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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Drat! What a GOOD idea: free Jewish kids' books!

If you are a Jewish family in one of many, MANY places around the US and Canada (including Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba, but NOT Ontario), you can receive free Jewish books and CDs, one a month, for the first year.  After that, there's a requested donation to continue receiving materials.
 
The service is called PJ Library, and if you live in one of the nice Jewish communities that sponsor memberships, you can sign up here
Otherwise, sorry!  Like me, you're outta luck.  :-(
 
I really REALLY thought long hard about asking my mother-in-law in Calgary to sign up for Naomi Rivka and Gavriel Zev.  But decided that would be unethical, considering you are supposed to fill out the form indicating the community in which the child lives (not the adult requesting the books).  Drat!  If only they had not been so specific... or I so ethically gullible, since I'm sure many people are ripping them off.  (for free Jewish kids' books, presumably to help their kids identify more Jewish; can't be too much harm in that...)

They came!

He loves the puppets!!!

newpuppets 005 newpuppets 006

Cooking, cooking, cooking... shepherd's pie down

I feel like I'm building an arsenal. You know, like a pile of munitions I will keep in my sandbagged foxhole. And when the enemy converges - pam! I will lob a shepherd's pie at them! What a happy thought...!

Anyway, I love my veggie friends muchly and will do my best, but there really is NOTHING like Sukkos shepherd's pie!

Jennifer's Amazing Sukkos Shepherd's Pie

Not really a recipe as such, but here is the secret: FRUIT. A whole buncha fruit!
And squash! Sweet plus meat = yum!
Also, you have to start from scratch! If you have no time, then skip this. Ted stayed home from work sick today (he really is sick and cough-y; it wasn't a ploy), but ended up hanging out with the kids at Mrs. ViKi. I don't feel guilty because it's easy to entertain them there. And I had lots of time here to make Shepherd's Pie. I don't know when I would have done it, otherwise.

First, bake the squash: cut it in half & seed, place in a big-enough pan, spray with Pam, sprinkle with salt & brown sugar, spray again. Toss in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes until you can poke it with a fork. I now refuse to deal with squash until it's been baked... so crazy-hard trying to peel it otherwise!

Now, peel the potatoes. If they're organic, you could just scrub and leave the peels on. I did it once and we loved the texture. I used 12 potatoes today - I wanted a lot and they were smallish organic ones. (which I peeled)

Boil the potatoes - whole if they're small ones - until you can poke them with a fork. (yes, the same fork as the squash!)

Meanwhile, cut up two onions and fry gently until translucent.

Add meat to translucent onions. Today, I had 3 packages of ground dark-meat turkey. Turkey works well, so does beef. So does anything, really! Season meat well with salt & pepper.

Stir meat until no traces of pink remain, then skim off as much fat as you can. Don't worry - it's not being thrown away; you'll need it for mashing the potatoes.

Meanwhile, peel and cut up two apples. Any kind will work. I sometimes use mango instead. The fruit will mostly vanish, leaving only a faint taste.

When the squash is done, scrape it from the skin and mash it well. Make sure to add the brown-sugar juice from the centres!

Transfer meat, squished squash, cut-up fruit and 2 cups of frozen corn to a big pot, add a cup or two of water, and set on a low simmer for 15-20 minutes.

While all this is happening, your potatoes should have been ready a while ago.

Lift them out of the boiling water and mash them with the skimmed-off fat and liquid from the meat (you don't have to use all of it if it seems like there's too much). Add some of the water they cooked in to get them to the right consistency. They should be nice and smooth for spreading over the meat.

When the meat is finished cooking, spread it in a big pan. I chose too small a pan this morning and the juices goobered out everywhere. It should be big enough to accomodate meat plus topping, but not too big. You don't want a stingy meat layer, and you don't want to have to spread the potatoes impossibly thin.

Plop the potatoes over the meat and spread them out nicely with a fork. If there is an area with too much potato, scoop some up and plop it somewhere that doesn't have enough, until all the topping is distributed more or less evenly.

Smooth the potato topping with a fork to make a nice pattern on the top (or skip this for a more rustic look).

Slide the whole thing into the fridge until about 45 minutes to an hour before showtime. (up to two days - I hope, because it's for Friday, and it's only Wednesday now!)
Then, just before serving bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes and present it to your amazed guests!

