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Archive for the ‘Jewish scribbles’ Category

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

 

 

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Hi! I’m still here!

My sanity is…debatable.

Miss M turned 12, and we had 120 people for dinner to celebrate.

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Actually, it started last summer, when I said something incredibly stupid, like, “For the bat mitzvah, Miss M should make 12 pieces of art, then we should auction them off for charity at a gala dinner. We will make it nice enough to justify the grandparents schlepping over from America.”

And nobody with some sense thought to stop me and my gigantic mouth.

(System failure!)

So that’s pretty much what happened. Miss M learned her Torah portion and commentaries in-depth, created art pieces, wrote explanations of them in Hebrew and English, picked charities, and there you have it. EASY PEASY. (Hahaha, plus dozens of sleepless nights. And speeches!)

We of course hired an event planner because I still don’t know how to say “easel” in Hebrew, never mind having a clue where or how to rent ELEVEN of them for one night. She also herded us through a catering crisis and a billion other things.

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My takeaway is that three detail-oriented people on one project makes for a beautifully micromanaged event, but if I never have to answer my phone or return a related email again I would be ok with that.

Anyway, it was a big enough thing that I had hair and makeup and wore heels. It was nice.

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Then we squired our American visitors around for a few more days for some sightseeing in Jerusalem and Tzipori. Then we had a big Shabbat do (more food! more speeches!) at our synagogue and had 13 relatives over for meals.

Then I legit had jet lag, trying to recover. Did not matter that I hadn’t been on a plane – I needed midday naps and freezer meals to get through dinner.

I’m better now.

Whew.

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So I am a bit slow on the uptake. Additionally, it’s hard to let go of preconceptions.

The communities I was raised in took Yom Kippur seriously. They were not traditional communities, in that people drove, the rabbis/cantors could be women, and the prayerbooks were often mimeographed pages from various sources (mostly English), stapled together. But a lot of people did fast on Yom Kippur, and it was celebrated on the proper day, meaning that people had to take off from work and school to make it happen.

Even when I began to pray in Orthodox communities, Yom Kippur was serious business. Hours and hours of prayer, much of it standing up. A thick prayerbook, used only for this day, that felt so heavy in my hands.

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Joy or distress? It might depend on your perspective.

Then we moved to Israel. Where things are lighter. Literally – so many people wear white. With flip-flops (leather in your shoes is a no-no). Prayers are long, to be sure, but the services we attend are punctuated with singing and joy. And I realized, the hard work of this season is really Rosh Hashana. That is the day of judgment, but we try to beat it into submission with festive meals. In the days that follow, we scramble to give charity and make apologies.

But on Yom Kippur the burden is lifted, and it really is a holiday in the deepest sense. When the kids eat on Yom Kippur, they first must sanctify the day with grape juice and challah, as we would for Shabbat. (Now it’s only one kid eating on Yom Kippur. Bat mitzvah on the horizon.) That didn’t used to make sense to me – possibly because my grandfather, when he became too ill to fast on Yom Kippur, viewed his non-fasting status as a failure. But in reality I think it meant that he had to make a different approach – and people are slow to change.

May this be a year of acceptance of change and new perspectives for all of us.

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Faux fall

Welcome to fall!

Except not really, because this is Israel.

We have faux fall. (Remember? No foliage, no weather changes, just birds.)

Nachlieli (White Wagtail). Photo by SuperJew.

Nachlieli (White Wagtail). Photo by SuperJew.

The desire to wear long sleeves and eat hot soup overtakes us, but we immediately regret it because it is still hot. Very hot, actually.

But: It’s getting dark a little earlier. There is a breeze in the evening. So we are lulled fooled.

I admit to falling prey to this myself. The Stockholm Syndrome of it all. On Friday evening, I realized I hadn’t been overly sweaty the entire day. Not once! So, sure, I had been to both the pool (in the morning) and the beach (in the afternoon) and had probably lowered my core body temperature, but still!

Next week, we’ll be eating apples & honey, popping pomegranate seeds like they’re going out of style, and toasting the new year. Maybe the kids will don long sleeves (at night) for the occasion, to feel like something is new, like leaves are being turned over physically as well as psychologically.

If not — there’s always November.

Shana tova!

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Well! Life got busy, as it always does. We were lulled into complacency this year by having an “extra” month in the Jewish calendar, but really this just pushed the inevitable craziness of Purim (baking the crumbs) and Pesach (cleaning the crumbs) forward by a few weeks.

The kids wanted to bake hamantaschen this year – I usually bake cookies instead – and I reluctantly agreed. Somehow, though, my reluctance turned into losing my mind, as I made the world’s most complicated and expensive (coconut oil! gel food coloring!) hamantaschen. Well, it was a good experience to teach me to leave Pinterest the hell alone. As was my original instinct.

But they were pretty.

