Monday, November 29, 2010

Lots of pictures

Over the long weekend, I managed to knit/complete quite a few projects and want to proudly display them. I just want to add as a disclaimer that taking good pictures of inatimate objects is harder than you think.
First off, Baby M's hat. I finished it a few weeks ago but finally got him to pose for a picture today.
Isn't he cute?

The hat

And my cutie again. Love how he crinkles his nose!
Next up is a hat I knit for my newest niece, born Sunday morning 5: 32 am in Jerusalem.

Purple bec. it's a girl!
I also knit myself yet another hat, but I am not sure if I will wear it because A informed me this morning that "you don't look like Ima when you are wearing a hat."

The old hat- A. doesn't like it

The new hat- maybe this one will be better?

And last but not least, here is the sweater for Melissa's baby. Melissa, I only recently read on your blog that you have bigger babies, so I hope this fits him or her. Tada!

 I think I may have overdosed on knitting for a while.  Might be time for a break, what do you think?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Children at Play

Today was one of these cold shabbos days where we spent a lot of time indoors. And I was surprised at how well the kids were playing together. Of course I needed to be there to mediate squabbles about whose turn it was and to discourage silly games such as jumping off the radiator, but for the most part the kids were playing with each other. Even M got in on the act. They played with toy cars and little people and blocks and many other toys they pulled down from the shelf. Hey, I never said they were orderly and neat, just that they can entertain themselves.
Of course, they still wanted my participation and at some point Y insisted I get off the couch and come sit on the floor with them, which is fine. I do try to be more engaged with them sometimes, rather than just supervising from afar. But it was just nice to see how big my kids are getting and that they don't need me there all the time facilitating and encouraging play. It is especially cute to see M trying to keep up with the "big kids". I think being a younger child can be very beneficial in many ways as I see him learning to do more advanced things and  attempting to do things like his siblings.
I cannot believe that my children are really turning into little people. It's so sweet to watch them interact with each other in this way. Real caring with a few well-placed jabs and blows interspersed for some variety :)
Shavua Tov!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I have to be honest. I have become American in many ways but one thing I just don't get is Thanksgiving. Growing up in Vienna, we never celebrated Thanksgiving, even though my mother is American. When I was living in NJ with my grandmother when I was in high school, we never did Thanksgiving either. Ditto for when I lived in Israel.
Then we moved to New York and everyone is busy making Thanksgiving dinners and plans. I never knew religious orthodox Jews actually celebrate this secular holiday. And all the hysteria in the media about the traveling, the cooking, the family...there is a lot of drama.
My husband sees it as not really celebrating a holiday, rather just an opportunity to get together with some family and have a nice meal. The only issue with that is that other than my in-laws we don't quite have any family living in the US. But we work with what we have, so every Thanksgiving for the last 4 years, we take the train out to my in-laws and have a quiet and cute meal with them. Our kids run around the house and watch too much football. Then we take the train home and try to get out exhausted crew to bed at a decent hour.
Whatever your opinion on Thanksgiving, I was thinking that being grateful and thankful is always a good thing to do, so here is a short, by no means exhaustive list of things I am thankful for:
1) My husband- I don't really post about him a lot. Not because there is nothing to say, rather because there is so much. He deserves a lot of credit. For being a good husband and father, for supporting our family and enabling me to stay home with our children and mostly, for putting up with me and all my craziness :)
2) My children- I admit to being a bit of a kvetch and so I whine and vent. About the crazy things my children do, their shenanigans, their boundless energy, the mess and all the care they necessitate. But the truth is, and I am sure you all know this even when I am complaining, I love them to pieces and I can't imagine my life without them.
3) Our apartment- This might seem like a shallow thing to be thankful for but having enough space for our children and all their stuff is not something to take for granted when living in NYC. On November 30, it will be a year since we moved into our new place and we are really happy here. Especially because the doorman said our kids are the cutest kids in the whole building :)
There is obviously much more to mention- health, friends, etc. but I think I will leave it at that for now. What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Learning from every Birth

