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The T-Shirt Paradox

Do you ever feel trapped? Not TRAPPED like “I’m going to chew off my leg now,” but more, “Hey, this hamster wheel keeps spinning, and I’m not sure what will happen if it stops, but it’s probably not a good idea to stop, so I’ll just keep going.”

(I do enjoy a good run-on sentence from time to time.)

Tangent

I used to hate even the idea of being trendy or following some sort of herd.

I never owned a piece of clothing from Benetton (when it was all the rage) or bought Doc Marten boots (my college roommate had umpteen pairs, but unfortunately we didn’t wear the same size) or got a second ear piercing.

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I could have been so cute! On someone else’s dime! WTF is wrong with you, past me?

(I made an exception for those Banana Republic shirts with the animals on the back, for reasons I don’t remember. Who doesn’t like paying twice as much as normal for a dumb t-shirt?)

This rejection of trendy did not make me cool. It made me a dork. Sometimes people invest themselves in trends that are not worth it, but sometimes brands or styles really hold up. Sometimes you really can dress something up or down; celebrity endorsements aside, some items are just worth the money.

Now I am all about the intersection of “comfort and style and branding and fiscal responsibility and I don’t really care what everyone else thinks.” So I live in Naot sandals, buy a lot of SkirtSports gear, and am pretty devoted to my few-generations behind iPhone. So I am not on-trend, exactly, but more like chugging along on a parallel track that misses a few stations.

(PS I tried to buy a pair of Chucks, which I have never owned, in America a few months ago, but the store I was at did not carry them in half sizes. WHAT? I am definitely not shelling out money for shoes that don’t fit correctly.)

/tangent
(sorta)

Into the Hamster Wheel

So imagine my dismay when I discovered that my current fragile mental state is shared by so many GenX women. Blame it on perimenopause. Blame it on money worries. Blame it on career dissatisfaction. (Not mentioned in the article, but an astute IRL/Twitter friend pointed out that the last election has engendered mental pacing on an unprecedented level. “Oh HAI misogyny and bigotry and warmongering; we thought you were pretty unacceptable, but we see you’re back in a big way. Sad panda. I am not going to be needing this pillow, as I am never sleeping again.”)

Good thing I am fine with being in the herd now.

Say Goodbye to Your Shirts

I have a problem with my shirts. Almost all of them get tiny holes in them, about six inches from the bottom, right in front. Eventually, some holes “bleed” together and make much bigger holes. I try to reserve my new shirts, or shirts that I especially like, because I know that eventually they will be sacrificed to the “t-shirts I can only wear to bed” pile.

Because I spend a lot of time in my house, tiny holes in my shirts didn’t matter that much, but they made me crazy. Nobody else in the house was getting these holes. Was it my seatbelt in the car? Skirt buttons? Was it the washing machine nibbling only my clothes? None of these ideas made sense.

A friend tipped me off – it is our Caesarstone countertops hitting me in the gut every time I prep food or stand at the sink.

Oh.

Too bad I can’t take a pass on everything in my kitchen forevermore to save my shirts.

The Call is Coming from Inside the House

Yep.

But do I not wear shirts? Do I wear the same one over and over again until it disintegrates? Do I never wear the shirts I like the most in order to save them? Do I buy 3 of the same shirt?

I can already hear well-intentioned people thinking, “Oh, she should wear an apron!” That is so sweet. It will never work. I autopilot so many *kitchen things that adding a “step zero” will never take.

*Also life things. There is a relatively new law in Israel about re-usable bags. I have had to fling them around my house and car, literally by the dozen, so I am not caught without them.

So that’s my hamster wheel.

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This smushy face would never chew holes in my clothes. She’s too tired and has her own perimenopausal stuff to take care of, presumably.

It has tiny holes and kitchen chores. It does not have enough disposable income for a cleaning person. It does not have a full-time job.

If you’re too traumatized to click through to the piece linked above, this goes right to the heart of the matter, for me:

“The message Gen X women got was ‘You can have it all.’ … That came with better blueprints and also bigger expectations,” says Deborah Luepnitz, PhD, a psychotherapist in Philadelphia, a boomer and author of Schopenhauer’s Porcupines. “In midlife, what I see in my Gen X patients is total exhaustion. That’s what brings them to treatment. They feel guilty for complaining because it’s wonderful to have had choices that our mothers didn’t have, but choices don’t make life easier. Possibilities create pressure.”

