Monday, December 19, 2016

The Breastfeeding Acceptance Plan

It's been a rough couple of months. It seems that whatever Asher comes home with, I get whatever that is, times about one million thousand hundred billion ... you get the picture. He comes home with a cold, I get the plague. He comes home with a cough, I get the plague. For the past 10 days or so, I suffered greatly, and I'm still not 100 percent. I'm probably closer to about 78 percent, but I'm hustling.

The hardest part about being sick was that I quite literally could not survive without taking pseudoephedrine for the painful and debilitating congestion I was experiencing. The result, of course, as a breastfeeding mother with a 6 month old, was that my milk supply tanked hardcore. I panicked at first. A lot. Like I always do when I get sick and my supply tanks. But usually I have milk in the freezer as a backup and life goes on and I zip through my backup and then build it back up. But this time, I had no backup supply because I just haven't been able to pump as much, despite pumping three times during the day and once at night. And have I mentioned?

I hate pumping. I hate it more than I hate baby corn, and that's a lot.

I'm so over pumping I can't even begin to tell you how over it I am. It chains you down in 15-20 minute increments throughout the day. And when you're sick, it's like the last thing that you want to be doing.

So I embraced my reality. I went to the store and I bought formula. It's a supplementing formula, actually, because I'm still nursing and still pumping and hopefully, at some point, my supply will boom again. But if it doesn't, I'm not crying about it. I'm over it. My baby has options, and that's what's important.

And then, on Sunday,
While breastfeeding an overly tired and cranky Tirzah in the Target Starbucks while Asher watched shows on my phone, a man with his wife and son packed up to leave. He came over to me and said, "Thank you for taking care of your child. So many don't." I was sort of stunned and couldn't figure out what he meant. It took a few seconds for me to realize he was referring to me nursing the baby.
So I think I'm okay. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ask Chaviva Anything: In the Kitchen for Shabbat and Keeping Kosher

Are you ready for another installment of Ask Chaviva Anything? I know I am. I've gotten a ton of questions, and, guys, seriously, all these questions about when I'm returning "home" and when I'll be back in Israel, and what am I doing with my life by not being in Israel ... sigh. You're killing me. Home is where the heart is, and my heart (my husband and my kids) happen to be here in Denver, Colorado. I'm not moving back to Israel until I can afford it, until I don't have to live in the red, until I don't have to subject my children to the potential of hunger and debt collectors. That's when I'll go back to Israel. Unfortunately, that's not a close reality.

Anyway ... on to the questions!

How do you manage to make Shabbat with all your workload and two small children? Do you have some kind of routine up your sleeve? I need some tips and inspiration! Thank you!

This is a great question, and one I don't really have an answer to. It sort of just happens. In the old days, I'd cook on Thursday night after kids were in bed, but these days, I'm mostly exhausted by the time they both head to bed around 7 p.m. and/or I have work to do. So really what happens is that I set up my work station in the kitchen on Friday morning/early afternoon and multi-task like a crazy person. Laptop near the cutting board, oven preheating, and sometimes I'll have groceries delivered via Instacart just to save myself the trouble. This time of year, I rely a lot on crockpot dinners for Friday night and simple Saturday lunches like fish, rice, and vegetables. Ultimately the greatest struggle is when Shabbat hits, we don't always get everything done. So, for example, this past week I'd made a delicious side of salmon + rice with roasted cherry tomatoes and green beans, but we forgot to put the plata (hot plate) on. I managed to put the rice in a plastic bag, wrap the bag in foil, and set it on top of our hot water kettle to try and warm it up a bit so we weren't eating an entirely cold meal on Saturday for lunch. It sort of worked. My biggest "harrumph" this time of year is that I'm out of challah and haven't made any more. We can buy challah for my husband and son at the deli or grocery store, but for me, it's a production to make my gluten-free ha'motzi challah

So. It's basically chaos, but it always gets done. We also pick the kids up at the latest possible moment on Friday so we can get everything done. Oh! Also? I have a cleaning crew come every other Friday, so that keeps me sane. I had to stop trying to do it all, and although it's a hefty expense, it's one I had to deal with. 

Also? I spend a lot of time searching for easy recipes on the web and storing those for using on Shabbat. Honestly, I keep thinking of how much easier my life would be if we ate meat because I could easily make some chicken with rice in the oven. Cooking fish, tempeh, tofu, etc. is much more time consuming/needs much more delicate attention. 

What kitchen stuff would you not have in your kitchen because of not being able to make it kosher? For example, do you have a wooden cutting board and if you do how would you re-kosher it?

This is an interesting question, and one I haven't really even thought about. Truthfully, since nothing non-kosher comes into my kitchen, and because we are vegetarian at home, I don't have to worry about anything needing to be re-kashered. The one time of year that I do cook meat in my kitchen is Thanksgiving, and in this case, I just put my wooden cutting board away and bring out my meat cutting board. If this doesn't answer your question, let me know!





Review: Luly Baby Bandana Drool Bibs

I have this thing where my kids, bless their hearts, get really into food around 4 months of age. They start watching the food zip from plate to mouth, they begin grabbing at all the things, and they start chewing on everything food-like that they can.

So, as Little T approaches her 6-month-birthday on December 9, I'm happy to say she's been eating "real food" beyond "Mommy milk" for almost two months now. She's graduated recently to gnawing on cucumbers, eating oatmeal cereal with little berries in it, attempting to scarf pancakes that her brother gives her, and more. I've been pretty impressed with her love of food and eating, and it's just a sign of things to come.

Baby's first sushi! She loved it. She hated the bib. 

What are those things?

Those things are teeth.

Yes, my little baby is working her way towards chompers, which means she's drooling like crazy. So in addition to going through bibs like they're going out of style, we were also going through bandanas of the drool-catching variety pretty quickly. Unfortunately all of the ones I bought were pretty low-quality, until I was tapped to do a review of the Luly Baby Bandana Drool Bibs. I'm always super skeptical of baby products because there are so many copycats out there that do substandard product development, but the moment I opened these I knew these bibs were different.



The quality is apparent with the double-layered fabric (100% cotton backed with absorbent fleece), and the impressive neckline that conforms to Little T's neck to actually catch the drool and liquid from hitting her neck. Also? I love, love, love that these bibs have snaps! All bibs should have snaps. I'm loathe to buy bibs with velcro because they get snagged on everything and scratch up Little T's neck.



Also? They patterns are so cute and fashionable. Little T is making her way into the fashion world, one drool bib at a time. Get yours now on Amazon!

Note: I received these items free for my honest, unbiased review. All views presented in this post are my own, are super honest, and you can rely on that!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ask Chaviva Anything: LuLaRoe and Being a Busy Mom

I was super shocked, but awesomely excited to see so many questions asked so quickly when I posted the Ask Chaviva Anything revival! Here are some quick fun ones y'all asked.

If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?

With everything going on lately with work, I've been thinking about this a lot. For the longest time, I thought being a copy desk chief at The New York Times would have been the most epic job. Then, when I was super happy in my digital marketing role, I wanted to be the social media go-to in the Jewish nonprofit world. I quickly learned that could happen, but not with the financial outcome I'd hoped for. So, now, most recently, my dream job has been writing and consulting on digital marketing and PR. Someday, I'll be able to commit myself to writing again and to consulting (and actually getting paid for it ... because I give out way too much free advice these days and always) and having a schedule that makes sense for me. Someday, yes someday, I'll write my book. That would be the most epic job in the world for me. (Also, stressful as it is, being a mommy is pretty amazing, too.)

How are you enjoying being a LuLaRoe Consultant?

