Monday, May 16, 2016

Oh Come On! The Blob is Breech

Well, this has truly been a pregnancy for the books, and we're in a state of breech, still. The Blob doesn't seem to want to turn, so we've begun with the segulot
Segulah (also written segula; plural segulot) literally means a "remedy" or "protection" in Hebrew. The term is pronounced suh-goo-luh.

In Judaism, a segulah is viewed as an action that will lead to a change in one's luck, fortune, or destiny.
In Judaism, there is a segulah for just about everything under the sun. Having children, overcoming bad luck or illness, making more money, finding a job, picking out the right religious garments ... you get the idea. 

With a breech baby, there are a bunch of different things that you can do to hopefully turn the baby, the most common and prominent being the typical ones: check your mezuzot (the parchments placed on the doorposts of the home) to make sure they're still viable and not upside down and make sure your seforim (books) aren't upside down. 

The funny thing is, we should have checked our mezuzot before we even moved into the house, because after the balagan of buying the house and having some interesting challenges securing a mortgage, we came to find out that the mezuzah on the front door of the house (the guy who owned it was Jewish) was not only no longer usable, but it was also upside down. Yikes. 

So we checked the books, or at least, we thought we'd checked the books. And everything was upright and accounted for. Then, a Chabad friend mentioned to me that they did the same only to discover later that the slipcover on a book had been right-side up while the book was upside down, so I told Mr. T we needed to check them again. 

Lo and behold, he discovered that three of the machzorim (prayer book for special Jewish holidays) from his grandmother were upside down in a bookcase that is mostly filled with non-Jewish books. BAM! 

Will the baby magically turn now before my version procedure on Friday where we go to the hospital and a trained physician attempts to turn the baby from the outside? I sure hope so. Everything I've read and heard about the procedure has me on pins and needles, terrified at the outcomes (or non-outcomes) and excruciating pain. 

But after last time, I really, really really really don't want to have to go through another c-section and the recovery process. I just don't think that I can take it. 

In the meantime, I'm hauling tuches to get work in order so that when this baby does show up (and for some weird reason I keep getting the feeling that The Blob will be early and that this is going to also be a hard birth), that my coworkers are good to go and not left in the dark. It's a huge undertaking of writing, scheduling, curating ... and my brain is totally mush right now. 

Babies do weird things to your brain, your heart, your body. I can't get over how important the role of women, and mothers specifically, is, and how little I understood went into it before undertaking this journey first with Asher and now with The Blob. I also still can't get over how little respect and consideration is paid to mothers around the world, but specifically in the United States

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I'm Terrified: How to Love and Parent Two Children

Although I really, truly prefer winter, for some reason there are a lot of tastes, scents, and sounds that hold a special place in my heart and send me swirling back to various points throughout my childhood and college years.

We live near a high school, where just about every day there is some kind of sporting event going on. For me, the sound of a baseball hitting a metal bat delivers me to the days when I lived on the baseball field because either my dad or older brother were playing. Starbucks trips this time of year remind me of when I was in college and worked as a New Student Enrollment leader and would get a grande iced mocha just about every morning, the whipped cream melting into the cold drink creating swirls and clouds. A trip to Home Depot had me hearing the sounds of outdoor wind chimes, reminding me of summer nights listening to the neighbor lady's chimes ringing out with a passing breeze. And, of course, freshly mowed grass -- one of my least favorite smells of all time -- is so prevalent that it reminds me of growing up in a home with a mom and a dad and two brothers, one of which mowed the lawn begrudgingly on the hottest days while I avoided the sun inside.

Back in those days, I hated being outside in the heat. These days, I cherish days where I can sit outside and work in the sun.


Something odd happened a few nights ago when I went to bed too late and couldn't fall asleep. Tossing and turning because of the extreme discomfort of this pregnancy, it suddenly hit me: I only have about a month left where Asher is my only child. Just weeks left where he is the absolute center of my universe and the only little human that I have to share my life and my love with. The smack of reality that soon he'll be moved slightly to the side so that I can love and nurture a second child still stings. I don't know why I hadn't considered the reality before. How does a parent love two children? How does a parent find a space for two little humans in her life?

The love of my life.
To be frank I'm terrified. Asher has been all I've had and all I've known in my life. When iBoy entered my world, he was old enough that he didn't need me in the same way that a baby, toddler, child does. He didn't rely on me for everything from food to putting on shoes to kissing a boo-boo to ushering away scary bumps in the night.

