Tuesday, March 31, 2009

covering ideas: Part One

There are few things more terrifying than a piece of blank paper.

Except, perhaps, a meeting in which a rabbi informs a group of type A (type AA, type AAA) parents that they have five? weeks to sew a cover for their child's siddur. 


Program, yes. Opine, certainly. Perform molecular analysis, no worries. Sew? Around the table, intelligentsia began to twitch. Oh, said the rabbi, but we will not judge your parenting by whether or not you produce high art. As people began, minutely, to relax - he produced some.

Siddur after sample siddur gleamed at us, rich with thought and craft and, yes, a degree of skill. There was applique, silk-screening, embroidery and photographs, and and and and quietly, parents began hunting for paper bags. In, out, in, out. To hyperventilate is to lose face. A flurry of details followed, falling past our ears as we checked to see who looked calm. Then we checked to see if the rabbi was chuckling evilly. He wasn't.

The children would receive their siddurim at a ceremony for their class, said the earnest (and non-cackling) rabbi, celebrating their study of t'fila, or prayer. It would be a sweet and serious little event, he explained, and the children will fall in love with their siddur - in large part because of the cover.

Oh, repeated the rabbi for the third, fourth, fifth time, but this is not a test of your parenting. 

Um. No. Clearly not.

Except yes. On the one hand, a parent said ruefully, you have your child. On the other hand, you have God. How could this be a time to phone it in?

And there we were, me able to messily darn a hole, turn out a wavy - but enthusiastic - hem, and a blank page.

But then there were fabrics, textured and oh yes, from the bargain rack at the local mega-craft place.

And there were ideas. An alarming number of ideas, actually, unlimited by our ability to execute them, but what the hell? God. Parenting. Kid. Parents running amok was pretty much guaranteed, and I do so hate to not meet expectations.

and so, the pages filled.

We could have constructed something that would describe the Eldest - his love of sports, his conviction that endangered species can be saved by him. Or possibly by Obama. This is a gift to your child, and a way to personalize the siddur, the rabbi had explained. 

We could have designed something that would describe our family, and our values, reinforcing the Eldest's place in it. This ceremony is about mesorah, we had been told, which means tradition, if not Jewish tradition. And how could it be otherwise? The siddur is a book of prayers: in giving it, we give our child a text that has grown from the prayers of Jews before him. And we give the child a suggestion: use it.

Or we could have built something that describes the Eldest as we hope he will be, combining mesorah and his quirky, splendid self into, oh, whatever he will become. And what an opportunity that offered, to daydream about who we'd want our child to be! But also, how silly. Whatever the Eldest will become, is not something that we can really predict. He will be himself. So why pretend we can foresee that?

You can count on the Imperfects to take a simple project and tip it over the edge. We sat and planned and talked - and I loved it. I loved the quiet hoping for the Eldest's future (because we do indulge), and the debates over what we thought best represented our traditions, our child, us. And we laughed ourselves silly over jokes funny only to the very overtired. 

Worth every hour I spent muttering and getting lost on the way to fabric stores - and I hate, hate, hate getting lost. In the dark. On little, branching highways. (aaaaargh, by the way)

Slowly, things took shape: 

If we are idiots about building a manageable project, happily we are also idiots with friends. It's almost a rule: when an Imperfect falls on his/her face, someone helps them up. Why? I have no idea. But thank heavens, because we are idiots. Frequently.

The siddur cover could have been a private joy, held close to ourselves as we worked. But hey, it's us. It surprised me to to find that, as possessive as I felt, watching friends join us in constructing and celebrating the Eldest was part of the gift of this project. We needed the offered hands, partly because, you know - the idiot thing - but also because a caring and right-on-your-doorstep community is part of our mesorah. Damn, but when the universe nudges an Imperfect, it's got to give a solid shove, no?

And so, friends called to cheer us on, and to listen to me wail. My grandmother's sewing machine turned up, escorted by a breathless and delighted Grandmere. I eyed the thing dubiously. How does it work? I asked. She blinked at me. I have no idea, I was informed. I was hoping you'd show me. Oh. 

A fellow hemo-mommy offered her home - and her machine - and I watched the pieces of our life come together as she sewed. So silly, the boundaries that we draw, I mused, and promptly burned myself on the iron.

Things went wrong. Things went right. While the Mikes whistled happily and we talked the Toddles out of toilet training (no washer, no underwear), people encouraged, volunteered, shared materials and ideas. Until hours of shared work, late nighttime hours, a pair of crucial working playdates and one stitch & bitch later, we were looking at something.

It's beautiful, I whispered to the Man. I'm a little scared of it.
The Man looked at the tree and smiled. I can't wait to see the rest.

