Archive for the ‘The weird and the wonderful’ Category


This is going to sound odd, but one of the things I enjoy most about cooking in Israel is the eggs.

In America, when you buy a dozen eggs (conventionally produced), you get 12 eggs that are so uniform they are indistinguishable from one another. Same color, same size, washed clean. Every once in a rare while you get a blood spot or a double-yolk; clearly those internal “mistakes” are hidden from the inspection process and allowed to pass through.

In Israel, a dozen eggs can be more like cousins than identical siblings. Shells may be white, ecru or slightly spotted. There is a range of weights and sizes for each egg category (large eggs, my personal preference, may weigh between 63 and 73 grams–and sometimes you find both extremes in the same batch). Tiny feathers may be stuck to some shells. Chickens do have feathers, you know.

On the inside, I’ve seen yolks of many different shades of yellow and orange: sunshine, buttercup, gold, lemon, marigold. This is totally normal; from what I understand, it depends on what nutrients are in the chicken feed and has no effect on the nutritive value of the eggs, but it’s a delightful hodgepodge to me. Every time I see yolks other than the “standard” shade, especially in the same carton, I get happy….because that would never fly in America.

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I don’t know who is going, but I know who is definitely not. Me.

That’s right, BlogHer 2010 is in New York City. Twelve full months after I left New York. Where I lived for nine years.

Now, we all know I am not blogging for the money (four and a half years ad-free! whoo! I hope my 15 commenters and ??? lurkers–I can’t count you if I don’t know who you are–appreciate my COMMITMENT to the CRAFT. And also? Laziness), nor for the fame. I do it for the comments, the empathy, and the strengthening of communal ties.

So on behalf of the love, I want to ask one of you lucky BlogHer participants a favor.

MamaPop (my most trusted news source…don’t look at me like that, we already know how I feel about the New York Times, despite the fact that I read the Sunday Vows column on Saturday night because I just can’t wait) ran a contest to find a T-shirt slogan in connection with their BlogHer 2010 party, Sparklecorn.

Winning slogan here. It is genius. Please, please, someone get me a T-shirt? I can PayPal you money.

Don’t make me come after you individually. I mean, I totally will, but…please?

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I am not a person who objects to shopping. Usually.

Food shopping can be great, especially at a place like a farmers’ market or the shuk, where the food looks beautiful and smells intoxicating.

Clothes shopping can be fun if done without small tag-a-long people. Since that is so not my life right now, I’ve relied a lot on e-tailers. Thank goodness for them.

Shoe shopping? Necessarily evil. Seriously, Taxman makes me do it. I don’t like it.

Shopping for other things? Well, it’s a rare event. We bought most of our furniture nine years ago, when we had money from wedding gifts to spend and no children, lots of internet access, and starry-eyed, newlywedded patience. We bought our appliances five years ago, when we bought our apartment and renovated the kitchen; we relied heavily on Consumer Reports and readily took Miss M, the tiny nursling with the occasional blowout poops, along for the ride.

But now we are faced with purchasing a lot of furniture and appliances all at once. In a currency we’re just getting used to and in a language I don’t understand all that well (and cannot speak back to save my life). And about half the time we’ve had two rambunctious, snack-demanding tyrants with us.*

The furniture shopping was agonizingly slow because it was one piece here, one piece here, once piece here. We’re still not done. But at least by the end of next week we should have mattresses for everyone–and whole beds for the kids! (Note to self: must buy sheets in Israeli sizes.) Oh yes, the next-day delivery from mattress stores or 3-day delivery from furniture stores? Whoops, wrong country. I mean we don’t have a shortage of beds to sleep in, but they are not in our apartment but rather in Jerusalem or Haifa or the suburbs of Tel Aviv.

We have been attempting to divide and conquer at the appliance stores, wherein Taxman deals with the negotiations (read: haggling. This is the Middle East and you never know when you have reached the “final price,” unless you a) walk away and never come back or b) put down a deposit) and I attempt to keep the small people from breaking the merchandise/touching the wall of flatscreen TVs. This involves keeping their MP3 players charged and their mouths full of snack. And sometimes waiting too long to force AM to go to the bathroom and having him pee a little on my shirt. But I digress. (It was gross, although I was already sweaty and disgusting, so what’s a touch of pee? It was the principle, in that it was SO grotesquely obvious that he needed to pee, but had been refusing to go for 30 minutes and finally when I laid down the law he admitted it was about 15 minutes past due and almost could not stop it. Vey iz mir.)

