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Archive for the ‘Unsolicited advice’ Category

I am a little worked up over the Bad Art Friend piece. Two writers who have made questionable life decisions were mean to each other in an escalating fashion, and we all got to watch – unless you blessedly chose not to read this piece, go with God.

More successful (i.e., recognized and paid) writers than EITHER of these women had a lot of hot, allegedly funny takes on Twitter, “demanding” that their small donations to charity or small kindnesses to someone else be acknowledged. Hilarious. (Not hilarious.)

But leaving all of the drama, and there is much of it, aside, nobody should forget: a very minor character in this story got a kidney from a living donor.

I think that people don’t really have a great understanding of what this means. I don’t, fully, since I was only on the donor side. But in general – if the transplant is successful – this means that someone who is ill enough to be on dialysis will not need it again for a period of years.

Dialysis is amazing; it is literally lifesaving. It removes the blood and cleans it as the kidneys would and returns it to the body. But once someone’s kidney function is low enough to need dialysis, it’s not a casual thing. It is multiple times a week in a hospital for multiple hours each time. It causes great stress on the body. It is exhausting. Some people have “lived” on dialysis for many years, but it is risky and nobody’s first choice. A big “step forward” for dialysis was when patients were able to be dialyzed in their own home – but this literally ties them to a bed for 8-10 hours in a 24 hour period. There can be no deviation.

So while it saves lives in a very real way, dialysis is meant to be temporary. The ultimate solution is a donor kidney.

Deceased donor kidneys generally do not last as long as living donor kidneys.

Deceased donors are rarer than you might think, about 10,000 Americans in 2017.

In 2018 there were 6,442 living kidney donors in the US.

But there are more than 100,000 Americans waiting for a kidney, at last count. Probably more now, as COVID has affected kidneys as well as other solid organs (heart, lungs).

So the math here, frankly, sucks.

Kidneys are in short supply. The need is great. Perhaps you can understand how the entire concept of living donation being derided or minimized because of one donor’s personality flaws is…horrifying? Enraging? to me and a lot of other people. Seriously, forget these cries for therapy and zero in on this tiny success story.

There are thousands of stories of kidney donors, all of whom have their own sets of good and bad points, like every person. I am sure I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone agreed with my decision to donate. I still changed someone’s life for the better. I didn’t demand adulation for it – I don’t really need to, because I have some lovely friends who to this day (today, in fact, at Pilates) introduce me to people by saying “This is OneTiredEma, she donated a kidney to a stranger!” – but I am ABSOLUTELY going to talk about it and ask you, internet friends and strangers, to think about it a couple of times a year.

I want it to feel like a slightly more complex blood donation. Takes more time and testing to get ready, and you only get to do it once, but it feels “normal” and “achievable,” for very many more people.

Even if you’re over 40. Or 50. Or 60. Even if you’re not in the best shape. Even if you drink a glass of wine with dinner. Even if you eat red meat. Even if you’re addicted to caffeine. Even if you curse. Even if you don’t return your library books on time. Even if you don’t like dogs. (This is a little questionable, but I’ll let it go.) Even if you read People magazine. Et cetera. It’s not an audition for an elite institution or MENSA or a third date or your dream job.

Just think on it.

Indeed, you probably are

(If you are inclined to read my story of donation, typing “kidney” in the search box will bring up links to the posts. The initial five are numbered and linked; a few random follow ups appeared later.)

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A dispatch from real people who are kind of fine but also about to lose it

Perhaps you’re one of those people who has managed to use 2020 to make your life better: organize and clean your house from the ground up; turn your yard into a garden that your kids eat from, and keep chickens and goats who hardly poop at all; skip your children’s academic progress several grades under your loving one-on-one attention; make every meal from scratch; abandon your meds (no need for them!); and get a solid eight hours of sleep every night, because anxiety is so 2019.

This post is not for those people.

(We don’t think we know any of those people, in any case.)

For a glimpse into the witty repartee we exchange with each other on Messenger, we have decided to interview one another for pandemic survival stories, tips, and tricks.  

Questions for Gila

  1. How has it been working at home with so much, um, on-site assistance?

First, thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts. I’ve had many of them but not time to articulate them. In fact, lately it seems like my thoughts have been dog paddling in the deep ocean during a storm, doing all they can to stay above water but often coming close to drowning. See? This analogy didn’t even make sense. That’s how bad it is, thoughts-wise, around here. For example, here’s a story about thoughts: Back in the summer, before we got quarantined AGAIN, Donny and I were taking Thursday Night Old People Walks. That’s because it was the only time to have a Conversation That’s Not a Family Conversation. As we headed to our walk, after not having spoken in a week, other than “did you want to add anything to the online grocery order,” and “never mind, I’ll just text you,” I opened our evening together time with: “So the electric toothbrush I bought for Yaakov today was on sale!” That was all my brain could muster.

Are the brain cells, and the romance, dead? Yes, yes they are.

(The other reason for the lack of coherent Thoughts is that most of my brain space is taken up with theme songs from children’s shows.) 