Sorry for the silence these last few days. I was at a birth yesterday, and it lasted through the night till the morning. I was with them from 4 30 pm till 9 am the next morning. Then I spent a good chunk of the day catching up on sleep. Now I can't believe it's Tuesday night already. I feel like I lost a day somewhere :)
The birth was interesting. It was at a hospital I had not worked at before, and I always like to see how different hospitals do things and what their policies are. The nurses at this particular hospital were really phenomenal- friendly and very helpful.
 I can definitely say that I learn something new at every birth I attend. Every experience is so different and the circumstances vary, so there are bound to be issues I may not have encountered before. This time I saw how walking and movement can really make a big difference in terms of moving things along and getting the cervix to dilate. I also saw how my client was able to tolerate the contractions much better when she was moving or standing, as opposed to being confined to the bed. These are all things facts I knew already but to see them in action made it more real. Most importantly I saw that just because a woman's cervix is dilated to 10 cm, does not mean she is ready to push right away. It is always helpful to wait for the woman to actually feel pressure and an urge to push.
I don't want to give away too many details because it is not my birth story to tell. But I was honored to be at their birth and am so happy that I am gaining new insights into birth and being an effective doula.  Anyone searching for a doula? I am currently seeking births with due dates from January through March. Please be in touch or tell your friends!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the knitting front

So, I have finally completed the three baby blankets I have been working on, crochet edgings and all. I knit a cute hat for Meir with earflaps, which he refuses to wear. I have been trying to snap a picture of him wearing the hat, but he won't keep it on at all. So much for that. I knit myself a hat too and am now finally working on Melissa's gift- a sweater for her baby, due in February. Gender-neutral of course, because she doesn't know what she is having.
I am always on the look out for a new project, preferably something I can knit with the yarn I already have. I remember, when I was first learning how to knit, going over to a friend's house for lessons. When she brought out her knitting basket overflowing with yarn in all different colors, I was surprised at how much yarn she had accumulated. I remember asking her what she was going to do with all of it. Now, I am embaressed to say, I have so much yarn, it does not fit into a basket anymore. It is in bags, on top of my bed, next to my bed, hiding in Baby M's closet. In my defense, some of the yarn is not mine, it is for the Charity Knitting Club and I am just storing it. But still, I admit to having a yarn problem.
I think when you walk into a yarn store and you see so many different colors and textures you can just get carried away. You hold the skeins and think of all the cool things you could make. I think it's the promise of perfection, the possiblity of creating are endless. Then you start knitting, you make mistakes and all of a sudden that color that seemed perfect in the yarn store is just not doing it for you anymore. And it doesn't look like the picture or anything you had pictured in your mind. So you add it to the stash and go pick a new project.
I think, in our imagination, things are always better- our relationships, children, spouses, careers are all perfect in our minds. Then we come face to face with reality and we may be tempted to just put whatever it is aside and start over. But if we stick with it, we would see that what we have created may not be perfect, but it is valuable and real because we have put in genuine effort. So my new project is to take all the orphaned skeins of yarn in my stash and to put them to good use. Instead of always looking for new things, I will try and appreciate what I already have. Shavua tov.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This week's happenings:

1) My parents left yesterday after a week-long visit. While they were here, we had fun, ate out in lots of restaurants and I got some great new sweaters (thanks mom). My mom brought the kids muffins for breakfast every day and A was very distressed this morning when we were back to oatmeal and Corn Flakes.
2) Day 2 of my Rebbetzen's conference was just as interesting. Some topics covered were helping women who have experienced miscarriage, counseling congregants and how to strengthen one's own marriage. We learned that Rabbinic couples do not need to work on their marriages because they are perfect and never fight...just kidding!
3) A. had her parent-teacher conference on Wednesday. For some reason, her school only allots 5 minutes to every parent but her teacher managed to include lots of praise in those five minutes. The teacher said she is a sweetheart, she has adjusted well to her new school and is making friends. She loves participating when they learn the Parsha- weekly Torah portion. She is also the Shabbos Ima this week and is very excited for her big day tomorrow.
4) M said "No more monkeys jumping bed" today and I was very proud. That is a quite mouthful for a 22 month old.
5) After hounding the Office of Pupil Transportation for 10 days, Y's  is being picked up 15 minutes later. While I would have liked his pick up time to be even later than that, 15 extra minutes in the morning are significant. The only problem was that they did not notify me that they were changing the time, so Tuesday morning we went down early and ended up waiting for the bus for, you guessed it, 15 minutes. Hopefully we will be able to settle into our new schedule now.
As you can see, it has been a busy week and I am very much looking forward to the weekend and to the one morning a week I get to sleep in- Shabbos. Yay!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Rebbetzen's Convention Day 1