In a word: YES! I absolutely love it. I get all warm and fuzzy when I put an outfit together or talk to other women about clothing or how to style something to feel confident. Honestly, I wish I had more time for it, because I think I could really fly with it. It's really helped me cope with my social anxiety and introversion, which, honestly, are getting more intense as I get older. I'm so great online, in text-based communications, and even Facebook Live feeds because it's just me and the vast universe out there. No social pressure, no expectations. (Find my group on Facebook here!)

Do you have a family mission statement? (We did this exercise as a family and it was a lot of fun.)

This is ... wow. This is great. We must do this. Thank you for the great question and idea!

Some more involved questions and answers forthcoming (including several on Israel, unsurprisingly)! Have a question? Click here to ask me quite literally anything.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: Make All the Coffee with the Minos Moka Pot

In college, my friend John had a Moka Pot. I'm pretty sure that Andrew had one, too. I was jealous, but too lazy to make my own. Now? I've got the real deal, but this time, it's elevated and elegant.

Get yours: https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=DiZxwhlrjxg

Note: I received this product free for review from the vendor via Tomoson.com. 

Ask Chaviva Anything: The Revival

Is anyone still out there? Is anyone reading? I know some people still get my feed, but sometimes it feels like things go out into the ether and disappear. I remember when I used to blog multiple times a day, when there were gobs of comments, when the blogging community was full of people writing stories and talking about life rather than only hosting superficial giveaways. Ah, those were the days.

Anyhow, I'm reviving that much-beloved series that often resulted in some rude questions: Ask Chaviva Anything!

Click here to ask me quite literally anything.

It doesn't mean I'll answer, but I'll do my best.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Post-Election 2012: My Thoughts

“One who is appointed over a community becomes the servant of the community" (Talmud, Horayot 10a).

Unlike back in 2012 and 2008, I avoided talking politics on the blog this year because the election seemed to be so "in the bag." I didn't feel like I needed to share who I was voting for or why because it seemed like a sealed deal. Now that it's all over, I'm still not feeling super keen on the conversation about who won and why, but I feel like a stream-of-consciousness post might let me get some things out.

If anything, this election showed me that, by and large, I don't have many "middle of the road" friends. Most of my friends are bleeding-heart liberals who found themselves huddled in a corner, weeping at the reality of a potentially dangerous white man with anti-semitic, homophobic, and xenophobic friends at his side. Some of my friends are single-issue voters who made aliyah and were praising the election of a man who will put Israel first and move the embassy to Jerusalem (this will never happen, by the way). Many others are party-line voters who found themselves confused about who to vote for and, I have a feeling, voted Republican because they didn't think that Trump would actually win the election. And then, of course, I have friends who happily voted Republican because of the promises of a wall to keep immigrants out, the promise of putting a hardcore Conservative on the Supreme Court to overturn groundbreaking social laws, and the commitment to return our focus on the hardest working among us (never mind that Trump won't release his tax returns, and these hard-working Americans pay the most taxes and work the hardest of us all).

Sigh.

And me? I'm generally a party-line voter, and I vote Democrat. Mostly I'm this way because I'm liberally minded on social issues, but I tend to be more conservative when it comes to our involvement in international disputes and being the policemen of the world.

But this election, it was hard. I wasn't in love with Hillary. I didn't vote for her because I wanted the first woman president (she's no Maggie Thatcher) or because I thought she was the most moral or preferable candidate. Although I was incredibly excited about the possibility of seeing changes for working mothers like myself (I work 80 hours a week and make peanuts and pay more than $2,000/month for my kids to be in daycare). She was the most viable candidate.

But here we are. We're in a post-election haze and no one is really sure what's going to happen. What is sure, however, is that this election has brought out the ugly in everyone. I've watched friendships fall apart in the past week in ways that are completely unrepairable. I've listened and counseled friends on both sides of the aisle.

I've been told by more than one person, "I don't know how you can be in the position you're in," because I have friends that are very far on either side of the aisle and I'm happy to have them in my life and happy and proud to call them my friend, even while disagreeing with their opinions and their logic on why they voted the way they did.

I guess, my reality is that there is more than this election. HaShem runs the universe, and, for whatever reason, this is where we are. We can only hope that the new president-elect manages to be humble, to consider and respect all people, and to serve the people.

We must insist that we be heard, that our leader serve us, and we must be as we expect him to be. We must respect and love one another, if anything, to be an example for our leader. If we continue to hate and divide and live our lives as such, then our leader will know nothing more than to hate and divide as well.

A last thought: We must insist that Stephen Bannon be removed from his appointment to a high-ranking position in the Trump administration. The president-elect is meant to serve the people, and anyone who approves of Bannon's racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic rhetoric should be ashamed of themselves.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Giveaway and Review: Maccabee on the Mantel

The 9-inch plush Musical Maccabee! So tasty. 

'Tis the season for holiday goodness, and this year is super special (for me) because Christmas and Chanukah coincide! Now, I'm not super stoked because we celebrate both in our house (there's no Chanukah bush, folks), but because it's a tad less alienating when the Jewish and Christian holidays coincide and as someone who grew up with all the trappings and jingle bells of Christmas, that means something.

I've sung the praises of this time of year with its snowy sites, festive lights, and delicious smells a million times on this blog. November and December are truly my most favorite months of the year because, well, because I just love everything about these months. Colder weather, twinkling lights, the smells of pumpkin pie and cocoa ... [insert heavy, happy sigh here].

With that said, I was elated when the folks behind the Maccabee on the Mantel at ToyVey Toys reached out with their new line of products for review, because Chanukah is coming, folks! I reviewed the Maccabee on the Mantel nearly two years ago when Asher was so, so small. Of the three products I received for review that year, the Maccabee was, by far, the most high-quality, engaging, and tied-in to Chanukah without feeling too kitschy.


This year, the company has taken the Maccabee up to a whole new level with several new products, which means a Maccabee for Little T and for Asher. The quality is even better than before, and with the new options, there's something for everyone (including something tasty)!
My only kvetch? Asher very easily removed the shields and shoes of both of his Maccabees. Now, I don't think this is a huge issue because, come on, he can get creative with his Maccabees, but my husband would prefer they be a bit more securely attached. 

If you're curious what an unboxing with Asher looks like, here it is, unedited! Welcome to the chaos and fun of unboxing new toys with a toddler!


******GIVEAWAY!!!!******

Want to win a Maccabee on the Mantel for your own Chanukah-ready monkey at home? Comment on this post with your favorite thing about this time of year, and you'll be entered to win a 9-inch Maccabee and box of Hanukkah fortune cookies! Share the post on social media, and you'll get an extra entry (just comment with where you shared the content, please). 

Details: Giveaway ends on Thursday, November 10, 2016, at 5 p.m. MT.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Holy Grail: Braidable Gluten-Free Challah (Motzi)



I've been working on this recipe for a while, and although it's not perfect and I'm going to keep working on it (so check back for edits) to perfect it completely.

This recipe simplifies on my Best-Ever Gluten-Free Challah recipe, and it also creates a dough that is ... wait for it ... braidable! Yes! Now, it's not going to be braidable like a traditional gluten-based dough, but it fits the bill and makes for some beautifully braided gluten-free challah at last.

Like I said, this recipe isn't perfect, but it works. You end up with a very delicate dough, so make sure you have some spare flour on hand for braiding. This makes roughly five very good-sized small loaves for me. More pictures are also forthcoming (10/28), I just had someone ask me for this recipe and I've delayed long enough so I needed to get it up.



