he insisted on hauling his own drinks and snacks, and we met the sodden, wrung out remains of the guy at mile 25, and walked the last bit with him. The Eldest was chief cheerleader, and heartened everybody around him:

It happens that we know a family that lost a daughter to leukemia - she was the Eldest's age, and died shortly before her first birthday. Her mother and I became friends during the six or seven months they spent in and out (mostly in) of Children's Hospital. And I've lost two friends to cancer, both mothers of small children. All those are things that Should Not Happen. And with my uncle deteriorating, my fears are finding rich material in my own memory that Things That Should Not Happen, do in fact happen.

There's an enormous gap between 'chronic' and 'potentially terminal' in the diagnoses you recieve, but nowhere has it been highlighted more sharply for us than in our friends. Isabella, Malka, Elka - it's a list that should never even have started.

Chris and Chris have a son with hemophilia, and so we met. They are good hearted, cheerful folks, and Chris-the-mom's wry humour is a treasure. Chris and I shared our second pregnancies, the fears and silly concerns about having a second child, with or without hemophilia. Chris-the-mom became Chris-the-mom-to-two about a month and a half before the Toddles burst forth. Emmy was sweet, a little bundle of clotting joy - and she has leukemia. All of a sudden, from being a family managing a chronic issue, Chris and Chris were trying not to think about Amelia's first birthday, Chris refused to buy diapers in bulk, and chocolate couldn't begin to touch the fear and pain that my friend struggled with.

The prognosis for infant leukemia, or infant ALL is very grave. Under 40% have an event-free survival, and many infant ALL patients have a genetic component (MLL) that makes them less likely to respond to the drugs effectively. You can see here for more and depressing details, or read Emmy's CarePages here here. Emmy is two now, and she's working her way through the treatment slowly - her body's just too tired, Chris-the-mom reports, to handle full doses of chemotherapy, and you can hear the quiet panic at the idea of combining this diagnosis with low-key treatment.

So, this year, we're walking as a family. We're all registered walkers (excepting the Toddles, who is an unregistered rider), and I'm going to impose on your patience with a schnorr. All of the monies collected by Team Amelia are going specifically to research on infant ALL.

Failing in my efforts to find an anonymous donation button, you can find us at the Jimmy Fund's website, under Team Amelia. You can make a general team donation, or donate to support one of the Imperfects, specifically. And if not, if it's not in your budget this month or this year to donate, then consider this: do some laundry. Cook a meal. Show up with some hot chocolate, a puzzle or a craft kit. The best thing you can do is to be present, over and over. You don't need to have the right words, or to be able to do the right thing at the right moment, just offer to water the plants and feed the fish. Show whomever it is that you care, than you're here, and that you understand that they've dropped their lives in their tracks to deal with the medical juggernaut.

And think of us when we walk.

baruch dayan ha-emet.
blessed be the judge of truth

On Friday, in Melbourne, my uncle's sister, his two brothers, his mother and his children were informed that the machines were all that were keeping him alive. His liver, his kidneys, his heart and lungs had all failed - and he had moved to a point where he would not regain consciousness.

The machines were turned off, and my uncle died a little while later. Given permission, given the ability by his family, he left. Or, as I put it to the Eldest, 'he is not his body. So he left it behind, when his body was too tired, and too sick to ever heal itself. After days and weeks of fighting, he decided to just stop. To let go, and be a self without a body.'

The Eldest thought this over. He knows well, he told me, that you can have a body that doesn't work quite right, but the person inside that body is strong. He explained that sometimes the body needs a wheelchair, but the person inside the body doesn't. Nodding to himself, he walked off. Twenty minutes later, understanding had fully sunk in, and he came back.

I went to my room and thought about Uncle Dennis, and I'm sad that he's gone.

Yes. I am also sad, I admitted. But mostly for me. I'm sad that Uncle Dennis now won't really come to Boston, that next time we go to Australia he won't meet us at the airport and take us for coffee...