Today was Day 1 of a 2-day retreat for Rabbi's wives. It is held locally in NJ so I spend the day there and come home in the evening.
This is my third year attending and I always find it very refreshing and informative. Not to mention a small break from my regularly scheduled programming i.e  my day to day routine. I don't usually post much about my life as a Rebbetzen. Mostly because I don't want to get myself or my husband in trouble :)
In reality, though, the rabbinate is a big part of our family's life and just having the opportunity to shmooze with others in similar situations is really wonderful.
At these conventions, I always marvel how different we all are as Rebbetzens: we look different, we dress differently, some of us are stay-at home moms, some of us work part time, some of us work full time. But we all manage to support our husbands and do our jobs, however we have defined them. I like to remind myself of that, that there is no one model of what the "Ideal Rebbetzen" does, says or represents. We all need to find our own niche and what we are comfortable with.
One speaker mentioned an interesting thought about dealing with other people's anger at you. Apparently Rabbi Nachman once told his followers, who were distressed about his vociferous opponents: "These people are not upset at me. They are angry at who they think I am, and that person is truly awful." It is a pretty deep thought. When a person is angry with us, they often see us in a way that is not really accurate. They do not hate you. They hate the person they think you are, but you know that you are not the spiteful, selfish monster they have conjured in their mind. And that makes their misdirected emotions easier to bear. Not that Rabbis or Rebbetzens ever have to deal with angry people or anything like that. Enough said :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Birth Links

I have added some links to birth related websites- they are on the left hand side, under the Doula Info. I may have mentioned some of these in previous posts, some are new recommendations. There are obviously many good sites out there on the web, but I wanted to provide this as a good starting point for those of you at the beginning of your journey, who want to do some research. Check it out and lt me know what you think.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

School Report

Last night was Y's Parent Teacher conference. His teacher is really sweet and had wonderful things to say. He is adjusting well, gets along with other kids and his speech is really developing. They are working on ABCs and numbers and he is very interested in learning. The main challenge is really the toilet training, but we are making progress with that as well.
It was nice to hear all about his day and what he does in the many hours he is not home. The friends he has, the games he likes to play, the books he likes to read, etc. It was also nice to get such a positive report about all the wonderful things Y is doing, as opposed to listing the things he cannot do or has delays in.
The teacher shared some cute pictures with us. We loved the one of Y running in the playground, playing soccer. He loves sports, particularly soccer, and my next goal is to sign him up for a soccer class in January. Although we are still not thrilled that he is in a secular school, we do feel he is gaining valuable things there. They have been very accomodating about kashrus and any other issues that have come up.
A's meeting is next week and I am hoping to hear wonderful things again.
Wishing everyone positive and and helpful feedback from their Parent-Teacher Conferences as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Keeping our Children Safe