Ingredients

1 package yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 Tbls salt
1/3 cup oil + 1 Tbls
2 eggs
2.5 cups gluten-free oat flour
2 cups Cup4Cup Wholesome Flour 

Directions

  1. Mix yeast with warm water and let it froth. The yeast must activate for this challah to work!
  2. In a stand mixer (I use my KitchenAid), mix the dry ingredients together (flour, salt, sugar) with the dough hook. 
  3. Add in the wet ingredients (eggs and oil).
  4. Mix in the yeast/water mixture. 
  5. Continuing mixing for a few minutes until the dough is stiff and falls easily off of the hook. If it looks too wet, add up to 1/4 cup more of the Cup4Cup. 
  6. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or overnight.
  7. After rising, separate the dough and create 4-5 small braided loaves. You can also roll the dough in balls and place in small loaf pans to create "pull apart" loaves or use a standard challah pan.
  8. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour. 
  9. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for ~30 minutes. The timing will vary on the size of your loaves, so keep a good eye on them after 30 minutes. 

Note: The Wholesome Flour is parve/non-dairy, while the Multipurpose Cup4Cup is dairy (for whatever reason). The dairy Cup4Cup actually makes for a more easily braidable and gorgeous, yet denser, gluten-free challah, but I know many looking for a recipe will want a parve/non-dairy version. 

Note Two: The pictures in this post are from using the Multipurpose Cup4Cup.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: Democratea!

Say hello to the most epic tea for election season! Taste the Vanilla Essence of Hillary ClinTEAn (#IMWITHTEA) or the pure, white power of Donald TEArump'a Pure White Tea with Peach (#MakeTeaGreatAgain). Apropos no? Here's my video review:




Which tea do you stand with this Electea-n Season? ( are you tired of the teapot is yet?)

Get yours:  www.Democratea2016.com/store

Note: Product received free for review. Opinions are honest and my own. 

Review: Kumfy Soft Nursing Pads


As a nursing mom, I'm always on the hunt for creative, inexpensive, and effective solutions to everything that nursing, pumping, and child-rearing an bring.

Enter Kumfy Soft Nursing Pads, which I received for review at a discounted price. These puppies are super soft, easy to use and clean, and, unlike a lot of other nursing pads on the market, they're shaped to sit comfortably inside the bra and they aren't flat, which can lead to bunching. Buy them on Amazon, and you even get a bag to throw them in so they don't get stolen by the dryer trolls!

Check out this video review, and let me know if you have any questions!


Thursday, October 13, 2016

A LuLaRoe Giveaway!

Hello there blog readers. Now, I don't always post about my LuLaRoe goings on, but when I do, it's because things are awesome. I'm hosting a giveaway on my Facebook page right now, and I'd love for anyone out there who is skeptical about LuLaRoe to hop over and enter to win.


Also? You know what? If you're skeptical about LuLaRoe, comment on this post and let me know why. I might be able to change your mind ;)

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Day in the Life: I'm Now 33

It's 11:36 p.m. on a Thursday night and my house is quiet (save the very loudly bubbling fish tank that has desperately needed a water topoff for probably three weeks now). Little T will wake up in probably 4 hours for her mid-sleep nosh, and in 7 hours everyone will be awake to start the day. The living room light (on a timer) just popped off, and I'm pretty sure Mr. T has been asleep for at least 1.5 hours at this point. And me? Well, I'm just 22 minutes out now from turning 33, and I thought I'd share a little "day in the life" post. If I could, I'd call this "Adulting Sucks."

5 a.m.: Little T decides on a 5 a.m. feeding instead of a 3:30 a.m. feeding. After she finishes eating and is back asleep, I consider staying up to get things done, but doze off instead.
6:38 Alarm goes off. Snooze.
6:52 Frantically wake up thinking I've slept much later than I have. Baby is rustling, and I'm zipping through work emails, Slack updates, Facebook notifications, and Timehop updates.
7:02 I attempt to wake Mr. T up because Asher's chatting away. (He's still in his crib after refusing a "big boy" bed, but he cannot or will not crawl out of his crib on his own.)
7:07 Little T starts to rustle away, but falls back asleep.
7:12 Me to Mr. T: "It's almost 7:15, we need to get up."
7:15 I get out of bed, get dressed quickly, inform Mr. T he's on baby duty for the morning and I go upstairs to get Asher.
7:24 After getting Asher out of bed and changed and mostly dressed, I'm in the kitchen organizing his lunch. I put Mr. T's tea on to infuse in our Teforia beta testing machine, get Little T's bottles into her backpack, finish up Asher's lunch and make him breakfast (which he doesn't eat), and get everything out into the living room to go.
7:36 Mr. T is upstairs with the baby getting her changed. Asher doesn't want his hair in ponytails so he's got a headband on. I put some "ponies" in a baggie with his name on it and stuff it in the front of his backpack.
7:45 I'm trying to get my computer, my breast pump, my water bottle, and everything else I need for a day working remotely outside the home ready while Mr. T attempts to get Asher to pick out shoes to wear.
7:54 We're slowly moving out of the house to the car to get the kids off to school. I say outlaid to no one: "I'm super mommy and did all the things this morning."
8:00 We're in the car and trying to leave, but the car won't start. "Where are the keys?" I ask. "You didn't grab them?" Mr. T asks. He runs back into the house to get the car keys.
8:05 We drop off Little T first. While Mr. T takes her inside, I get setup to pump milk on the go in the car while Asher jams out to the 90s tunes on the radio.
8:15 Asher has been dropped off, I remember that theres a room parent meeting at 9 a.m., and I'm now taking Mr. T to work.

8:20 Finally, at last, with both kids at daycare and the husband at work, I think about what to do with the next 40 minutes. So I go to the post office to get some priority shipping boxes that it turns out I already had at home and pick up a coffee before heading back to Asher's school for the parent meeting.
9:00 I'm waiting for the meeting to start, working on the shul's wifi.
10:00 Meeting over, I hop in the car and zip off to a coffee shop to hunker down and work until my noon call with my boss.

Noon I get set up in the car to pump milk while on a call with my boss, with the A/C blasting and using the wifi from the coffee shop I was just at, only to discover that the meeting has been bumped. I ask Mr. T if he'd like to have a lunch date, but he's covering for someone until 1.
12:20 I zip home to drop off my pumped milk and package up a few things to mail while holding down the fort on my phone and swap out computers.

2:00 After a fun gap in my day, I'm anticipating a call with my boss, but I need to get a few things at Target before the school day ends, so I grab my computer and headphones and head into Target to take a call before grabbing a few groceries. We can't connect, again, so I push the cart around Target with my laptop open, stopping intermittently to work and answer emails. I must look insane.
2:45 We finally connect, so I rush over to the Starbucks at Target and chat with my boss.

3:20 I'm back in my car, once again hooked up to the breast pump. I drop off something to Mr. T at work, warn him he might have to Lyft home, and head back to the house.
3:45 After having dropped off the groceries and the newly pumped milk, I'm back in the car to drop something at a friend's place, but find out she isn't there, so I opt to go pick up Little T instead.
4:10 Having picked up the princess, I text Mr. T to see if he wants me to get him before getting Asher, so I do. We then go get Asher, and Little T is really upset, so Mr. T walks them both home and I drive home and empty the car.

5-ish I'm trying to get dinner ready while Mr. T entertains the kids. I make vegetarian kefta with pita, Israeli salad, homemade hummus, and tahini. We sit down at the table to attempt a meal like a normal family, except that I'm answering work messages about pressing issues. Sorry, family.

6:30 I'm thinking about bedtime for munchkins, and Little T fell asleep while nursing, so I'm in the kitchen emptying the dishwasher and trying to get the house ready for the cleaners in the morning (they know not to do the dishes). I decide that it's a good idea to make challah (my gluten-free version and the regular, huge batch for the boys), so I get started on that.
7:15 I'm trying to nurse Little T to sleep so I can get back to the challah.
7:45 I remember that I don't have rubber gloves to braid the challah (I seriously put a ziplock bag on my hand and taped it around so it would stay in order to hand knead the dough, which worked for kneading but won't work for braiding). I text Mr. T to go out and get gloves so I can finish the challah, and he does.
8:00 I'm in the kitchen, doing dishes, braiding challah, cleaning.

