Wednesday, October 3, 2018

I Suck at Sticking to Things, but I'm Good at Being a Social Introvert

So ... you remember that time I said, it's a new year! It's 5779! This is the year I blog every single day!

Yeah. That didn't happen. The thing is, when it takes 20 to 30 days to create and maintain a good habit, how do you get to that point to actually make the habit stick? Maybe I'm just not at a time in my life where it makes sense. By the time my brain has settled down even a little bit and I can start thinking about the things I want to write for the sake of my own verbal bliss, I'm usually in bed, too tired to sit up, and my brain just spins and spins and spins. The hamster runs at light speed when I'm supposed to be sleeping. I have the most amazing ideas, the most profound thoughts. And then I get really angry at myself because I don't have the energy to get up, get my computer, and put fingers to keyboard and make something happen.

So I'm not going to do resolutions or promises or commitments to do X every Y number of days. My husband kept asking me if I was going to start learning Daf Yomi, as I was so inspired by If All the Seas Were Ink, but I didn't. I can't. I won't. I don't have the time. I literally cannot pen in a specific time every day to make it happen. In my line of work, calls come up, people need things sporadically,  and I simply don't have the willpower to wake up at 5 a.m. every day before everyone is awake to commit to it.

Basically? I suck at resolutions. I blame being a mommy. Scratch. I blame it on being a working mommy.

When I was single and living in D.C. and then Chicago, I sat and went through the weekly Torah portion every single week like a gangster of gemara. I was good at it, I kept to it, it was my thing. I look back at that girl and think, "DAMN girl. You go. You go girl. You get your learn on."

So enough about my inability to stick to anything for more than five seconds, let's talk about me being a ridiculous introvert.

A few days ago I was standing at the local King Soopers in the self-checkout lane. I go to the self-checkout religiously (like, I'm better at sticking to my ability to self-checkout than to write) because it prevents me from having to engage with strangers. Even when I have a coupon or run into an error or need my ID checked, the interaction is non-verbal and quick. It's bearable. But when I was standing there on a Sunday and the store was busy and the self-checkout was packed, someone walked up to me and said, "I can help you on number 11, ma'am."

I was playing on my phone, and I froze. I had two options:

  • Tell the nice checkout guy that I was intentionally waiting in line and to leave me to my mobile device, pretty please. 
  • Take the nice checkout guy up on his offer and have to engage in conversation and awkward smiles and unwanted dialogue and ... my worst nightmare. 
The reality of having to explain that I was happy to be anti-social and wait in the line was too unbearable so I went through the guy's checkout lane and it was just as awkward and unwanted as I thought it would be. 

Thanks, but no thanks. 

But then there was the few days over the Jewish holiday season where we had guests over and it was wonderful. I was, undoubtedly, exhausted after people left, because that's what being social does to me. It drains every last ounce of energy and strength I have. But it was so nice, I remembered why I loved to host. During the year, we never host because our house is too tiny. But when we can move outside and into the sukkah, we have an actual dining room people! Space to have multiple people and families over. So we invited friends over, the kids played in the backyard, people spent all afternoon with us, and it was great. I fed people, I talked, I schmoozed. It felt good.

I'm an odd duck, honestly. I crave interaction and desire to be included in social activities and outings, but at the same time I do absolutely nothing to include myself or inject myself into the lives of my friends. 

I know there's a name for it -- social introversion -- but I also struggle with it making sense to people. Everyone says how great I get along with people and how social I am, but the physical and emotional toll it takes is what people don't see. 

So now we're back to the regular year where we're back inside our house and can't host anymore. I'm both relieved and disappointed. I wish we had the space to bring in friends every few weeks. Our kids love it. And sometimes, just sometimes, the mess their friends bring with them is worth it. Until next Sukkot ... 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

#MomLife: Yom Kippur Edition

Zusha and the Big Fish!
Now that we're well stuffed with the gluten-free lasagna I made, it's time to start shutting things down, bathing everyone, and getting ready to shut down for the most important day on the Jewish calendar. I have to mention that the lasagna was actually made for Shabbat lunch, but our plata didn't turn on, so we had to have challah, lox, and cream cheese instead, so I decided to heat it up for our erev Yom Kippur meal. Why? Well, the traditional pre-Yom Kippur meal includes kreplach, which are little meat-stuffed dumplings. The idea behind them is that the meat is "hidden," and it comes from this verse in Isaiah 1:18:
“Come, let us reach an understanding, —says the LORD. Be your sins like crimson, They can turn snow-white; Be they red as dyed wool, They can become like fleece.”
Meat = red. White = the pasta. Boom! Except that we don't do meat, but the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes were hidden between layers of pasta. It works! IT WORKS!

Anyway. Am I ready? No. Does it matter? No. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. But you know me. I know me. It does matter, but I'm trying really hard to not let it matter.