Asher is my world. When Mr. T was gone for nine months, the reality hit me that I would be happy with just my little man forever and ever. If I never had another munchkin, my heart was full and I'd be fine. And, even though I've been pregnant for months, I've still been living with that reality.

I'm scared that I've given him to prominent a place in my heart and mind, that when this new little one shows up that I either won't be able to give it the love and attention it needs or that I'll be completely unable to provide that love and attention to Asher. As I said, I'm terrified.

Is it something normal a parent faces with a second child? Does it just work, like everything else in pregnancy, child bearing, and rearing? Do you just figure it out?

How do you love and parent two children?

Friday, April 22, 2016

It's Passover Again, and I've got PTSD

Oh Passover. After last year's miscarriage three days before Passover and breaking my foot walking to the first-night seder (and not realizing it was broken for the first two days, so walking around on it), I think that I've got Passover PTSD.

Yes, for the first time in my Jewish life, I'm responsible for the Passover seder. Since we're in the U.S., that's two nights of seders, folks.

Note: The seder is the festive Passover meal that begins with a lengthy retelling of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt and the miracles therein. Jews use a haggadah (a book of sorts) to retell the Passover story. There are certain foods you're required to eat during the retelling, and by the time the meal actually arrives, many people are all full up on salt water and parsley and lettuce and wine and, of course, matzah

Theoretically we could have gone out the first night, but the reality is that because of that extra month (yes, it's a Jewish leap year), Passover is starting crazy late now and Asher is a creature of habit that I cannot and will not mess with. So the seder starts after bedtime and the Ash man will be fast asleep for mommy's sanity. For the second night, we're having a couple over, and it's what I'm calling the "make up for the first night seder with just the two of us where I fall asleep at the table with a face full of gefilte fish" seder. Yes, the first night it's just the two of us, and my husband has a glowing spirit that is full of stories and singing and ... seder is his jam. I'll let you know how the "just the two of us" seder goes, but I have a feeling it's going to be super disappointing for him. I wish I could pull a couch up to the table.

So the PTSD. There was a giant kitchen fiasco last night that left three dishes I'd made in the "dairy" category because I used real butter, and before you say, "Wait, don't you have a vegetarian house?" the reality is that yes, we're vegetarian, so normally it's not an issue, but we have a guest coming whose custom it is to have meat on seder night, so I acquiesced and ... disaster. Now, the meat seder we're having is slim pickings on food, and that just is what it is and it will be what it will be. Add to that being super preggers and having several jobs and having terribly swollen feet and a toddler running around and a husband who works at the kosher deli (busiest time of year) and who is responsible for fixing the local eruv (thanks, fluke snowstorm last week that tore it down in 17 different places and required 6 hours of fixing today) ... and I broke down last night.

I cried. I was overwhelmed and exhausted and I lost my #@$*. I know, I know. Stress isn't good for the baby. Over exertion isn't good for the baby.

So I think I've finally come to terms with the reality that Passover is just a few hours a way, and it just is what it is. My table isn't set, and as I watch friends post pictures of their beautiful Passover tables with real dishes and real silverware and real glasses I feel kind of lame. I'm 32 years old and don't have Passover stuff. But it's my first time hosting, actually needing those things. In my last marriage and in this marriage, I've always happened to be out or away or just not at home for the seders, let alone the rest of the week.

Someday I'll be a Jewish adult woman with actual stuff for Passover. Someday ...

Anyway, as I come to terms with Passover, I'm also starting to get excited about Shavuot. It's not just because I love cheesecake, but it's because it's my favorite holiday, as it's what I call the "convert's holiday" because Jews read the Book of Ruth. Man I love Shavuot. I loved it even more when I got to stay up all night and teach. Unfortunately, The Blob is showing up on the eve of Shavuot, so who knows how it's going to go down this year. Either way, here's a good read to prep you for Shavuot.

And now? Maybe I should get the toddler-in-a-diaper next to me in the bath and set the seder table, eh? I can't wait for the gefilte fish. And I'm not even kidding.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ask Chaviva Anything: Parenting, Jewish Books, and Jewish Conversion!