10:00 The challah is done, the kitchen and living room are tidied, and I realize that I have a time-sensitive work issue to deal with. I start fiddling with a spreadsheet in order to make a pie chart.
10:33 I send Mr. T a text letting him know what I'm doing, but get no response, so he's passed out for the night.
10:55 I fall down the rabbit hole of doing some other things before I get back to the work at hand.
11:13 I think back to my day and realize that it's been a bit ridiculous and maybe I should blog about it.
11:36 I finally get around to blogging about it ...

And now, just now, the clock has struck midnight here in Denver, Colorado. I'm 33, folks. Of course, on the Hebrew calendar I was born on Simchat Torah (23rd of Tishrei, 5744), so maybe I'll have the energy to celebrate in several weeks.

Five years ago: Freshly divorced.
Four years ago: A few weeks from going to Israel, to making aliyah.
Three years ago: Severely glutened while pregnant at my birthday dinner, which landed me in the "ER" for 3+ hours on fluids. 
Two years ago: Downsized at my job and unbeknownst to me Tuvia was about to leave for nine months.
One year ago: On the eve of my birthday and the holidays, I discovered I was pregnant with Little T.

As for this year, I'm just praying for a calm, cool, collected, uneventful birthday. So, with that, friends, I'm going to bed. Goodnight moon. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tis the Season: The Best-Ever Gluten-Free Honey Cake Recipe!

I love this time of year. The seasons are changing, the weather is cooling, and layers, ankle boots, and scarves are starting to pop up here, there, and everywhere. It also means it's time for the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh HaSHanah and Yom Kippur!

The latter is filled with fasting and deep reflection and prayer, while the former features joyous celebrations complete with a classic: apples and honey.

Asher wanted to shoot some photos of the delicious honey. Great shot, kiddo!

Luckily, I received a boatload of L.R. Rice Raw & Unfiltered Honey and Rice Family Raw & Unfiltered Honey for review, which means it's time for honey cake!

Now, one of my greatest gripes around any of the Jewish holidays (except maybe Passover, because gluten disappears from everyone's tables for the most part) is that I can't enjoy any of the awesome baked goods out there. Lucky me, I recently discovered Cup4Cup Flour, which, honestly folks, really does work like the real thing. I've made muffins, we've made beer-battered fish (which my British husband wholly approves of), and even challah. Yes, I'm trying to perfect a simpler gluten-free challah recipe using Cup4Cup, too. 

In the meantime, I've made this amazingly delicious, non-dairy, gluten-free honey cake for your enjoyment! Are you ready?

Chaviva's Best-Ever Gluten-Free Honey Cake

Ingredients
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup strong black coffee (I used tea)
2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbls Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (or margarine), softened
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two 8x8 baking pans or one 9x13-inch cake pan.
  2. In your Kitchenmaid or other mixer, beat the eggs and honey together. 
  3. Add sugar and mix again. 
  4. Mix baking powder with the coffee and "butter," and then add it to the egg mixture.
  5. Add baking soda, flour, and cinnamon. 
  6. Beat until well combined. 
  7. Pour into the prepared pan(s) and bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. 
Enjoy! Let me know if you make this and what you think. It's rich, sweet, dense, and the ultimate snack. You know what, I'm going to make another cake now ... 

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Friday, September 16, 2016

On Elul and Being Present on Shabbat

Ah, Elul. That big, beautiful month full of reflection on the Jewish (Hebrew) calendar. It's the month leading up to the High Holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur and Simchat Torah and Sukkot. It's one of my most favorite times of year because it means that fall is coming, my birthday is coming, and that winter is right around the corner and that boots, scarves, and jackets are soon a necessity.

It also means October is going to be a mess of time off from work, multiple days in a row without the ability to use technology, no daycare, and general chaos. But, you know what, that's okay.

For the first time in what feels like forever, I've really, truly, honestly embraced Shabbat and days of rest.

You see, I'm a highly anxious workaholic (no, who, me!?). Shabbat was one of the hardest things to accept as I became religious all those years ago, because I've always been a hyper plugged in person. It's what I do professionally, and it's how I connect with friends near and far, not to mention family, too.

But recently, I've started going to shul (synagogue) on Shabbat again, after a good probably nine months of skipping Saturdays at home so I could sleep while Mr. T and Asher were out of the house. Once baby showed up, I slept in, woke up, fed the baby, read trashy magazines, and so on. But when Mr. T was out of town a few weeks in Israel for iBoy's bar mitzvah, I knew I couldn't have Asher in the house for hours on end lest we both go bananas. So I hauled myself out of the house and we went to synagogue.

Now, wearing a sort-of sleeping newborn and trying to daven (pray) with focus is next to impossible. So I spent most of the morning (roughly 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.) in the baby group, where you can drop your little ones off starting at the age of six months (they have programming up through the age of teenagers). They sing songs and there are toys and the other babies like to see my baby, so it's a win-win because I get to talk to the adults in the room and we're out of the house.

When Mr. T came back, I kept going. The baby doesn't sleep so late in the morning anymore, and it's good to get out and see people, right?

During those few weeks where it was just me and the kids, I found myself doing a lot of observing. I watched people coming and going from shul, I watched the kids outside playing with their teenage teachers in groups, I watched the entire theater of Shabbat happening around me. And it was beautiful.

The thing about Shabbat is that, when you're really inside it, when you're really present and experiencing it, the anxiety of the rest of the week really does disappear. Recently I've found myself just enjoying being present from sundown to sundown. I'm not rushed to turn my phone back on, and that moment when I do turn my phone back on I feel a huge pang of regret and sadness. Because I've noticed that when Shabbat ends, after we make havdalah to separate the sacred from the profane, my fingers and face are glued to the damnable little device.

Yes, it's my job to be digital 24/6, but what does that mean? What is it costing me?

As Asher gets older, he's noticing how connected I am more. He'll often say my name repeatedly to get my attention, and even when I respond, it's the device he wants me to put down. Like, literally set down. He needs my attention. And if he's doing something cute, he often isn't interested in it being filmed or captured in a picture. He just wants me to be present.

On Shabbat, last week, we all stayed home because we had a hand-foot-mouth scare (which turned out to be not what he had, but rather just teething and a cold). We played, we engaged, we were present. We went to the playground, we enjoyed the sunshine and make believe. We sang and danced. We enjoyed each other.

I was so present and completely wrapped up in my family that I said to Mr. T: "Days like this make me think I could have a third, easily, without any second thoughts." (Or something to that affect.) It was just such a blissful day.

Then, of course, the next day, Mr. T was tired, the baby was half awake next to me in bed, and Asher was calling, "Mommy. Tatty. Mommy. Tatty." I zipped upstairs to mute the monkey only to find out he'd really, really, really wet the bed hardcore. As I pulled off all the sheets and pulled out the stuffed animals and toys and books I realized that I was good with where I was.

Shabbat really does something beautiful for me. I don't know how people function without a single day to be disconnected from the rest of the world and to really be present with those closest to you. No TV, no phones, no devices, no distractions.

All of this is to say, I guess, that I'm glad that I'm at this point in my life. It took having two kids to really learn to appreciate Shabbat, and now, every week, I long for Shabbat and lament its leaving. I've even started not looking at my phone on Saturday night to prolong a sense of peace and presence just a little bit longer. It makes all the difference in the world.

So, I'm curious: How do you do it? How do you connect, how do you really connect and be present in your own life? 


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

LuLaRoe: My Why

Well, things are amazingly busy and wonderful and mostly busy over here. And here's a video to explain why.



Feel free to join the fun on Facebook!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sending the Baby to Daycare: Am I a Monster?



