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Archive for the ‘Previously unimagined adventures’ Category

For some reason I can’t just let this blog go.

I’m working 90 hours a month at a job doing things I like, mostly. I feel lucky to have it. I have benefits. I got a bonus for the first time in my life, and I was in disbelief for a few days. Taxman assures me that this is how good companies operate–they reward good work with something other than a paycheck. It is still bewildering to me. In a good way.

I spend every afternoon playing mommy, in which I prepare one of 3 lunches (pancakes, pasta, or some sort of melted cheese sandwich, in rotation). We do homework and run errands. I break up fights and soothe feelings. I cajole and scream and wind up with a messier house than I had at noon. Which, let’s face it, sometimes isn’t much of a stretch. Still a terrible housekeeper.

Sometimes we go out to catch the fleeting sunshine. The winter is rough on my mentality; the weather turns chillier (from 70) starting at about 3pm and the sky is dusky by 4:30. It’s hard to get everything done and out to the park before I want to turn around and pack it in. Games and books, violin practice (for AM), showers and baths, more cooking (dinner! like lunch, only with more courses!), more fights. Bed. At 8pm, work at home mom comes back…until I curl up into the pile of clean laundry on the couch. I would curl up into the pile of dishes in the sink instead, but it’s just not comfortable.

We’ve adjusted to life in Israel. I no longer feel bad about my Hebrew. It is what it is; I can understand a lot. I can’t have great conversations. It’s ok. My work is in English. I speak English to other Anglos. My kids are fully bilingual. That was the point; they’ll fly while I walk. Isn’t that what all parents want?

The kids are thoroughly their own ages and their own selves. We are trying to mold them to social acceptability, but it is impossible to repress the personalities. Not that we’d want to.

Anyway, I started the blog, all those years ago (SEVEN!) because I was feeling lost and trying figure shit out. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that some things get worked on, some things get forgotten, and some things just change, both for good and bad. I found people to be lost with, both “in person” and “virtually,” with the understanding that we are no more lost than anyone else. I had that years ago, back in junior high, and finally have it again.

Being earnest was never really my style; being wry and jaded fits my personality better, but I had to come to that conclusion on my own. So, to a large extent, the blog has outlived its usefulness. But it really is the baby book. I can’t leave it.

Hoping 2013 is happy and healthy for all of us and all of you.

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Let’s cut to the chase: in my 30s, I learned to bullshit.

Not coincidentally, I became a mother at age 29, and turned 30 when my baby was around 9 months old, and therefore becoming highly attuned to words and language.

I don’t mean the bullshitting in a bad way, at all. For example, I used to have a hard time making the minimum length for papers in college. I would write all I needed to say, have a solid argument or whatever was required, and feel extremely uncomfortable with padding it to make the minimum of 5 pages or 10 pages or whatever it was. (Usually 5, because I took a lot of English classes that required many short papers over a semester.)

(For those of you who do not know, E.B. White is one of my personal heroes. I find Strunk and White inspirational and aspirational. Hence my discomfort with adding extra words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs. Use strong verbs, and you’ll save yourself from too much everything. Et cetera.)

In my 20s, when I worked for a publishing house with a particular style, I started to adapt. But I had an editor to watch over me; I was never the final arbiter. Plus the style was so old-fashioned and distinctive that I could never have adopted it as a voice or naturally put it to use outside of the confines of that job.

Then came motherhood. And motherese, where I comforted my baby through crying jags, upset stomachs, shots, bumps, bruises, and hurt feelings.

Then came Life with Toddler. I learned to deflect or distract instead of lying, but let’s face it, sometimes flat-out lying is the way to go while parenting. There were plenty (PLENTY!) of times when I said “I just don’t know” to typical toddler questions, so we conjectured together and turned it into wacky and wonderful conversations.

I learned to expand the truth, to knead it and shape it to suit my purposes. Where it’s not lying, but rather giving a partial picture, a piece of worldview, with selected information, because the remainder is not relevant, too distracting, or just opens up too much hurt.

And now, for a living, I write. I write things that would make my hero, E.B. White, retreat into his barn in Maine and not come out. I adapt myself to styles and tone, put out the required number of words (this is sometimes easier, sometimes harder), and worry over grammar. (Not everyone does, you know.)

But I feel freer, being able to shape words to market something, to teach something, to incite a “call to action,” or to invite responses. Not everything has to be so staid or measured or exacting. My children, so different from each other, prove that there are multiple interpretations of everything and that everyone needs to find their own truth. Blurry lines help me to be there for both of them, to support while deflecting and distracting.

It took me a while to get here, to the last fourth of my thirties, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.

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So I should be at the grocery store now, but I’m not. I’m waiting for Taxman to come home from Tel Aviv, where he went to work but got sidetracked at the health clinic.

Just so you know, googling “spider bite symptoms” and then having to call your spouse and say “You must seek medical treatment right away” is not even close to one of the most fun things you can do on a Tuesday.

(He’s fine. Two shots in the tush; he’ll nap for the rest of the day and be on the road to recovery.)

