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?
Tirzah: MOMMY! TATTY! I POOPY!
Me: Great.
Tirzah: MOMMY! TATTY! I POOPY!
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.

Hopefully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Delicious, Quick, and Easy Coconut Cookies - Gluten Free

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



Ingredients

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Five Years Later ...

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

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