..and to the place with the moray eels! The Eldest jumped in. I liked the eels. (I did not)

And so it begins. Over the next week, we will tell stories, half-remembered memories, we will count over our feelings and tell the tales of his life. I'm not so sad anymore, the Eldest said. Because we will remember him, won't we?

Sure hope so, kidlet.

I tell a tale of a blue rhino..

Well, the Eldest continues to be one of the coolest kids I know: he's doing origami! I'd set aside an Usborn kids' origami kit, hauled it to Australia (we'd fold on the plane, right? wrong.), hauled it back (wrong again), and let it moulder in my study.

I pulled it out for our most recent allergy clinic appointment (I already know I'm allergic to eggs, I don't need testing - I don't want testing - no no no no nononononooooooooooooo). It was, happily, a natural extension of the little boy love of complicated paper airplanes, and we happily folded deformed penguins, samurai hats and lopsided houses (I think) until our allergist popped by. Then, we folded jumping frogs while the skin testing was done, and jumped them all around the room while we waited for results. Mine was named Oscar.

And so it began. Today, we drove out to a craft store in Everett to buy more origami paper, and the Eldest talked me into a kit with instructions for folding animals and dinosaurs. I'm such a sucker. We folded mostly-giraffes and nearly headless rhinos, and he glowed.

Two? three? weeks into the origami craze, I foresee a collection of small, papery triumphs. Remembering the Great Airplane Mania of 2006-7, I've made the Eldest promise to share his largess with family and friends. Every third origami folding must leave our home, I told him sternly. Clutching his kit he agreed, but in retrospect wondered if it was okay to mail off my folded works, rather than his own? Sneaky, kid. Very sneaky.

The blue rhino, however, may be here to stay for a while. I wonder if it has a name?

Meanwhile, fear not: the Airplane Mania continues unabated, abetted happily by a certain gentleman with stainless steel knees (or are they titanium?). And the A.M. has found a happy acolyte in the form of the Toddles, who is delighted to throw, if not fold.

A new blog to look at, and a wonderful birth story. The pictures show a woman in labor, and like that woman, they are not shy but are focussed on the matter at hand. And the story? Well, let's just say that this is not the way that most hospitals (and doctors!) work. But maybe they should.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

we pause from our soapbox to bring you...the children

Wondering what's up with the Toddles? Well, courtesy of Zina and her Guy, here's a peek at the Toddles' future.

The Eldest, by contrast, has had a very relaxed week. In fact, so relaxed that I was getting cocky (ha! This vacation thing is a pieceapie. No worries, mate - I'm cruising on through), so I should really thank him for the rather cranky day he had today. Yes, indeedy.
The shining moments of his day focussed around a playdate we had with Zina (noticing a trend, maybe?), who shared her marvels in cake making. 'Happy Birthday to Me,' indeed!

On the way home, in the car, the Eldest mused,

Mummy, wouldn't it be wonderful if everything could fly? If everything could float?
Me, contemplating a general lack of gravity as I navigate Harvard Square, and enjoying the timing of the thought: hmm. I used to wish that I could fly, as a kid. But I do like some things to stay on the ground.
Eldest, pursuing the thought: And what if all of your wishes came true, like every single one every single time? Wouldn't that be wonderful?
Me, avoiding drunk students: Umm. Like what?
Eldest, starry eyed: Like what if we could wish to live only three blocks from Zina? Wouldn't that be wonderful? We could have two hundred thousand playdates with them! No - two hundred thousand million playdates! No - two hundred thousand trillion playdates!

He drifts off into silence, considering the numbers that will bring him days and hours with the boy who, as he says, 'has a head full of rockets and ideas.' He does, too.