Well, Mr. T has been out of the country since August 7, and everyone's still alive here. I still have another five days to go, so there's still a possibility that my head will explode and take both of my adorable children with it!

The truth is, over these two weeks, Ash has been in part-time day camp (9-3), instead of full-time daycare (8-4) because daycare has been out for one reason or another. Little T, of course, has been home with me, and I've been crazy overwhelmed with work. I have been working bizarre hours, staying up incredibly late to get things done, canceling and rescheduling calls because of a wiggly baby, and running myself ragged. And don't even talk to me about the dishes, the laundry, the state of the house ... I've just given up.

And now? Light at the end of the tunnel! I'm excited, super stoked, but feeling an immense amount of guilt because both kids are in full-time daycare starting Monday. Should a 2-month-old baby be in daycare? I don't know.

You see, I've got a full-time job that I love and that I wouldn't give up for anything in the world. I also have two children whom I love more than anything in the world. With all that combined, it means daycare. Now, Asher ended up in daycare at 10 months because Mr. T was out of the country and I had part-time work and was looking for full-time work. He was a pretty legit human child at that point, and I cried when I dropped him off the first day.

Over the past week and a half, I've hired a nanny a few times because I had to get things done for work. It amazed me how easily it was to leave her with someone. I didn't cry. I thought to myself, "Okay, I've got four hours to get a week's worth of work done." (It also amazed me how much money I had to throw at these nannies; they make a serious killing.)

In just a few short days, I'll be dropping Little T off at daycare for a full day. She'll be with strangers for eight straight hours while I sit, working, in my happy place. On the one hand, I'm thinking "freedom!" and on the other hand I'm thinking, "I'm leaving my little baby with strangers."

Is it a second child thing? Is it a daughter thing? Is it a "being a stay-at-home, full-time working mother" is something that drives all mothers to a breaking point on a daily basis? I actually screamed at my crying 2-month-old in the car the other day. Screamed to the point where my throat ached for hours. And I cried. A lot. Several times that day.

So. Am I a terrible human being for being super ready and prepared to drop both of my kids off at daycare first thing Monday morning? I've got a 9:30 a.m. call and a 2:30 p.m. call, and all I can think is "I'm going to get SO much done with a solid eight hours of work. It's going to be awesome."

Sigh.

I'm terrible, right? How do women do this without guilt? I love my kids. I just can't be with them 24/7. I'm not cut out for it. I feel about full-time, stay-at-home mothers like I do about pediatric oncologists and military personnel. I'm glad someone feels good and passionate and capable about doing those jobs because I simply don't.

I'm a good mom. When I'm well-worked, well-rested, and can cook dinner on my own terms, everyone is happier because mommy is happier. And that's the rule, right? When mommy is happy everyone's happy?

Right?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: Garden Lites Superfood Veggie Cakes

Slap me silly and call me in love! Now, Asher is already in love with Garden Lites muffins of all varieties (but especially the Ninja Turtles ones with chocolate chips and the chocolate muffins that we used to get at CostCo), but I have a new go-to for Shabbat and weekday lunch sides: Superfood Veggie Cakes!




The kind folks at Garden Lites sent me these gluten-free, vegetarian goodies for review just in time. With my husband out of the country in Israel for two weeks for iBoy's bar mitzvah, I was struggling to accept the fact that I had to make sure there was food on the table for me and the Ashman. I was thinking of boxed mac and cheese, pizza from the local pizza shop, PB&J, but when it came to Shabbat, I was baffled. PB&J just doesn't scream Shabbat.

Enter Garden Lites. I quickly baked some fish, made a box of Lundberg rice, and prepared these Superfood Veggie Cakes, and our meal was perfectly well-rounded and delicious to boot. At 100 calories, I seriously ate multiples because they just taste good. Also? Asher loved them!

My only gripe? The packaging instructions were a little confusing. I love that Garden Lites prints the cooking instructions on the plastic wrapper as well as the box, because if you toss the box and still have the product, you need the instructions! But the instructions on this package was a bit confusing as it said to remove the outer packaging and place the cakes on a baking tray. I did this, but the black tray that they were in (inside the outer packaging of plastic) started to melt to the side of my baking pan! Luckily, it peeled right off and I didn't ruin the pan. It left me questioning whether I should have taken the cakes out of the black tray they were in, too.

Do you think you'll give these yummy cakes a try?

From Garden Lites: Available in the refrigerated section of Coscto stores, Garden Lites Superfood Veggie Cakes are kosher, delicious, vegetarian, Gluten-free and only 100 calories! The first and main ingredients in every Garden Lites products are always vegetables, and the Superfood Veggie Cakes are no exception. Superfood Veggie Cakes are perfect for healthy snacking on-the-go, or also as a quick side dish at home to go along perfectly with any meal. Garden Lites® Superfood Veggie Cakes are available at Costco at a suggested SRP of $9.79 and online at HealthyGoodness.com.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

On Being Fat: Stick to Style, Not Size Number

First grade, homemade dress!
Once upon a time, I was a slam poet. I guess you don't ever really stop being a slam poet, but for me, my poetry juice appears to have dried up. I went through a period in my early/mid 20s where, when I put pen to paper, it made me proud and I worked up the courage to throw words into a crowd. Now, I'm lucky to find the time to blog right here, where I've been blogging for 10 years now.

One of those poems I penned during my slam renaissance was called "First Fat Miss America." It was inspired by an interaction I had as a child while watching the Miss America pageant, and it painted how I viewed myself and how I felt about myself for a long time. Yes, I was told that I, Amanda Jo Edwards, could be the first fat Miss America. I had the potential. Now, I suppose this could have been a compliment, the idea that I, a girl born and raised in the Midwest of the United States, could achieve such a fanciful goal. But I got stuck. Stuck on "fat." And I think that was the point.

I was never thin, and I was always depressed about my size.

I was a pretty cute baby, gosh darn't, but starting the moment I hit school, I was fat. I was basically fat up until I hit middle school and learned that I could skip lunch, I could dump it all in the garbage and my parents would be none the wiser. Yet, somehow, years of skipped lunches and grumbling stomachs didn't leave me thin. I just got fatter. My mom made my clothes for most of my younger years, and as I got older I ventured into the Pretty Plus section at Sears (the girls' equivalent of Husky), and when I entered middle school, I started noticing how different I was. I had a very tight-knit group of friends, 80 percent who were much, much thinner than me. By 6th grade I'd shot up in height, hit puberty, and was gigantic compared to both boys and girls in my class. I started wearing women's clothing, and it wasn't pretty.

Hello fifth grade.
In high school, I went through the same pattern of having extremely thin friends, tossing my lunch, and trying to stay as slim as I could. When I'd tell people how much I weighed, I was always told, "wow, you really wear your weight well." I worked at McDonalds for two years in high school and managed a steady diet of a plain grilled chicken sandwich with a touch of sweet and sour sauce and a small fry. I didn't succumb to the cravings; I had to watch my already-large figure.

Just before graduation in 2006.
By the time I graduated college, I was at an all-time high weight because the rigors of college newspaper life (80 hour work weeks and midnight runs to the local bar) left me drunk and with the munchies and that led me to fast food restaurants. Food was comfort, clothing was hell.

After I graduated college and moved to Washington D.C. in 2006, I lacked a social life, and I started to lose weight. I went vegetarian (it was cheaper), walked just about everywhere, and was depressed as hell. I moved to Chicago to be with a boy and gained 30 pounds because, well, I was still depressed and he cooked the most outlandishly fattening food and bars and late-night pizza were our jam. I was at another all-time high weight when I moved out and we broke up.