Anyway, I’m also so grateful you asked HOW things are going! So many people ask me FOR things, but never ABOUT ME. THANK YOU FOR CARING. And now to finally answer your question: I am dealing with working from home with 17 children underfoot with my usual aplomb. That is to say, terribly. My “usual aplomb” is more like “non-plomb.” Where can I get some plomb???? But for real, the trick to working at home is to work when the younger children are keeping themselves busy and entertained. This happens when: 

1. They are asleep. 

So your choices are midnight or 5 am. I myself am more of a 5 am person. (Kate: ME TOO!)  Which means that by 5 pm my nerves are in tatters and I’m like a giant bowl of Rice Krispies, i.e., EXTRA SNAPPY. I love knowing that my children will look back on these months (years? Please god say it’s not years) and remember how the warmth and love and patience of their mother helped them through this challenging time. They’ll probably recall this period in their life while sitting on couches during therapy.

Here’s an example of how aplomby I am doing. (To my work friends who may be reading this: HI I AM TOTALLY ON TOP OF THINGS PLZ SKIP TO NEXT SECTION.) So I opened a document and started editing it. So far so good. About 20 minutes into editing, I somehow thought to check the folder and realized I WAS EDITING THE WRONG DOCUMENT. But not quite the wrong document – a document I had ALREADY edited a few days ago. And I had no recollection. AT ALL. None of the words seemed familiar or rang any sort of bells. (Where are my bells? My bells are gone.) The good news (?) is that when I opened the original version of the document, the one I had previously edited, I noticed that both times, I made similar edits. Points for consistency? 

  1. But surely you’re practicing your housekeeping skills? 

To that end, I’ve become intimately aware of what terrible slobs we are. I have to rage clean so often. And we are also soooo lazy. I can’t even express the depths of our laziness, but maybe this picture can help:

See how we have two “kitchen item holders” in this drawer? And how the front one is super full and the back one is kinda empty? That’s because we’re TOO FREAKING LAZY TO OPEN THE DRAWER THE WHOLE WAY AND PUT THINGS IN THE BACK. We (and here, admittedly, I am speaking of just Donny and myself, because our children were sadly born without the puttingaway gene), open the drawer JUST ENOUGH to get in what we need to get in and then close it. 

Emergency layer cleaning has become the name of the game. You know the emergency layer, we’ve spoken of it before. This the top layer of dirt and mess that nearly makes your house unlivable. So even though my standards are lower than – and covered in – dirt, sometimes even *I* become grossed out by our living conditions. So I clean the top layer of mess while I pee-scream at the kids to help so I can feel semi-human again. You know who I channel during this time? OK hold on to your charm bracelet and hop into your Delorean. Remember Adventures in Babysitting? At the end, Elisabeth Shue’s character has just gotten all the kids back home safely after all the Adventures. And the parents are pulling up but the kitchen is a mess. So there’s a montage of her quickly cleaning the kitchen so it looks livable. (There is no clip of this; I looked. Seems this is NOT the most memorable scene of the movie for most people). Anyway, that’s who I channel in these moments. 1985 Elisabeth Shue. I mean this is also the same time she was in Karate Kid so not too shabby, right?. (Although now that I think about it … she was a babysitter … who also cleaned up? I should tell my children about this. The most I’ve ever attempted when we leave them in charge is to ask them “please make sure the house isn’t in worse condition than when we left.” PS It usually is.)

  1. So … you were in quarantine over the summer … and now again. Tell us about that. 

My emotional state varies at different points throughout the day. For example, sometimes I feel kind of “arggghhhhh” and other times I feel more like “ARGGGHHHH.” Also lots of times I have strong feelings of “[whimper].” 

I’ll tell you the real problem with dealing with yet another bidud and now yet another lockdown. At the beginning of the pandemic, a few decades ago in March,  “wake up and watch tv and color all day” was a NOVELTY. That novelty lasted a while, which helped the days pass. But by the summer, “watch TV and color all day” was no longer NOVEL. It’s EXPECTED. So they needed OTHER THINGS to keep them occupied and entertained. I even allowed Play-Doh in my house during our summer quarantine. That’s how bad things were. (Play-Doh, annoying as its tiny little crumbs of doughy mess is, fits the criteria of “art project they can do on their own.” Do you know how many art projects for 6 year olds require PARENTAL ASSISTANCE??? What do they think I am, “parent that does art with their child?” Have they met me, even once, for less than 5 seconds? Then they’d know. Anyway, it’s difficult to find things to entertain them all day. Who knew I’d be looking back at the early days of the pandemic WISTFULLY???? (Oh god does that means soon THESE days will seem wistful? Possibly, because every time I think we’ve reached rock bottom it turns out there’s more bottom under the rock.)

I even – god help me – taught them “Go Fish,” or “reviot” in Hebrew. Why do I do these things? I have never not rued the day I taught them something new. “LET’S PLAY REVIOT!!!” became the mantra beating inside my skull. 

During summer bidud, we even rented a bouncy house for a few days. And at first they complained it WASN’T BOUNCY ENOUGH. Oh the horrors! (“On the next episode of HaMefunakim: The bouncy house does not provide sufficient bounce!”) But once they accepted the bouncy level, they did enjoy it and it provided some much-needed entertainment. Unfortunately, since it was on our balcony and a million degrees outside, they could only bounce after 4 pm. 