Oh, right. That.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

things in flight

It was cold here. Unexpectedly, wearyingly cold. And now it's melting-warm. The ice has gone, crocuses are thumbing their nose at the weatherman, the planters on our front steps are muddy and I'm here to tell you that they will soon start to smell...odd.

Time is flying? no. Time has done many things, since mid-February, and flying hasn't been one of them. But gone it is.

Purim tiptoed up and shrieked delightedly, before zooming off into the sunset.

It's not Purim without hamentashen, a friend was informed by her daughter. And indeed not.  I made hamentashen, using a recipe adapted from the Board of Jewish Education's handbook, Food Allergies in Jewish Schools. (an excellent, excellent handout..) 

Pretty, no? But the things tasted like I had sucked all the joy out of the cookie-and-jam concept. Next time, I told QG, screw the whole grains and bring on the fat! She blinked, and mildly suggested that maybe this variant was okay? Ha. 

But such feats of nutritional thumb-in-yer-eye were not managed before Purim. Instead, we did costumes...

Neither cheetah (can't you tell?), alas, was inclined to model their costumes, but hey - they were happy. So who cares about the details? Okay, so I do. Which is why I'm scribbling notes here about how I made them. Just in case I decide to Do. It. Again.

(pause to consider this: I made Purim costumes. No, really.) 

(No - really?)

(did I say "again?" Oh, no. I think I've finally cracked.)

Feeling terribly, terribly brave, I dragged my grandmother's sewing machine to crafty friends' home, shortly after handing the corpse of my laptop over to the fix-it (whoops, sorry, that'll be 79.99 and you'll need a new one) Mikes. There, with much handholding, I managed to cut a pair of rectangles, fold, hem part of each side (leaving room for the arms at the top and slits at the bottom, so the boys can run) and cut a circle at the top, for the head. Attach a tail, and voila! cheetah costumes.

Oh yes, and face paint. Which was the only part of the costume that the kids kept on for, oh, five minutes after I put the camera away. Hm.

Megilla with the Man and friends and whoosh! there went Purim. 

Next up: Pesach. And a challenge. With two 7 yr olds, two 3.5-4 yr olds and one 2 yr old, nearly no budget and a no electronics rule, what would be a good Afikoman gift? Noting that, alas, one of the 7 yr olds is not a game player, both 3.5-4 yr olds will probably make the older ones crazy by wanting to have the same thing, balls and things that are going to fly are a bad, bad idea (many kids, things flying in air? oh, no), and the 2 yr old is probably not going to like the idea of waiting until after the sabbath to use any crafts...

anyone got a suggestion?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

construction and deconstruction

in case you were wondering, this is what the inside of my dryer looks like. The big shiny thing is the drum, and it rotates, pulled by the black strap (belt). The motor is on the bottom left, and it's attached to a blower (one of three) that vents out the bottom left corner. A smaller belt, tucked in at the bottom, center, was the cause of the whole mess - some of the gripping ridges on it had ripped off, and the belt was not grasping as it should. Thus the quiet-bam!-quiet-bam! sound I heard, as the belt grasped, then lost hold on the machine. At something like 12oo rpms.  (bam! bam! bam! bam! bam! bam! sizzzzzzzle.)  

Neat, eh? Below is the dryer's motor, in case you are curious, which was replaced by the Mikes  from company A (or F), and removed by the Mikes from company B, in order to replace the smaller belt:

...and it has a nice layer of shmutz on it. How odd, that a brand new motor should have so much lint - especially considering that the dryer was unusable for most of the time after the motor was installed.

Yep, folks. We were took. To the tune of oh, summer camp for the Eldest. Time to start planning Mom Camp and calling Company F. Although I will find that the manager there is out, on vacation, just left to pick his daughter up from school, is helping out in the field, and is sick.

But I have taken notes. And I have receipts. And I have Angie's List...

In the meantime, a change of mechanical pace: 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

and steam rises...from my ears

I am actively jealous: http://www.basilandtime.com/  (whine) I wanna be able to use dairy and eggs. But if you can, her recipes look oooh, yum. But I'll admit to be basing my opinion largely on the photos...  And I'm laughing over this one, but also taking notes: http://cooktobang.com/
(sorry about the links, folks - I haven't quite figured out how a mac pastes links into blogger. Yes, laugh ye mac users. Laugh at the PC-user with the borrowed macbook. Now, come on over and show me how, okay?)

Hat tip to Zina (http://zinababies.livejournal.com/) for having the energy to find the site, read, enjoy and oh yes, pop out a wee baby person. And did she mention something about someone passing a dairy food challenge? Yee-haw!