Yom Kippur is hard. Neither Mr. T nor I fast well, and we've got three small kids who need us to be at our very best all. day. long. So, I'm trying to pull some understanding and forgiveness to myself based on this article on
Let go of expectations for how a “real” Yom Kippur should look like. There are many ways to honor and celebrate Yom Kippur, and each year will be different, depending on the ages and needs of your children, as well as your own physical and emotional capabilities. Intense prayer may be out of the question for you, but you will still be experiencing Yom Kippur to its fullest.
The sages tell us that on Yom Kippur, itzumo shel yom mechaper—the essence of the day atones for us. Regardless of our prayers, meditation or hard work, Yom Kippur itself reveals that part of us that is always connected to G‑d, the part that doesn’t need to do anything or be anything other than what it is. This is our etzem, our essence.
Spending the day caring for your children is no less G‑dly than spending it in the synagogue. Wherever you are, you are at one with G‑d.
So, here I am, pounding Little Secrets and water instead of, well, anything else. My husband is bathing the kids, I put the baby down for bed, and now I'm anticipating what 5779 holds for me and whether I can honestly and truly commit to Daf Yomi while also blogging every day. 

It's all about carving time out, having a schedule, prioritizing. Things I'd like to prioritize better? My husband, my kids, my self-care, my learning, my career growth, my happiness, my health. It's about time that I put everything in perspective and start prioritizing what matters. And the nice thing? I think my job gives me that space. I just have to take advantage of it and stop treating every work assignment like it's the end of the world. 

Anyway, candle lighting is coming soon, and it's time to sip the last of my water and refocus myself for Yom Kippur. To really think about who I am, to celebrate these moments where we are closest to HaShem. 
“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d" (Leviticus 16:30).
As I plead for forgiveness, I also ask for strength to be inscribed in the book of life in the year to come. 

I'm wishing one and all a g'mar chatimah tovah -- may you be inscribed in the book of life and have a meaningful fast. Catch you on the other side!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Haiku for the Jewish Mom with a Full-Time Job

Twelve hour workday.
Coming in, close to midnight.
I see Yom Kippur.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Ari Fuld, and Living it All on Loan

There is a Midrash on Proverbs 31:10, and it goes like this:
Beruriah was the learned and compassionate wife of Rabbi Meir. While Rabbi Meir was teaching on a Shabbat afternoon, both of his sons died from the plague that was affecting their city. When Rabbi Meir returned home, he asked his wife, “Where are our sons?” She handed him the cup for havdalah and he said the blessing. Again he asked, “Where are our sons?” She brought food for him, and he ate. When he had finished eating, Beruriah said to her husband, “My teacher, I have a question. A while ago, a man came and deposited something precious in my keeping. Now he has come back to claim what he left. Shall I return it to him or not?” Meir responded, “Is not one who holds a deposit required to return it to its owner?” So she took his hand and led him to where their two children lay. He began to weep, crying “My sons, my sons.” She comforted him, “The Lord gave, the Lord took. Y’hei sh’mei rabah mevorach, May the Name of the Lord be blessed…”
I bookmarked the discussion of this particular midrash this past Shabbat as I finished up If All the Seas Were Ink by Ilana Kurshan. It felt so powerful to me, the discussion of how all that we have is merely on loan from HaShem. 

Even further is a discussion in the sixth chapter of Berachot over the blessings over foods. At once it attempts to reconcile the fact that "the heavens are the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the earth and its inhabitants" (Psalms 24:1) and that "the heavens belong to God and the earth was given to men" (Psalms 115:16). While later Rabbi Hanina bar Papa says, "All who benefit from this world without first staying blessing are as if they are stealing from the Holy One Blessed Be He" (35b).

The reconciliation for this, Rabbi Levi explains, is that everything in the world belongs to HaShem, but the moment we make a blessing, it's on loan to us. 

This discussion was so powerful to me, so potent because I struggle intensely with making berachot. One of the things that drew me to Judaism was the level of 100-percent consciousness that is required of the Torah-observant Jew. So I marked this page, it made so real the idea that all that we have is on loan from HaShem, we only need make a bracha, a blessing, in order to take pleasure of it, to enjoy it, to truly be able to cherish something -- or someone. 

And then, this morning, I awoke exhausted after going to bed around 1:30 a.m., turned on my phone, and started looking through my news feed. The first thing I saw? A distant friend, someone who helped me greatly when I made aliyah, someone who was a Lion of Zion, someone who would lay his life down for any person who was on the right side of history ... had been murdered, viciously, by a Palestinian terrorist at the very place I used to go to buy groceries or get a coffee many times every week. My immediate reaction was that I had to be mistaken. Ari, Ari who basically spends 24/7 -- or spent -- at that place in Gush Etzion speaking with soldiers and providing them with chizuk and food and other special gifts from his fundraising -- couldn't have been murdered. He was a soldier. He knew that place inside and out. And yet, there he was. There was the video. The video of him being stabbed by a vicious animal -- not a human, not anyone I would remotely call a human -- and then chasing after him, poised, shooting at the savage, and then collapsing backwards. 

There's something about watching a friend, someone you know, someone who you watch regularly from a distance be murdered ... that just crushes every possible understanding and love you have for life. For Israel. 