(IT’S ME AND MY MOM, YOU GUYS!)

Possibilities. We still have them in midlife, but they can start to seem so abstract. Yes, I could go get a doctorate, but where would I find the graduate school tuition? I could switch careers—therapist? Zamboni driver?—but at this stage of life, do I really want to start from the bottom, surrounded by 20-year-olds? If I went on an Eat, Pray, Love walkabout, who would pick up the kid from school?

(IT’S ME AND MY LIFE, YOU GUYS!)

Midlife is when we need to take care of everyone else while we are our most tired, to trust ourselves when we’re most filled with doubt.

(Don’t show this sentence to someone with a new baby; she won’t be able to get out of bed ever again.)

If someone would like to meet in the virtual all-night cafe of insomnia, simmering with rage and worry, I am pretty sure they have pie.

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Another American massacre due to guns is in the books, and the politicians at all levels, local to national, are telling people that thoughts and prayers is the appropriate response, not shredding the current gun policies and starting over with a 21st century perspective, outside the confines of what the NRA wants.

This sticks in my craw, but not just because I am bleeding-heart liberal who believes in strict gun control, but because I am a religious Jew and this idea of lying limp and letting God’s will wash over you (thoughts) and mentally/verbally responding (prayers) is not how we roll.

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Prayer has its place. But it is not a universally appropriate response.

(Note: I am not trained in Jewish thought; this is just a reflection of my experiences.)

So there is a concept that I’ve come to know in my almost 25 years of being religious. It’s called hishtadlus (or hishtadlut). It comes from the Hebrew verb that means, basically, “to make an effort.” The word is fancier that “to try,” in that you know you’re going to have to work for something.

I ran into this idea a lot while spending time on Orthodox Jewish infertility message boards. “We are doing our hishtadlus,” people would write. Meaning that while thoughts and prayers did not fall by the wayside in the quest to make a baby, there would also be blood tests and hormone injections; sperm counts and HSGs; egg retrievals and ICSI; phone calls and insurance fights; phlebotomists, nurses, doctors, and rabbis on call.

Thoughts and prayers, in fact, were something that you could delegate to people who were not in the thick of the fight.

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I know lots of babies that have been made this way. Thoughts and prayers alone were not enough.

The people on these message boards felt lucky that there were ways to attack infertility, medically speaking, and that it was approved in the eyes of religious authorities – sometimes with a few tweaks – and fully acknowledged that in a generation before ours thoughts and prayers, the only tools readily available then, most likely would have resulted in never becoming parents.

Failing to do hishtadlus doesn’t mean that you’ll never get what you’re seeking. (Also: Doing it doesn’t mean that you will.) But it seems to be an integral part of how you are meant to approach your life. Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we are called to implement specific changes. Prayer is one of them, but the others are giving charity and doing teshuva. Teshuva is repentance, but it has a more active component than you might think – righting of wrongs between people can require serious introspection but also verbal or written apologies, discussions, or compensation.

Whether or not the trio of prayer, repentance, and charity change our fate for the year is clearly unknowable, but you have to wonder — what if this combination of cerebral/emotional/physical modifications to our behavior were permanent, rather than being a feature associated with the “days of awe”? Would we be on our way to being better people, living in a better society?

Living at this level of consciousness is hard.

Saying “I’m sorry” immediately is hard, especially if you’re angry or sad.

Giving a lot of charity on a regular basis is going to have an impact on your bottom line.

Connecting in prayer on a deep level every day? Good luck.

But here’s the thing: 
Elected representatives are elected to do hard things. They are faced with difficult choices every day. They will never be able to please everyone, but there are people relying on them. When they take those steps back, pulling the curtain around them that says “thoughts and prayers,” they are hiding from the hard things, the hurt, the disappointments and grief. They are not making the effort. They are backing away from the fight.

I hope that the representatives who fail to make the effort will be replaced by those who are willing to try.

 

Elliptically speaking

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I saw this post in my Facebook feed and thought, I AM THE ELLIPSIS.

But not just in conversation. In LIFE. My entire life is a mishmash of speech, thoughts, desires, tasks, and journeys that become hopelessly tangled like a skein of yarn. And let me tell you, I rarely have the time to sort these things out.

