Wednesday, May 23, 2018

So I Had a Baby

I haven't blogged since before Pesach, and the truth is that I'm in the longest blogging drought of my life. The funny thing is, back in February I started a new job as a copywriter and editor for a most amazing, completely remote inbound marketing company, and I had thought this would inspire/prompt me to get back to writing regularly. Guess what? I was wrong.

I don't think it's the work that's prevented me from writing more regularly. Instead, it's probably the fact that I was pregnant and tired trying to raise a 4 year old and almost 2 year old. And then, on April 9th, I gave birth to my third at 12:18 am after roughly 17 hours of labor and about 11 minutes of pushing. Eight days and many lost hours of sleep and anxiety about feeding decisions later, we named the addition to Team GB. The name? Zusha Tzvi.

Hey. I'm six weeks old!
I spent the next few weeks sitting around the house going bananas out of boredom during my four weeks of unpaid leave. Then, I got started back up with work earlier this month.

Mr. T, an epic Tatty, was downsized from his electrical gig the night before I went into labor (nothing like coming out of Pesach to a voicemail that you no longer have a job right before your wife prepares to take four weeks of unpaid leave), which means he gets to stay home with Zush until childcare kicks in on June 4th. Then he'll be taking his master's exam, please Gd landing a job worthy of his 10+ years of experience, and all of the stress and anxiety about affording life with three kids will wash away and be a thing of the past.

Hopefully.

Mr. T is also with Zusha all night because I have to attempt sleep and have the headspace to work eight hours every day. Epic Tatty. Epic. But I hear everything at this insane volume in my house. I hear Zush when he cries and Asher when he sneaks out of bed and the TV and sneezing and fans and toilets flushing and cars outside and the neighbors. Oh, and all of the thoughts in my head about being inadequate because I'm not home with my baby and not up with him and night and that I decided for my own mental health to put him on formula. I'm given the space to sleep, but I can't.

The thing about Zush is that he's my oopsie baby. I didn't intend on having three kids. I didn't want three kids. And not wanting three kids and now having three kids gives me immense guilt because I have so many friends who struggled/are struggling to have any children at all. I'm a jerk because even today, in my postpartum haze of regret and exhaustion, I keep thinking "Why me? Why did I have a third kid?" And someday, he'll grow up and if the internet still exists he'll read this and probably hate me for it and end up in therapy. Mission complete!

I'm also guilty because I keep counting down the days. The days until childcare kicks in, the days until I can sleep train him, the days until he's eating solids, the days until he's sitting up on his own, the days until he's walking, the days until ...

Everyone says "Oh cherish these days! They go too fast!" and it's true. I look at Asher, and he's suddenly so grown up. Tirzah, too. I can barely understand her half the time. Last night, after school, the two of them played "family" in Tirzah's room for a full hour. Uninterrupted, without arguing, while I fed and attempted to calm down the bipolar new baby.

I sat on the couch in the living room watching them, far away, lamenting that I was outside their world. That I couldn't really be a part of it because bringing the screaming baby into that universe would mean I couldn't really focus on them. It made me sad. They're at an age that I want to be in their world all the time and hearing the stories and wild fantasies and really experience their imagination with them.

But I can't. I have a newborn. And they'll remember the rejection. They're old enough that they'll remember the prioritization. And that kills me.

I love my kids. All of my kids. Zusha is the spitting image of Asher as a baby. It makes me miss Asher as a baby (but not really because he had terrible colic). But Asher's a big kid now and he's so good with Zusha. He can calm him down when he's screaming in a way I can't.

I also seem to be attracting spiders at every turn. I'm trying not to buy into the idea that something appearing constantly in one's life is a sign of something, but seriously with the spiders.

Guilt. Inadequacy. Spiders. These are the hallmarks of motherhood for me right now. It gets better. I know that. I'm just wondering who I'll be when I feel normal again.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Delicious, Quick, and Easy Coconut Cookies - Gluten Free

I'm so pregnant I'm ready to pop, so Passover this year was pretty low-key. But my one crowning achievement was this recipe, which was based on another recipe, but honestly I didn't have enough coconut and I thought it had way too much sugar and I was missing one of the ingredients. So I took a swing and it was a huge home run with the family. Ready?