My thanks to the brave lenders of laptops, especially to the one who finally just shoved a laptop into my arms. The Mike virus is not to be taken lightly, and ours is still rampaging. The repaired washing machine began pouring water on Monday, the dryer is still banging and leaking water, and Saturday night I was audible up and down the Charles River, when the laptop grunted, sizzled and gasped "systems error" before expiring.

  • the Mike came back and told me that they'd forgotten to hit the reset switch on the dryer. Sorry, lady, that's why it wasn't working. Oh. So why is it still banging? (shrug) Who knows. Something loose? He then reattached the hoses to the washing machine, this time connecting the hot and cold hoses to the hot and cold spots. No more hot laundry, after being washed on 'cold,' fewer pink undershirts for the Man. After they left, I found a loose screw on the floor.
  • the dryer continued to bang and leak. I requested alternate Mikes, and two came: Oh, the condenser hose was kinked. That's why it's leaking. Ah. And the banging, which began right before the dryer's motor died? Hmm. Looks like a loose belt, lady. Gonna have to replace it. That will mean taking the motor out - going to be a big job. (inhale, exhale, dig fingernails into wooden chair) But you guys just replaced the motor. Yep. Guess we missed seeing the loose belt. Ah. And do you need this screw? Oh, hey! Lookit that. We were just wondering if we'd lost one. Right. I watched the Mike slip  behind the re-assembled and re-stacked washer/dryer, and pop the screw into place
  • Brand new Mikes! Turns out, the old Mikes come from a company with an F rating on Angie's List. We'd used the company for over four years without realizing, and hoo boy, do I feel like a ripe idiot. The company rates an F on the BBB, too. Caveat homeowner. The new Mikes were polite, patient with the unmechanically minded me, and passed muster (I think) with a friend who can install her own washer/dryer - and shrug. Yes, the belt is loose on the dryer, and it's probably what did the motor in. We'll need to replace it, along with some mated parts. And the new Mikes think it's unlikely that the old Mikes did all that we paid them to do. We shall see when the new parts go in, but for now the washer is back in gear! The new Mikes have come just in time, because...
  • the tenants downstairs (aka people who are very patient with lots of small running feet and who pay a crucial hunk of our mortgage) called: their dishwasher is making a grumbling growling screechy sound. Of course it is. Can we get a repairman in?
  • or, as the screener of Mikes friend pointed out, a Jesuit. For an exorcism. Her dishwasher is rumbling as well, making the
  • loan of a laptop an especially brave move. But thank you, thank you to those who offered and to the slightly risk-oriented friends who pushed one into my arms. My editor is unimpressed by our Mikes, and demands that I keep my deadline regardless. She suggests typewriters, as requiring fewer Mikes. Persevere, saith she.
Which I will. Somehow. Possibly by using alarming quantities of No-Doz.

Blog posts are piling up here, on rheumatologist Mikes, on allergy statistics, on Purim, and on adventures in cloth. And if I don't get some of them out, my brain will begin leaking - and I will not have another Mike in my life, no matter how unnerving it is to watch steam gently sifting out of my ears.

Monday, March 02, 2009

humming brains, muscles and tushies

As much as I am a seeker after sloth, brains are humming away here. Can a tulip survive in a glass of coffee? Daddy can, the Toddles informs us. And he may have a point.

The muscles are humming right along with the neurons. March is here, therefore we are shoveling snow. (For those of you raising eyebrows, I suggest that this would make more sense if you lived in New England.) Today, I've left the car window-deep in snow, and we're tucked inside. Waiting for a Mike who is, apparently, not coming.

Bah. Who needs a dryer anyway?

Well, maybe we do. Or at least a washing machine, and thank heavens we have one of those by now. I think. I hope. Today, the Toddles watched me rummaging around in a box of clothes and pounced. What's that? he asked, I want to wear it!

One pair of bulldozer undies later, the Toddles was earnestly promising to listen to his body, and to put his pee into the toilet. He's been firmly opposed to this plan, and I didn't expect a fun bit of construction equipment to change his mind, but hey. Got snow, got buried car, got time to play along. And a sibling to play with us.

While the Toddles sat - and got up - and sat some more - and needed to be hosed down, sat, hosed down again, sat some more - the Eldest read to him. Usually something involving poop. Or pee. And occasionally (don't ask me why) dogs.

Three pairs of construction undies later, the Mike had admitted that he was coming on Wednesday (Wednesday!!) and the Toddles had admitted that he had no intention of actually listening to his body. Low on pants and places to dry clothing, I suggested that he could have one more pair of undies, and then we'd have a break. In a diaper. To the Eldest's disgust, the Toddles took this cheerfully, and opted to go right for the diaper.

This potty training thing is not as easy as I had thought, the Eldest muttered. And retired from the business.

But hey, at least someone had fun.