No two appliances chains have the exact same models, a la trying to comparison shop for mattresses in the United States. Sometimes prices at the same chain differ from city to city. The brands are largely unfamiliar. We know of LG and Siemens, but Bellers, Bauchknecht, and Beko? No. (Two of the last three are made in Turkey.) The salespeople are either completely disinterested or so aggressive we might have to change our cellphone number. Seriously, if a woman named Yaffa calls for us? We haven’t made a decision, we’re not home right now, and we might be moving to Botswana next week.

So we still do not have a fridge or a stove or a washing machine. But really, really, really we have to decide–it’s just a lot of money. At some point we were thinking of buying second hand, which we might do for some furniture, but we don’t want to get older appliances (5+ years) because they improve efficiency all the time and for the newer second hand by the time you pay to move it to your place and pay to have it installed by a professional it could easily be almost the price of buying new. If you get a good deal when buying new, that is, and that is hard to do when you feel like you are constantly being harangued or fleeced.


But we had a true Israeli moment today. Taxman pulled the car into a gas station. Unsure of which side the gas tank was on, he stopped short of the self-serve island and we peered out of the car to try to guess. We were immediately approached by a gas station attendant. Rather than attempting to get us to come to the full serve island (more expensive, natch), he tried to get us to buy a kumkum–an electric kettle that is a mainstay of pretty much every household. “Giveret, giveret!” (Miss, miss!) he kept calling to me, extolling the virtues of said kumkum (good brand, good price). It was a good price and a brand I recognized, but somehow I just couldn’t buy a small kitchen electric at a gas station. Maybe once I’ve been here for more than six days. We did, however, meet our 30 liter minimum to qualify for a free 1.5 liter bottle of water. If we fill up again Friday I think we get either a free newspaper or a free challah (!). New stuff around every corner.

Many thanks to Gila from Aliyah by Accident, who rescued us from a noontime meltdown in the playground (yes, it was 33 degrees, but now we have health insurance because Taxman was able to fill out the forms without preschool company) and fed us lunch and refilled the water glasses all around! Sorry Taxman fell asleep on your couch! We’ll call it jet lag.

* My in-laws have been really great about babysitting at all times of the day and night, but from time to time they have their own obligations. And we’ve been using them more for when we have to make trips to government offices and the like, where one of us can’t just disappear for 20 minutes at a time.

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I hope not.  This week was (or at some point very recently it was) National Infertility Awareness Week.

Our relatively brief struggles with infertility seem light-years ago, now that we are up to our eyeballs in preschool and miniature underpants and all that, but when you are trying to have a baby in your 20s and it takes 30 cycles to conceive (with no underlying medical reasons) it seems like a damn long time. I never did the heavy-duty drugs (just Clomid), but we were seriously considering IVF because it promised a 70+% success rate for someone my age and with my (non) diagnosis.

Our joy of success has always been tempered by knowing that others are struggling and may not have the kind of outcome that we did. We are annual supporters of A T.I.M.E, but just this week I discovered a program that truly made me smile. Socks seem like a small thing, but the message of caring is big.

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Taxman: “So what’s this Twitter I keep hearing about? You’re not on it…are you?”

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The new computer is a little wonky and has not let me publish all week, so here you have a week’s worth of posts in five minutes.

Anyway, today I ran the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. And it was HOT. And HUMID. OMFG. And people did not follow the rules of the race course, so it was more like running (!) through an obstacle course (!!) and I still managed to finish in about 35 minutes (!!!). And I missed Chichimama, who wanted desperately to run but was trapped under something heavy dropped a can of crushed tomatoes on her foot and, as a result, can’t wear closed shoes.

And afterwards, on our way back to the 72nd St. Transverse, I came within four feet of Cynthia Nixon, the Grand Marshal of the NYC Race for the Cure. My first celebrity sighting after all these years in NY.

I said to Taxman, “Wow, that was Cynthia Nixon!”


“Cynthia Nixon!”

“President Nixon’s daughter?”

“What?! NO! Cynthia Nixon! Sex and the City! [which he has seen many times] Look at her!”

“Oh. Well her hair isn’t as red in person.”

Yeah, I had no response to that either.

Did I mention that it was SO HOT and SO HUMID it is only through an act of divine intervention that I didn’t melt into a puddle of ooze in the third mile? Luckily at the end there were bottles and bottles of cold water and bananas and my husband and son and daughter clutching a bunch of Central Park weeds wildflowers just for me. Awww.