In my own writing – please feel free to peruse my archives, when I was clearly smarter than I feel right now – I tend towards overuse of parenthesis. So I can explain myself in the middle of my thoughts. One might think (hope?) that I would just be more clear in the first place, but that tends to lead to shorter sentences, and I really like commas, so here we are, you know? (Note: For work assignments I behave myself and write crisply and concisely, but I never monetized this baby, so I am going to be myself. Just please love me! Also send candy. I like cinnamon things now that I have drastically cut back on dairy, which is a sad story for another time.)

Unfortunately, living the elliptical life is causing me to feel like I am losing my mind quite often. We live in a duplex, and I am constantly arriving at the top of the stairs and thinking, “Why am I up here?” Usually, it’s because my iPhone cord is still plugged in to where I charged overnight, but sometimes it’s because I need to change my shoes or get an envelope or brush poppy seeds out of my teeth. But I can’t just blame the elevation of the top floor, because this also sometimes happens when I go to the laundry room-slash-overflow pantry that is tucked behind the kitchen.

This total mess in my head is exacerbated when my kids are home. Because I will go upstairs – again, probably for my phone cord – and on the way, I spot that AM’s clothing drawers are open and a total mess. I mean, total mess is expected, but nobody needs to SEE it. Just close the drawers! Instantly neater! (This is an important life skill that I am one hundred percent committed to teaching.) I also see that Miss M has been using her floor as a hamper and, um, encourage her to cut that shit out. And the kids’ bathroom basically looks like a tornado came through. Open drawers and dirty clothes! Trash that missed the garbage can! Books that I have repeatedly said cannot be in the bathroom! It’s house disaster bingo! So by the time I pass these three open doors and am in my own not-neat room, I have completely lost the plot and have to stand there mumbling, “I am here for a reason.” If I am lucky, I will remember why. If am super-lucky, I will also stumble upon my glasses, which I am absolutely going to need the next time I go to drive the car. (I do not need glasses to read, use the computer, or watch TV, so they spend a lot of time off my face — and hiding from me, in case that wasn’t obvious.)

So what is my problem, exactly?

  • Sleep deprivation (always a winner!)
  • Undercaffeination (likely, but I can’t experiment with this too much)
  • Age (being over 40 is a garden full of delights)
  • Some sort of attention deficit (I blame social media)
  • Low blood sugar/dehydration (I am not always the best at self-care)
  • Terrible housekeeping (a disordered environment is how we roll)
  • No idea (but I hear bullet points are the bomb)

So, in conversation, I tend to be incredibly annoying and full of tangents. I think I have always been this way, but now it is worse than ever. On social media I can be pithy and wise, because of the magical delete button. There is no delete when I talk. Sadly.

My workarounds for this? Ongoing conversations that are comprised almost solely of tangents. I have a Whatsapp group with two friends that’s basically the three of us dropping in and out of conversations. We try to do it once a week in real life. Or conversations that are long enough to circle back to my original point, when I have one, which is sometimes. Just today, I had a spontaneous brunch with a friend. Something else came up, we got distracted, and thankfully were still together an hour later when I remembered where I was going with my train of thought (the in-person reveal was worth it, so I am glad it worked out, instead of my having to email it later).

I am not quite sure where I am going with this, but if you stick around I might get to my point. (If the dog ever stops barking.)

In the meantime: Red Hots, Cinnamon Jelly Bellys, Atomic Fireballs, Hot Tamales. (Stay focused!)

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All cinnamon, all the time

 

 

I am Calvin’s mom

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Bathtime

I don’t ever want to be one of these “KIDS, TODAY!” people, because we were all KIDS, TODAY! once, yes?

But I realized that one thing my kids are really cheated out of are newspapers. We consume our news in all kinds of ways – radio snippets, podcasts, online articles, television. However, I recall sitting down with sections of the Sunday paper from when I was in elementary school. I lived in the DC suburbs, so we got the Washington Post. Possibly also the New York Times because my parents are  East Coast liberal elites, despite moving away from it in 1991. I definitely remember reading Parade Magazine, and the Washington Post magazine — Dave Barry’s column! — a gateway for The New Yorker.

And there were the comics. I felt so sorry for people who only got The New York Times. Because no comics.