I went on Weight Watchers in 2008 and lost 25 pounds, bought a new wardrobe, and finally felt beautiful. I attempted to replicate that 25 pound weight loss, but despite a dozen times rejoining, it's been unattainable. Since then, I've basically been the same weight. I will proudly and boldly say I hover at around 210 pounds, and there's nothing I can do to budge those numbers, it seems.
2008 in Chicago

With Little T, I managed to gain about 25-30 pounds, quite the opposite of what happened with Asher, when I lost 25 pounds during and after the birth (and then regained them, of course). The funny thing is that right after I had Little T, I dropped those pounds and floated right back to my starter weight (yes, it was all fluid retention).

They say with every pregnancy and as you get older, your weight shifts and you wear it differently. My truth is that, yes, perhaps I wear my weight well, but I have always hated how I wear it. I've always been angry that my mom, my dad, and both of my brothers had skinny chunks of life. I've never had the opportunity to experience "skinny" like they did. They could lose the weight, I always told myself. They just don't. It's not fair. 

When I came home from the hospital with Little T and surveyed what was left of my pre-baby clothes and my pregnancy clothes, I cringed. Nothing fit right. Too loose, too baggy, too tight in the wrong places. Only my loose-fitting cotton Old Navy maternity skirts really fit well. I tried very hard to put the clothes on and feel comfortable, or beautiful, or whatever a woman who just gave birth and who has hated her body her whole life should feel. Toss on the fact that everything I wear needs to be nursing friendly and, well, I could have broken the mirror.

And then it happened.

You see, a friend from Facebook who I've never met in real life had invited me to this online "party" to buy clothes from this company called LuLaRoe that I'd never heard of. I ended up wanting to buy some things, but being anxious about the sizing, I opted out. After I had Little T, I popped into one of these "parties" and ended up buying a skirt on a whim based on some sizing instructions from a LLR consultant. Unfortunately, the sizing instructions, while perfectly accurate, were not really perfect for someone of my size trying to dress modestly.

On a whim, I went to the LLR website to see if there was a local consultant. I found a woman who happened to live right around the corner (I could walk to her house in about 10 minutes) and it turned out she was hosting an in-house popup that very week. Perfect. It was bashert (meant to be). I sent her a message about how excited I was because I needed to try on some of the styles to see what sizes were right for me. I explained I was Orthodox, and that I'd see her soon.

In the meantime, I was waiting for a skirt I'd purchased, again on a whim, from a small company called Jade Mackenzie to arrive, and guess what, it did. Perfectly. Like a glove perfectly. The funniest thing about it was that the size that I ordered would have once made me cringe or be depressed about my size, but it fit, and that was all that mattered. I found something that was stylish, comfortable, and fit my modesty needs. I felt like I was on to something.

At the LLR party I went to, I started trying on clothes. The sizing is a bit wonky until you get used to it, so I was able to buy a Large in one style and a 2XL in another, but again, the sizing didn't get me down. I found shirts that fit. Shirts that were stylish. And the consultant encouraged me to go for patterns, and when I picked one up and tried it on, I felt golden.

Now, for those of you who've never been fat, you might not understand what it's like to put on a patterned shirt. I'm not talking about something black and white that's lightly patterned, I'm talking bright, vibrant colors and loud patterns. As a fat person, you just don't wear that type of clothing. It draws attention, you're told. It makes you look like a clown, you're told. Fat people don't wear patterns, stripes, polka dots (+1 on the clown comment), or anything other than muted colors and, most importantly, most especially, black. You wear a lot of black. It's slimming on everyone, but especially larger women, of course.

My unicorn.
This patterned, size large, Irma was a gateway. I'm reimagining my wardrobe as we speak. I bought another patterned Irma, my "unicorn" as I'm calling it, because when I put it on (I could wear it every day), I feel invincible and beautiful and funky. It's the textile version of the ridiculous dialogue that's constantly running in my head. And the best thing about the Irmas? No crazy layering. As a fat, breastfeeding Orthodox woman, the truth is layering is my worst nightmare, especially in the summer, but in many cases, it's a necessity.

For the first time in a long time, maybe since 2008 when I dropped those 25 pounds and found my figure and self-confidence, after three years of hearing Mr. T say "stop insulting my wife" when I put myself down, I think I'm on to something. I think I'm on to feeling beautiful and throwing cautious attire to the wind. I'm not looking at sizes anymore, I'm looking at styles, colors, patterns, and what it does for my shape.

Size is just a number. A stupid, unnecessary number that makes people feel bad about themselves. Stick to style.

Some of my favorite brands right now, as a proudly fat, breastfeeding mother of two:

Note: Yes, I use the word "fat" to describe myself. By medical standards, I'm morbidly obese, oh my! I could use the words curvy or plus-size, but they're just masks. I'm okay with the word. Are you?

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Monday, August 1, 2016

World Breastfeeding Week: I Need More Space and Time Please

So it's World Breastfeeding Week, eh?

If you ask my parents, I've never been a tactile person. When I was a baby I hated to be held, and my father would lay me in his lap with his leg crossed because it was the only way I could be "held" happily. I've never been a hugger, and even with significant others/spouses I've never been one for PDA or canoodling and cuddling. When I sleep, I want my space, I don't want to spoon or snuggle.

Give me my personal bubble or give me death!

When I found out I was pregnant with Asher, whether I'd breastfeed wasn't even something I debated or thought about. I don't really know that I was aware of what it entailed. That is, the time commitment, the closeness, the lack of personal space, the constant attachment ... but for some reason, it worked. I made it work. And even in those moments where I was desperate to get away and have personal space, I didn't mind the little munchkin because I was his sole source of life.

When we moved to the U.S. when he was about 4.5 months old and I started going into the office of the company I worked for semi-full time a few days a week, I started pumping because Mr. T was at home and needed to feed the munchkin. I hated it. I hated pumping. It was mechanical and uncomfortable and inconvenient and made my workday terrible. 

Eventually, I was back working from home and would nurse when necessary. Then, again, when Ash ended up in childcare at 10 months (when Mr. T was stuck outside the country), I was back to pumping. I hated it, again. When he hit a year, the daycare insisted on me sending him in with regular milk, so I started sending him with almond milk and he would nurse a little bit after school, at night, and when he was sick or sad. 

Then, at 18 months, boom, he was done. I was free. Freedom! FREEDOMMMM!

When I got pregnant with Little T just several months later, I went back to my same position: I'd breastfeed, of course. It served Asher well, it'd serve Little T well, too. 

Now, I'm almost 8 weeks postpartum, and I'm tired. Little T is home with me as I work, and now, with a full-time, very demanding job that I love (and a side, part-time gig), I'm finding that breastfeeding is restrictive and prohibitive. 

I keep fantasizing about formula and not having to be the sole source of life for this little munchkin because I'm busy. I have things to do. I can't stop and break and sit in a parking lot because she's screaming bloody murder and whether she's eating or just nursing for comfort it's her timetable, and I'm stuck to it. 

Did I have these feelings with Asher and I've just forgotten them? I honestly don't think I did. I was underemployed in Israel and then the U.S. back then. I had time. Time was mostly what I did have. He was colicky and grumpy and he nursed a lot because of it, and I didn't mind. I had time.

So, I just pumped. Yeah, she fell asleep and I pumped and I didn't hate it because it might give me some semblance of momentary freedom in the not-so-distant future. I mean, I even cut holes in one of my bras to hands-free pump because I don't have a pumping bra! I've gone nuts!

Or maybe I'm dreaming of the day that she is taken care of by someone who can give her the love and attention that I can't because I have. to. get. work. done. Because I want to play with her, but I want to work, and I want to be a good mom to Asher, and I want to be a good wife to my husband, but I can't do them all and still breathe.

Do I sound callous? Like an ungrateful mommy? I love my baby. I love both my babies. But timing is everything, and right now, I need more time. 

So here's to World Breastfeeding Week. Here's to a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding, a need for space, and a need for time. 

What are your experiences with breastfeeding? Love it or hate it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Curious George: The Documentary!