Later, at home the Toddles wanders out onto the deck and calls out, 'Hi, Zina! Come play?' Okay, kids, I'm getting the point. Besides, the lady makes a mean birthday cake.
A couple of weeks ago, we were all three in the local post office. There was an ungodly long line for the clerks, and the automatic stamp machine thing (which the boys adore - it has buttons, it spits out printed papers, some of the papers are stickers - I mean, WOW.) was broken. Sigh. We trudged over to the line, and I settled the Toddles in the Ergo. A fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a second later, I was ever so slightly possibly aware that the Eldest was bursting with energy. He was hopping up and down. He was bouncing in place. He was ducking under, around and through the dividing ropes. He was bopping the tops of the rope holders as if they were drums, and ringing out cymbal-like finishes with the ropes' clips. In short, the boy needed to run. So, I tried.

Honey, d'you want to run from there and back?
No good - too many people around for him to whomp into. Okay, take two:
Honey, how many grey squares d'you think there are from here to there?
pause, while the Eldest animatedly counts.
And what about green squares?
shorter pause, while the Eldest works out that there are as many green squares as there are grey.
Mum, I want to count triangles.

The triangles are part of a border that circle the post office. I look at them, consider the distance from them to exists, evaluate the crowd for possible child snatchers, and take a chance. Okay, I say. Go for it.

The Eldest starts. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven...his voice floats back to me. By twenty-three, he's disappeared into the crowd, and I see only flashes of his bright blue shirt. Seventy-seven, seventy-eight, seventy-nine, excuse me. EXCUSE me.

I triangulate: from his voice, he must be by the Automatic Postal Hunka Metal, which a pair of women are attempting to operate. EXCUSE ME! He is firm and still in the boundaries of polite. The women step backwards, a flash of blue moves past them, eighty, eighty-one, eighty-two, eighty-three...

The voice trails through the room, loud enough that I can hear it clearly way back in the line, then starts getting closer. I can see him now - he's by the entrance, and there he is by the little muddy carpet. Two hundred sixty, two hundred sixty one. He pauses, considers, then lifts the carpet. Two hundred sixty two, two hundred sixty three. The man in front of me nods approvingly. Good work, kid, he says to himself.

Two hundred fifty eight, two hundred fifty nine, two hundred (pause). The Eldest, swimming happily in his numbers, has lost track. He's in sight of the line for the clerks now, and a man two behind me calls out 'two hundred SIXTY!' The Eldest picks up the thread of his count again, but at two hundred sixty-nine loses it again. Two hundred seventy, kid, says another, and the Eldest takes his cue.

In case you were wondering, there are two hundred and ninety three triangles in the post office. And I was deeply disappointed in my fellow line-standers when they did not join me in applause, but I'm willing to forgive them - they broke silence long enough to appreciate and assist, and that's a decent start.
It's been a while since we've had a new recipe on this blog, so here ya go. This one was born of desperation on Friday, while a friend committed the ultimate feat of nursing her tiny person AND teaching the Eldest to fold an origami bird that actually flaps its wings. Grateful (and not a little impressed), I escaped to the kitchen to make dinner. I had planned on coconut lime lox pasta (our favorite culinary tongue twister), only to discover a fatal lack of coconut milk, lox and limes. Whoops. So, here you go:

Origami Pantry Pasta
serves 4-6

1 pkg pasta (I used Tinkyada's spaghetti, which I always cook for far less than instructed), cooked.

In the pasta pot, toss:
olive oil (4 Tb?)
1 large chopped onion or 2 smaller chopped onions.
Let brown. Then add:
Arora Indian Creations goan fish curry mix (about a third of the packet) - I find this at Whole Foods and at my local kosher butcher. Can't find it? Try mixing up the spices listed here - use the extra, mixed with equal amounts lime/lemon juice and olive oil to spread generously over fish, then bake. But back to the pasta...

Stir onion, oil and spices for a couple of minutes. Toss in:

6 kaffir lime leaves (I keep bags in the freezer). Don't have lime leaves? Squeeze about 1/3rd cup lime juice and set aside.

1 can salmon, preferably the kind with the bones included (extra calcium, folks!). Stir, mashing gently. Once salmon is heated through (check if you need extra oil to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pot), add most of a bag of frozen chunks of okra.