I feel like the “funny papers” helped me develop my sense of humor. Before Buzzfeed or Cute Emergency were available 24 hours a day, there were daily strips, which parlayed to full-color and fabulous on Sunday. The late 1980s seemed to have really glorious comics for a kid like me, smart and sardonic and constantly feeling like a fish out of water.

It wasn’t just me. My 7th grade English teacher showed up one day with now-famous Far Side “Midvale School for the Gifted” panel, posted it on the board, and laughed about it for the rest of the year. (It was an accelerated English class. Of course it was.)

midvale

As much as this applied to me, Miss M would probably win the prize for this.

Nothing could hold a candle, though, to Calvin & Hobbes. Calvin seemed to contain an entire universe within him. So wise, but all id. Hobbes the long-suffering companion, smarter than his best friend but trapped by his own physical restrictions. It was a siren song for all the junior high school lovelorn kids who confessed their secrets to their dog or cat, or covertly continued to sleep with a stuffed animal. (Who, me? Yeah, me.)

Over time, several Calvin & Hobbes collections accumulated in my library. They moved with me to college, to New York, to Israel. My kids came to love them as much as I did.

I hadn’t opened one in years; my reading time is really reserved for novels. But the other night I picked up The Revenge of the Baby-Sat from my floor (one of my kids had been reading it in my bed and dropped it next to the bed, instead of putting it back on the shelf or on my bedside table, which really tells you a lot about both me and them).

And goodness me, guess who I am? I am Calvin’s mom.

atmosphere

What parent among us has not tried to civilize a child?

Yes, and no. My kids have never had the streak of maliciousness that Calvin does; I haven’t had to worry for their personal safety in the same way. But wow, the rest is quite identifiable. Tempting to eat a new food, begging to do chores, coaxing to look normal for a photo FOR ONCE, OH MY GOD. Calvin’s mom looks pissed in the middle of the night when summoned to answer philosophical questions or wash clothes (!). She looks resigned when paying the babysitter. She looks startled when she realizes it’s been quiet and she’s been sitting down for too long. She looks determined when she’s prodding Calvin into the bath.

griping

How evergreen is this?

All of these things are universal parent experiences, but of course, you may have missed it upon your first read at 9 or 12 or 20.

It is a rare gem of pop culture that can be delivered on more than one level. I have always cited Sesame Street as one example, but now I officially appoint Calvin & Hobbes to this firmament.

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Purim, 2 years ago

And, as I was composing this post in my head too late at night, I realized that, yes, dumbbell, I have been Calvin’s mom…for a long time.

 

Part the second, in which Gila and Kate try to be helpful but instead pull back the curtains of their brains and the results are…messy.

Now that we’ve sent you over the edge, we are going to have to pull you back. We will feed you kosher for Pesach snacks and everything. Hope you like palm oil in your chips.

Seriously, we don’t want to leave you with the idea that this is insurmountable. You too, have the ability to make Pesach. (Although if your money tree is more like a grove, you can go to a hotel!)

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For the month of Nisan – evergreen.

Actual Real-Life Tried and Tested Tips

So here are Kate’s tips:

  • Spend 10 minutes mentally scrolling through your regular recipes. Pick out anything that can be made without modifications to ingredients or prep methods. Make those things for Pesach. (This works especially well for soups, salads, and some vegetable sides. Plus plain baked chicken – can’t lose.) (We just make the same dang thing every single year. “Monotony is the spice of life” is a thing you often hear.)
  • Be Israeli or just visit. Even if you are super Ashkenazi and don’t eat anything that was ever kitniyot, you can eat kosher for Passover for Sephardim foods up until the last minute. All the rice cakes and Bamba you could possibly want! Although this distinction is apparently growing in America, 20 years ago on erev Pesach you tended to have options like potato chips and yogurt and ??? (Cottage cheese mixed with that canned fruit cocktail is the stuff of my erev Pesach memories.)
  • Another (bazillion) point for Israel: One Seder
  • I didn’t start seriously making Pesach until 2009 (because we were in a different country than our usual Seder hosts), so only then did I start on the LISTS and the SO MUCH EXTRA STUFF IN BOXES OH DEAR. For a couple of years I was diligent about making notes to myself for the following year. Like in 2012 I noted that I would never, ever, ever find Ashkenazi-acceptable cumin. (Still sad about that.) But I am ultimately more of a fly-by-the-seat of my pants sort of person.
    (Translation: There are many, many extra trips to the store. But now my kids can bike to the local shopping center themselves, so it’s less of an issue.)