After summer bidud ended, naive little me said, “Well, next time we’re quarantined it’ll be cooler, so we can get it again and they’ll be able to bounce for longer.” OH SWEET SWEET SUMMER GILA, YOU INNOCENT HOPEFUL THING. Our second round of bidud happened mere seconds into September, during “my body’s cool receptors have sweated into nonexistence” season. 

September bidud was similar – MINUS the bouncy house and play-doh but PLUS teaching first grade math (see what I did there?) and reading. For those of us who are short on patience and long on exasperation, it’s been a trying experience. “Mmm hmmm. That’s right. But you have to start at the top.” “No no look again at the first letter. Remember what sound it makes?” “Can you just finish this page? Please? Here is gigantic chocolate bar if you do.” “Why are you crying? Mommy, stop crying.” 

And here’s the kicker – our quarantine end just as the countrywide lockdown begins. Don’t worry – we’re planning on carrying “Bibi Go Home!” placards with us wherever we go, so in case we get stopped for being more than 500 meters from home, we’ll whip out the placards and say we’re going to a protest. (“In your bathing suits?”)

  1. Have you learned anything “essential” from your pandemic experience?

Here’s what I learned: If you had trouble dealing with life’s curveballs before this (hi there, it’s me) … well, I have bad news for you. However, I also learned that my children are much stronger and more resilient than I am. I think I cried more about their corona-related disappointments than they did. So … hope for the future?

  1. Have you found anything new to cook? Please share. 

I am so tired of eating my food. We started a google doc before pesach. It is titled “COVID meal schedule until Pesach.” Because during those early crazy weeks, we really needed to restrict our errands and outings. So Donny and I became super organized, foodwise, planning dinners and Shabbat meals for the week. But then we kinda got into the whole google doc. So we renamed it: “COVID meal schedule until Pesach and after Pesach until the vaccine.” It’s become part of our little weekly routine to sit down together and groan at the google doc and fill in the little boxes for the week. 

We did become experts in one new food item: homemade falafel. We tag team it, where I make the falafel batter and Donny expertly deep fries it. Most of the family even eats it, except for the child who has chopped salad in a pita. (“Falafel in a pita please. Hold the falafel.”) I can’t invite you over to try some, but I can toss you some falafel balls from my window. 

But: I am grateful that I 

A. have food to eat. 

B. have a food planning partner. 

Do we end up rotating the same 4 things? Of course. But we rotate them TOGETHER. 

THE ROMANCE IS STILL ALIVE! 

  1. What’s your biggest frustration with “all this”? (waves around)

NOT KNOWING WHEN THIS WILL END. OMG. And so much frustration toward the people in charge that have brought us to this terrible point. 

I have learned that I am a control freak and this Not Knowing is killing me, but not softly. Loudly, like the Fireman Sam song. And unlike during Pandemic Part I, where I mostly just rotated between stress, anxiety depression, in Pandemic: The Sequel, I have now added “rage” to the Feelings Roster. 

I miss my regular stressed-out life! You’re familiar with the famous story of a man who complains about his nagging wife and annoying children and the rabbi tells him to bring in a cow, then a chicken, then a rabbit, etc etc until his house is full of animals and then the rabbi says “ok you can let the animals leave” and then he’s left with just his nagging wife and annoying children and he’s like “I LOVE MY LIFE WHAT A GREAT LIFE I HAVE.” So I want to go back to just having a nagging wife and annoying children. Get this cow and giraffe out of my house already! 

  1. What are your coping skillz to share with the group?

What you want to do is combine not enough sleep + doom scrolling + taking out your frustrations on your loved ones via snapping and shouting + extra-long showers (good for some alone time AND crying). I worry about water usage during the pandemic, between everyone’s Pandemic Pools and extra-long cry-showers.

Wait, what? These are not “coping skills” you say? You’re right, I forgot coffee. Also, I recommend trying not to lose things during these trying times. And when I say “things” I mean “calories.” Exercised in the morning? Treat yourself to a rugelach (or 3!) in the afternoon! 

Many of you may be familiar with our family song, sung to the tune of hey dum diddly dum. It goes like this:

Sometimes the answer is no/sometimes the answer is no/sometimes the answer is, sometimes the answer is, sometimes the answer is no

But one of the children, in their infinite wisdom, created an alternate version: “Sometimes the answer is … rugelach!” And so it is. Sometimes the answer IS rugelach.

Sometimes the answer is…

Well, I’ve come to the end without an ending. So I will end the Jewish way, with a blessing. Nothing so lofty as “have a sweet new year.” Goodness my expectations aren’t that high! 

How about: May you always know what day it is without having to think too hard. May the rugelach be plentiful and the emergency layer manageable. May your bouncy houses be full of bounce. And may you find a few moments each day to think your thoughts in peace.

Questions for Kate

  1. What has it been like going to work during these Trying Times? On the hand, you get to leave the house and see people! On the other – you have to leave the house and see people!!!!