No, really. You want to barely cook the okra, until it's just defrosted and still bright green, then turn off the heat, toss in the lime juice, stir quickly and slap a lid on the pan. Set aside, off the still-hot burner. Do this quickly enough and the okra will be a bit crunchy and definitely not gluey.

Serve warm, and watch the Toddles steal bits of okra off your plate. Try not to laugh when the Eldest, six okras in, quietly decides to add the rest of his okra to your plate.

Options: replace okra with green beans or chunks of zucchini, summer squash. Unless, of course, if you are feeding it to us - in which case, do stick to the green beans or the oh-so daring okra.
Quote of the week: My heart is pounding with joy to see my friend.
Zina-ed out yet? Oh, but wait, there's more (I can hear her laughing already): try this link. No, really. And before you start raising an eyebrow at the Mama, do remember that my MIL reads this blog, and I'd say nothing here that I don't want her to know about. (Brief pause to consider the stability and functionality of my mouth/brain filter, my keyboard/brain filter. No, I think I mean that.) So, ladies, what does porn mean to you?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

insert elevator music here - and a meshaberach

I promise, good things are coming and there is nary a tirade among them. In a future post, currently under production, there will be angry redheads, a report from the Eldest on the number of triangles in a local post office, a transition to kindergarten and a yarmulka with sonic properties.

Right now, though, the Man is away in one of them squarish states, visiting an old friend - the best man from our wedding. The kids are having a wonderful, wonderful (and shockingly peaceful) vacation, though it's the first week of vacation and I should know better than to toot any horns (Murphy? That you, lad? Ah. Thought so), but I'm so delighted to see them relaxed and playing happily together than I can't sensibly keep my mouth shut.

We're perambulating, we're playing daily at parks (yes, I am taking my kids to the park - even twice a day, yes it's me, no I'm not a sparkly or gooey alien wearing Mama skin), and the boys are collapsing and filthy at the end of the day. I feel fiendishly clever - why didn't anyone tell me that this was so easy?

Except, of course, it's only somewhat easy and mostly lovely. Except, I do not hesitate to add, in the morning when the Man is gone and the Eldest is asking for something complex for breakfast like, you know, toast. The Mama, she is a nocturnal beastie, and toast - well, toast is simply beyond me before, oh, 9 am.

Meanwhile, if anyone has a spare moment, my uncle is in extremely bad shape. After a botched surgery, he collapsed with sepsis and multiple organ failure, was whisked off to an ICU and has now come down with penumonia in both lungs. (I am, of course, finishing up Atul Gawande's new book, Better, and have many grumpy thoughts about handwashing and ICUs. Grumpy but useless, I'm afraid - my uncle is an ocean away, and my ability to stand guard over him with a bottle of Purell is pretty limited.) He's in need of a meshaberach (prayer for the ill), a prayer or two to the deity or creative energy of your choice, a moment of hope and thought: his name is Daniel ben Gittel and he is a chef, a thinker, a hugger and a lover of energetic dogs.

So hang with us, folks - I'll be back with photos and kid stuff and oh so much after Monday, when the square state spits out a happy Man and sends him home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

patrolling the boundaries

In case you were wondering (and I'm sure you were), the penis patrol is on the job.

I refer here not to the willie in question over chez DovBear (have I mentioned that this is my new favorite blog? sorry, JG, but you've been so quiet lately...), but rather to a small boy who has taken to wandering in when I'm in the bathroom.

small one looks at mother, consideringly: Penis? He looks more carefully. Penis?
(At this point, the small one is quite worried.)
mother: no, vagina. Mummy is a girl, and girls have vaginas. You are a boy, and you have...
small, happily: penis!
(pause, while the small looks the mother over once more.)
small: penis? Penis??

Where on earth could the darned thing be?
Outside of the scope of the wee willie patrol, a different sort of observation is taking place, this one somewhat more ominous.

For a variety of reasons, primary of which being the opportunity for indulgent whingeing (yes, I know, I have a blog, but it's just not the same), I see a therapist. Lately, rather rarely, as I am currently recovering from an inconvenient bout of sanity and mental stability. I'm hoping to get over it quickly and go back to wallowing in petty self-centredness.