Gila’s Tips:

My tried-and-tested shopping list saves me. I just print my list, go online and buy exactly what it says on the shopping list. It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand the list now. I will understand it later. Don’t ever go off list. Don’t ever think, “Oh we don’t need [this item].” Because when you’re doing the all-day cooking marathon, and you don’t have the raisins/5 bottles of oil/hot pepper/5 avocados, you will be sorry. Except for broccoli and cauliflower. Here is a note from my shopping list: “Broccoli & cauliflower – why are we buying this? Don’t buy unless we have specific plan for it.” I think this is in reference to the Year the Vegetables Molded.

(Kate says: Roasted broccoli and/or cauliflower is great! Unless you need that oven for a week straight – rest, plus kasher, plus cook – in which case I can see why these would molder.)

We also have a general “Pesach notes” list that we update every year. Right after chag, we add to the list, writing down what we purchased and what we’ll need for next year. Actual excerpts from the List:

Notes for Pesach 2007:

Stop buying cheese graters! We have 2!

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Are you lonesome tonight?

 

Notes for Pesach 2012:

Remember – large black ladle is fleishig. (Because there I was, staring at this ladle, willing it to unlock the secrets of its kashrut status. Either the chalavi/besari sticker fell off or we stupidly thought, “Of course we’ll remember that! OBVIOUSLY black is besari.” We should have noted at that point that as we have to pause before speaking to our children to get the name right, we clearly cannot be trusted to remember which ladle is the chicken soup ladle.)

Need new peeler (this will become important later)

Notes for Pesach 2013

Still need a new peeler! (Seriously, what is wrong with you… can’t you get one?) (told you it would be important)

Notes for Pesach 2014

Take vegetables out of plastic bags or they will get moldy (the above-mentioned Incident)

Notes for Pesach 2017

Milk pitcher (for heating milk) – it’s just fine, stop complaining. (Sometimes we need to slap our future selves in the face like that.)

The Purim-Pesach Timeline

Gila has a plan.

Here is my timeline of How I Get It All Done:

Immediately after Purim: Oh nonononono, we cannot think about Pesach yet. We must sit and recover from the two-week-long holiday of Purim. Must sit. Must rest. Just for a minu-zzzzzzz.

Week after Purim, Sunday/Monday: Yep, this is the week I start to do stuff. For sure. I unearth my shopping and cleaning lists and spend a few moments with my eyes closed, imagining myself getting it all done. “Mmmmm … pantry … sparkling clean … yep, get under the fridge, wow, that was tough but you did it …  scrub that bit off the countertop there, very good … seder plate is all ready and chicken soup is just about come to a boil … good work, everyone!” Imaginary me is very productive. (Me too! Gila and I are spiritual twins. Real me has been known to leave clean, wet clothes in the washer for…a long while.) I wish she could be real-life me. Real-life me is eating all the good chocolates from Purim before the kids come home.

Week after Purim, Tuesday/Wednesday: What? Did I say I was going to clean something this week? Oh god I’m way too tired to do stuff. What was I thinking? I halfheartedly start perusing the Pesach goods online at Shufersal. Actually, I do one thing – I call the butcher and make my meat order (just going off that list, God bless it). Because I have a recurring Jewish mother nightmare in which I call the butcher and they tell me “Oh no we are ALL OUT OF ALL OF THE THINGS THEY ARE GONE PEOPLE BOUGHT THEM ALL BEFORE YOU NEENER NEENER. Enjoy your cheese sticks!”

Week after Purim, Friday: In a rare burst of energy, drill sergeant me rounds up the kids and we clean out the toy drawers and baskets. The kids fight over using the vacuum and tire of the cleaning process in general after about 5.3 minutes and wander off to their electronic devices or to whack a sibling in the head just cuz. (Also my children have learned how to weasel out of helping: Instead of refusing to do something, they just “In a second, Mom!” me until I give up.) However! They have forgotten that Friday is already Yellingday, and I will not give up, so I just continue to yell till it’s all done and now we’re alllll kvetching crying and yelling. Phew. That was exhausting. While the kids are distracted I help myself to more chocolate. (A much-overlooked benefit of too much screen time: Kids are much more distracted, making it easier to access the chocolates.)