So my workplace was actually unexpectedly flexible about letting us work from home when nonessential services had to reduce their staff to 10% back in the middle of March. I wasn’t able to do everything that my job requires, but I was able to fill enough hours that I got my full pay. That was honestly so helpful, because let me tell you THESE CHILDREN NEVER STOP EATING. Never. Only a fast day can slow them down. I am pretty sure that the “pandemic project” of every eighth grader — especially mine — was to have a gigantic growth spurt. (Now I am working to pay for the new wardrobe that is to come, if he ever leaves the house again. Questionable.)

Going back to the office to be with people was weird at first, largely because I had to reserve my pajama pants only for nighttime, but now I’ve resettled into a “work routine” that involves such fun things as “late morning coffee,” “gossiping with coworkers,” and “scrupulously avoiding that jackass, far more senior than I, that runs around the hallways without a mask, in clear violation of the posted rules.” (Every day! I hate him! Gah!)

Important mid-September update: That jackass has seen reason or been threatened (not by me, I am non-confrontational) and now wears a mask! Hooray! 

While at work, though, home is never far from my mind – and I can communicate with the people who are at home whenever I want, because everyone has a cell phone. The magic of technology! I am of course only kidding. Not about the cell phones, but that people deign to answer them. They do not. Nor do they check their WhatsApps. What is the point of being in not one, but TWO different WhatsApp groups with my children if I cannot properly distribute chores and instructions? I, however, must be constantly available to reply to things like “I was calling to ask you how to make French toast, but Abba helped me instead” [NB: Abba was in the same room from the beginning] and “What can I have for lunch?” Although frankly “What can I have for lunch?” is often reserved for when I get home, which can be as early as 2pm but sometimes not until 4pm. Apparently my children have learned helplessness instead of learning how to make themselves a scrambled egg or a cheese toast. This also leads to the famous “Well, I was waiting until after lunch to do the dishes! S/he didn’t eat yet, so I couldn’t start the dishwasher!” Oddly, this happens every single day, not once is a rare while or whatever. There is a lesson to be learned, but I don’t think it’s my lesson? Not sure entirely. What day is it? Blink twice if you know what day it is. 

  1. Tell me about how you structure a mentally and physically healthy day for yourself and your children.

Sleeping: My kids do a lot of it, and I don’t do enough of it. This makes them perky late at night and me exhausted all the time. My insomnia has reached new heights! Or new lows. I guess it depends on your perspective. (I am really so proud of this achievement! Always be improving, that’s my motto.) But, wow, for insomniac hypochondriacs of a certain age (mid-40s) this pandemic is just one of a million reasons to stay up perseverating all through the night. “Why does my back hurt? Why is my throat sore? Am I dying, do I have allergies, or am I just getting older?” “Why am I so hot at night? Why is my hair falling out? Is it my thyroid? Am I dying or just getting older?” “Are my children permanently damaged from something I did, or are they just being teenagers?” Even when I do manage to fall asleep, I wake up so tired. Good thing there is a shower and a coffee waiting at the other end of the night, or “night” as the case may be. Coffee doesn’t judge, you can drink it even if you haven’t slept. Have I mentioned I love coffee?

What’s not to love?

Exercise: One kid exercises several evenings a week. The other barely leaves the house, despite my regular entreaties. I have been trying to keep up with my pilates “practice,” as our beloved teacher would say. This means that a couple of times a week I go to pilates class and a couple of times a week I put on peppy music and do the equivalent of about 40% of a class by myself, which I tell myself is enough but probably isn’t. To make myself feel like I am really walking the pilates walk, each time I have a DIY class I force myself to do one exercise I really hate – I usually rotate between pelvic curls, the rocker, and the saw.

Food: I am so bored of everything I make. I miss eating at other people’s houses just for the experience of eating something I didn’t cook. We do not have an organized rotation, but also eat the same few things over and over during the week. For Shabbat I constantly think, didn’t we just have that? And the answer is probably yes, in the past few weeks, we did have that, because we have not eaten anywhere else all this time. The true highlight, though, is that once a week we go to a produce stand and drop an obscene amount of money on fruit and vegetables. Mostly fruit, because my kids are lukewarm on the concept of vegetables. (Less sweet fruits? Why would that be a thing?)

Showering: Yes, we do! All of us!

Teeth brushing: I have no comment at this time. (For the kids, not me; I am a tooth brushing fan.)

Hydration: Liquids are very important to my overall physical health, not only to keep hydrated but to get my exercise at work; I work on the second floor, the only story in a four-story building that does not have a bathroom I can use. Many trips upstairs or downstairs for me in the hours I am at work. I should get a step counter, maybe it would cheer me up.
Here is my approximate (weekday) hydration schedule:

6:30 glass of water
7:30 café latte (cold or hot, made at home and taken to work, as applicable)
9:00 water
10:00 herbal tea
11:30 sad instant coffee (at work)
13:00 water
15:00 seltzer
16:30 seltzer with a splash of juice
17:45 two sips of soda, sweetened iced tea, or blood from my stigmata
19:00 tears of Mitch McConnell
19:30 water
21:00 melted ice cream
22:30 water

  1. What do you think about screen time? Unlimited time? Or however many hours they want? Which is better and why?

I try to be crafty about this and limit time per device. So the kids move from phone to tablet to computer to television, and each movement restarts the clock, which doesn’t really matter because time has no meaning in 2020. They are not allowed to use their phones while sleeping or on Shabbat.