I know, this looks like a lot of steps. It's not! Here's the simplified version:

1) Cook squash
2) Cook potatoes
3) Cook meat
4) Combine!

See? Nothing could be simpler.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sukkos (First Days) Meal Plan

Naomi Rivka is just about out of her mind with rapture, having had a hint of what she can expect over Yom Tov.  Suffice to say that she is seeing some of her favourite people in the entire world.

Here’s the menu so far.  Plenty of food to go around, but keepin’ it simple, silly:  that’s the plan.

Meal

Friday/Shabbos

Shabbos

Sunday

Day

 

4x guests +2 babies(veg w/fish, no p’apple/strawb/kiwi)

  • Round Challah
  • Dairy cholent
  • Salmon puff pastry
  • Potto Leek Soop
  • Real Blintzes fr/Scratch
  • Dairy dessert-?

Out

AND

Sukkah Hop???

Night

6x guests (no citrus/alcohol)

  • Round Challah
  • G fish ballies
  • Pea Soup
  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Honey Cake
  • Ch Chip Cookies?

4x guests +2 kids (veg – anything else?)

  • Round Challah
  • G fish ballies
  • Dairy Pea Soup
  • Veg Cabb Rolls
  • Dairy dessert - tiramisu
  • Honey Cake
 

I have no idea why I told Naomi who some of the guests were going to be.  I must be getting soft… I  never used to even hint to the kids about what was happening over Yom Tov.  The older kids must have thought it was totally random, wherever we wound up.  I haven’t told her much, though.  She’s just easily excitable.

sukkos weatherAll I can say (and keep saying) is… it’d better not rain… and I don’t care what the forecast says!

(brr… looks like a chilly one, either way)

My mother decided not to come to us for Shabbos dinner; she’s having my sisters instead, and because of our guests, I couldn’t invite them all here like we did for Rosh Hashanah.

And then I felt sad.

Not because they’re not coming  here, and not even because I won’t get to see them over Yom Tov (I am sad about those things and resolve to plan better next year, or even for the last days!)… but because my sisters get my mother all to themselves.

If I want to go over there, all of a sudden, it becomes A Production.

It’s never just me:  there are 6 of me, and that, especially for my mother who now lives alone, is A Major Production.  Six people, babies, teenagers, arguments; we are the Mac LOUD family, no matter how you slice it.  And apparently, we eat a lot, too.

My sisters can just decide to drop in:  what’s one more person, especially if she’s not a big or picky eater?

So I don’t really get to be a daughter anymore. 

I don’t regret having a family, being a mommy (okay, I do regret those things sometimes, for a single misguided instant, perhaps), and I love how parenting gives me a grown-up way to relate to my own parents.  I love giving them grandchildren and I love having more people to love my children with me.

But sometimes I wish it was just me.

Sometimes I wish I could be a daughter, too.

Crazy Neighbour Lady!

At last, I caught her in all her mad glory while I was out taking pictures of the sukkah.
This rant was started by the fact that - on this exceptionally windy day - a branch blew onto her lawn. So, naturally, the branch appearing on her lawn was our fault. (no, it is NOT the same kind of branch as the tree growing on our front lawn).

Specifically, it was Elisheva's fault. I know, kids today are ALWAYS leaving branches around on neighbours' lawns.

The Sukkah, 5760/2009 edition!

sukka 2009-09-29 009Drat, didn’t get a picture of the door.

Ted has outdone himself and created two fabulous innovations for 5760:  a door in front (maybe a back door next year?) and a special method of laying in the crossbeams so that they are NOT nailed down and therefore they are kosher to be used as schach.

He has wedged the crossbeams in extremely tightly between “bumps” that he has nailed down onto other beams.  Well, it’s tough to describe but here it is – lovely, as always!

Call it my uber-kitschy upbringing, call me a Lubavitcher at heart, but for whatever reason, I love the look of an unadorned sukkah.

sukka 2009-09-29 006 sukka 2009-09-29 008

Gavriel Zev's birthday supper...

He couldn't choose his supper last year. This year, when I asked him what he wanted for supper, he said "boop."
Soup it is!
 
~ Cream of Broccoli soup
~ La-z-Mommy Fish sticks
~ French Fries (because he really does love them)
~ Veg on the side!
 