And then, as the day went on, and I fought between anger and tears and confusion and the question, "Could I ever take children back to that place?" And then I thought about what I'd bookmarked on Shabbat. About how this life is just on loan from HaShem, and we have to be grateful and send out as many blessings as we can every moment of every day to keep these lives and all that are part of them on loan. For it's all we have. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Haikus for a Shabbat Afternoon

Although I have much to write about, especially after finishing If All the Seas Were Ink, I want to keep this short and sweet as I have much to do this evening. Here is my Shabbat in a series of Haikus:

Sleep? I try so hard.
Toss and turn, flip and groan. Sigh.
My mind does not stop.

A quiet morning.
Kids at shul with Mister T.
Head in a book -- peace.

I promise myself
when they return I will breathe
and stay calm, happy.

The plata? Not on.
Looks like lasagna will wait.
Lox, cream cheese it is.

The whirlwind arrives,
overwhelming my senses.
I embrace crazy.

Everyone naps now.
Fast, I put head to pillow.
A cry -- poor timing.

Finishing a book
feels like fresh, warm laundry
on my skin at last.

The sky turns black-blue.
The flame flickers bright before
spices are inhaled.

Shavua tov, you.
You who dreams of eternal
shabbat and shalom.

And that, friends, is Shabbat in Haikus with Chaviva. Shavua tov!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Parashat Vayelech is Coming ... and My Daughter is Eating Soap!

Oh how I love these two crazy blond monkeys. 

I'm two days into my self-care regimen of writing every day, and as Shabbat approaches I'm feeling stressed. This is the opposite of self-care, right? Self-care is supposed to be relaxing, rejuvenating, refreshing ... calming?

Instead, I'm sitting in the bathroom on a tiny Target clearance chair from last season trying to give my daughter a bath. I go to quickly wash her hair and body using one of those pouf things and she, my 2 year old wild child, dips her finger in the soap and takes a big lick.

"No! That's soap! We don't eat soap!"

I've taken a brief moment to recognize that I say "we" like the royal "we" and every time I do I think, "Good lord I'm one of those parents." But it always just comes out. "We don't do this, we don't do that." Why is that? Maybe another time.

"But mommy, it's yummy! Yummy soap!"

She didn't even cringe. She didn't make a face. She enjoyed the soap. She asks for more, and I have to remind her, "Don't eat it!"

I had really wanted to sit down and read this week's parashah, Vayelech, and try to do some learning, but like all well-laid plans, that one fell apart before 10 a.m. In the time that I probably could have sat down and turned everything off and read the portion and tried to glean something meaningful and relevant, I was running to the dry cleaners (I forgot to take stuff before Rosh HaShanah and felt like a jerk) and to the store to pick up a few loaves of sourdough for Shabbat.

And now we're on the couch. T is watching Daniel Tiger and I'm trying to suss out something from the parashah. Here we have Devarim 31:16-18:
And they will forsake Me and violate My covenant which I made with them.
And My fury will rage against them on that day, and I will abandon them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will befall them, and they will say on that day, 'Is it not because our God is no longer among us, that these evils have befallen us?'
And I will hide My face on that day, because of all the evil they have committed, when they turned to other gods.
The thing is, I've been having a hard time connecting lately. To the universe, to HaShem, to my family, to my work, to just about everything. Everything feels big, overwhelming, exhausting, like I'm walking in sand. I have these moments of pure clarity where I feel caught up, calm, like I'm finally getting somewhere, but then I just get overwhelmed again. 

I look at these verses like most people probably do: I did something bad, I'm being punished, HaShem is a million miles away and more. You can expand it and look at global warming, disease, murder, poverty, and every other major catastrophe and wonder, "What did we do?"

When I'm having a hard time, I have to remind myself that Judaism, my core set of beliefs, my religion, my internal dialogue, my heart, my soul, are not qualified by an "if, then" statement. If I don't daven (pray) every day then HaShem will make me feel despair and loneliness. If I don't remember to make all of the right brachot (blessings) over food, then HaShem will make me feel empty and sad and unappreciated. It just doesn't work like that. It's a hard reality, but that's the reality. Yes, if you rob a bank, then you'll go to jail. If you smash into someone's car, then you'll have to pay damages and potentially go to jail. But the Torah doesn't work that way, not exactly. 

The truth is, those other gods that we turn to, those other gods that we worship and covet that send HaShem into a fury and disrupt the equilibrium that we all so desire in this totally jacked up world varies from person to person. They're not literal gods. Our gods are money, the newest phone, brand new clothes, the nicest car, the most organic and non-GMO foods we can't afford. Our gods are jealousy and vanity and anger and everything else that we let consume us on a daily basis. That's what sends HaShem into a fury, that's when He hides his face and makes us feel like we've been completely abandoned. 

At least once every few weeks, I have this conversation with Asher:

A: Mommy, how did people destroy HaShem's house when it's in the sky?
Me: Well, at one time it was in Jerusalem. That's where HaShem talked to us and we heard Him. 
A: Oh. And then they destroyed it?
Me: Yup. And now we're waiting to rebuild it. 
A: Well, I already rebuilt it. 
Me: You did?
A: Yeah, I built it, and now I can hear HaShem every day. 

