Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Boy and His Name

Yes, in true English style, our baby showed up to 
his brit in suspenders and a bow tie!

On Thursday, we had the brit milah for our son. Yes, that's circumcision for the squeamish and a covenantal commitment for those of us in the Jewish world.

The wee one didn't cry much (about the same as he cries when we're changing his diaper), but boy oh boy did this mama cry plenty when she heard those cries. The truth is babies cry during their brit out of the sheer fact that they're exposed to cold air, not from pain. Watching the recovery process over the past few days, I can tell you that this little man is in no pain at all. Except, of course, for the chill of the air when it's diaper time.

During the brit milah ceremony, the baby's name is finally announced, and I'm happy to share that our beautiful boy is named Asher Yitzhak, meaning "happy laughter." The latter name was Mr. T's grandfather's name and the first name was a name that both Mr. T and I fell in love with ages ago long before the idea of this baby or one another was planted.

For me, the name Asher, meaning happiness, perfectly describes this baby, as he encompasses true happiness. After a long and winding road of ups and downs and crazy madness, HaShem gave me Mr. T, and I found my happiness. Little Asher is that happiness manifest, as evidenced by how very quickly we got pregnant after getting married. I think HaShem was rewarding the both of us for time well spent doing teshuva and searching for that happy we all deserve.

Of course, this little baby being 10 days old and mostly peaceful natured has been a huge blessing. But it would seem that those first few nights at home of the five-hour stretch of sleep are long gone and a few of the "I'll never do that" rules I set for myself have already been very broken. Constant feedings for a baby in perpetual growth-spurt mode have me exhausted and in a bit of a fog, but content none the less knowing it all goes by so quickly. I'm actually writing this post in our now-dark bedroom because this happens to be where the baby fell asleep (finally) after a feeding. Much like how we must bend to the Torah (the Torah does not bend to our needs and wants), I'm in a position of bending to the baby because gosh knows that mommy wanting a shower is not top priority for an adorably squiggling little lump of baby.

I'm still preparing the labor story, and I'm still preparing to figure out how to approach getting into a rhythm with work, especially on days like today when baby just doesn't want to sleep after a hearty helping of mother's milk. I mean, who wouldn't go into a coma after that? I know, I know. "Take it easy!" everyone says. But it's tough. The baby's food might be free, but mommy and tatty have to eat, too. I'm seriously considering taking Mr. T up on his "stay-at-home tatty" offer.

The sun has set, the baby shivers, and mommy types away. This is motherhood. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's a boy!

Say hello to ...

After more than 43 hours of labor resulting in a fairly traumatizing emergency c-section (story forthcoming), we were blessed the the most beautiful little boy weighing 7.5 pounds at nearly 6 am on Thursday, December 19. 

We have been on hospital property since Tuesday the 17th and will be going home officially today or tomorrow. 

Aside from regular baby-having exhaustion, the unexpected labor and pregnancy have done a number on me physically. (I'm learning to not push myself, which for me is next to impossible, but if I don't I'll be back in hospital.)

Stay tuned for the full Megillah. But give me time. I have a beautiful baby on my hands :)

(If all goes well, the Bris will be Thursday! Until then you won't hear the baby's name.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baby Watch: An Update

Well we are indeed fairly snowed in here in Neve Daniel, and I couldn't be happier because I love snow and have been jonesing for it hardcore. The precarious timing is, of course, amusing and the joke is that maybe I'll have a snow baby!

In the event the roads are all closed (as they have been), we will have to get creative and/or hope the local ambulance is snow-chained up! Luckily, this community is full of doulas and doctors and amazing people who will help everything along, so I'm not worried. 

I did anticipate this baby being born with a story, so who knows. 

With the snowfall I've been in crazy nesting mode. Gluten-free oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies, fish chowder, omelets (feta, basil, sundries tomato, and spinach), French toast, homemade hash-browns, and lasagna with homemade marinara all happened today. Tuesday it was challah for the boys and homemade granola bars. 

I think the reality of how much I love cooking and the impending birth have me concerned my workload and baby will mean less cooking/baking and more delivery and cereal. 

So for now that's all that's new. We are past our original due date, so here is hoping baby shows up soon. The world is ready, and by golly so am I. 

Also: Apologies for the hiatus/delay in new posts. I'll be back more consistently soon I hope!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Review: Chanukah and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

I've been on a bit of a Chanukah (c)hiatus this week while ironing out some new work that I'm really excited to be taking on and trying to have some time with the hubsters before the wee one shows up. The truth is that nothing I've planned has gone according to, which is just proof that planning is for the foolish!