Serious note: I'm actually a huge fan of psychotherapy. I believe that we could all use a person whom we trust to offer a neutral perspective on our lives. Simply put, occasionally it could help us all to be told that we're behaving like an idiot. So long as the one doing the telling isn't trying to win an argument with you at the time.

Anyway, I went back to the therapist to help me manage my response to the Eldest's anger(Quick sidebar: which, by the way, I'm happy to say is much improved! He's switched from hitting to words, and the worst thing he can think of is to call us 'stupid' or - my favorite - 'rude.' A vast, vast improvement. Most importantly, he's no longer afraid of his own anger, and is in far bettern control of how he expresses it. Huzzah for the Eldest and his 'feelings expert,' as he calls her.). I've gone somewhat irregularly since then, including today, when she handed me a survey from my insurance company. Hm.

At the top of the survey, it says "Important: before answering any question, please read the message on the back regarding the purpose and use of this information." I looked the survey over. It wants to know my age, sex, religious affiliation, my education level (warning bells start going off), job history, lots and lots of details about my mental well-being (do I hear voices? do I want to kill myself? do I have trouble functioning?), my medical history (run away! run away! Note: patient has watched too much Monty Python) and so on. I turned the paper over.

Please be thoughtful and honest in answering these questions. The information may assist your treating provider in understanding how you are feeling, developing a treatment plan, and tracking your progress from the perspective that matters most - yours.

Oh. That looks nice. Funny thing is, I kind of thought my 'treating provider' had a pretty good handle on me. I'm pretty basic: mom of two, trying to balance work and home, high stress levels thanks to medical whatsimacallit and needing a little help in coping. My perspective says that we're doing fine, my 'feelings expert' and I. So why is my educational level important? Whether or not I suffer from dry mouth? And I'm pretty sure my therapist already knows I have no interest in killing myself. Oh, wait, there's more -

Note from Health Plans:
Completing this questionnaire is voluntary; and your eligibility for benefits will not be affected because you chose not to participate. If you are a member of a participating health plan and your health plan is working with [name of company] to administer this questionnaire, [name of comapny] will process the information on this fomr and send a report to your provider. The report to your provider is not intended to replace the clinical judgement of your provider with regard to your treatment.

Then what's it for?

If you have a question about whether your health plan will recieve information on the form, a copy of the report

damn skippy they're getting a copy - this is all surely for their benefit..

or how they will use the information


please call your health plan. Your health plan does not intend to act on any information they may recieve as a treating clinician would and will not make immediate, direct interventions based on your responses.

The key word there might be 'immediate.' Okay, so this is an information gathering project to analyse the types and deserving nature of the crazies who use the mental health benefits. And, as a veteran of any number of cost-cutting measures in insurance, I'm persuaded that the goal is to make my therapist more effective, in weeding out folks who don't really need help (translation: wh don't need to spend the insurer's money to see a therapist) and above all, saving the insurance company money.

Because, when you get right down to it, health insurance is a business. They stand or fall on whether they can make it financially, not on the well-being of their subscribers. Yes, if Blue Cross Blue Shield cuts benefits enough that their subscribers couldn't cover enough basic medical costs, those subscribers would leave and BC/BS would lose money. But what if they cut just enough? Cut enough so that they were more profitable, and the subscribers were getting by? Cut a bunch but threw in some feel good ads? Would that work?

The balance between what the medical consumer requires or desires and what the insurer is willing to provide is a delicate one, and this is not the first attempt we've seen to persuade us to help them decide just how to manage their expenses. Another memorable effort was a nurse who called us, explaining that she specializes in hemophilia and is our advocate within the insurance company for our needs. Did we have enough factor, she asked, did we know how to give it, were we giving it regularly? What kinds of bleeds did the Eldest have? How was he doing?