I won't even be here... signing class again!  Can't believe it's Tuesday already; where is this week going!

Atonement for Gardening Sins

bday boy 001Even as the garden falls slowly into autumn disrepair (and my neighbour’s with the great garden does not, a reminder that disrepair is not inevitable), there is almost always one thing going right – decay.
I do realize that things will pretty inevitably decay in a garden with or without my help… however, I did help the contents of the full right-hand compost bin along in two ways. 

One, I grew a cover crop on it for a few weeks… which may or may not have done any good, but it felt good to do it.  Plus, I have lots of extra seed, so hopefully can cover-crop the SFG beds if I have time before frost.  (what with Sukkos coming, maybe not!)

bday boy 009And two, earlier in the summer (July?), I introduced some “spare” red wigglers from the worm bin.  Just a few, mind you.  And then, the other day when I turned over the almost-finished compost, I found a bazillion of them!  YouTube video here – not for the squeamish.

To be entirely fair and honest, I ALSO found lots of red wigglers in the compost at the end of the season last year … even before I had a worm bin!  I have no idea where they came from last year.  And this year’s could, therefore, not have anything to do with the worms I added … or they could be their grandchildren!

Supposedly, red wigglers (unlike the brown night-crawler type) cannot survive the winter here, so can only be obtained by mail-order from worm-composter dealers (but don’t people also use them to go fishing?).  

In any event, I figured adding more worms could only speed up the process of decomposition, minus a few that get shredded every time I stir the pile.

Speaking of the worm composter, it is definitely moving inside for the winter after Sukkos – before the worms freeze.  I guess I should sort it and start things off nice and clean in there for the season, too.  Ugh.  Definitely not my favourite garden task… but worthwhile because you get all that great compost!

Happy Birthday…!

bday boy 014To the most beautiful, glamourous 2-year-old on the planet!  Check out the gorgeous blonde hair; the lovely pink bib.  Sheesh… gotta do something this year to bolster his MALE gender identity!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Erev Yom Kippur

limz 002 The limes are for tomorrow night’s Lahm Pah (aka lime pie, but you have to say it with a southern accent!).
We’re supposed to be eating at my mother’s after the fast, and I know for a fact that she invited at least one of my sisters, but when I spoke to her today, she sounded a little mystified that we might want food.  And not just a little food; I figure we’ll probably want a lot of food!
She said she had a couple of packages of blintzes and some bread in the freezer.  I suggested gently that we might need a bit more.  So I bought Dempster’s bread and some extra blintzes.  She’s providing tomato soup.
As for tonight – we’re eating alone, as usual:
  • Challah
  • Shabbos Soup w/peas
  • Chicken w/marmalade
  • Sesame Green Beans from Shabbos
  • Corn from Shabbos (or fresh)
  • Potato/Broc Kugel

Also...

On the subject of needing a second income.
I have been a working parent long enough to realize that the "second income" is often largely fictitious. 
 
Between sick days and making arrangements for scheduled school "outages" like summer vacation, winter breaks, etc., you are either taking tons of time off work or scrambling to foist your kids off on sombody, dozens if not hundreds of days a year (between all 4 kids).
 
If you're lucky, you have people to call on that you don't have to pay... but even then, I think you're losing something perhaps more important than money when you tell your feverish child you can't stay with her but luckily there is (fill in the blanks) who IS available to stick around.
 
Isn't she lucky?  Aren't you lucky?
 
I'd rather not rely on that kind of luck.

Tribe Finding: Where are all the Jewish Homeschoolers?

postShabbos 005I never expected Jewish homeschooling to be so lonely.

Unrealistic?

Well, I knew there weren’t a million parents doing it… but NONE?

Not a single other Jewish child over the age of three who is home full-time with a parent?

Forget homeschooling, where are the KIDS, period?  Do no Jewish schools offer half-day kindergarten?  For this year, at least, Naomi Rivka could find plenty of non-Jewish friends to play with in the afternoons, because they’re all in kindergarten in the morning!

Lots of babies.  Especially if I don’t mind playdates with nannies (sigh; I do).

Lots of 2- and even some 3- year olds.

Not a single 4-year-old.  Nobody in a GRADE, for heaven’s sake.