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Pesach involved so much cooking. So much. I wish there were some way to avoid that. A few things made it easier than I expected – a friend’s recipe for matzah meal rolls (insert eye roll here) that I made over and over again; AM’s sudden willingness to eat hard-boiled eggs and his immense (and expensive) love of walnuts; and our switch to canola oil, like the awesome Israelis we try to be. But I also tried to relax and read some books. I left my computer and work email untouched for an entire Thursday, which really just made it harder to come back and do stuff. Plus my brother was visiting and being the fun uncle. So there you are.

AM turned 8. I am gobsmacked. He’s this bizarre little combination of very mature and helpful with squirrely, stinky-footed boy. It’s not going to get less weird, I fear.

Now we are on the slippery slope towards summer: Yom Haatzmaut, opening day at the pool, Shavuot, Miss M’s birthday, and the end of school. It is not yet too hot to be outside, but the powers that be are doing their best.

What’s new in your neck of the woods?

 

 

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Not going away

Like a lot of my friends in Israel (and elsewhere), we’ve spent the past week closely following the news.

There are rockets raining down on Israel from the Gaza strip, beyond the southwest corner (where it’s become, sadly, normal enough that there are indoor, reinforced playgrounds)–with alerts reaching all the way to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. My Truman-show like suburban city hasn’t had a single “Red Alert”–people tell me it is because it is not strategically significant.

I personally think that doesn’t matter. My city has more than 80,000 Jews living in it.

You could try to delve into the politics beyond this, why Hamas is launching rockets from densely populated areas, next to mosques and hospital, but that’s really putting too much gloss on it for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2012 or 1947, my conclusion is basically the same. While there are plenty of people who I am sure want to just live their lives in peace with their neighbors, there is enough of a core of extreme anti-Semitism driving people to, essentially, offer up their own children as sacrifices.

Except these people could not be confused for the biblical Abraham.

So once again, here we are. Except we never left this old trope. Israel exists. People hate it. It is what it is. Whether you believe in the Bible or in the UN General Assembly Resolution 181, enough of the world is at consensus. This is, after all, a democracy. Here we are.

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Zen sandbox

It felt like a very long Tishrei. Everything was long: synagogue services, the kids’ vacation from school, periods of floundering while thinking about how much work/chores/tasks I had to do and how little time I actually had to complete them.

But I got through it.

This was the first time in about a gazillion years that I spent big blocks of time in synagogue. The kids can be trusted to play in a nearby park; they stopped in, hot and sweaty, for snacks and drinks and maybe 5 minutes of looking in a prayerbook (we take what we can get). Although I still–18 years in!–feel really unfamiliar with the “high holiday” liturgy, the baalei tefilah (what’s a good translation of this? prayer leaders?) at our shul are quite good. There is a lot of singing, people are generally relaxed. So while it was serious, it wasn’t stern. If that makes sense.

I fasted well on Yom Kippur, which made up for last year’s 18 hour migraine from hell. Amazing how that one little factor can improve your whole…outlook.

From there, it was kind of sloggy. A ton of errands and things to do for Sukkot, sleepover company (which was nice, just requires a lot of planning), and children who sometimes get along and sometimes don’t. I came down with a cold–not a terrible one that required oodles of Kleenex, just one that sat in my throat, sinuses, and chest for a while and made me feel like crap when I attempted to exert myself. So no big trips for us, just a lot of going to the pool.

Luckily, the hot weather justified the many trips to the pool.

(I am ready for winter! Any time now!)

I continued with my tradition of using Isru Chag (the day after Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot) as a super-fun, out of the house day with the kids. Most people are back to work, leaving attractions that are packed during the holidays nearly empty. Yay for WAH-freelancing!

We joined forces with the big kids from Aliyah by Accident and went to the Clore Garden of Science (part of the Weizmann Institute). Lots of experiential things for the kids to touch and watch and play with.

Not sure how much they got in terms of the science, since nobody actually wanted to read or listen to the explanations, but it felt like we were contributing to their education. Good mothering, right there! Awesome!

Part two of the Day of Fun was the Palmachim Beach. I had been promising the beach for weeks, but it got subsumed by all the pre-chag/mid-chag tasks. Even our annual “Tashlich at the Beach” was reduced to, I kid you not, standing on the median across from the Tel Aviv boardwalk on Hoshana Rabba.

Once we finally got changed and down to the water (lunch first…I mean, priorities!), I felt like an idiot. I love the beach. The sound of the waves. The feel of the sand. Water temps were perfect; all that summer sun stored up!

Watching the kids be so happy by moving heaps of sand from one place to another place. Why hadn’t we come weeks before?

But I let it go. Bygones.

Live in the present. Sit in the sun. Make a castle. (Admittedly, I had forgotten a book. Also sand toys. Somehow this only bothered my kids for three seconds.)

(What I made. Actually, what I made was simpler; AM decided to, um, edit my work.)

I worried that a day in the sun and salt air wouldn’t have the same effect on my kids that it used to. They’re bigger now, so perhaps they wouldn’t collapse in a heap at the end of the day. (Which is partially the purpose of the Isru Chag Day of Fun–to correct the sleeping schedules back to school-appropriate ones.)

I shouldn’t have been concerned.

And now we’re back to regular life. I just really should go to the beach more often. It’s a tiny patch of paradise.

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