It became clear pretty quickly that I knew far more about hemophilia than this so-called expert, and that a case manager would do us far more good than this person. In the guise of holding our hand and helping, she was collecting data and evaluating our compliance with the treatment course that the insurance company's experts had decreed appropriate. And not once - not once - in that first phone call, nor in the second, did she tell us that participation in the program was voluntary.

Yup. This survey is all about what's good for ME. Those nice, thoughtful folks at [company's name] are just trying to help out my poor, hapless therapist. Mm, mm, mm, is the mama ever feeling the love tonight.

Oh, and do notice please that not one word above was said about privacy. So who gets to keep this information, and what do they get to do with it? Shudder.

Monday, August 20, 2007

would you like a whine to go with that bigotry?

okay, so I had a whole post in the works about this wedding, I went to it, it was more egalitarian than anything I've ever been to before, I had ideas, thoughts, stage fright, words of wisdom. Oh, and a fantastic dress.

Forget it all.

Oh, where to begin? Let's begin here, with Orthomom's reporting on an article published in a local paper bemoaning the Orthodox Jewish influence in the Five Towns (Rockaway, in particular) in New York. Now, I won't defend any Jew simply because of who his/her momma happens to be, and yes, we have our share of zealots, nutcases, and simply quirkies. I'd be a quirkie, I believe. But still, good grief! Who is this Howard Schwach, and what bug is coiling in his brain?

He writes a mediocre article, and a vicious one. I'm only grateful that it's an opinion piece - it claims enough fact to make me livid over his idea of what constitutes good reporting. Oh, and he cites as his hero the by-now famous Noah Feldman, he of the opinion piece in the recent NYTimes magazine.

Oh, my, Noah Feldman.

We're a little luddite over here, with no newspaper, no TV, and it wasn't until the Pater emailed about Mr. Feldman that I realized that someone was trashing the local school. Again. What do they have, a big bullseye painted on them?

Now, I am clearly no real fan of the institution (see here or here), and frankly, it's entirely besides the point. Let's strip away some of the unecessary stuff, which as far as I can tell is mostly added to gain reader sympathy (although, unlike Mr. Schwach, Feldman crafts his well): * the photo was not cropped. Thus saith the photographer, the NYTimes does not disagree, who cares. It's a small detail, let's not linger over it.

* Yes, Orthodox Jews number among them some dangerous, wrong-headed people, and occasionally they arm themselves and do awful things. Yes, true, and while this is a terrible thing, the actions of the individual do not reflect the whole in these cases, for which I am grateful. Moving on.

* Okay, no arguments here: Orthodox Judaism is a multi-layered legal structure, carefully assembled around a work of faith (Torah She'be'al Peh and Bich'tav, the written and oral texts). It is also old, and the whole thing needs to be carefully handled, respectfully but ruthlessly managed in order for it to fit into our complex modern lives. It's a fine line that we often fail to walk well. I've had rabbis who were impressive in their compassion and intellectual reach, I've had others blinkered by their fear of stepping outside of the bounds of the faith, as they saw them. Both types saw themselves as practicing Orthodox Judaism, each in a very different way. So, nu?

When naming the boys, the Man and I had one simple point of agreement: most children we know have two names, one in Hebrew and one in English. You'd have Max/Mordechai, Sandra/Shulamit, etc. We felt that the role of the modern Orthodox Jew is to live in two worlds, the world of his synagogue and religious community and the secular world in which he'll work. We wanted our boys to live fully in each, to avoid as much as possible, the split identities of home and work. I've seen my father and sibs struggle with their Jewish identities outside of the home, and I've done so myself - it's tough. How split, how different do you want to be? Hoping that the boys could be impossibly, simply themselves, we gave them one name.

But it's hard. What do you do when your co-workers are all going out to lunch each Thursday, and you can't eat anything at the non-kosher restaurant? Do you quietly stay behind and lose the cameraderie, or do you go and sit in front of a little green salad, your menu choice emphasizing your difference? Do you wear a kipa to work? People have specific associations with a yarmulke, and the cutting edge of what's new and hot is not among them. Wear the kipa (yarmulke) and see your career stagnate? We're not talking out and out antisemitism here, folks, we're talking the same kind of unthinking bias that makes it hard for obese people to move up the ranks to top jobs. So, nu, what to do? I have yet to find a comfortable answer to this.