I feel like, if only I had such a clear, beautiful view of the world, I'd feel less overwhelmed, less like I'm constantly being punished for not doing enough of the Jewish stuff because I'm doing so much of the being an adult stuff. It's one of the reasons, I think, that while reading Ilana Kurshan's If All the Seas Were Ink, that I started to have a physical reaction to reading about her experiences in Israel. Living in Israel, learning in Israel, living the dream I once dreamed and lived so vividly. Part of me thinks that if I were living back in Israel, all of the ways that I'm feeling empty and lacking would be filled up again. But then I remember that what I feel here is what I'll feel there, our baggage is internal and it follows us around -- it's not location specific, Chavi!

Anyway, this has been really, really long and wandering. I'm not sure what my ultimate point is, which, as a writer, makes me feel a bit like I suck at my job. But hey, I fulfilled my push to write every day! Day three down. Stay tuned for a post-Shabbat post when maybe I'll have something coherent to say about it being Shabbat Shuvah and how this entire post was perfectly on-theme!

Shabbat shalom and g'mar chatimah tovah -- may you be inscribed in the book of life!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A New Year, A New Plan for Self-Care ... Chaviva Style

My #adulting face.

I'm at the magical stage of adulthood where I have three kids under the age of 5 years old, I'm working full-time, I have zero time or energy for my very patient spouse, and I've got side hustles in the form of pro-bono work for discounts on things like childcare. Whew. Being a modern, millennial mom sucks hardcore, hardcore like my daughter trying desperately to get that sucker off the stick (and failings and me having to rip it out of her mouth, because #chokinghazard, and yes, tears follow).

One of the biggest places in my life that I'm feeling like I'm really failing hasn't changed since, well, forever, and that is self-care. Now, I know what you're thinking: Take your avocado toast and craft coffee in a reusable mug and stick your self-care up your yoga-pantsed tuches. Right? The truth is self-care has always been a "thing." It's just manifest itself in many different ways throughout time, and it's most often been the luxury of classes that had the time and money to actually take some time off from the rigors of running a household or rearing children or running a business to actually engage in proper self-care.

The term first popped up in 1841 and this is the definition that offers:

I like that Merriam-Webster had the sense to point out the need for self-care for busy parents, but that health care bit is interesting and unsuspecting, I think. I'm guessing what the definition means here is that a lot of parents will pursue self-care such as massage or acupuncture or chiropractor or medicinal marijuana or CBD or something else that you should consult with a doctor about but you don't necessarily need to consult with your doctor about. After all, so much about being a parent is physically exhausting, from carrying your kids around to carrying their stuff around to carrying yourself around after carrying all their crap around. By the end of each day of Rosh HaShanah, if I stopped and sat for even a few minutes, standing up was the most painful thing since childbirth.

Anyway, back to the point: self-care. I suck at it. 

I'm not the kind of person to get a manicure or a pedicure or go to a spa or sit down on a weekday to read a book or take a bath or just "chill" or "meditate" or anything that resembles the common approach to self-care. I spend most of my day on other peoples' time tables, so the moment my kids are in bed, the house is clean, and lunches are made, I usually just want to take a shower and go to bed.

The closest thing I get to self-care and "me time" is that ... well ... don't tell anyone ... but ... I watch shows on my iPhone in the shower.

I know, I know. Danger! It's going to fall in the water! It'll get wet! It'll get ruined! And I'm probably jinxing myself by even putting this out into the universe, but it's literally the only time of day I have to catch up on TV.

In fact, I'm writing this, right now, at 8:09 p.m. from a Starbucks near my house because I'm supposed to be working on the side hustle and finishing up an e-book for my full-time gig. Instead, here I am, talking about my new plan for self-care.

You'll be happy to know that my plan includes not watching shows in the shower because I really should just be relaxing and being mindful and focusing on shaving and not having to listen to screaming children (although, let's be honest, seven times out of ten halfway through the shower someone is screaming and I have to cut 'er short).

My plan for 5779, this brand new Jewish year, is to blog every. single. day.  Hold me to it. Keep me accountable. Is anyone even out there still reading this? I don't care! I mean, I do care, but that's not the point. 

And yes, I know: I'm writing this post at night and it's going to post tomorrow because I already wrote for today, but my goal is to have a piece of content on this blog every single day for the entirety of 5779 because this blog, this place, this space, was for so long the air in my lungs. I couldn't breathe without putting fingers to keyboard, the virtual pen to paper. And I miss it, I miss it something fierce.

All those months ago when I got my amazing copywriting gig, my dream was that it would bring me back to writing more regularly here. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. Because I'm an adult with responsibilities to everyone around me.

The side effect of postpartum hormones + parenting + a full-time job + not having the space to be the kind of wife and mother I'd like to be + everything else swimming around my head = a Chaviva that is tired, exhausted, strained, stressed, unhappy, overwhelmed, and full of feelings of failure and the inability to get ahead and get it right.