  1. What’s your relationship to cooking shows? Do you feel inspired to “try something different?” Or do you just feel grumbly because they’re eating something with a roux or confit or flaky and you’re making chicken AGAIN? 


Cooking shows are something we watch as a family. We binged a lot of Mischakey HaShef of late. We don’t draw inspiration from it because what they make is usually a direct line to traifin’ up the kitchen. But it’s good for Hebrew vocabulary, so I tell myself, as I make my children translate the very weird adjectives for me. We also watch MasterChef Israel – in all the seasons we’ve watched of that show I’ve made exactly two recipes (one very often – it’s red cabbage with tahini). 

For actual cooking I’ve recently discovered some new-to-me recipes on Smitten Kitchen. Which of course my children do not eat and opt for pita pizza or pasta and cheese for the billionth time that week. We also got a little ice cream maker back near the beginning of all this and have been using it a lot. I do a killer vegan chocolate ice cream, and everybody eats it! #winning

  1. You actually went on vacation this summer! Tell us how that was.

Was that this year?

Oh, yes, right, it was. June. It was good, not as beastly hot as vacation in August. Several things I had wanted to do were closed, so we did a lot of national parks and hiking. Sadly, it was already jellyfish season so the beach wasn’t a good option. We saw the very full Kinneret. In many places, I felt there were too many people for Coronatimes; this has been a very repetitive theme in my life since March: “There are too many people here, I do not want to be here with them; I hate people, especially those who are not wearing a mask.” The little holiday cabin we went to is great – it was our second time there. Two bathrooms, a washing machine, superb air conditioning, and a full kitchen. Maybe by the time we go again they’ll have a pool and charge even more.

  1. What are the best and worst parts of this pandemic, for you? 

The best part is actually sort of sad, and that is that my children have not resisted one iota. They are aware of how science works and have accepted that we can’t have a normal life right now. They properly cover their faces for long periods, even if others around them are not. They are very teenagery in many ways, but more adult than most of the actual adults at the grocery store and definitely more mature than the roving bands of young people that climb all over each other and gather together on a regular basis.

There are many bad parts, mostly stemming from “we have no idea how this fades away” and “people are behaving like selfish garbage humans instead of looking out for their fellow humans,” and as a result we will not have normal for a really long time. School fills me with dread; I imagine classrooms filled with coronavirus. NB: I am not wrong. (I don’t sleep anymore, ever, and send a lot of hotheaded emails that don’t get read by anyone.) Also, I know I tend towards the misanthropic, but I really miss the dozen or so people I very much want to see “IRL” instead of as whatsapp avatars.

  1. What types of “pandemic people” have you met along the way? Where do you fit in? Are you a sourdough gardener painter? Or a child ignorer coffee drinker cryer? 

Here’s my wise observation, based on my friends inside the computer. People who were already into something really drilled down. My friends who were already superb bakers did all sorts of amazing things with flour. My friends who already had a garden made things bigger and better. My friends who tended toward craftiness or home improvement or organizing really lit it up. And I am happy to say that I really leaned into what I was already quite skilled at: being snarky on Twitter, watching TV, and letting the house fall to shambles around me. Come hell or high water, I will leave dishes in the sink! So proud to have not only taught my children the trick about dishes but that they take it one step further, by not clearing their dishes away from where they ate – table, couch, whatever. I found a fork in the love seat today. #blessed

Anyway, I have tried to keep my chin up, largely by divorcing myself from my emotions and the sheer panic swirling around me. Thank goodness for Shabbat, of course, so I can get off Twitter and the Doom All Around, Have You Noticed The World Is Literally Burning? 

As the year 5781 is upon us, I have to think….are we being tested and found wanting? Wear your masks, stay away from people, then come home, wash your hands, and eat your apples and honey with only your immediate family. Please. Don’t make me turn this car around.

Wishing everyone a healthy, caffeine-fueled, dystopia-lite year ahead! 

Stay safe, friends.

images via Unsplash and Gila’s kitchen

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I am not much for dispensing marriage advice, mostly because people are so individual that the pat broad strokes that you get used to hearing often don’t apply to your specific relationship.

So instead I give you my Wisdom from Experience:

A “successful” (judge at your own peril) marriage is optimizing two people’s most unusual features in the most productive way.

It’s being able to guess at your partner’s reaction to a situation, but then adapt in a nanosecond when you realize you were totally wrong. This may happen a lot, because people are fucking whimsical. Stay alert.

Here’s one story from my marriage, circa yesterday/today.

Yesterday, I noticed we had four bananas going bad on the counter. “I am going to make muffins,” I said to myself. (NB: To myself.)  I make muffins a lot, about once a week, because the kids each take one to school every day. Not always banana (sad reason for that is coming up).

banana-1112872_1280

Grab three friends and we’ve got a batch of muffins

I also went grocery shopping yesterday. We are coming into the time of year in Israel when bananas are breaking hearts all over the place. They are either hard and green or completely missing from store shelves. It is a tense few months.