This past weekend, a friend told us how they had recently discovered that their nanny was mistreating their child. After a neighbor had mentioned that she had heard screaming coming from their apartment, they installed a recorder to check. What they heard was their caregiver yelling at their child to stop crying, to clean up, etc and also threatening to leave him  alone in the apartment if he did not stop crying. Needless to say, they are now looking for a new nanny.
On a related note, Chana Weisberg at JewishMom has been posting quite a lot about sexual abuse recently. Unfortunately, in her neighbourhood of Nachlaot, a man had recently been apprehended for abusing several children. This was a man everyone knew and trusted, and no one suspected of anything, again underscoring the fact that we need to be vigilant to keep our children safe. Weisberg had devoted a few posts to this subject, particularly how to prevent abuse and how to talk to your children about it. It's definitely worth a read. You can find it here and here.
All this has made me think about safety for our children. While I do have the privilege of being home with my children most of the time, there are times when I leave them with babysitters. Sometimes it is to attend births, sometimes to go to meetings and doctors appointments and sometimes just to breathe and get coffee. They are also at school many hours a day. Nobody can be with their children all the time.
I don't think it makes sense to be overly paranoid and anxious about this topic, but one definitely should be cautious when choosing their caregivers. We are lucky to have found some really wonderful college students who are great with our kids and truly love them. I can only hope that they act  in that same warm way towards my children when I am not around. Thankfully, the feedback I have gotten from friends who have seen my kids out and about with these babysitters has always been positive.
Children are vulnerable, particularly children with special needs who may not be able to communicate to us as clearly when something or someone is bothering them.  As Y. is getting older, he is getting better at telling us what is wrong. Just this morning he told me his ear hurt and, indeed, he has an ear infection and is currently passed out on the couch. Still, I do worry that he is too trusting and open to anyone and would not be able to alert us to mistreatment.
It is hard to strike the right balance between suspecting everyone to being overly trusting. Unfortunately, child abuse is a reality that we need to be aware of. There are some pretty disturbed people out there and we can only hope that by educating our children and ourselves about these issues, we will prevent anymore tragedies from happening.
Feel free to share your thoughts and/or links to other articles dealing with child safety.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things that are just mine

Recently things have gotten a bit rowdy in our home. The kids all have staked their claim on certain toys and things and don't want others to touch them.
Y. dillgently works on these elaborate set-ups of trucks and toycars and does not want anyone to move them out of their position. A. likes building castles and chuppahs and other forts out of blankets and pillows, and will get very upset when her brothers try to join her or remove any blankets. And M., he just likes to swoop in and grab whatever his siblings are playing with, because he wants to be part of the fun. This often causes the older kids to start screaming and attacking their little brother. Chaos and jostling ensues until I somehow restore the peace- until the next time.
Although I try to let everyone have their space, it is often hard to do so, especially when M. is not even two and does not really understand the concept of leaving stuff untouched. I also try to convince the older ones that sharing is a good thing and maybe they could all just play together. Most of the time, this does not work.
This past shabbos we read Parshas Toldos, a Torah portion dealing with sibling rivalry between Yaakov and Eisav, a topic my husband discussed in this sermon in shul. In the afternoon, the following scenario unfolded. A. had set up a "puppet show" on our trampoline. This meant draping several blankets over it, that were not allowed to be touched. Of course, M. wanted to jump on the trampoline and A. was adamantly against it. There were tears and attempted compromises until they both got bored and went off to play with something else.
A little while later, M. tried to crawl on A.'s bed. She freaked out and started screaming for him to get off. At this point, I confess that I lost my temper. I had been refereeing turf wars all day. I was upset and told A that she needed to learn to share and that nothing would happen if M. was sitting on her bed. She was quiet for a bit and then tearfully told me " I need to have a few things that are just mine."
This struck me as a very insightful thing for a little girl to be saying. It reminded me of the reality that it can be hard for children to have share everything- toys, books, their parent's attention. While I think the advantages of having siblings definintely outweigh the advantages of being an only child, everyone deserves something that belongs only to them every once in a while.
 It reminded me of the story of my youngest sister. As the fourth girl in the family, she got quite a lot of hand-me downs over the years. These were not shabby cast offs rather very nice clothing with the caveat of not being new. When asked what she wanted for Channukah one year when she was about eight or so, she replied that she wanted a sweater that noone had worn before. My mother always speaks about how that request broke her heart and made her more aware of my sister's needs.
A. and I brokered a compromise. She could pick three things that she does not have to share and I would do my best to keep her brothers away from them. She chose her bed, her clothing and her headbands. What a girl :)
I already try to have time alone with each of my kids every once in a while. For example, last Sunday, A. and I went on a little date to buy boots for herself. This little episode on shabbos, however, reminded me again of how important it is to view our  children as individuals with their own unique needs, as opposed to lumping them together into "the kids" and making them do everything together. Hopefully, giving each child individual attention and space on a regular basis, will make it easier for them to share the limelight and the toys with their siblings the rest of the time.
How do you ensure that each of your children gets the time, attention and private space that they need?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rain and routine