Yes, it's hard. And yes, people make bad choices, silly choices in trying to walk the line. In trying to teach the line. But that is not the point.

When Feldman married a non-Jewish woman, he made a choice: his children will not be considered Jewish in the community where he was raised and educated. You can say that he married her in the face of religion, to spite his religious upbringing (many have said as much), he says that he married her as part of his choice to express himself as a Jew. I'd say - I'd hope - that he married her irrespective of it. If her non-Jewish status was part of his expression of his Judaism, then I'd hate to be in his psychological shoes, and I'd certainly hate to be in hers. The best we can hope for here is that he loves this woman, and his choice of partner is because she is the right person for him in his eyes, rather than a political challenge to family and friends.

Because that's what he did: there is no way to escape that he knew that he was making a choice that would say to his school, his community, I do not choose what you choose. I am leaving your flawed philosophy, your imperfect spiritualism for one of my crafting. He said this loudly, almost aggressively, then was sulky when his community did not embrace his choice? Oy.

Did they crop the photo? Did they not include his birth announcements on purpose? certainly my alumna magazine has failed to include mine, and they couldn't give two bent pins for who I married. Not at all the point. Flawed, imperfect people - and I include Mr. Feldman here - doing flawed, imperfect things.

What's the big deal? I'd rather worry about the people that Feldman's opened the door for, like our Mr. Schwach and his ilk. While Feldman is dramatically shaking his head sadly over the moern Orthodox, Mr. Schwach is less focussed on making imperfections into moral crevasses. He wants to air a little bigotry instead, and Noah Feldman has offered the perfect breeding ground for it.

How sadly imperfect. How worrying in its implications.

Addendum: I noticed this post written by Akiva -a guest blogger on DovBear. Seemed oh-so slightly relevant. Also, let me admire this post, written by the lovely and intelligent Chayyei Sarah. Well said.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

no fire, no smoke

Okay, so I'm back and I'm sure nobody is shocked that everything is fine.

The house is still standing, the Y-chromosomes still numbering three, the kitchen has a notable lack of big black scorch marks, so okay, apparently I can leave them. Oh, and the Toddles has resumed his nursling habits, which unclenches something deep inside me.

Footsore, slightly sweaty and still marvelling at the hybrid that is the ROM , I persuaded Auntie A that pedicures were in order. My feet soaking in a hot tub of - water? - I called the Man. I'm relaxed and having a wonderful time, I told him. Please kiss the kidlings on each elbow, and on their left eyebrows, I said.

There was a long pause on the other side of the phone. Um, honey? I don't know how to tell you this, but we're in the ER. My voice was preternaturally calm as I replied. Of course you are.

Even so. I came home to find that the Toddles is sleeping in the boys' room, hitherto known as MY room, MINE! as per the Eldest. He's sleeping better than ever, too - and so am I. The Eldest is adjusting.

So, then. The world has not ended, the Eldest is going to recover nicely, and I got a couple of nights' good sleep (plus a fun wedding, kindly hosted by the stubborn Canadian - who took a couple of hours and dressed me for it, then happily complimented me on her work). Oddly enough, I'm almost disappointed: don't they need me around here?

Happily, the answer seems to be something on the order of: mostly.


It's Too Pretty for Leftovers Salad
serves 4 happy 'but I don't eat that' eaters

2-3 salmon steaks, left over and cold (poached, grilled or broiled, baked)
1 avocado, cut into chunks
3 Tb red onion, sliced thinly
1/4-1/3rd cup salad dressing (consider option #1, or option #2. If you use bottled, I don't want know about it.)
two generous handfuls arugula (or baby spinach, or redleaf lettuce)
1 cucumber, cubed
1/2 cup terra chips (or 1/3rd cup terra sticks)

Break salmon into pieces (I used my fingers), toss all together and serve.