So I bought green bananas. (It’s ok; we’re all healthy.)

Taxman often takes a banana for breakfast. He’s a good egg, so he eats them from almost anywhere on the banana chart, unlike me and the kids.

banana chart

Did you think I was joking about the chart? Also, this chart needs at least two more on the green end of the spectrum, if I am being honest. (Nobody eats those, though.)

Thus: I had the right number of squishy bananas on the counter to make a batch of muffins.

However, if it had been just one overripe banana on the counter, I would have wanted him to eat it ASAP. (Three – or two, in a pinch – can be a batch of pancakes, but one is utterly useless.) We have tried to freeze smashed overripe banana before, and it just never ends well; we don’t speak of it any more.

When I got down to unearthing my kitchen this morning, I discovered…all four bad bananas. Muffins are made. Kids have vittles.

monkey bananas

Sure, it’s messy, but what if it keeps them quiet for like four minutes? Then it’s totally worth it.

I don’t know if he:

a) left me the four bad bananas because he knew, telepathically
b) only saw the green bananas
c) skipped breakfast entirely
d) was concentrating on taking out the garbage

Naturally, our only communication today after 8:00 am has been about the kids’ math enrichment classes.

Nevertheless, I managed to snag some green-yellow bananas on the way home from Pilates, and I might even draw some hearts on them because the above non-incident incident is some prime family synergy optimization, you know?

Take care of your love in whatever way you do.

PS: We have been know to sing the chorus to both “Yes, We Have No Bananas” and “I Like Bananas (Because They Have No Bones)” because we excel at bemusing-slash-exasperating our children, and if that isn’t a strong foundation for the next 45 years I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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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…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.

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Phase: Next

I am one of those people who loves the Facebook “On This Day” app. I find it funny and nostalgic, although the further back it goes the more I apparently vaguebooked. (In the days before restricted lists, I suppose.)

So a few days ago, Facebook served me a message from someone who wrote on my wall in 2009. (We met in third grade, but haven’t seen each other in at least 25 years.)

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So I saw this and nearly doubled over laughing. Because this sweet little girl, who now has two younger sisters, has made it all the way to being a tween. Her parents have (based on the pictures and posts) experienced some lovely times with her.

And soon, God willing, she will be consumed by, as we (read: Miss M) call it around here, The Puberty.

But back to being 3 1/2. Did I angst about this on Facebook? How did Brian know that I had tips? Because at this point AM had just turned 3. (Where tips would mean referrals to Ask Moxie.)

And I am curious as to what I would say. Or did say. (Pinky swear, I have not yet searched my message archives.)

Because now that I’ve done this twice, I would probably just advise to lay in the coping mechanisms of choice (alcohol, sweets, salty snacks, trashy magazines, Netflix, whatever) and stay sympathetic but vaguely detached. Don’t take things personally, because the three-year-old freak outs are so about them, not you. (Those kids are working out some STUFF, and if you get wrapped up in it you will never have the strength to wash those gigantic piles of dishes that show up in your sink EVERY SINGLE DAY.) Get some friends who will listen to all your funny-crazy stories and reassure you that you are not insane and that you have not broken your child.

NEWSFLASH: Your three-year-old is already broken. It is entirely possible that only you can see it, because he or she is so funny and so charming and so willfully adorable to the outside world that you think you might be raising the next Sybil.

(It gets better. Sort of. It gets different, surely.)

In sum, this is not an age I miss in my house, but I find other people’s three-year-olds hilarious.

So what advice would you give yourself, in retrospect?

3 half

Changeling #2, at 3 1/2

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Want to hear something shocking? My most popular post ever was written in 2009. That was eons ago. Nobody really cares about my thoughts on Israel, my struggles with immigrant parenting, or what’s happened since I gave up breastfeeding.

So yes, seven years ago, almost five years into my parenting – and breastfeeding – career, I produced a ranty-though-cogent screed about breastfeeding that still attracts more than 10 readers a day.

I find this stunning.

Nobody comments on or links back to this post. The mommy wars have cycled back over this debate many times in the years since, but I must have inadvertently had fantastic SEO to keep getting page views. Good for you, 2009 me – who didn’t even work in marketing!

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This squishy newborn is almost 10.

Now that I have some emotional distance from breastfeeding (although, to be fair, I don’t really, because one of my best IRL friends has a pretty new and very squishy nursling RIGHT NOW), I am not really encouraged. Women and babies are still unsupported by hospitals, employers, and governments. Formula companies are still backed by the very deep pockets of drug manufacturers and violate the law when it comes to marketing their product.

But in this decades-long debate, I’ve reached a couple of conclusions.

Conclusion One: Taking Sides

If you dis breastfeeding, you might be:

  • anti-science

Breastmilk seems to be one of the most studied substances in the world. Why can’t we just leave it alone already? Because artificial milk substitutes keep trying to imitate it, that’s why. That’s how badass this stuff is. All our 21st century science can’t capture that lightning in a jar.