Ingredients

  • 1 bag Trader Joe's Unsweetened Flake Coconut (8 oz)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (or almond extract)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (not the table variety)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prep two cookie sheets with parchment.
  2. Mix the first five ingredients in a bowl. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Give it a good mix and add in the chocolate chips. 
  4. Pop on some gloves and start gathering roughly 1/4 cup of "cookie dough" in your hands. Squish the mixture together in your hands to create a mound and pop it on the cookie tray.
  5. Push it down just a bit. 
  6. Continue with the rest of the dough. 
  7. Bake for about 12 minutes, then switch the sheets and bake another 6 minutes until the edges and tops are browning. 
  8. Take out of the oven and let cool completely. They'll harden and be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. 
Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Five Years Later ...

Tatty said, "Roar like a lion!" Mommy, of course, is a party pooper. 

Today, on the Gregorian calendar anyway, marks five years that Mr. T and I have been married. Last night, we were assessing the reality of our five years, and, let me just say ... a lot has happened.

  • Five years
  • Five addresses
  • Two countries
  • One broken foot (me) and one broken arm (T)
  • Six cars
  • Four pregnancies (Did you know Tirzah is a rainbow baby?)
  • Nearly three children born (I'm due with No. 3 in two months)
  • More than a dozen full- and part-time jobs among the two of us
We managed all of that even with Mr. T being stuck outside the country from October 1, 2014 through July 4, 2015

How? How is it possible to have been in so many places and created so many lives in so little time? I honestly don't know. It feels like it's been much, much longer. I feel like I've known Mr. T my whole life. It's only moments where he and his friends start talking about things that happened back in 1999 in yeshiva at Aish in Jerusalem that I remember I was in high school at that time. I remember that Mr. T had a whole life before me, another marriage, a beautiful son (who is now an intelligent, Minecraft-obsessed teenager figuring out who he is), a career in the circus, and so much more. 

We've come so far. He still juggles. I'm still tired. 
And yet, here we are. Mostly in sync most of the time. I joke with Mr. T that after this baby is born and it stops breast feeding, and as our kids continue to grow, he won't know who I am. I've been pregnant or breastfeeding pretty much the entire time he's known me. Those two things mean hormones, hormones, and more hormones. It makes me wonder if he'll be able to handle whoever I am after having gone through all these pregnancies and births and child rearing and job changes and anxiety and depression and everything else. He's resilient and positive, a smile and laugh to balance wherever I am and however I'm feeling. And for that, I believe he'll always be here, and for that I love him. Who else would put up with me? 

---

For five years, the oft-lived gift involves wood. If you know us, or you've been to our house, you know that wooden things are our jam. We love natural frames and art, so this anniversary was right up our alley. Mr. T also celebrated his 40th last month, so my birthday gift to him was a nod to our anniversary as well, in the form of a rocking chair a la his beloved papa. I've also ordered something else, but it hasn't shown up yet, so no spoilers there. He got me a beautiful engraved wooden recipe box because I'm at a point where there are a handful of recipes I make on a weekly rotation that I haven't committed to memory just yet. We also just redid our floors (wood laminate) and bought a new hutch that is, well, wood. 

Anyhow, wood is a beautiful metaphor for many things, and I think it sings to who we are as a couple and family and where we are together. 
“Wood, if you stop to think of it, has been man’s best friend in the world. It held him in his cradle, went to war as the gunstock in his hand, was the frame of the bed he came to rejoicing, the log upon his hearth when he was cold, and will make him his last long home. It was the murmuring bough above his childhood play, and the roof over the first house he called his own. It is the page he is reading at this moment; it is the forest where he seeks sanctuary from a stony world.” ― Donald Culross Peattie, American Heartwood
Happy five years together, my beloved Mr. T. Here's to so very many more together in happiness, growth, and acceptance in all things.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

What is Nittel Nacht?

With few exceptions, Christmas is a fairly dull day for Jews around the world. Christmas Eve, on the other hand, has some unique traditions. The most well-known is probably that Jews in the United States have popularized the tradition of eating Chinese food and viewing movies on Christmas Eve, and this custom has seeped into cultures throughout the world. But it is Nittel Nacht that is the most unique of them all. 

Meaning and Origins
Nittel Nacht originated in the 17th century and its name is difficult to decipher. Nacht is German for "night," but the term Nittel's origins are less clear. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Natale Dominus, which is Latin for "The birth of our God"
  • Natal, which has roots in the Hebrew for "to have been hanged" or to "be taken away"
  • Nolad Yeshu Tet l'Tevet, which is Hebrew for "Jesus was born on the ninth of Tevet" (and whose acronym would be NYTLT. 
The latter is likely the most accurate, although it still makes the overall translation a bit obscure.