The upside of a bit of downtime has been that I've been sleeping a lot and devouring books at a rate for which I'm quite proud.

For Chanukah my literature of choice has been The Soul of Chanukah: Teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (published by Mosaica Press) as compiled by Rabbi Shlomo Katz. Now that's two big names in one small chunk of sentence, and I have to say that this is one of the nicest looking books I've gotten for review in a while.

There are countless reasons why this book rocks, chief among them (according to Mr. T) being that it's in English. In Israel it's easy to land a lot of Rav Carlebach's work, but in Hebrew, which is awkward because most (if not all) of his morsels of wisdom were shared with the world in English. On that note, when it comes to morsels of wisdom in the form of divrei Torah or conversations, you want a concise book that is inspirational, powerful, and thought-provoking. This book is a mere 114 pages split into -- you guessed it -- eight chapters for eight nights, meaning that it's the perfect sit-and-learn option for Chanukah (so buy it for next year, why don't you?).

Unfortunately, the book only hit my post box midway through Chanukah, so I haven't completely devoured it yet, but what I've read will have me reading it well into the post-chag. But I want to give you an idea of the brilliance and inspired ideas that make Rav Carlebach such a prolific and unique individual.

Now, I refer to Rav Carlebach as "hippie dippie," which drives Mr. T nuts, but with my background and philosophy on Judaism, I often find it hard to relate to the "deeper" side of Judaism found in Hasidic teachings. Yes, I sit down every Friday night and read from a collection of Hasidic stories and found some of my greatest inspiration and peace in Judaism through Chabad and other Hasidic teachings, but I still don't get into the sit-in-a-circle and sing style of Judaism. It's just not in my fabric.

Lucky for me, I married a lover of Hasidic philosophy and understanding, so we find a lot of the same "aha" moments really powerful, just in different ways.

So after reading through Chapter 1, Shining Eyes, I had to share some of the tidbits with the husband because it screamed "Mr. T." This first chapter was all about how we're meant to perceive the world uniquely on Chanukah, especially because it's one holiday where we don't go out to greet the king, but the king (that's HaShem) comes into our homes to greet us. How much more special and meaningful is it that the king comes to us?! We're all commanded to light the chanukiyah (menorah for Chanukah) -- every man, woman, and child -- and the king is meant to come to our homes to check out our gnarly lights. It's like Justin Bieber showing up to taste your famous homemade waffles, if you need a ridiculous, modern reference to something that can't even begin to compare with what it's like to experience the presence of HaShem.

Also: Did you also realize that Chanukah is the one chag that we celebrate that actually took place in Jerusalem? Passover/Pesach was in Egypt, Purim was in Persia, and so on. Now that's a powerful reason to kindle the lights and experience the miracle.

One thing Mr. T is always kvetching about is how so many Jews (and people in general) are constantly asking "Mah magiah li?" or "What's in it for me?" instead of asking what can I provide, what can I do, where can I go? Rav Carlebach talks about how on Chanukah we're meant to look around and just take it in because we can't use the lights of the chanukiyah for anything, we can only enjoy them.
I can look at something and say, "Can I use it or can I not use it? Is it good for me or not?" Just like the spies said. But the fixing of Chanukah is that I'm not trying to use it for anything. I'm just so glad it's there.  ... The Torah of Chanukah is that I'm learning Torha, and I'm just looking at what I'm learning. No calculations, no expectations; I'm just looking at the light and I'm so glad it's there." (21)
That's some powerful, beautiful Torah right there. Chanukah, for Rav Carlebach, is all about how we look at the world, the people around us, the beautiful things that we are and are not doing. It's all about refocusing ourselves and reconsidering things, "fixing" as he says Chanukah by our perception.

There are moments where I can definitely see Rav Carlebach with guitar in hand calling something "deep" or talking about the "deepness" of Chanukah, which does make me giggle a bit, but whether you're into his style of Judaism or not, the morsels of Torah and truth in his vision are incredibly powerful.

I absolutely recommend this book, because the truth is this is one of those rare moments where I have nothing negative to say about it. Yes, mark your calendars, folks, because this is one book that will grace my shelves for years to come. It might even make for a Chanukah gift in the coming years.

Note: I received this book for review purposes, but my reviews remain honest, unbiased, and from the heart!