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Tonight Taxman and I went out for dinner. (Any time we go out alone in May it’s my belated birthday celebration. A long standing tradition and bit of gentle ribbing for someone with a March birthday married to an accountant.) My parents babysat. AM put himself to sleep without any fuss whatsoever.

But anyway, the weird part was that we ran into my first cousin once removed and part of his family at the restaurant. We were not in our neighborhood–we were in the Town Across the Hudson With Lots of Kosher Restaurants. They were even further out of their element–they live in the NYC Borough With Lots of Jews, which is not really close to northern New Jersey at all.

We weren’t even sure it was him at first, but I recognized his wife’s voice. Then his daughter-in-law opened her mouth, and I whispered to Taxman that his son had married a woman from South Africa and this had to be them.

They were seated next to us. His wife looked up and saw me and said, startled, “Katie!” And I kind of wanted to die, a little, because really nobody on earth calls me that any more. Except sometimes my baby brother and I (mostly) forgive him because I’ve known him since he was, you know, born.

My family is sprawling and kind of unwieldy. We don’t keep in touch all that much. I filled my OuterBorough cousin in on my dad–and he graciously asked about my mom, knowing they’ve been divorced for 30 years–but I had no clue what my aunt or her kids (my first cousins) were up to. I should probably ask my dad about them, but his relationship with his sister has been distant since they were kids, so he never volunteers.

We left with vague promises to go to them for Shabbat, which would actually be fun, now that nobody would be pressuring me to stay religious, get married, or have kids. (Check, check, and check.) This particular cousin invites us to a lot of his family events–bar mitzvahs, weddings, and the like–and he did come to our wedding, which felt very far away when Taxman pulled out his wallet sized photo of the kids and said they were almost 4 and just 2.

Not that I necessarily believe in a sort of “heaven” where dead relatives hang out and check in on the living, but if there were my grandfather–this cousin’s beloved Uncle Maxie (his name was really Jack)–would be sitting there with a cup of coffee and a big sly grin on his face.

I guess we’ll have to blame the weirdness on Jersey.

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I was describing my bizarre viral symptoms to my mom: a fever that segued into a sore throat, rash on my hands and feet. What about in my mouth, she asked. “I have a mouth full of canker sores,” I told her.

“You know,” she said, “this sounds like Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease.”

“Well, all I can tell you is that it isn’t Fifth disease and it isn’t chicken pox.”

“You should look it up. Although you had Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. I remember your pediatrician called his whole staff in to look at you, because he said most parents don’t bring their kids in for just a rash* and some of the younger doctors and nurses hadn’t seen it.”

“I will look it up.”

“But I thought that once you had it you can’t have it again. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, feel better. I hope Miss M doesn’t get it too.”

So, yeah, I looked it up. And yeah, this is what AM had, caught from our 23-month-old neighbor (they are Teh Cutest–they play, they hug to say goodbye, and AM protests when we leave the elevator without her–but we live on 2 and she lives on 4). And gave to me, the devoted slave mother who wipes his nose and his drool and his tush. It usually occurs in kids under 10. One strain of coxsackievirus is responsible for most incidences. But let’s say I had that one in the ’70s…AM could have brought home some other viral goodie.

Of course between the two pediatricians** who saw the two kids, neither of them diagnosed it as “HFMD,” but rather just a virus. I guess there’s really no difference–it’s not like you can treat it with anything. Really, though, just ewwwww.

And I must drink some more water.

* Honestly, I think this dates the whole episode. I’m guessing it took place somewhere in the 1978-1979 range.

** Although I don’t know I would have taken him to the doctor for just a rash. But with the fever and crankiness and sleep problems I wanted to make sure to eliminate ear infection or strep throat. This is where speech would be really helpful–although he did tell me (in sign) that his head hurt when he was feverish and emphatically denied an earache.

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It seems like age 3, so far, has been All About the Big Concepts.

Potty? Check.

Following directions? Check…if you are her teacher.

Love-destroy-love your sibling? Check.

But we’re still working on some.

Like the days of the week. Honestly, for a kid that knew the alphabet before she could talk all that well, she is having a really hard time with this. Almost every day she asks if it is Wednesday. Wednesdays at school they have music, which she loves, and pizza for lunch, ditto. So Wednesday, understandably, is popular.

This morning, she woke up crying. This is not unusual. I went in to encourage her to get out of bed and use the bathroom, and she was sobbing, “It’s not Wednesday, it’s not Wednesday!” I told her that it was, in fact, Wednesday and that she was going to have music and pizza today. Instead of turning her mood around, she continued to cry. “Tomorrow’s not Wednesday!” (Aha! Maybe she is getting it!)