The term Nittel Nacht originates from the 16th or 17th century when Jews were prohibited on Christmas from public appearances and studying the Torah, particularly because most at this period didn't have books at home with which to learn, and going to the synagogue or house of study was a dangerous prospect. Thus, learning and any errands were put off because Jews feared pogroms. In some places, where the treatment of Jews was particularly harsh, rabbis urged their congregants to extinguish all lights throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, just to be extra careful. 

Likewise, Jewish mystics during the period believed that marital relations on the day would result in apostates, so rabbis of the time forbade such relations. Similarly, mystics forbade studying Torah because Christmas was considered a day of widespread adultery and Torah study contributes to goodness and light in the world, making the day itself and the act of learning incompatible. 

There have been some suggestions that the game of dreidel arose as a quiet indoor activity because Chanukah and Christmas often fall in close proximity, with the two holidays often falling at the same time (Shem Mishmuel Vol 2 p.75).

The Customs
In addition to the above customs, there were countless others observed in different communities, including
  • Playing cards, which was frowned upon by some halachic authorities
  • Playing chess, which was the practice of the Chabad rebbes Menachem Mendel Schneerson and Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson 
  • Tearing toilet paper for Shabbat use throughout the year (there is a prohibition against certain types of tearing on Shabbat)
  • Reading Toledot Yeshu, a parody of the Christian gospels
  • Organizing the family finances
  • Reading secular books
  • Sewing
How To
In modern times, because Jewish-Christian relations are not nearly as tense as they were during the Middle Ages, the practices of Nittel Nacht are not as widely observed. Likewise, in Israel and other Sephardic communities, the custom never took hold, and even those communities from tense regions in Europe who fled to Israel didn't take the custom with them. 

In fact, there are many communities who intentionally study Torah on Christmas Eve to show that there is no longer a fear of Christian uprisings and pogroms of the past. Nonetheless, some Orthodox communities (specifically Chabad) still observe Nittel Nacht  and the one consistent custom across the board is to not study Torah (in some cases just until midnight) and to participate in activities that exercise the mind (like chess). 

Bonus Fact
Interestingly, in the regions where Nittel Nacht was developed, there was no such thing as a Christmas Eve that fell on December 24th. Instead, Nittel Nacht was observed around January 6th or 7th.

Note: This was originally published on December 23, 2015 on About.com. Since then, this content has been removed from their website. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Recipe: Cinnamon Bun Pie


Great news, everyone! I got permission to post the recipe for the Cinnamon Bun Pie I can't stop raving about that I mentioned in my review of Real Life Kosher Cooking. I'm going to post the straight recipe and then, at the end, I'll include my substitution notes. If you make this, let me know what you think!

Ingredients

1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour

Cinnamon Filling
1/3 cup ground pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbls cinnamon
1/4 cup oil

1 graham cracker crust

Cream Cheese Glaze
2 ounces (1/4 package) nondairy cream cheese
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbls soy milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare the batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer, on medium speed, beat together oil and sugars until combined and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add baking powder and vanilla, beating well to combine after each addition. 
  3. Turn mixer speed to low; gradually add flour. Beat until combined. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the filling: In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients until smooth. Set aside.
  5. When filling pie crust, be careful to add each layer very gently, so you don't break the crust. Pour 1/4 of the batter into the graham cracker crust; use a flexible spatula to smooth the top. Top with 1/3 of the filling. Smooth the top.
  6. Repeat the process, ending with the batter. Note that the batter will be hard to spread; you can make fewer layers so that it's easier to assemble.
  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until top is set. It's meant to be soft in the center, so don't over bake it. 
  8. Prepare the glaze: Combine glaze ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth.
  9. For best results, serve warm. Drizzle glaze over each slice just before serving.
Notes
  • I used Cup4Cup gluten-free flour as a substitute, and it worked perfectly. I also substituted a gluten-free graham cracker crust. 
  • For the glaze, I used regular cream cheese and regular milk. 
  • I used pecan pieces instead of ground pecans, and it added a nice crunch to the pie. 
  • When "building" the pie, I found the best/easiest way to assemble the pie was to use gloves and smooth the dough out in the pie pan. A spatula just didn't do the trick. 
  • This pie freezes well, so feel free to freeze it!