Curious George turns 75 years old this year, and filmmaker Ema Ryan Yamazaki has created the first-ever mixed-media documentary about Curious George: Monkey Business



The question is: Are you aware of the epic background of the creators of Curious George? Let's just say it involves a narrow escape from the Nazis and the Shoah (Holocaust) on makeshift bicycles across Europe with the yet-to-be-published Curious George manuscript in tow! 

If I've piqued your interest, make sure you donate a few dollars to the Kickstarter in support of the documentary: http://bit.ly/curiousgeorgedoc. Ema Ryan Yamazaki tells the story of Hans and Margret Rey in this exciting look at one of Asher's favorite characters. 

Not only are you supporting the telling of a vital part of history and the background of one of the world's most beloved monkeys and his creators, you'll also get some exclusive Curious George swag in the process. 

Support Monkey Businesshttp://bit.ly/curiousgeorgedoc

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Babywearing: The Boba 4G Carrier Review

Babywearing at the Farmers Market (can you find Asher?)
If you've dreamed of the Swiss Army Knife of baby carriers, I present to you the Boba 4G Carrier: the Original Soft-Structured Infant Carrier (in Tweet, because, well, I'm a social creature).

With Asher, who is now 2.5 years old and who I stopped baby wearing at about a year because mama's back hurt, I started out with a sling and then moved on to a structured carrier that I tried desperately to love but simply couldn't fall head over heels for. Mr. T carried Asher in the beginning in a makeshift moby wrap, but that was never my jam.

In anticipation of the arrival of Little T, I assessed my carrier collection:
  • A homemade "moby" wrap
  • A Catbird Baby structured carrier
  • A MayaWrap sling
  • (We'd had an Ergo carrier, as well, but neither of us cared for it and we donated it to a local baby wearing group so it could get some love.)
After taking a gander at what we had, I realized I needed something more. I needed something that both did more and was super comfortable, and this is where the Boba came in. 

I did a lot of searching on the web, and when I came across this carrier I was breathless. Although, yes, I received this carrier for free for review, it puts the other carriers I've reviewed and purchased to complete and utter shame -- in the best way possible. Why? The features make it the ultimate carrier from birth through the moment this little munchkin decides to run free. 
  • Integrated infant insert to support the littlest little ones
  • The perfect fit for both front and back carry
  • Removable foot straps and sleeping hood customize the ride
  • Purse strap holders
  • Pockets in all the right places
  • Adjustable straps that help you find the right snugness
  • Ergonomic support that never quits
video
The most attractive features to me were the infant support, because Little T is pretty little still, pockets pockets and more pockets, and adjustable straps that won't make this curvy mama feel like a sausage while she carries (one of the reasons I hate most wraps and carriers). The best pocket is along the base strap, and it's perfectly sized for my iPhone, which means it's always there. The pocket where the sleeping hood lives is another gem, because the hood snaps out, so if you want to use the pocket for something else it's totally yours to play with.

I'm also super jazzed about the foot straps because they keep your growing child from having their legs uncomfortable dangling at your side, and the purse strap holders because, come on, bags slipping down your shoulders isn't fun for anyone. 

Here's some details about all the features that make this fit for just about everybody that needs to wear a baby:



It took a bit of tugging and adjusting the strap that runs along the upper back, but once I got it pulled just right it has made carrying Little T a dream. The other bonus? She falls asleep about two seconds after I put her into the carrier, and I can't seem to figure out what kind of magic this is, but I'm happy it exists because it lets me do something that every mother of two struggles with: give attention to my oldest, super adorable toddler while also holding and caring for my baby. 

Epic. Babywearing. Win! Honestly, this carrier lets me be a better mom, and that is absolutely priceless. 

Have you tried the Boba in any form? Do you have a favorite baby carrier, and, if so, which one and why? 
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My Fat Dad: Book and Nosh Review + Giveaway

[Giveaway at the end of the post!]

I grew up in a house where the Diabetic Diet reigned supreme. I remember measuring cups of green beans hitting the plate off and on my entire childhood, peppered with frequent visits to Red Lobster (mom's favorite for holidays and birthdays), Benitos (a Mexican restaurant) for piled-high plates of beans and cheese, and McDonalds and Sonic for burgers, fries, and drinks with my father's beloved crushed ice. Everyone in my immediate family has battled with weight and diet pretty much our entire lives, and (except for me who has been privileged to always be on the more voluptuous side) has swung between thinness in their younger days to larger waistbands in their 20s and beyond.

My mom and dad never went to the dieting extremes that Dawn Lerman's father did in My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes, but I can relate to growing up in an environment where food obsession was manifest in countless ways — both constructive and destructive.

When I was contacted about reviewing My Fat Dad, I jumped at the chance because from a quick look it seemed like something that would really resonate. Although it became clear that Lerman and I didn't grow up with the same relationship with food, I have to say it was a really fascinating and entertaining read. For the first few chapters I was confused, as Lerman focused largely on her tenuous and tentative relationship with her mom, but as the book went on I understood why she wrote the book the way she did.

Both of her parents are Jewish, and both grew up in a post-Holocaust world with parents uniquely obsessed with classic Jewish food. However, whereas her actress mom grew up with an "eat to live" mindset, her advertising guru of a father grew up with a "live to eat" mindset. The author, Lerman, subsequently found herself obsessed with food — cooking it, baking it, understanding how it fits into specific diets, how it could save her dad, how it could comfort her sister, and more.

Unlike me, however, Lerman managed to end up with a pretty healthy relationship with food, thanks to her grandmother "Beauty," who taught her how to make just about anything and everything. Lerman ended up seeing the world through food. I didn't learn how to make anything growing up, so my relationship with food has always been tense, with binges (and starvation periods when I was a teen) and purges of the things that I love. It wasn't until I was in my mid-20s that I started to really explore and understand food in the way that Lerman did her whole life. I learned that steak didn't have to be overcooked, vegetables didn't always come out of a can, and the microwave wasn't necessarily my best friend. (Honestly, I think becoming kosher saved me and my health, because fast food was my BFF most of my life.)

Food, for Lerman, was a source of nurturing and healing when it came to her relationship with her parents and sister and grandparents, and that's something I so admire. I honestly think that the more a child grows up understanding and experimenting with food, the more healthy their overall relationship with food and the more there is a balance between "live to eat" and "eat to live," and I think Lerman's a really powerful example of that reality.

My Fat Dad really takes you on a food journey, both her obese father's journey and battle with food in the fast-paced world of advertising and her own journey to understand and explore all of the food options the world has to offer.

The most unique thing about this book is that each chapter ends with a few recipes based on conversations and events in the chapter. Lerman has created a cookbook based on stories, which is, let's be honest, what healthy relationship with food looks like (if years of watching countless hours of the Food Network has taught me anything). She has recipes for everyone, from a classic borscht to a No Bake Pecan Pie and Healing Mushroom Miso Soup.


I chose to focus on Peanut Butter Love—the Best Flourless Blondie recipe from a chapter where Lerman talks about her relationship with her sister and how she used to bring or send treats to her sister, who was traveling and acting in "Annie" (because their mom wasn't focused on food/treats). Lerman made blondies and other sweet treats for her sister, and that was one of the ways that the two of them were able to bond across the miles between them. Here's the recipe (and they really are to die for):

Ingredients
  • 16 ounces natural, no sugar added peanut butter
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup original soy milk or nondairy milk of choice ( I use ones that have about 7 grams of sugar per serving)
  • 1 ripe banana, mushed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup dark, semisweet chocolate chips
  • Butter or oil for greasing the pan
Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, maple syrup, milk, and mushed banana. Mush it all up and combine well. Then mix in the beaten eggs, vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Mix together until well blended and smooth. Stir in half the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a well-greased 8-inch-square Pyrex dish. Scatter the remaining chips on top.

