Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Taking Submissions: Top Judaism Rumors and Conversion Myths

Do you have a pet peeve when it comes to rumors about Judaism? Do the "hole in a sheet" or "Jews have horns" myths drive you absolutely nuts? Share your favorite rumors about Judaism with me in the comments!

Also, if there are myths about conversion to Judaism and Jewish converts, share those, too. I'm working on a few articles for About.com, and I want to pick your brain (it's called crowdsourcing, because you, my readers, are amazing).

Want to check out some of my recent articles? Here you go:
Ready? Set? Submit your pet peeves and kvetch at me!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Still Sitting in the Catbird Seat

Back in January, when Ash was just a wee bean, I wrote about the deliciously awesome Catbird Baby carrier I'd been sent for review. With our dip into babywearing, we were exploring Moby-style wraps, Mei Teis, and Baby Bjorn-style carriers. In case you need a refresher on why "catbird" is the perfect terminology for any schlepped-about baby:
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded usage occurred in a 1942 humorous short story by James Thurber titled "The Catbird Seat," which features a character, Mrs. Barrows, who likes to use the phrase. Another character, Joey Hart, explains that Mrs. Barrows must have picked up the expression from Red Barber, a baseball broadcaster, and that to Barber "sitting in the catbird seat" meant "'sitting pretty,' like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him."
It was Catbird's mei tei that I initially fell in love with when Ash was small, but as time went on and we became more mobile, the pikkolo became (and still is) my go-to carrier.

Here's Ash at four months after our trip
to the U.S. and before our move to
the U.S.He is loving his carrier because
he can see everything and every one!
When we first visited the U.S. back in February before we made the decision to move, we struggled to pack lightly when it came to baby carriers. Mr. T was fond of the moby-style wrap we'd concocted, while I was using a ring sling. While in the U.S., we even picked up an additional ring sling to replace the one I'd been borrowing, but Mr. T stuck to the stretchy wrap that I just couldn't master.

Almost the moment we got back to Israel, I feel like Ash wasn't perceptive to the ring sling, so I needed an alternative. I finally got to give the pikkolo from Catbird a try, and I haven't looked back.

When we made the move to the U.S. in April, it made life a breeze in the airport when we packed the stroller full of our carry-ons. With no space for Ash in the overflowing stroller, he rode in the Catbird seat! It's amazing how comfortable he was in it and how easy it is to get on and adjust when I'm by myself.

The most surprising thing I've found about having the Catbird pikkolo as a consistency is that Ash knows the carrier. If he's kvetching and whining in the car and losing it when we park and I get out, he calms down and gets excited the moment he sees me putting on the carrier. When he was very little, I used to call it his "special Asher chair," and he now knows that it's his special spot to see everything going on and he brightens up and calms down immediately. Talk about a baby making a positive association!

Do you have a favorite carrier? What do you like about it? Have you changed carriers as your child's needs and size have changed? 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Confession Time: The Toughest Part About Being in the U.S.

I have a confession to make: It's hard being back in the U.S. Really hard. Yes, I miss my friends and my adopted family back in Neve Daniel and Jerusalem, and I miss the convenience of observing Judaism with ease and a level of comfort I can't find anywhere else. But this isn't what I'm talking about. 

I'm talking about the temptation. 

I didn't grow up Jewish. We all know this. In fact, I didn't start strictly observing things like modesty and keeping kosher until well into my 20s. That's a lot of my life spent with the conveniences of America: McDonalds, Chick-Fil-A, and other terrible, bad-for-you convenience restaurants and fast-food stops. I mean, I could probably count the number of home-cooked meals I made in college on my two hands. No feet needed here, folks. College was Subway, Wendy's, Taco John's, Taco Bell, D'Leon's ... (no wonder my pregnancy food was Mexican). 

Do you know how hard it is to drive down the street, starving, and not stop into a Mickey D's for some delicious, greasy French fries? 

Having worked at McDonalds for two years in high school, I know that they are pretty strict about their standards of what they cook and where. The fry stations are used strictly for fries. No chicken nuggets or patties or anything. Just. Fries. 

Knowing this, of course, is hard for me. Yes, there are a million problems with picking up French fries from a completely non-kosher establishment, even if there was a giant box around the fry station that other, non-kosher food never entered, but knowing, just knowing that those are dedicated fryers ... AGH! It kills me. 

The temptation, of course, is constantly pushed down by the fact that I'm a kosher-keeping Jew, of course. Being gluten free also helps push the temptation down because, well, let's be honest, there isn't much eating out I can do here or in Israel where I can eat carefree. 

But it's tough. Yes, this is a first-world problem situation, but it's just plain difficult. You have to constantly have snacks with you and plan meals out like a drill sergeant because if you get caught starving and it's dinnertime, Denver gives you few options for a quick bite to eat. 

There's the ever-amazing Brooklyn Pizza, but how much pizza can you eat in one week? There's a delicious ice cream joint High Point Creamery, but too much ice cream makes for tummy woes and despite an Italian-themed favorite, it isn't a meal. We don't go to the local deli because, well, too many stories about food poisoning and the place just doesn't respect itself enough for me to respect it.  And then there's the fact that all of these restaurants are clustered in a specific part of town absolutely nowhere near where I work. 

Oh what I wouldn't give for a nearby restaurant to go out to lunch with my coworkers. To feel like a normal member of a "working lunch" society. 

The amount of times we've been out running errands and stopped someplace to buy a package of lettuce, some tomatoes, and packaged smoked salmon to hodgepodge a bite to eat would blow your mind. We can't pop into an Aroma or local gas station where the food is just plain kosher like in Israel or even in places like Teaneck or NYC. 