We ate ours with sauteed collards (heat olive oil, toss in a chopped onion and saute until brown. Add washed, roughly chopped collards and coarse salt. Saute, then pull off heat and squeeze half of a lemon over it. Ahhh) and a version of the crisp made with blueberries and plums. Mm!

Disclaimer: everybody, and I do mean everybody, ate so much salad that we were too full for crisp. Can you imagine that? I can't.

The Toddles is growing out of his size medium gDiaper pants! His latest weight at the allergy clinic shows him hovering around 26 lb, a.k.a 11+ kilo. No wonder the straps on his gPants were a little hard to close.

(Note: see here, here and here for the diapering issue. It's a funny mix of allergies meets mama's crazy eco-sensibilities, but we're really, really happy and our mix of cloth and flushables is financially stable and honestly easy. Then again, I cook gluten-free/vegan/nut-free/sesame/poppy - yeah, okay, my idea of 'easy' might not be yours. But it is, anyway.)

Oh, the agony. Oh, the horror. Oh, oh, oh, mama's going shopping! No worries, I'd already laid in a supply of 4 size large gPants so I shan't wholly trash the budget. Clearly, though, we'll need more than 4 - with the 12 I have now, I have minimal upkeep (diaper construction once per week, takes 10 minutes). 12 would be good, 8 will be manageable for a month. And then back for me!

Oh, but it grieves me to see the brand new colors (ooh) available. gDipe founder Jason had this to say on his blog about the new colors. Heh. It's potty humour, but then...consider the source. Funny, funny guy.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Y-chromosomes and take-off

Oh, my God, I'm leaving them.

I'm packing, I'm baking bread at a tremendous rate (FYI, best version of the Minion Bread yet! I updated the recipe here), I'm picking out non-modestly lactating clothes, I'm trying to remember if I've ever owned foundation (or base? is there a difference?), and do I have nice heels that go with the $27 dress that the bride thoughtfully helped me find?

Dear God, I'm leaving them behind. All of them. If they have a Y-chromosome, they're not getting on the plane with me, they will not pass security, they will not collect $200. I want to cry. I want to dance. I want to go nurse the Toddles. What if he weans while I'm gone? I'm not ready, I'm not I'm not I'm not. I have never done this before.

Too boost my spirits, the Man is sending me helpfully upbeat emails, such as the following:

I'm going to have my [insert corporate-speak for meeting here] on the Monday that you return (presumably, if the boys have me tied down and revolving over a spit, I will be allowed to push this off).

and clarifying matters for a friend here:

The Wife is heading out of town this weekend, leaving me and the boys. My plan was to allow the Eldest to roast me, slowly, on a spit, while the Toddles says things like "Daddy! Hot! Wshhhhht!" If I haven't gone mental by Sunday morning...well.

and finally breaking into song here:
(to the tune of O Come All Ye Faithful)

Enjoy Y-chromesomes
Boist'rous and exub'rant
Oh trash ye, oh trash ye the
Fam'ly room

Don't wreck my study
Or there will be heck to pay
And don't truss up your daddy
Oh don't truss up your daddy
Please don't truss up your daddy
E'en if your bored.

Yup. Feeling secure, confident and reassurred. But gonna trust the Man and leave anyway. With, mind you, lots of cooked food and bread...

Mama's Outta Town Shawarma

1 roasted turkey breast, leftover, sliced into strips
1/4 cup oil
1/2 to 1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 to 1 tsp ground coriander

Heat oil, add turkey. Sautee briefly, then add spices. Serve hot, with a cold salad (I like an Israeli-style salad of chunked tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions/red onion with a lemon juice/oil/salt/pepper dressing. Add crisp apples to dress it up, if you like, a few sprigs of mint). Couscous would be great if you do gluten, otherwise rice.

For the traditionalists: consider a large lettuce leaf. Use it for making shawarma rolls!