So, basically, setting a goal and attempting to prioritize self-care in the form of writing is my attempt to find my happy. Over the past year, if there is one thing our family has learned, it's that if I'm happy, then Mr. T is happy, then everyone is happy.

I also started reading Ilana Kurshan's If All the Seas Were Ink, and I'm debating starting Daf Yomi, but I'm thinking that might be too many commitments for one year. I started reading the book last Shabbat, and something really bizarre (amazing? brilliant? unexpected?) happened to me both physically and emotionally while I was reading it. I felt a longing for Israel I haven't felt in years and also felt connected to something big, something vast. But that's for another blog post. Maybe tomorrow.

Stay tuned, and please, if anyone out there is still reading this, keep me accountable, mmkay?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Recipe: Pumpkin-Pomegranate Muffins (Gluten Free)

I attempted to be crafty. It kind of worked.
Although Rosh HaShanah is now behind us, I figure it's never too late to share a delicious recipe featuring two of the simanim or symbols for the holiday that we say a special yehi ratzon over. The origin for this practice comes from the Talmud Masechet Kritut (6a)!
"Abaye said: ‘Now that you have said that an omen is a significant thing, [a person] should always be accustomedto seeing / to eating at the beginning of the year (on Rosh HaShanah) a gourd, green beans, leek, beets and dates'." 
And thus, the Rosh HaShanah "seder." The yehi ratzon prayers translate as "“May it be your will, HaShem our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers…” followed by each of the different simanim that we eat during Rosh HaShanah, which include:

  • Apples dipped in honey, that we be renewed for a good and sweet new year
  • Leeks, that our enemies be decimated
  • Carrots, that our merits increase
  • Beets, that our adversaries be removed
  • Dates, that our enemies be consumed
  • Gourd (pumpkin), that the decree of our sentance be torn up and may our merits be proclaimed before you
  • Pomegranate (seeds), that our merits increase like (the seeds of) a pomegranate
  • Fish, that we be fruitful and multiply like fish
  • Fish head, that we be as the head and not as the tail.
So, this year, wanting to be as streamlined as possible because we try to work the simanim into our meal rather than having an actual "seder" or ceremony like many do (think: the Passover seder, but shorter and tastier), I decided to combine things! 

Our dinner for the first day of Rosh HaShanah included:
  • Pumpkin-Pomegranate Muffins
  • Apples and honey
  • Tzimmes with sweet potatoes, carrots, and dates
  • Roasted beets
  • Salmon loaf
  • Gummy fish "heads"
  • Split pea soup (the leeks were in here)
  • Round sourdough loaf
Second night looked like this:
  • New fruit
  • Apples and honey
  • Pumpkin-Pomegranate Muffins
  • Tzimmes
  • Gummy fish "heads"
  • Split pea soup (leeks)
  • Fish pie (featuring the carrots and the fish)
And now for the recipe! It's gluten free, and the pumpkin made these so incredibly moist I can't even begin to describe to you how light and flavorful they were. I even gave one to a neighbor who raved about the fact that, come on, "They don't even taste gluten free!"

This recipe makes about 15 muffins, which, I know, is weird. Basically I made a dozen regular-sized muffins + two large muffins, but just know that you can double this to make 30 regular-sized muffins or just use the recipe as is for roughly 15. 

  • 1.5 cups Cup4Cup-brand gluten-free flour
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1.25 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 can (7.5 ounces) pure canned pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup frozen pomegranate seeds 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare your muffin pan. I prefer silicone because it doesn't require greasing and these muffins slide out with ease.
  2. Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in large bowl. 
  3. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil, and orange juice in large stand mixer and beat until just blended. 
  4. Add flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until just moistened. 
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups until each is 3/4 full. Note: You'll have some extra, so save it for a second round or fill larger muffin tins for a few extra. 
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Note: It took me a few additional minutes, but I'm at elevation, so just be conscious and set your timer for 25 minutes and keep checking back in. 
I wouldn't keep these on the counter for too long, but they are DELICIOUS straight out of the fridge. They also freeze really well. As a variation, you could bake this in a loaf pan for a great pumpkin-pomegranate bread, too. 

Do you do the traditional Rosh HaShanah "seder"? Or do you work the simanim into your meal? How do you combine the different foods to streamline your meal? 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Kosher Toddler Lunch Ideas for the Bento and Beyond

I recently joined a Facebook group filled with mommies much like myself who struggle to pack exciting meals every single day of every week for the lovable little monsters we call children! Well, I'd already started photographing my lunch creations, mostly because I'm an avocado-toast-loving millennial who can't get enough of Instagramming my food (or my kids' food in this case). So here are some of my go-to kosher toddler lunch ideas that I pack for my 4.5 year old and 2 year old. I can't wait until Zusha is on solids. I'm going to go bananas with his lunches, too!