Two weeks after Purim: This is it folks. The buying begins for realz. I start to fill my online shopping cart with one of everything from my list. I like to start with buying stuff. Compared to cleaning stuff, buying stuff is relatively easy and painless, until the credit card bill is due and you realize you may have to sell one of your children to pay for it and then you realize, Omigod! Do you think we can sell all of them???

Week before: Now the “stuff” is getting real. (I am using “stuff” instead of a less nice word, if you catch my drift). I am on my hands and knees, becoming imaginary me from a few short weeks ago. Scrubbing grime off the floor behind the oven. Toothpicking the chairs. Scouring the sinks, pantries, countertops, fridge, freezer, omigod I’m so tired just writing all this I need more coffee. No, a nap. JUST GIVE ME BOTH. But when we reach the point where we are tossing boiling water on our counters (guys this religion is WEIRD, yo), we know the end (of the cleaning, at least) is it sight. Yippee!

 

“She likes me, she really likes me!”

Let me take this minute to say something that may not be quite obvious to those reading this vitriol-filled diatribe: I actually love Pesach. If you asked me – go ahead, do it – what my favorite chag is, I would say, “Pesach.” I actually love the holiday and hosting seder and the moment when you sit down at the table and you’re like “Wow, we made it!” It’s kind of like childbirth, but without the option for an epidural. (Pesach epidural; someone get on that!) I love chol hamoed and family tiyulim with the kinder and eating the special foods, at least until we are sick of them (the foods; the kinder seem to stick around no matter what). But in order to get to the special lovely parts, you gotta yank year-old pretzel crumbs and other unidentified, eww-why-is-this-thing-wet substances from in between your couch cushions.

(Kate’s favorite holiday, though you didn’t ask, is Sukkot.)

So, dear readers, if you’re still reading, I wish you the best of luck in your pre-Pesach cleaning/cooking/yelling endeavors and may we all merit to get to the “Wow we made it!” moment with some of our sanity and all of our matzah balls intact (except for the few we sampled while we were cooking).

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What you’re really sampling during cooking. Not matzah balls.

Kate’s Obsession Trap

Rather than focusing on the list of lists (cleaning, shopping – food, new clothes/shoes, disposable products, what am I missing, I must be missing something, help!), I have my own problem. Almost every year I hyper-focus on THE ONE THING I must do or have to make all the things perfect.

Upon making aliyah, I discovered that I could not get a shankbone for the seder plate for love or money. I think I visited every butcher in my fair suburb. I finally consented to use a chicken wing. Lo and behold, that is what normal people do. I did not have to waste so much time and energy on this.

But I am quite slow in the lessons-learned department.

My must-have this year was something that I never dreamed could have existed. A rabbi wrote a Hogwarts/Harry Potter haggadah. My kids’ “desert island” books would be, I’m sure, the Harry Potter series. So naturally I HAD TO HAVE THIS. Amazon doesn’t deliver here; I couldn’t think of a relative who was coming in this direction before Pesach. So when it was announced that a bookseller in Jerusalem would have copies, I stalked various Facebook feeds.

I was literally the first person in the country to own it, less than 12 hours after it was unboxed. (Shh, my kids still don’t know.) Like drop everything, blow off Friday responsibilities, and go to another city, where I asked the very bemused proprietor for 10 copies to distribute among my people.

Totally normal, yes?

(Note: Because I resolved this issue with OVER TWO WEEKS TO GO, now I am on to curry powder. I need curry powder to make my “magic sweet potato soup.” The magic part is that every person in my immediate family eats it. There is no other vegetable soup that fits this description, and I make many, many kinds of soup. So this soup is important to me. Many elements that make up traditional curry powder are things that Ashkenazim cannot have on Pesach (see above for my annual CUMIN LAMENT), so I am debating making my own mix. But this is of course another shopping trip or six. Let me stew on this for another week or so.)

Now I can get back to the lists. As can you! Happy matzah, friends.

 

In which Kate and Gila procrastinate like a boss. Two bosses.

Note 1: Lest you think we have a giant chip on our collective shoulder, we…might. See our Shabbat takedown.

Note 2: This is not a “how to Pesach,” though there will be some helpful tips for the scatterbrained in our next post. To learn more about the actual laws and customs of the Pesach kitchen, try Chabad or the halachic authority of your choice.