  • anti-woman

Let’s allow women to do something with their bodies that’s not pleasuring a man. (This is so heteronormative I don’t even want to bring it up, but let’s look at the messaging coming out of, say, the United States government or mainstream Hollywood.)

  • have body image issues

Pregnancy and breastfeeding will change a woman’s body in ways both temporary and permanent. One thousand percent. That is difficult to handle, sometimes, for both women and their partners.

If you dis formula feeding, you might be:

  • anti-worker

Shift work without pumping breaks is a real thing. Family “unfriendly” jobs and industries are real things. Countries without paid maternity/family leave are real things (the United States, in particular, stands out here).

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Nope, not poisonous

  • anti-reality

Families have all sorts of reasons why breastfeeding is not possible – medical issues on the part of the mother or baby, economic pressures, family realities (a widowed father, a two-dad family, a baby being raised by someone other than his or her parents), or other things. Passing your holier-than-thou judgment on these situations doesn’t make you a breastfeeding advocate. Remember that wet-nursing has been a career choice for thousands of years – largely rendered unnecessary by the advent of formula.

  • paternalistic

Really, women can’t make up their minds and need to be told what to do?

Conclusion Two: Check Your Privilege

If you’re busy on the internets vociferously defending your position, this means you are in a privileged position. If you’re dealing with working and pumping breastmilk (like many) OR traded your paying job with people who wear underwear to be an unpaid manager of people who don’t (like many others), you have a certain amount of economic privilege.

I honestly do not know people who have traded one kind of baby milk for another due to being squeezed for money, but it must happen. Sometimes a paycheck or scrimping on childcare is simply more vital than how a baby gets fed.

There’s more.

If you can safely formula feed, it means you have access to clean water or electricity to boil it or money to buy it.

If you can safely breastfeed, it means your partner is on board with it and you are (probably) physically safe.

If you can work and pump, it means that your state or country or employer protects that privilege.

If you can leave your baby with formula and a paid babysitter, nanny, or day care, it means you can afford it. Maybe you’re just breaking even to advance your career, but others who can’t might stay home and breastfeed.

If you have nursing bras, nursing clothes, access to a breastpump, books, and more, it means you have means. Maybe not a lot of means, but possibly good health insurance. Maybe generous friends. All of these are not to be taken for granted.

SO….

If you want to formula feed, nobody should stop you.

If you want to breastfeed, even for years, even at night, even in your bed, even in public, even without a nursing cover, even in a place of worship, nobody should stop you.

And we need to take our righteous indignation for what’s “wrong” and use that adrenaline-driven excitement to support parents and families. If the idea of going up against the drug lobby gets your motor running, do that. If you want to call or tweet your congressional reps to demand family leave, do that. (Canadians and Scandinavians can take a moment to bask in their glorious rights.) If you want to help a mom who is working shifts, struggling to pump, or cluster feeding every evening from five until eleven, bring her family some dinner and offer to fold some laundry (I guarantee she has some). If you hear of a financially struggling family that has requested formula, go buy it.

Perhaps I have mellowed in my old age – though admittedly there are still plenty of things that get me riled up. But babies who are being loved and cared for are not something to sneeze at, regardless of how they’re receiving their nutrition.

See other adorable mammals here and here.

(Thanks to Gila for the advice.)

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Happy Birthday to me!

The fetes and presents have already begun, because I have learned that I have to be aggressively in control of my own celebration if I want one. Cell phone cameras make this process easier. CLICK. SEND.

“Please have the kids buy me this book; it is available at any bookstore.”

(Although, in Taxman’s defense, he did come up with some surprises. And there was cake.)

So in celebration of my 40th birthday (which doesn’t feel nearly as old as When Harry Met Sally made it out to be), I am going to share all my wisdom with you.

Except not all of it — I can’t remember half of what I need to. Because ’80s song lyrics.

  • If you have chance to use a bathroom, use it.
  • Jealousy is usually a wasted emotion. If being envious lights a competitive spark in you that drives you to be or do better or achieve more, great. But if it’s going nowhere, just sitting in the pit of your stomach? Leave it. Seriously.
  • Life is too short to finish a book that you don’t like. (Obviously this applies to books that are voluntary, not compulsory.)
  • Life is NOT too short to read a book that you love again (and again and again).

Those books you love? Don't let them go.

Those books you love? Don’t let them go.

  • Having inside jokes is awesome.
  • Being with someone who holds you when you cry and otherwise makes you laugh is fantastic.
  • Soliciting your child’s giggle is one of the “Top 5” feelings in the universe.
  • Most of the people who are literally saving the world will not have the time or headspace to have their own kids. This makes me really upset.
  • So much hate in the world because people feel compelled to think we are different from one another – and the realization that the divisions are not going away. Yuck.
  • Exercise. Yeah. Even lazy people like me need it.
  • But with enough time and regularity, you’ll be able to meet some, um, physical challenges.

That's me in the green. Running a 10K. The path to this event started in 2001.

That’s me in the green. Running a 10K. The path to this event started in 2002.