Kosher Toddler Snack Ideas

I usually pack my kids two morning snacks and two afternoon snacks, because they're in preschool from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, and, let's be honest, they are growing like weeds and never stop eating. I usually pack these combos in reusable sandwich-size bags that are labeled with their name and are machine washable for when they get super gross. Here are my favorite combos:
  • Applesauce packet + Trader Joe's fruit and grain bars
  • Pirate's Booty + fruit strips
  • Cheese crackers + banana or pear
  • Mini pretzels + fruit cup
  • Mini muffins + applesauce packet
You get the idea! Believe it or not, they rarely come home with uneaten snacks. 

Kosher Toddler Lunch Ideas for Preschool

When it comes to lunches, I try to give my kids a little bit of everything: fruit, vegetable, protein, grain. I don't always achieve this massive goal, but I do a pretty good job. You'll see that I put a yogurt with every single meals and that's because it's one thing my kids will always consistently eat, which is my number one pro tip for packing a toddler's lunch: Always pack one thing you KNOW they will eat no matter what else is in the box. Here are some visuals on lunches I've put together lately: 

And here are a few I didn't instagram:

Now that you know what I pack for my kids, I have to know ... what kosher toddler lunch ideas do you have for the bento and beyond? Share in the comments!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Covering My Hair: A Hilarious Encounter

Most of the time, I get really sweet compliments on my hair wrapping.

"That scarf is gorgeous! Where did you get it?" (Most of the time, I can't remember.)

"You look like a queen." (I get this a lot from Ethiopian men.)

"How did you learn to wrap like that?" (Trial and error, is my usual response.)

But today, as Mr. T and I went through security at Coors Field for a Rockies vs. Dodgers game (Rockies won, all thanks to Charlie Blackmon, my secret boyfriend), this exchange occurred between two older gentleman and me:

Security #1: Do you have anything in there? (He gestures at my scarf.)
Me: What? No.
Security #1: You're not hiding anything?
Me: No ...
Security #2 (with an awesome curly mustache): He's just being ... (I can't remember what he said).
Me: Ha ha. Oh, okay.
Security #2: Do you hide your weed in there?
Me: Ha ha ha, right.
Security #2: I once used to have this metal container in my car but I swapped it out for wood and this copy stopped me to ask if I hid my coke in there! Ha!
Me: Uh, okay ...

Seriously, it was weird. And funny. And I never thought that anyone thought I could hide anything in my hair covering. I mean, I suppose I could. I suppose it's why when I go to the airport, inevitably they have to wand my head to make sure I'm not accessorizing with the newest trends in small bombs. But weed? Drug paraphernalia!? It had never occurred to me.

Perhaps this is a new business model I should look into ...

But seriously, I'm having a hardcore love-hate relationship with hair covering lately. Not that I'm considering uncovering or going to sheitels (wigs) full time or anything, but mostly that I just am not loving the way I look in my scarves these days. My volumizer is too big or too small. The scarf doesn't fit right. It makes my head look gigantic, it makes my head look lopsided ... everything is just wrong with it. I hit this slump once a year, it seems. I'm not sure why, and I don't know how I usually come out of it, but I pretty much hate it because hair covering is something I truly love.

Do you ever get in a slump? How do you dig yourself out of it? 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Sometimes, Being a Mom Just Is

Sometimes, being a mom is feeling miserable, but still getting up, making lunches, and getting kids to school before starting a full day of work.

Sometimes, being a mom is waiting until everyone is in bed and driving away in the minivan to work, because coffee is expensive and it's too late to drink it anyway.

Sometimes, being a mom is being sick but, having promised your kids you'd go to a picnic, you muster up the smiles to go.

Sometimes, being a mom is thinking "Why did I do this? Can I just go back?" and not feeling guilty because being a mom is the hardest job in the world.

Sometimes, being a mom is making banana bread while holding a baby in one hand and cracking an egg in the other.

Sometimes, being a mom is being exhausted, defeated, and still having to function at full capacity for family, for work, for everyone except yourself.

Sometimes, being a mom is ignoring a screaming baby because you really want to post a picture of the lunch you packed because you're proud you're so put together sometimes.

Sometimes, being a mom is feeling fat, ugly, tired, bloated, lonely, exhausted, fed up, and utterly alone, even when you're surrounded by friends and family.

Sometimes, being a mom is feeling gorgeous and with it, even if you're "faking it" until you "make it."

Sometimes, being a mom is knowing that there are people relying on you every moment of every day, so you must. keep. going.

Sometimes, being a mom is smiles and giggles and moments of bliss.

Sometimes, being a mom is screaming and crying.

Sometimes, being a mom is winning.

Sometimes, being a mom is losing.

Sometimes, being a mom just is.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Instant Pot Shabbat: Instant Pot Recipe for Black Lentils (and more!)

instant pot shabbat black lentil recipe

So I joined the cult of Instant Pot (yes, it's Instant Pot, not Instapot) after resisting and resisting for longer than I probably should have. Although I've only had it a few weeks, I'm happy to say I'm in love and kicking myself for all the snide comments I made to others about the craze. The best part is that I've gotten rid of my rice cooker and small crockpot and now have more space in my kitchen, which, might I add, is super, unbelievably tiny.