Note 3: Kate is in regular text; Gila is in italics. Except for Gila’s Facebook-related meltdown, which Kate is going to fix with some cookies. (The edible kind, not the Internet kind.)

We have been reminded by Ms. Jamie Geller’s instagram that the festival of Pesach (Passover) is soon approaching. AND YOU SHOULD LOOK YOUR BEST (full makeup, natch) AND GAMIFY EVERYTHING.

Are your cleaning pearls on? ARE THEY???

Not just a plan/prep/cook fiesta, (did you mean fiasco?) Pesach also involves ridiculous amounts of cleaning. As any Jewish authority figure will tell you, there is a wide gulf between dirt, sand, dust, or pet hair and smashed sandwich bites, Cheerios, cracker bits, cookie crumbles, pulverized potato chips, or couscous.

As in, the former list is ok to have around on Pesach; the latter is not. HOWEVER, there are some visual similarities between them. Rather than playing “grain of sand or leftover dried couscous,” (“A game of chance that’s fun for the whole family!”) you spray everything with bleach. Everything. (Even the children. No, especially the children). There’s also an extraordinarily long list of other chores that you’ve probably ignored for the past six to twelve months:

    • Silver polishing
    • Ironing table linens (Not in my house. When is a good time to iron, you ask? At never on your life o’clock.)
    • Scrubbing out the fridge
    • Sorting through the junk drawer* in the kitchen (*drawerS)
    • Cleaning under the kitchen sink
    • Moving the oven and/or fridge to sweep behind it
    • Wiping up the spills in your pantry (this is a good time to get rid of any items that say “Kosher for Pesach 5776” on them)
    • Organizing … anything
    • THE CAR: COULD IT BE ANY MORE GROSS? (omg can we talk about the Car Wash of Shame? When I go with my crumbs-on-wheels and I get a look from the car wash guy? “You need to bring this in more often!” he chides me. The dental hygienist of carwashes. Because in addition to feeling guilty about not nurturing my neshama (see below), I also need to have guilt about not providing for my car sufficiently. Hey buddy, sometimes the twins eat leftover gan cookies they find on the floor and so my car is providing necessary nutrition for my babeez!! What I’m saying is that my car is basically a crockpot.)

 

 

The Giving Tree

But let’s start at the beginning. The day after Purim (which deserves its own post), you must go out and harvest from your money tree.

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Hope you’ve been taking good care of this.

 

Even before you get to the seder, which is two meals in one (two for the price of 15!), and having a “Pesach set” of food items, and a “Pesach set” of kitchen items, the things that make Pesach prep livable cost money. For instance, camp.

“Camp?” you say. “Isn’t camp for summer?” Why, yes. But Israeli kids are out of school for 9-10 days before Pesach even begins. Do you want these endlessly demanding and troublesome short people underfoot as you are trying to work your regular job AND clean all the things? We assure you that you do not. Not. Not.

The people who run these “Pesach camps” are well aware of this and wisely offer to take your elementary-school age kids off your hands for about 5 hours a day. For a price. That price varies from place to place, but as a general rule it is expensive.

“Hey, can you reach the shekels on the highest part of tree, darling? I think they are just about ripe. The kids already used the low-hanging shekels for haimom.” (Haimom = Hey, Mom, can I have 10/20/50 shekel for [it doesn’t matter what is at the end of the sentence, just that you have no cash left.])

More expensive things: Eating regular food the week before Pesach. Because as your available area for prepping, eating, and washing up due to regular meals gets relegated to about one square foot, you are much more likely to say I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE WE ARE GOING OUT FOR PIZZA/BURGERS/FALAFEL/BAGELS/SUSHI. (Breakfast is cereal on the porch or front steps in plastic bowls, thank goodness.) You know you’re doing it right when you run into at least 10 people you know every time you do this. (Kids: Yay! We love the week before Pesach! We go out to eat all the time! Parent: [whimper sob])

You’ve Been Doing This For Years; Shouldn’t You Be Organized By Now?

Hahahaha, no. There are planners and panickers. Pick one. (The Planners usually eat kosher for Pesach food for a lot longer, so enjoy those potatoes and eggs!)