Meanwhile, I am going to try to cultivate other homeschool friends, so she can see that she’s not a freak just because she isn’t in school full day.  Why the heck do we push our kids like that?

Just like the “sigh of relief” parents are supposed to feel after labour day when we can get rid of our kids for the school year… some parents are probably holding their breath until their kid is old enough for kindergarten – or “pre”-school.  The earlier, the better.

There is absolutely nobody in this city who needs another income like we do.  Our bank accounts scrape rock bottom more than a couple of times a year (back-to-school, Pesach, and whenever unforeseen expenses crop up).

But I also believe there is absolutely nobody who needs me like these kids do.  All the kids, even though the older ones would swear up and down that they’d be better off if I dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow (or why not today?).

I admit it, I have totally swallowed the Dr. Laura line:  why have them if you’re not going to raise them?

As for school, well, yes, I am not 100% committed to homeschooling.  Am I that special, are my kids that special, that we couldn’t fit in a mainstream school?  And wouldn’t Naomi benefit from making friends at school?  (how about being stashed in an overcrowded, underfunded room all day with kids arbitrarily all born in 2005?)

Do I sound insincere?  Maybe.

It is true that this city has excellent Jewish schools. 

And even more conflict; a bit of history:

I learned once that the foundation of the entire yeshiva school system is the specific premise that parents should not educate their kids themselves.  Why?  Well, some parents could obviously do a very good job, and that was, in fact the case hundreds of years ago. 

However, there are also some parents who can’t do a good job, and some kids who don’t have parents. 

To create the most universal, democratic school system possible, a system of cheders and yeshivos was created whereby parents sent their kids (okay, sons!) and appointed the teacher as their shaliach, an emissary who did the educating for them.

Which led, somehow, to the system we have today where at two or three they are shuffled into full-day “preschools” (“preschool” is code for “not ready for school yet but we won’t let that stop us”!) to play on our fears that even before they’re potty-trained, they’re already behind.

And that – as parents – we are hopelessly inadequate in the face of professionalized education has become.  We don’t have the tools?  Arms, eyes, head, hands, heart:  those are all you need to teach your children.  Though a decent printer that’s easy on ink can be helpful.  :-)

Some of the myths about homeschooling are simply nonsense:  “she needs the stimulation she’ll get in school” is one I’ve heard a lot… like homeschooled kids spend the day on the sofa!  (okay, we sometimes do; but that’s our choice!!!) 

Parents are capable of stimulating their kids, but more to the point, kids are capable of stimulating themselves, if we refuse to spoon-feed them pre-digested lesson plans interspersed with watered-down “edutainment”.

Other myths are more pervasive because they are more ingrained and thus self-fulfilling. 

Like the presumed loneliness of homeschooling:  “I would love to homeschool, but we want him to meet other kids.” 

There would be other kids, except  all the parents are afraid… because there are no other kids doing it.  That’s why I was holding out some hope for this Jewish Homeschool Co-op.  But I think the word “co-op” has frightened off some parents, and “homeschool” maybe scared away the rest.

Homeschooled kids are not lonely.  Or at least, they don’t have to be. 

We shouldn’t have to be.  But we are.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Go figger

What do you do about a girl who insists on sweeping the driveway wearing rollerblades... then comes in and screams "Don't laugh at me!  Everybody always laughs at me!!!"
 
No, the rollerblades didn't really help her do the most thorough job on the driveway.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Baby Bday Gifts sneak peek

Ordered these online.  Hope they arrive on time!!!

temp_folkcroc temp_folkgiraffe

new life

Why is the prospect of a BRAND NEW PERSON so darn exciting?  Especially a FIRST baby.
 
Standing at the door today, I watched the neighbours across the street leave to have their first baby.
At least, I think that's what they were doing.  There was a supportive woman-type person there (midwife?), who gave the wife a hug (touchy-feely holistic-type health person, former masseuse turned birth partner?) before taking off in her own car.  The husband was carrying a huge purple exercise ball (ho ho!) and speaking a little louder than usual (nervous?).  Clues!
 
I don't even like these people.  In fact, I mildly hate them for no reason other than a) they're rich (okay, maybe not rich, because they're on this street, but there's only two of them in a great big honking ostentatious house which sticks out like a literal throbbing thumb, and b) they almost (okay, indirectly) killed a guy last year in the building of said ostentatious thumb-house. 
 