But how did this happen? A spider bit him. Of course. But the real cause goes deeper.

When Taxman and I were first married, he trained me out of killing spiders. Generally bugs and creepy crawlies are not my most favorite things. There is a scale, though.

  • Ladybugs, butterflies, and lightning bugs: non-threatening and actually cool
  • Grasshoppers, crickets, praying mantises, and beetles: ditto
  • Spiders, ants, and mosquitos: really belong outside the house
  • Bees, wasps, and yellow jackets: I have never been stung, therefore might be allergic, and therefore am petrified
  • Cockroaches: Beyond gross. Hyperventilation, screaming, standing on chairs.

So anyway, Taxman told me to stop killing spiders and remove them to their natural environment. Which, ok, but it was the reason he gave me that was…unusual.

“A spider saved David HaMelech (King David),” he explained. (This is based on an Aramaic translation of one of the Psalms…that when David was fleeing Saul, he hid in a cave and a spider wove a web over the entrance, implying that the cave was unoccupied.)

This was clearly one of those places where his religious upbring and my not-religious one were coming from opposite ends of the universe. But, hey, it’s just spiders.

So for the past 12-and-a-half years, I haven’t (purposely) killed any spiders.

But lately I’ve outsourced the spider rescue, either to Taxman or to my children, who will immediately stop their whining or fighting and unite as a gentle, conscientious spider-removal team, aided by a plastic cup and a piece of paper.

The latest spider sighting, though, happened late at night on Sunday. (Kids asleep.) In the bathroom. After a long day, I didn’t feel like dealing with it, so I made Taxman do it. Rather than avail himself of normal spider-removal implements, he used…his hands. And got bitten.

And this morning felt like his face was puffy and his hand was still bothering him.

And sought medical attention. Whew.

I wonder if the spiders should steer clear of our place for a while. He might be out for vengeance.

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For a while now, AM has been into games. He wavers between playing fairly and some rat-like cheating, depending on his opponent and his mood. Mancala, pickup sticks, Monopoly, rummy, Rummikub, war, checkers–the usual suspects.

But of late he’s fallen in with a group of older boys at our synagogue. (“Older” = older than Miss M…so 3rd grade?) They gather on a strip of grass outside the building, trying to flip cheap cards made from flimsy cardboard and doing some complicated hand gesture-y thing that reminds me of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

I find the whole thing odd. The game, his obsession with it, and especially the other boys’ willingness to include him, a kindergartener. He holds his own in the game–whatever that means–so he’s not being used as a patsy. Do they need a fourth player? Do they appreciate that he won’t cry if he loses (I mean, usually)? I am kind of afraid to ask–not that I could possibly come up with something to say to them, even if my Hebrew or their English were better.

At least he’s not running into the street, I tell myself. Not that I haven’t trusted him not to do that for a long time. But it makes me a little crazy that this is his motivation to go to synagogue now–to the exclusion of all regular synagogue activities, like, you know, praying. Of course, saying this out loud makes me sound like an uptight ass: he’s 6; he can barely read; there’s time to learn how to sit and to read the prayers and to get familiar with the tunes.

But I’d at least like the level of interest he had a month ago! (The children’s service on Saturday; the melodic parts of Friday night’s service.)

By now, though, I’m pretty comfortable with my role as the parent who is “strict” and demands a certain amount of age-appropriate participation in…whatever. Synagogue services, housekeeping, table manners, etc. It’s a long list. This is how you learn!

So now I have to figure out some sort of bribe-reward system for how much tefila is required before he is allowed to play craps in the alley. As it were.

As for the 3rd grade boys who dress for Shabbat but never actually cross the threshold of the synagogue? It’s totally not my business, other than to try to inspire my kindergartener to make room in his busy schedule for games and for prayers.

You mess with the bull, you get the horns–you know what I’m sayin’?

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Or: the pitfalls of a religious education

So my children have been known to worry over things that would never occur to me. I think this is because they don’t have worry about the practical things like money in the bank, food in the fridge, gas in the car, walking the dog, etc. Plus their heads are not full of 80’s lyrics (although AM has almost committed to memory his interpretations of Adele’s album 21). So they have, literally, the headspace for this stuff.

AM has been asking a lot of science-y type questions that I can’t answer…inevitably while in the car so I cannot Google and look like Supermom With All the Answers To Life’s Big Questions. Darn.

But. Sometimes? I JUST CAN’T EVEN.

Like this morning, in the car. (While I was experiencing a desperate problem OF MY OWN, thank you very much.)

Miss M: “Ema, some people think the Beit HaMikdash will be rebuilt this year!” (translation: Messiah comes; 3rd Temple gets up and running.)

Me: “Mmmm?”

Miss M: “But then won’t we have to move out of Modiin?”

Me: “What?”

Miss M: “We’ll have to live in Yerushayalim.”

Me: “Oh.”

Miss M: “Because how will AM and Abba get to work in the Beit HaMikdash?”

Me (feeling clever): “Um…they can take the bus? I think the 110 goes right to the Tachana Merkazit [Central Bus Station].”