It's raining, it's pouring. On days like these I just want to crawl into bed with a good book and read. Surprisingly, I have other responsibilities today such as cooking food for shabbos, cleaning up the toys in the kid's room so I can actually see the floor, and maybe even some laundry. I know, I can hardly contain yourself with excitement.
Even thought it can sometimes be annoying to constantly be repeating the same activities- cook, wash dishes, sweep, pick up toys, repeat...there is also a certain comfort in the familiarity of the routine. And the satisfaction of the accomplished task- the clean counter or clothes, even if it does not last that long. Plus I have little M keeping me company which makes it more fun. He is always coming up with new words and phrases. Yesterday he said "museum" as in the Children's Museum that he wanted to go to. I think that museum is a pretty sophisticated word for a kid who is not even two. I am a little biased though.
Even within all that routine, I have a few exciting activities coming up to mix things up a bit. I am going to a new all women's yoga class tonight. I am attending a conference for Rebbetzens in two weeks. And most exciting of all- I have two clients, due to give birth in the next 6 weeks or so. It has been a quiet summer on the birth front with all the traveling and holidays so I am happy to be getting back into things.  And if anyone knows friends searching for a doula- feel free to send them my way!
I will leave you with a song I just recently rediscovered. It is the inimitable Avraham Fried singing "Ale Katan", a beautiful song of a wise old tree giving advice to a young budding leaf. If I find the lyrics translated in English, I will post them too. Enjoy and stay dry!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


This is not a particularly light-hearted topic but it has been on my mind a lot. Over the past two weeks, my husband and I have heard of altogether of five cancer-related deaths, all of people who were relatively young. Some I knew well, others I knew more by association.
The one that hit closest to home was that of my dear friend Jenny. She passed away last week at the age of 27, a young mother of three who suffered a brain hemorrage and cardiac arrest in response to an untreated brain tumor. Jenny was my room mate my second year at Michlala in Israel. I will remember her as someone with a constant smile on her face and a nice word for everyone. She was always happy to see you and would give you the shirt of her back if you needed it.
This post is not really about why bad things happen to good people. It is more about what we, the ones who are left behind and deeply affected by these losses, can learn from this. I have been discussing this with my husband a lot, how all the petty annoyances and grievances of life, become less important in the face of these tragedies. It helps you focus on what is really important and what is not.
I wonder, though, how long that lasts. A day, a few days, a week or two tops? And then it is back to regular life, grumbling about spilled grape juice or red markers on the couch cushions or toddlers who love to empty bookshelves.
I realized it has to be deeper than that. It made me reconsider my life goals. We always think we have endless time, but what would you do, if you realized your time was limited? Would you want to change things? I have thought about this a lot and have come to the conclusion that I would want to be doing what I am doing now, only better. I would want to be a better, more patient and loving mother and wife. I would want to continue working on myself to become a happier version of myself.
I considered my long term plans of maybe going back to school at some point when the kids are older or having a more consistent, 9-5 job. Would I want to do that now rather than putting it off to an unknown future? Surprisingly, the answer was "no". I truly believe that it is best for my kids to have me home and available to them as much as possible. That is where I am meant to be now, no matter what the future hold. At the end of 120 yrs iyh, noone will say- "she was the best graduate student".
This may strike you all as extremely morbid. And maybe it is. But I think that it is also inspiring and energizing. Coming face to face with your own mortality and making the decision to therefor live your best life right now (I think I stole that line from Oprah).
We need to find meaning in all our life experiences, rather than just getting through them and moving on unchanged. May the memory of Jenny and all the other neshamos that were lost be for a blessing.