So why do I care so much that she's pregnant?  That they're due any minute now?  What is this thing that compels me to stand lurking inside my door watching and eavesdropping?  (this is the best street for eavesdropping, because it's only a couple of car-widths across and the houses are only a few metres apart)
 
(Just as an aside:  ordinarily, I'd say the guy almost dying was totally not their fault, by the way, except the husband was very involved with the construction and was at the site every day to oversee the building activities... and there were NO safety standards enforced until I got the city inspector involved.  I'm talking an open PIT in the middle of the construction site, no fence, two doors away from a very busy school with kids actually playing in the construction area until they were forced to tack up flimsy orange fences.  That oughtta keep the kids out!)
 
Ah, life.  And our lurid fascination with the diverse entrances and exits thereto.
 
When my father was first diagnosed, he immediately (like 2 weeks later) took the kids to a show called, "Famous Puppet Death Scenes."  Which was exactly what it was about.   Maybe a year ago, maybe a little less.  Awkward for the kids, but I kind of wished I could have seen it.  He said he wasn't inviting me.  It was always tougher to bring me along because of the little kids.  They went to see the puppet show right after Shabbos one week.  My mother had to drive them down; they had to leave the second Shabbos was over.  He was always bringing them places, finding stuff he thought they'd appreciate, or, if not appreciate as such, at least remember.
 
Me, too, when I was a kid.
 
I hope I parent like that, too.
 
Breaking the Memory Barrier is something I've been thinking a lot about lately.  Which memories will my kids keep, especially from early childhood, this period we parents put so much sweat and tears into?  Very little.  How do we make sure something which is significant to us is something they will remember?
 
I still haven't figured it out.
 
Other than slapping them!  If you have a fight or blow up or punish them in some way, they will remember forever.
 
I told YM last year that he HAD to remember my father, so he could tell the younger kids.  But even as I said that, I knew he probably couldn't remember most of it for them.

Boosta Award o’ th’ Day

tatoes 002Yes, the Baalaboosta of the Day award goes, hands-down, to MEEEEEeee!

For making my own farfel, from scratch, because Ted’s been unable to find it in the store.

Okay, it doesn’t look like farfel because I don’t have a proper grater.  So I just sliced it into noodles with the linguini-slicing attachment, then cut up the noodles until they were not ridiculously big, then toasted them a bit in the oven.

Then, later, I will fry up an onion and pretend they are real farfel; I may crumble them a bit more first.  Let’s just see how it all turns out!

  tatoes 003

Is this enough for cholent???

(see the two potatoes in front of her on the table?)

tatoes 004

A small strange first

A first:  three of my kids, whether breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, had the very common trait of nursing until they fall asleep and then releasing the nipple so I could gently pull away (I don't remember if you have to pull a bottle away gently, but you sure do want to with a nipple, just in case).
 
Gavriel Zev was born without this trait.  He could never nurse until he fell asleep and then let go; he would hold on for the rest of his life if he could.
 
But just now at naptime, he fell asleep and let go.  He didn't seem more tired than usual, but it is the first time I can remember that I didn't have to wedge him off (gently!) with a crowbar. 
 
Once he let go, he did that sleeping with his mouth slightly open thing that most babies do.  I've never seen him do that before.
 
He must be way tired, because he doesn't usually fall asleep with nummies anymore at all.  Usually, he's too busy running around the bed grabbing the clock, grabbing the flashlight, or trying to remember not to head-butt me in the chest as he dives back in to take a sip - and then takes off again.
 
Toddlers.  He turns two on Tuesday.

Procrastination

Me at naptime:  "Goodnight."
Naomi Rivka:  "Where is your bubby?"
"She died."
"What did she used to make?"
"What?"
"What did she used to make?  Neapolitan cake?"
"Yup; what good memories we have of her.  Good night!"
 
Is this something to be proud of?  After 15 years, I am finally immune to the charms of a contemplative and not-a-bit-tired little person!
 
They can be so manipulative!
 
Like the time I was putting YM (not even two) to bed and he said, desperate for a reprieve, "but...I want to talk!"
Me:  "Talk about what?"
"I want to talk..." (trying to figure out something that I'd fall for, that would make me stay a bit longer)
"I want to talk about... loving!"
Me:  "Loving?"
"Want to talk about... loving Mommy!"
 