Miss M: “But what about school?”

Me: “What about it?”

Miss M: “AM will already have started school!”

So then the kids proceed to hatch a plan whereby AM will go to school in the morning and instead of going to tzaharon (an afterschool program), he’ll serve in the Beit HaMikdash.

So IT’S ALL SETTLED, moms of baby kohanim–your sons will learn the 3 Rs in the morning and be holy in the afternoon.

Just wondering if we can put in for reimbursement of commuting costs. Although it’s still probably way less than buying a 5 room apartment in Jerusalem; that town is pricey!

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After a long spate of rain, which directly coincided with the weeks when we were in charge of two dogs (one of whom had to be put out every 45-90 minutes), and then Purim! Excitement!, I was so happy to have a normal sunny afternoon. Nowhere else to be, nothing else that had to be done. I took the kids and went to the hill in town that has the city water tower on one side, some castle ruins on the other, and a nice loop through grass and flowers that takes us about half an hour to traipse through.

It’s so nice to make regular visits here, because we see the flowers in turn: anemones and cyclamens; almond blossoms; asphodels; Palestine Irises. When we visited last week, there were enormous swaths of light purple; they were the delicate blooms of the Barbary Nut, a small, low-growing member of the iris family.

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Except, and this is the important part, I did not have my camera with me. I had the dog and the kids and no camera, so we just wandered around exclaiming over them and how pretty they were. And I resolved to come back without all of them and with my camera.

So the next morning, I sat at my computer and did my work, like a good little freelancer. At around noon, when it was sunny and pleasant, I took off across town, sneaker-shod and camera in hand.

And I found…no purple. And I really wondered what parallel universe I was inhabiting. Because it’s not like I had let three or four weeks go by. It was the next day. Finally I reached a point on the hill where I was one hundred percent sure that I had seen the irises. I got close to the ground and found:

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Oh. Not crazy. Just not thinking. Because the delicate flowers defend themselves against the noon sun by shutting themselves up. Oh. They are smart cookies. Unlike me.

But now I know. So I trooped back a third time and caught them. Because summer is just around the corner; I want to capture the spring while it’s still here.

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I’ve been One Tired Ema for six years today. In truth, I’ve been a tired ema for seven and a half years, but my slightly cooler and snarkier on-line presence is but six.

I feel torn about what I’m doing here, now. So much of what was on my mind at the beginning, deep in the woods of toddlerhood and pregnancy and nursing and babywearing, feels very far away from the children I have now–and therefore the mothering I am doing. At the same time, people (if WordPress metrics are to be believed) find me by searching on terms like “tired breastfeeding” and similar phrases. So…am I helping anyone?

The truth is that a lot of the past three or four years (except for the fun of uprooting our entire lives from one country and moving it across the Atlantic) has fallen out of bloggable range. In the past year and a half I’ve been working more, which means I have less time to blog but also less to blog about, because I’m not going to talk about work itself…and Life At Computer: Home vs. Coffeehouses isn’t exactly scintillating. Also I’ve never been a blogger who throws open her entire life, so as there have been fewer surprises with the kids–their drama these days is very much lather, rinse, repeat–I have less to say.

But at the same time, I really love what I’ve built here, this bizarre baby book + peanut gallery (I mean that in the nicest way). I’ve met so many bloggers and commenters (and Twitter people) in real life, and this blog has been a conduit for me to find so many of my people. The ones who are wry and raw and funny and smart and don’t try to whitewash things or paint rainbows everywhere. Except when it’s necessary–because sometimes it is. Rainbows are pretty awesome.

I got the best compliment the other day. It wasn’t exactly a compliment, but I took it as such. A family that we met who made aliyah this summer, with their two little kids, invited us for Shabbat lunch. We had hosted them during Sukkot, and they are just really nice people. They go to our synagogue, and they took over the lease of our rental place, so we’ve seen them quite a bit over the past four months. During lunch, the mom said to me, “I remember when you said to me, ‘It will get better. It won’t always be like this.'” Which, yes, all true. When your kids are 1.5 and 3.5, you are in the weeds. When you are four months into remaking your life from scratch, ditto.

I don’t think I’m an oracle, by any means, but I’m all for the truth. This other mother found my comments refreshing because she knew so many other moms whose cheerful Facebook feeds, twice-annual family portraits, marathon running, and perfectly kept houses belied the fact that they were holding themselves together with Xanax and wrapping paper. I guess that’s a nice difference–now that the kids are so much older (“older”), I don’t know anyone who tries to be perfect. Something’s got to give when you have a third kid (or fourth), or your spouse works insane hours or travels all the time, or you can’t squeeze into your favorite skirt anymore.

My whole goal in starting this blog was to shed my shiny happy mommy facade and, to borrow a phrase, watch what happened. Or happens. I think I achieved that.

I don’t quite know what I’m saying here, other than I’m not giving up if you’re not. I’m just evolving. Slowly. Though I still haven’t a clue what I want to be when I grow up.

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