“No,” I said, “Tomorrow is Thursday.”

“On Thursday I’m going to cry at school because I’m going to miss you,” she hiccuped.

“Ok,” I said. “Now can we please get on the potty?”

And then there’s marriage.

After the days-of-the-week hullabaloo was taken care of, we were lounging in bed, watching AM and Taxman starting to stir.

“Ema,” she said, “when I’m four I’m going to get married.”*

“Really?” I said. “Who are you going to marry?”

“Myself!” she exclaimed.

“Honey, two people get married to each other. You can’t marry yourself.”

“When I get big I’m going to marry myself,” she insisted. “When I’m 10.”**

“Isn’t there someone else you’d like to marry?”

“I want to be a wife! I’ll marry AM!”  AM, by now awake, sitting up and blinking, showed her a toothy grin. Oh dear.

“Uh, sweetie, people don’t usually marry their brothers. There must be someone you know you’d like to marry. A friend?”

“I know! I’ll marry Y!” Y is her first cousin. Her only first cousin, at least for the next 3-5 weeks.***

What will we tell the grandparents?

* Not random, I promise! In school they have been discussing the weekly Torah portion. We are smack in the middle of Genesis now, so lots of husband-wife things; Isaac & Rebecca; Jacob & his merry wives.

** Miss M thinks that being 10 years old is the pinnacle of grownupness because I once told her she had to be 10 to use a sharp knife in the kitchen.

*** My family has gone two straight generations without first cousins marrying. This doesn’t seem like the time to decrease the gene pool again, now that it’s getting so large.


Additional funnies!

I set her up with playdough after school in an attempt to get a jump on my Shabbat cooking (book club tomorrow!). As I’m mixing sweet potato pie filling I hear, “Ema, can you be excused from your work and come see what I made for you?”

And then as I’m nursing AM I hear, “Ema, you will clean up my playdough and then I can watch something. Is that true? Is that the truth?”

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Twice in the past few days I’ve had a couple of odd moments, one relatively shallow and one very deep.

Last night I was at an open house for a potential school choice for Miss M next year. It was really an introduction to the entire school (which goes through 8th grade), its philosophies and quirks. They did not, of course, mention the tuition, which is astronomical.

But I sat in on the “intro to general studies” (as opposed to the pep talk on their Judaic studies, which I attended in another session) with a second grade teacher. I loved, loved, loved my second grade teacher. I actually had her twice–for second grade and also for reading when I was in first grade because I was pulled out for part of the day and put in her class. (This was my educator-mom’s deal with the principal that kept me in public school. Apparently overwhelmed, novice first grade teachers and smart, uppity, well-read six-year-olds don’t mesh all that well.)

Anyway, the second grade teacher who spoke last night was completely bubbly with enthusiasm. I am sure she was handpicked among the dozen teachers who could have given the presentation for just that reason. But beyond that, I was fixated on the “daily schedule” posted on the board. Wedged somewhere between Recess and Writing Workshop was a yellow card with red letters, spelling “D.E.A.R. Time.” After the session was over, I approached the teacher (who can’t be more than two years older than I am) and said, “D.E.A.R ?”

“Drop Everything And Read,” she replied.

“I think I love you,” I said. To a stranger. But one who was channeling Ramona Quimby. So how could I not????

I wonder if Miss M could do second grade at age four. Hmm. Probably not. Could I do it over at 33?

The second person who I want to just hug and thank from the very bottom of my heart is Martha Beck. I am generally pretty “eh” on the topic of life coaching and things of that nature. I don’t read O Magazine. I had never heard of her before. But I ordered her memoir Expecting Adam from PaperbackSwap. And read it in about three days, which is pretty much a miracle in itself.

It’s funny and sad and perspective-changing if you read it all the way through. There are a lot of interesting thoughts about parenting and just personhood in general. But she had me pegged at page 58:

One of the great myths of our society is that when women are left with small children, they are not alone. The truth is that a mother left with babies is far more alone than she would be without them; every bit of energy, attention, protectiveness, and care she might use to meet her own needs must first be directed toward the needs of her children.

There, in black and white, from the mind of someone else, is a rational explanation of how I can think that cheese crackers and cold tea are acceptable sustenance for myself.

At the same time, though, it saddens me to think that there are so many of “us” like that–I mean here, where I am, living in my neighborhood, wheeling strollers to the park–and I can’t seem to really connect to any of them. What am I doing wrong and how can I stop it?

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