Ha ha.  The one topic he figured I couldn't say no to.
(but I did)
 
Even now, at almost-14 and 15, they do seem to get extra-cuddly and talkative right at bedtime.  Go figure.

Homeschool Must-Have: Days of the Week

homescool 001Here’s what we’ve ended up with for tracking days of the week.

Each of the three big pieces came with four slots to insert the days, but it was a real pain trying to get the corners into the slots, so after only two days, I gave up and added Velcro dots to make the whole arrangement super-easy to change.

And, of course, to Naomi’s great glee, it came with “Saturday” instead of “Shabbos.”  I just flipped the thing around and stuck the Velcro right over Saturday.  Sorry!  I know my homemade one isn’t as good, but I figure it has more character than the other days.

Now that we’ve had almost a month to establish a “school” schedule, next week the whole thing gets flipped on its head as the kids start their Parks & Rec classes:  dance and swimming for each of them, plus my Tuesday-morning aerobics. 

They don’t participate in the aerobics, but it includes free childcare, so they’re stuck in the nursery room at the recreation centre for an hour while I exert myself slightly (it’s a slightly geriatric cardio class; I’m literally the youngest there by a couple of decades).

Which also means we won’t be able to go to our Signing (ASL) Circle Time on Thursday mornings anymore.  Still, it’s not much of a loss; the leaders don’t really use enough sign to make it worth the shlep, plus one of the leaders mentioned they may be putting together a class for older kids (ie > 12 months) who sign.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Few and far between Daddy memory

When was it?  Last summer?  Last spring?
 
Money was tight, very tight, and I was finally sitting down with  him, the long-procrastinated conversation where I was telling him things were tight, Ted's job sucked, I wasn't working because I was too busy working to take care of his grandchildren.  That conversation.
 
We were on my porch just sitting, quietly, on folding chairs.  And it went totally differently from the way I expected.
 
No condemnation.
He told me about a time when things were very tough for my parents, when most of their money was gone, when he had to work super-hard, when it looked like they weren't going to make it.
 
I told him Ted was working too hard to take on a conversation about money, let alone another job.  His terrible low-paying job is worse than most in that it doesn't allow him to take on a second job; because the days vary from week to week, because of the occasional evenings required, and because he's on every other weekend, he can't take a Sunday job or anything that would require an evening or a regular weekday.  Sigh.  It was hard enough trying to structure our lives before Gavriel Zev was born, when I was working Tuesday mornings and Wednesday evenings.
 
My father liked Ted and respected him for working hard.  He once said (parents, take note:  sometimes your kids are listening to the most stupid, trivial things) of a rabbi he had met, "I have a hard time respecting somebody younger than me who has a pot belly."  So I always wondered if Ted, being a bit heftier than my father, could possibly be an exception to that,   (to be fair, my father had a tough time staying over 130 lbs even before he got sick)
 
Speaking of stupid trivial things:  two Wise Utterances of my late father:
 
Not sure when, maybe when I introduced him to my soon-to-be first husband?  "A good age to lose your virginity is 37."
And also, I wasn't around, but my ex-husband was there once talking to my father (both dead now!) and my mother came in with a snack for my father:  an apple.  After she left, he said to Jeremy, "An apple?  She brings me an apple?"  Jeremy:  "What would you have wanted instead?"  Father:  "Sex?"
 
Okay, then!
 
So the conversation on the porch.  It meandered.  We didn't get anywhere much.  I said I'd make up a budget so he could at least see where the money was going.  We agreed that we'd call the schools and try to figure out how to lower the tuition a bit.
 
The point was just his admitting he'd been there, that he could respect tough times.  I only found out later that that was how he ran his business.  I'd always thought it was this great irony:  son of the communist, running a capitalist mortgage operation with my mother's family's money.  Not exactly, because he promised his father when he went into the business that he'd never put a working man out of his home.  And he never did.
 
And he not only didn't put us out of our home, he left me feeling way more whole than I had in a long time.

One more on deafness

Sweet story:
 
When Naomi Rivka was a baby, maybe a year and a bit, and I was first signing with her, YM (then 10ish) was taking the deaf bus.  Not a euphemism:  he was going to school every day on one of those little school buses that "special" kids take because his school was close to the Toronto School for the Deaf (fingerspell it!  "TSD") and so he was learning a bit of sign as well as passing some pretty rude notes plus gestures to the kid he sat next to.
 