I am actually both. My robust shopping/cleaning list that I use from year to year is extraordinarily helpful, yet I ignore it for a good long time (I don’t want to rouse it from its deep slumber in Word) and meander leisurely through the Forest of Procrastination, smelling the flowers (or unwashed children, either way) until I am forcibly ejected into Panic Lake and I do not have a parachute, or whatever you would use to save yourself during a forcible forest ejection and I am not sure what this metaphor is doing anymore, but it’s not helping me toothpick the kitchen chairs, that’s for darn sure.  

But really there is no good way to do this. It’s a huge balagan to swap two kitchens’ worth of things. Unless you’re supremely organized to begin with (mental inventory of freezer, pantry, fridge, cabinets), it’s going to be rough. (Are we missing a way to put a good spin on this? There is just no nice way to have this happen.)

Example:

Mental inventory of freezer: One lone pan of frozen pizza, because we eat them in pairs but one week it got messed up and this poor pan is growing icicles on its “cheese” particles. Plus a few packages of “Oh we had that?”, a container of Freezer Burn and some leftover “We should eat this at some point, prolly.” Also a half a bag of french fries. And some ice pops that have managed to coat everything in stickiness despite being frozen. Oh, you wily ice pops!

Pantry: A box of lasagna noodles with a single noodle in it. A bag of rock-hard raisins. Last Pesach’s potato starch. A few containers of tomato paste that may be older than some of my children. All The Things That Spilled.

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Just hours upon hours of mind-numbing chores until you can bring these babies home! Also requires money tree maintenance for these yummy treats.

Gila’s Facebook Frenzy: An Invitation to Insanity

For me, Pesach starts with some chipper li’l post on Facebook. Usually ridiculously, cruelly early, like waaaaay before the Pesach-is-in-two-weeks mark. “Pesach is coming! Don’t miss this super inspiring workshop about how to make Pesach e-z pee-z!” (Hint: They are lying or going away for Pesach. There’s no e-z, and definitely no pee-z. Instead of going to the workshop, just stay in your pajamas and prepare for Pesach the old-fashioned way: By ignoring everything, watching TV and dripping cookie crumbs into the couch cushions.)

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Be very afraid

Or maybe it’s a Facebook invitation to some sort of spiritual pre-Pesach shiur, in other words, a way for me to feel bad about how all I do is clean/cook/yell, or sometimes cook/clean/yell, or sometimes just yell, and then we get to the seder and I’m like, “Oh right! The Haggadah! The story of Passover! Forgot all about you!”

(Kate studiously avoids any Facebook post with the word “shiur” in it, preferring instead to contemplate others’ parenting dilemmas. Silently problem solving for other families is low-stakes, unless it cuts into Pesach Panic Time.)

So to save my soul, these lofty women want me to come to some sort of pre-Pesach shiur so we can sit together and learn things and make our seders meaningful and increase our general spiritualness. The problem is I have sort of forgotten how to be spiritual. The closest I get to communing with God is invoking His name while parenting my blessings: “Ohmigod!!!!! STOP FIGHTING AND OR COLORING ON THE WALL!” [depending which children I’m speaking to] I’m not entirely sure He appreciates being dragged into our family fights like that, actually. (“Please leave Me out of this! Just put the markers out of reach, for gosh sakes!”) Oh, and I do take a moment when I light candles before Shabbat (who am I kidding, on Shabbat) to thank Him for allowing us all to survive each other for another week and seeing if He’ll be so kind as do it again next week, but there’s not much more time for convo with God because by this point the twins are helping themselves to the matches.

 

So I blame Facebook for my pre-Pesach panic. By the time we’ve hit that two-week-before mark, Facebook is in full-blown Pesach mode. The shiurim, the “where can I donate food?” posts, the pre-Pesach camp options, the apologists (who are Planners but want to seem like Panickers so the true Panickers won’t stone them with tiny Facebook pebbles (please someone, make tiny Facebook pebbles a thing) “I know it’s still early, but I’ve done all my shopping ….” — THWAP!) and the actual Planners who are sharing their menus (THWAP! THWAP!) …

Well, it cannot be avoided. The time has come for me to … think about thinking about Pesach.

[Pause]

Done.

Soon to come: Even more March Madness: Pesach edition

 

 

In these trying times …

…it is a relief that the natural world doesn’t care for politics.

…it is a relief that rain and sun just do what they do.

…it is heartening that flowers can be cheerful and coexist.

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Happy February, everybody. Take a walk outside.