Instant Pot Shabbat Salmon, Kale, and Potatoes
This is the photo from the Food Network, and my fish looked exactly like this. Period. 

I ended up doing both Shabbat meals in the Instant Pot: the first completely and the second partially. For Shabbat dinner, I pretty much followed this recipe from Food Network for Instant Pot Salmon with Garlic Potatoes and Greens, except:

  • I substituted kale (I'm so millennial) for the spinach.
  • I used a Moroccan spice mix I had laying around (mix it up!). 
The reviews were outstanding. My 4.5 year old loved it and my husband couldn't shut up about it. This one will be going into rotation. Seriously, I can't cook fish this perfectly in the oven, so knowing the Instant Pot can? Priceless. The best part was that it only took a few minutes and I did it right before candle lighting, so everything was hot and fresh.

Kosher Buddha Bowl with Instant Pot Black Lentils

For Shabbat lunch, I wanted to whip up a hardcore healthy Buddha Bowl-style meal, which included:

  • Roasted rainbow carrots
  • Roasted sweet potatoes
  • Roasted red onions
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Roasted cherry tomatoes
  • Black lentils
  • Tahini sauce (tahini, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, salt, pepper)
Brilliant! I love bowls that are packed with veggies and protein, and this one was going to be a doozy of goodness. The only problem? I couldn't seem to find a legit recipe for just making black lentils; every recipe was for a soup or red, green, or brown lentils. I love black (or puy) lentils because they're incredibly hearty and packed full of protein. After digging through some regular recipes and Instant Pot recipes, I decided to wing it. The result was outstanding! 

  • 1 cup black lentils
  • 3.5 cups broth or water
  • pinch of salt
  • Put the ingredients in the Instant Pot bowl. 
  • For settings, you want 3 minutes on high pressure. 
  • Make sure the steam valve is closed. 
  • Put the lid on and the process will begin. 
  • After the 3 minutes, let the Instant Pot sit for 10 more minutes. 
  • After the 10 minutes, release the steam valve carefully. 
  • Once the pressure is resolved, remove the lid, and enjoy!
You should have perfect black lentils for use in whatever you need to make. If you want them to be a bit more soupy, use 4 cups of broth or water instead of the 3.5. 

Pro tip: If you have cherry tomatoes that are starting to turn, chuck them in the oven at 400 degrees with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Let them cook until they start to burst and pop. Throw 'em on pizza, a buddha bowl, on spaghetti, or just eat 'em with a spoon!

Do you have a favorite Instant Pot recipe? Sock it to me! My Instant Pot is going to stay pescatarian/dairy, but I'm curious how you're using yours.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Mom's Life: The Moment You've Done Something Right

 You know that moment when you're holding your baby and your other kids are playing so nicely and quietly and you look down at the baby and think, "You know? I've got this. I've really got this?" And then the baby starts screaming and your toddler starts screaming because her older sibling isn't letting her play the way she wants to play and then all hell breaks loose and you're thinking, "Yeah. I jinxed myself there." And everything falls apart and you want to curl into a ball and get sucked into a time vortex back to college when you could stay up until 3 am drinking and delivering films for the college newspaper for printing ...

Just me? I mean, some of the specifics there are probably just me, but this is basically a cycle I go through on a daily (sometimes multiple times) basis.

Having three kids is stupid. It's just the absolute most stupidest thing any human being could ever possibly do. With two kids, at least you sort of feel like it's a level playing field if there are two parents and two kids. You can each man one child at a time. But with three? And three under 5? It's stupid. It's dumb. It's the stupidest thing I've ever done in my entire life (except maybe not really going for the decadent non-kosher foods before opting to go kosher perhaps).

But then there are these moments like today. As I attempted to chill the Zush out while sitting on the couch (he pooped twice, so there's the answer), my other two were schlepping half the toys from my oldest's room into my daughter's room to have a "show." Then, they shut the door and I'm there, helpless on the couch, attempting to ignore the ensuing laughter and thumping and pounding. They have taken to WWE-style wrestling, my 2 year old and 4.5 year old. I mean, it keeps them super occupied, which is cool, and usually no one even ends up crying, which is also cool. But getting them to calm down afterward? Impossible.

So it's almost Tirzah's bedtime and Zusha finally falls asleep, so I get Asher to clean up the whole mess (because Tirzah suddenly is tired and thirsty and can't help), and he does. (Miracle!) Then I get Tirzah ready for pajamas and she's massively pooped without telling me. Every single time the conversation goes something like this:

Me: Tirzah, you pooped. What do you do when you poop?
Me: Great.
Me: Okay, it's too late now. You did it. I found it. Next time, mmkay?

So I get her changed and in bed and say Shema and Asher decides he wants to read her stories. Cool, I think. This'll end in disaster. So I go sit down on the couch to troll Facebook Marketplace for killer toy deals, and I hear him reading to her.