  • You will become intimately familiar with your strengths and weaknesses.
  • This means that you will become much, much better at not giving a shit about things that you can’t control or fix.
  • This also means that you will be able to say no and yes much more effectively.
  • (A hugely awesome summary of above three points that I wish I had written is here.)
  • You will learn to appreciate people for their expertise that is wildly different from yours. If you are me, you’ll happily throw money at them to keep being experts as you appreciate it. This can mean anything from contracting a service to clean your house, to hiring someone to teach your kid sewing, to paying someone to do your makeup for a special occasion.
  • Work that is meaningful and world-changing is super, but it’s impossible to achieve for everyone or at every stage of life. Sometimes it’s as simple as work =  money, and money = a roof over your head or food in your fridge or books all over the place. Hopefully all three.
  • I am not exactly saying that money can buy happiness, but it can buy cookie ingredients, which is sometimes all you need. (Oven baking optional.)
  • You will never get over your worst bullying (as the victim). It will pop up at random times.
  • You will never stop feeling guilty about your worst bullying (as the aggressor), because now you, at your worst, are in someone’s head forever.
  • You will never be able to fully understand someone else’s marriage. Or divorce. Or child-rearing. Or life. It’s really hard not to judge, but it’s really better not to.
  • You will try to actively avoid situations that will make you uncomfortable or upset.
  • But you will handle the non-optional uncomfortable situations with more grace at 40 than at 30 and way more than at 20.
  • That single item in your closet that you never wear anymore but can’t part with? It’s not hurting anyone.
  • These kids, man.
  • The greatest part of parenting is not seeing yourself in your children – that’s actually turning out to be the part that makes me want to hide under the bed – but seeing how someone who lives in your house can be so different from you, with totally different interests, talents, and perspectives. You’ll learn a hell of a lot.
  • For example, I now know our solar system contains a dwarf planet called Makemake.
  • You shouldn’t have to do it alone. Whatever “it” is.
  • It is really important to have people who get your situation – work, marriage, parenting, life – and be able to freely contact them just to tell them something that they will understand but others won’t.
  • You’ll learn to avoid people who suck your life-force.
  • You’ll probably be able to rid yourself of one bad habit at a time, but not all of them and certainly not all of them at once.
  • We tend to be our own harshest critics. (I’m hoping, though, that the “reign of not caring so much” will mellow that.)
  • Whatever you do or see in your life that makes you smile? Do it more. Look at it again. You won’t be sorry.

This hide-and-seek chipmunk is my adorableness of the day. Plus it reminds me of a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.

This hide-and-seek chipmunk is my adorableness of the day. Plus it reminds me of a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.

  • It’s ok that you’re not like everyone else. Fantastic, really.
  • It’s ok that your kids are not like everyone else’s kids, but damn, it is awkward sometimes.
  • It is very difficult to get rid of a reputation.
  • But you usually have one before you realize what’s happening. (Luckily, I can live with “snarky” and “grammatically punctilious” and “espresso-based lifeform.”)
  • You’ll never stop learning.
  • Humility looks good on everyone.
  • If you think the last bite will make you feel ill? STOP.

And, finally:

  • Write that shit down; you’ll never remember. (Trust me. I wish I had.)

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It’s been a long time since I offered unsolicited advice, but now I have some!

My children, once upon a time. Back in their amateur days.

My children, once upon a time. Back in their amateur days.

 

(And it does not involve body parts or baby equipment, so that’s different.)

About six months ago Taxman turned 40. Because I suspect that my mom’s love language is gifts, the specter of WHAT TO GET HIM loomed large. I finally suggested that my parents get him the gift of a family photo shoot.

This is something we’ve been intending to do for a long time – the last “professional” photo shoot (and by professional I mean either Sears, Target, or JCPenney) was in 2008 and did not even include the adults in the family (it was our kids and their cousins). To see a studio snap that contains me and Taxman, you have to climb into the time machine and set it for 2005.

NB: In 2005 we had half the number of children we do now.

So my parents sent us a nice little check, and I crowd sourced on Facebook (OF COURSE) for a photographer recommendation. I settled on a woman who lives in the same city, takes pictures in a forest clearing, has a terrific website, and seemed to be able to capture that sort of relaxed vibe we were going for.

Then I planned outfits, planned haircuts, and planned makeup. People probably thought I was going a little overboard. But goodness gracious, this photo shoot was YEARS in the making. The next time I figure we will all be together with a professional behind the camera will be in 2016. For Miss M’s bat mitzvah. When perhaps we will be a bit stressed. So I wanted to PLAN in order to be RELAXED.

And so it was. It was a slightly overcast day. The forest was in bloom. I wore makeup.

The pictures are so, so beautiful. All I have to do is look at them and I am filled with such love and happiness. Even if we have an awful day, there are these photos. They are filled with light. Not actual light but LIGHT. The lightness of this one afternoon when we had nowhere to be and nothing to do but be together. They are a treasure.

So if you have the chance to have family pictures taken, my unsolicited advice is: do it.

My big kids. Gone semi-pro at it.

My big kids. Gone semi-pro at it.

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