It's been a while since I got my Ask Chaviva Anything on, so it's about time. I can't seem to find an easy theme with the questions I have remaining, so we'll call this a grab bag edition. Ready? Let's do this. 
My husband and I are also thinking of having a baby number two. With the first one I stayed at home for almost three years, now we are thinking that I'd stay home for the first year and my husband for the second. You mentioned that daycare is very expensive in USA, but that you make quite good money while your husband makes less. I'm just curious, would it be possible for your hubby to stay home with the kids and you bring in the dough?
Although it's a great idea, we tried this when we first moved to the U.S. because Mr. T couldn't legally work until he received his work permit/green card. The truth is, neither Mr. T nor I are cut out to be full-time stay-at-home parents. Also, we need to be a two-income family (whether here or in Israel) to make things work, and Asher is ultimately a much happier kid the days that he's at daycare. He sleeps better, he's happier, and he's growing into an immensely empathetic and social little kid. In the end, everyone benefits in their own way from our situation. As for No. 2, we'll see how it impacts the current situation and go from there. Stay tuned!
Can you recommend a nonfiction book or two with Orthodox characters? And I miss Ask Chaviva Anything, please write soon!
Aww, thanks for the kind words! As for a book, you want nonfiction with Orthodox characters? Or fiction with Orthodox characters? I'm a bit confused. There are a ton of nonfiction books about Orthodox topics (a lot of biographies and things like Crossing the Borders of Time), but if you're looking for fiction books with Orthodox characters, anything by Tova Mirvis or Cynthia Ozick, honestly. I've been reading The Boston Girl, but the main character and her family wouldn't really qualify as Orthodox by today's standards, necessarily (some go out for lobster on Shabbat). Have you read The Nightingale? It's also a really great read, based during WWII. Also, check out this list over here that walks through fiction throughout the years. If I missed the mark on your question, just let me know! Also, take a look at the archives for "Book Review" here
Did you grow up religious and if not what brought you to your path?
Not only would I say I didn't grow up religious, I didn't grow up Jewish. In a nutshell: My parents raised me smartly on the Golden Rule, despite the fact that the first half of my life we were in the Bible Belt of Southern Missouri and the second half in Nebraska. All of my friends were immensely religious (in both locations), so I attended Vacation Bible School, church on occasion (especially in high school), and so on, but we were never a religious family. Easter and Christmas weren't about Jesus, they were about the common, American secular traditions. From there ... check out my posts and essays I wrote about how I got to Judaism and ended up Orthodox

Have a question? You, too, can Ask Chaviva Anything! Just fill out this form

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Review: Sweet Note Bakery Gluten-Free Bagels

Holy (Bagel) Grail! There are a few things that I've slowly been coming to terms with never being able to get gluten free that taste good, let alone edible. The two big ones are baklava (and anything made with phyllo dough) and bagels. Most of the bagels I've had from brands like Udi's taste like eating air -- tasteless, unsubstantial, and just not worth it.

And then? Sweet Note Bakery. I'm trying to remember (with my intensely active baby brain) how I found them, and I think it might have been a Facebook ad, but I'm not entirely sure. I saw a small bakery making gluten-free bagels that happened to be kosher, and I reached out. A quick connection later and I had a box full of gluten-free bagel goodies on my doorstep. Cinnamon Raisin. Everything. Plain.

Then I ate them all over the next few weeks with the enjoyment of someone who unearths a classic family recipe a dozen years after it was lost. These bagels are divine, and unique.

They're smaller than most of the gluten-free bagels on the market, and they're more substantial in weight and flavor, too. They don't taste like a fluff of air; you actually feel like you're eating a bagel.

The trick to these bagels? You have to follow the directions -- no swaying from the path. The ladies behind Sweet Note know what they're doing, and they know that storage and reheating can be the enemy or best friend of gluten-free baked goods. I attempted to warm a bagel up on the plata on Shabbat, and it ended in disaster (I was so bummed that I wasted a bagel).

It's all about freezing the bagels. Putting them in the microwave for 60 seconds to soften them up, and then toasting them ... yes. Perfection. So good. So much flavor, so much substance, so filling.

I can't say enough about these bagels. I'm going to do everything in my power to try to get them into some local shops because, even I can admit, the price is a bit of a sticker shock when it comes to shipping (because they need to stay frozen for integrity, overnight is the only option, which is expensive).

Have you tried Sweet Note? Is there another kosher, gluten-free bagel that I should be eating that I'm missing out on?