Am I kvetching too much? Perhaps. I'm just feeling the pressure. The pressure of being a full-time working mother who lives someplace that is chock full of Jews but doesn't have the dining and cultural infrastructure to meet the demands.

No worries folks. No slippery slope over here (been there, done that). 

I suppose this is part of teshuvah (repentance). I'm being placed in situations and scenarios where it would be easy for me to eat out here or there just getting the "vegan" or "vegetarian" option like I did once upon a time when I was less than strict in my observance of kashrut

I just keep telling myself: The tummy grumbles and moments of hunger are worth the healthy choices at home. We'll be back in Israel soon. HaShem is working this out with me. One day at a time. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

A HydroChic Swimsuit Review

A note about this video: Only one actual photo got taken, as the storm blew in and we blew out (of the pool, that is). And with that, on with the show!


Have you tried out HydroChic or another modest swimwear collection? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Good news! Use coupon SUMMER14 to get 15% off any non-sale items.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Sky is Falling, or Why Does it All Hurt So Bad?

"The sky is falling, the sky is falling," said Chaviva. Move over Chicken Little, this mama is struggling.

For two weeks we had Mr. T's son iBoy with us in Denver. It was amazing. Although I spent the bulk of that time guilty that I wasn't actively in the office working because of all of the ups and downs of being back in the U.S., we had an amazing time traversing Colorado. I saved up all the places I wanted to take Mr. T until iBoy was here. We went to the Celestial Seasonings tea factory (alas, no babies allowed, so I got hopped up on tea in the tasting room), Garden of the Gods, to the Flatirons near Boulder, down to the REI flagship store and rented a kayak and went out on the lake in a thunderstorm ... we did tons of things to keep ourselves entertained, to show iBoy how beautiful it is here, and to make sure, above all, he felt like he was our family, that we love him, that we miss him, and that we want what is best for him in life.

It was a hard thing letting him go on Monday, but these things have to happen (legally, of course). Since then, it's been tough to get him on the phone or Skype, which has been hard on us all. Ash got used to him being around, Mr. T got used to having him around and his entire demeanor changed -- after all, wouldn't yours with both of your sons around you? And me? I got used to seeing Ash light up in a new way, to seeing Mr. T so, so happy, and to having the sound of giggling and snoring and the thump of iBoy running around the apartment and begging to go out and play soccer with his dad.

Last Shabbat we spent ages with iBoy and his dad playing soccer, until it started to rain. Ash and I sat and watched, with Ash mesmerized by this bigger version of himself kicking around a ball and falling all over the grass with his dad.

We felt like a complete unit during those two weeks. So it's a bit heartbreaking as we go back to "normal" without iBoy.

On Tuesday, after dropping iBoy in Omaha, we stopped in to check on my dad, who'd taken the week off from work. Mr. T, playing on a Jewish softball league, wanted to pick up my dad's old bag of softball bats that they had out in their storage unit. I don't think my dad had touched those bats since we left Joplin in 1996. In southern Missouri, baseball reigns supreme. T-ball, little league, adult league softball, it consumes the summertime. My dad played on and coached softball teams throughout my childhood, and he loved the sport. His bats were housed in a green, old Navy bag with his name stamped on the shoulder strap. It's not that military surplus stuff, it's the real deal.

Then, on the way out of the unit, my dad started acting weird. Buckled safely into the car, he wasn't answering questions I asked again and again, and then? Then he seized. His entire body clenched into a giant fist. Asher was in the backseat watching Baby Einstein, Mr. T was in the seat next to him, and I was in the driver's seat, my dad next to me, and I held him and panicked.

In an instant I became a child again. I don't think I've called my father "Daddy" in years. All of a sudden it's the only thing I could say, with a giant question mark at the end of every single utterance of the word. He shook, he clenched, it was like I was watching a TV show or movie. It was textbook. I'd seen it before, but never never in person. I knew they were happening, but I'd never experienced it.

I just held him. I held his head when it flung back. I grabbed the storage unit keys from his hand once his body relaxed. We raced to the hospital, not sure if it was the right one, unable to call my mom thanks to T-Mobile having zero service in Lincoln, Nebraska.

He was out of body the entire drive. For 20 minutes he was gone. His head back, my hand holding it up, it was almost like he was sleeping, snoring. I kept on. "Daddy? Daddy? Are you okay? Daddy?"

We got to the hospital and all of a sudden I was in parent mode. My dad slowly became lucid, but didn't know what happened or where we were or why we were there. He was curled into himself, not sure of himself. I coaxed him out of the car with nurses, took him inside. Gave them his information; they knew him, he'd been there before.

They went through the same motions as always. CT scans, EKGs, vitals, etc. He slowly became lucid and realized what was going on. We were all frustrated, especially after several hours when the ER doctor came in and said everything looked fine; they were sending him home. As usual.

I now understand what he is going through, first hand, after seeing it, and after seeing how the ER doesn't seem to have much to say or do about it all. They offer up the usual: three meals a day, cool and calm environment, low-stress activities, plenty of sleep, take your meds.

For months this has been going on. No one seems to really have a good idea of what's causing the seizures or why. So I found an internist who is going to take on his case. And we're going to hope, pray that something gets figured out.

On that note, maybe Mr. T and I will move to Nebraska and set up a B&B or a little shul for passersby to have a nice, quiet Shabbat. We'd be close to dad, rent would be cheaper, we'd have peace of mind.

Ah emotions. Between family and what's happening in Israel, my head is about to explode. The things of the world that do make sense people don't seem to get (you can't negotiate with terrorists) and the things that should make sense (having seizures, a child and divorced parents) just don't.

HaShem? Let us see you.