Bake for 55 minutes, checking after 15 minutes to make sure the edges do not get too brown. If the top looks very brown, cover with foil and bake for the remaining 40 minutes. Cool and serve.

Note: Mine got a little too brown because I got distracted with the baby ... I recommend cooking for 15 minutes and covering with foil for blondies that aren't so brown. 




GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post and let me know what your relationship with food was like growing up. I'll pick one winner at random on July 19, 2016, to receive a copy of this book. 

Rules: Open to U.S. residents only. Must comment to be entered. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Night and Day: Giving Birth in Israel vs. the USA

With my newest little one approaching her four-week birthday and my five-week maternity leave about to end, I suppose it's time to sit down and put fingers to keys to share what the labor and birthing process was like with Little T. So here goes!

You can read the first and second part series of what it was like giving birth to Asher in Israel at Hadassah Ein Kerem here on the blog for some perspective, as well. Also, here's a look at the place where I gave birth.

I was really nervous about what labor and delivery were going to look like with Little T. After the nightmare horror show I experienced with Asher in Israel, I reiterated a million times to Mr. T what I was and was not willing to deal with. I had limits, and I was setting those limits with the nurses and doctors. I wasn't going to pursue 45 hours of labor only to have a painful c-section again. It wasn't going to happen. I was down for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarian), and I was committed to it because I didn't want to deal with the recovery of a c-section again, even knowing that the months-long recovery I had with Asher was a fluke caused by an infection that wouldn't heal.

Starting on Monday, June 6, I got concerned that I was leaking amniotic fluid, so the nurse sent me to the hospital. After a checkup and Asher being super concerned with mommy in the hospital bed, we were sent on our way with everything looking fine. On Tuesday, with my inlaws on their way into the country, I started having mild contractions. They were steady, but mild, so I didn't think I was heading into active labor. I was waiting for the magical moment my water would break like it did with Asher, which is what sent me into active labor. So I pushed through the contractions and life went on.

Then, on Wednesday, the contractions got more severe and closer together while Mr. T and I were out to lunch with my inlaws. After lunch, we made the executive decision to head to the hospital, because it felt like this was the real deal. We got there and after a few hours of tests, they decided to admit me around 6 p.m. I got a very large labor and delivery room complete with a super-amazing jacuzzi tub and actual chairs and a fold-out bed so Mr. T could stick around (in Israel, husbands aren't allowed to stay over at the hospital), and we settled in for the night. I was on constant monitoring, but unlike my experience in Israel, the two devices attached to my mid-section (one for the baby's heart rate and one for contractions) stayed in place magically instead of slipping and falling all over the place every time I moved. I couldn't handle laying down in the bed, so I was up on my feet the whole of the laboring process.

Nurses came in and out, constantly assessing how I was feeling and how the baby was feeling. They asked me at every step of the process what I wanted to do, and when Mr. T and I needed to discuss, they left us to it. The giant privacy curtain at the door gave us a sense of, well, privacy, and we felt in control of the entire process every step of the way. I made it clear that I wasn't going to go through two days of labor, and we created a plan.

Late in the evening, when it came time to choose "yes" or "no" to the epidural, I opted to give the jacuzzi tub a try to see if it would calm the painful contractions. Although it was an awesome tub, it didn't ease anything. I did, however, think it was amazing that the monitors they had attached to me allowed me to move freely wherever I wanted to go -- including into the tub.

After the tub failure, we went for the epidural around 12:30 a.m. The woman who did the epidural was ... I can't even describe her ... amazing. She was quick, it was about 2 minutes of pain, and then I was at ease. I slept for a few hours and they gave me petocin, so I slept a few more hours. In order to not bother me throughout those few hours, they put a cuff on my arm to monitor my blood pressure every 15 minutes, which I thought was pretty thoughtful. Yes, it was annoying to have something inflating and deflating on my arm, but less annoying than a nurse coming in to constantly wake me up and take my blood pressure.

Early in the morning, the doctors and nurses starting coming in more regularly to check and see how far I was dilated. We were all amazed at the process because by the morning I was at 9 cm, which is a measurement I never even got to with Asher. As the shifts changed, doctors came and introduced themselves and nurses did the same. Everyone was incredibly pleasant, coming in and doing what they needed and leaving promptly to give us space and privacy. There was no screaming, no arguing, no miscommunications, no confusion.

Around 8 a.m., I was at 9.5 cm and the epidural had all but ceased working. I felt like I was being launched to the ceiling every time I had a contraction, and I couldn't speak or move afterward. I kind of felt like I was dying, and I was screaming pretty loudly, so they called to have the epidural topped off. After that, the nurses and doctor on call and I decided it was time to start pushing.

Now, with the epidural topped off, I was on cloud 9. I couldn't feel a darn thing, so I asked the nurse about how long pushing normally takes, since this whole vaginal birth thing was novel to me. She said it can take one to two hours, to which I replied "how about 15 minutes?" and she laughed. Challenge accepted!

At 8:48 a.m., I began pushing. The doctors and nurses were shocked at how quickly it was going. Now, because I couldn't feel anything, I had no clue how hard I was pushing, so I just went for it. After a mere 14 minutes, there she was.

They held her up for me, and my response was shock. "It's a baby! A little baby!"

They all laughed, saying "What did you expect?"

The cord was cut and she was placed on my chest, the perfect little blob that had caused me so much grief for so many months. After a few hours of bonding and measurements with an amazing nurse who crafted Little T a hat with a bow, we were off to our recovery room. A bit smaller than the labor and delivery room, the recovery room was quiet, private, and had a huge bathroom that made moving around nice and easy. We could see the mountains from our window, and there was another pull-out bed for Tuvia to sleep in. The fridge down the hall was stocked with milk, juice, soda, and pudding (all kosher), and every room and hallway had a Keurig coffee machine for making tea and coffee. We ordered some kosher food from the deli through the hospital (they have a deal with the kosher deli) and spent the next 24 hours bonding, recovering, and trying to get some rest.

The next day, we were back at home, I was on my feet, and all of my expectations for labor and birth had been turned on their heads.



Now, I'm sure that language had something to do with the terrible experience I had giving birth in Israel, but considering I had a Hebrew-speaking doula and a husband whose Hebrew is pretty fluent, I can't attribute much of the terrifying ordeal in Israel to language. I just think that it's a country that misunderstands its people and the needs of its patients. Having Mr. T there with me throughout the whole process was unbelievably vital. Although we were only in the hospital one night after the baby's birth, having him there in the middle of the night so he could hold the baby so I could move around or go to the bathroom was life-changing. In Israel, he had to leave every night and go sleep wherever he could find space. I think in Israel the assumption is that people have so many kids that dads just don't need to be there because they're taking care of the kids, or maybe even that they don't want to be there. Also the cooperation of the doctors and nurses with what I wanted was clutch. I felt understood, respected, and like the focus of the experience. In Israel, I felt like I was a body on a bed that wasn't allowed to have opinions. The midwives and doctors fought and argued for what the correct plan of action was; I was merely a passive attendee at the birth of Asher. When it came to recovery, in the U.S. it was all about bonding and making sure that baby and I were comfortable, and most importantly, together immediately -- even with a c-section. Although there is a nursery at the hospital, they put the baby with the mother and practically insist on that bonding time. You can ask for the nursery if you want, but it's small and you won't find many babies in there. In Israel, they insisted on the baby being in the nursery. Even when we moved to the baby hotel, they just assumed we'd want to ditch our baby and go take a nap. What's up with that?

I could go on and on and on, but the experiences were night and day. They really couldn't have been more different. Will I have more children? Who knows. Will I have more children in Israel? Definitely not. I couldn't fathom or stomach going through what I went through with Asher ever again.