And it is the single most beautiful, heartwarming moment of my entire week. He doesn't know the words, but he knows the stories, and he's reading to her with gusto and excitement like Tatty does. Eventually he comes out and shuts her door.

"She wanted me to read three books!" he says proudly.

My heart melted. It was helpful having him read her bedtime stories because after working all day and picking up kids and making the crappiest (and yet tastiest for them) dinner and then running to Target on a 15-minute run before Mr. T went into the deli for the night and then dealing with Screamy McScreamerson aka the Terrorist aka Zusha ... I was spent.

Sometimes, kids feel like my greatest curse. Seven o'clock hits, and I'm exhausted. My internal clock kicks me awake at 5:30 am or earlier every single day whether I want it or not. I do what feels like 30 loads of dishes a day and am constantly detaching Batman stickers from my feet, not to mention cursing the sand that is everywhere all the time from the preschool playground. I feel like there is stuff, everywhere, and I can't get rid of it enough to feel like I have ownership of my space, my personal, individual, Chaviva space.

And then sometimes, I realize that I'm almost 35 and this is precisely where HaShem wants me to be. We're all on a journey, and we are where we are for a reason. I don't really get the reason. Sometimes I feel great regret and resentment and then immense guilt for feeling those things. It's a cycle I'll never understand, probably, but when I hear Asher reading to his sister and making her laugh and smile or making Zusha smile just by looking in his general direction, I know I must be doing something right.

In other news: Today we celebrate THREE YEARS since Mr. T returned to the USA after his nine month immigration disaster absence. And yet, three years on, it still feels so raw and close. Boy I hope it feels less painful as the years continue to roll on.

Happy 4th of July folks!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Review: Millennial Kosher by Chanie Apfelbaum

I love me some free stuff, and cookbooks are among my most favorite things to get for review. The thing about cookbooks is that I rarely buy them because when there's something I want to make I usually Google the recipe. It's easy, it's fast, I'm presented with millions of options ... but sometimes it's nice to have a physical book in hand while meal-planning for the week (I say half-jokingly because I'm trying really hard to do this and failing pretty miserably, mostly because my kids are jerks when they come home from daycare and all they want is string cheese and yogurt).

When I got the email to review Millennial Kosher by Chanie Apfelbaum, the creator of kosher food blog Busy in Brooklyn, I was pretty skeptical. I feel like anything labeled "millennial" is bound to be terribly stereotypical and ridiculous. While I waited for it to arrive, I envisioned everything topped with a fried egg or mixed with kale or featuring some kind of bizarre ingredient no one has ever heard of ever -- except in Brooklyn, of course.

The cookbook arrived and I cracked it open with my typical -- millennial -- skepticism. My reaction, which I said, out loud, to my husband, and then Instagrammed (because I'm a millennial)? "I want to make this! And this!"

Yes, I flagged pretty much every page that didn't require me to do a weird gluten-free substitution (and, of course, I didn't flag any with meat because that's not how we role at home).

First up? These deliciously pickled red onions. I don't normally pickle things, but when it's this easy, I couldn't not pickle them. I put them on everything. Just like a millennial would, of course. Salads, sandwiches, tacos, you name it.

Then, I made these ridiculous easy Tempeh Tacos for dinner, and while I tried them in a lettuce leaf, the family tried them in taco shells. Then they tried them in lettuce, and they decide they were actually a lot better in the lettuce than in the taco shells! Textures play well together, and Chanie knows her stuff. Next time, they'll trust me. This is a picture of the tacos, and below it is a picture of what the tacos were supposed to look like. Sometimes I'm on point with my food photography, and sometimes I just really, really want to eat and don't take time to take awesome photos. 

Then? Then I made the Peanut Butter Granola. Now, this is my favorite thing ever. I'm pretty lazy when it comes to everything, having three kids under 5 and all. I typically buy granola, but the gluten-free stuff is stupid expensive. Making my own would make so much more sense, especially when I buy the giant bag of gluten-free oats at Trader Joe's! This peanut butter granola is divine when paired with yogurt and some jelly. It's like eating a PB&J, but better. 

So good. I actually also threw some in a blender with almond milk and a frozen banana and a bit more PB powder and oh my goodness PB goodness for breakfast. 

Last up? For this post, I mean. Not the last thing I made. Because I have made all the things, and the things I haven't made I intend on making with a delicious vengeance. The final thing I want to show you is this Pad Thai Bowl, which uses quinoa in place of the noodles. I made it all fancy for Shabbos presentation, and the family devoured it. In fact, I think I'm going to make it this week because it was super fast and easy. Nothing like pleasing the whole family with one easy, nutritious, quick dish, especially on Shabbos. 

Basically, when Chanie says millennial, she means we're busy, we're overworked, we're hungry, and we just don't have the time to make gourmet food that's delicious and nutritious. This cookbook has something for everyone, and the recipes are easy to follow and are sure to please a crowd. My recommendation? Add this to your bookcase and embrace what it means to be someone who practices the art of Millennial Kosher. 

*****BUY THE BOOK*****

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.


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?


  • 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
  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. 

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.