Anyway, he was happy when he found out she was learning sign, and I came into the room once to find him talking to her.  He'd use a sign he knew, and then, when came to a concept that was longer or more complicated than he could communicate, carefully fingerspell the missing word.
 
In his world, I'm sure it made perfect sense.

Deafness and ASL: Rethinking Disability

I was worried about signing up for an ASL course because I thought it was really weird taking a casual approach to what most of society perceives as someone else's disability (deafness).  Like taking a course in using a wheelchair, or ... well, actually, every example I can think of kind of has some kind of merit, at least in terms of building tolerance or understanding.
 
I think I've said here before that, before taking the course, whenever I read about people who said they were glad to be deaf, I just thought that was strange, too.  Accepting, maybe.  But who could be happy, beyond in a resigned, Pollyannish kind of way?
 
But when my teacher said it, a light came on.  It's like being Jewish!
So many people probably would never wish to be Jewish, to have to keep Shabbos, eat kosher, live this life that certainly looks (and, okay, often feels) restrictive in the extreme.
Does that mean I'm not glad I was born with it?
Of course I am.
 
Not just glad, glad, like I'm saying I'm glad, but most of the time, I'm pretty darn grateful for whatever accident of birth put me here.
 
His was German Measles (my teacher).  Mine was the misery that was Europe between the World Wars and the good fortune all my grandparents had to be in Canada instead of Poland during the Shoah.
 
Even if someone is never planning to convert, I love sharing Judaism:  Jewish ideas, Jewish concepts, tidbits of Jewish culture; the things we take for granted but are different from the experience of most people who live alongside us in our North American culture.
 
Which is what this teacher is doing, and it's okay with him if none of us are deaf or hard of hearing or have someone in our life who is.  Sharing tidbits of deaf culture; telling us what it was like for him, growing up deaf in Ontario.  Letting us know that deafness is not a sickness:  he lives, works, has a girlfriend, drives, SeaDoos, listens to music (turned up really loud, he can feel it).
 
Yeah, I knew before that deaf people did all that.  And okay, maybe it's pure voyeurism, wanting to know all the details.  But I'm not the only one in the class soaking it all up, laughing as we begin to follow the little "deafness" jokes.
 
Wanting to be less of a moron, to know more and more and more, but being okay with it taking time, learning it a little at a time.  Not needing a better reason than just the challenge of a new language and the fascination of a new (to me!) cultural paradigm.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gaah!

They're late.  TWO kids are late coming home, I have my class, Ted's working late, the oven is broken, I have to change and pee and leave the house and they're LATE!

When the going gets tough…

ovens 2009-09-22 001

(supper-making time and the oven is locked!)

ovens 2009-09-22 002…the tough head downstairs, haul the million-year-old, million-pound “Enterprise” away from the wall, swivel the gas connection to the ON position, push the million-pound “Enterprise” back in to the wall, use the floppy broken BBQ lighter to locate and ignite the pilot and… hopefully… with the help of an oven thermometer… get GOING… back in the business of cooking chicken once again!

Vegans would say it serves me right.

Yes, I did also call the repair company.   Just in case  the oven never opens up again, or (even if it does) because I can’t take the chance that this will become a regular thing.  This time, I know it will be an expensive fix.  It’s got to be something fancy and digital and it will require a new motherboard or solenoid or some other part that an oven wouldn’t even have had thirty years ago.

Almost exactly a year to the day that it broke last time (September 24th), but it was a completely unrelated thing.  Apparently, this locking problem is VERY common.  What I wouldn’t give for an old-fashioned, non-digital, unintelligent gas stove!  I wonder if they have any on Craigslist…?

Oh, great

The oven now locks when it is heated.  Oy, gevalt.
It did this once a few weeks ago; I unscrewed the fuse and it reset itself nicely, so I thought nothing more of it.
 
Looks like it's more of an ongoing issue.  Just in time for supper! 
(chicken and rice, waiting on the counter in the hope that my oven opens someday soon)

Food learnin’

A bit late now, but I thought I’d mention two exciting new techniques I learned  from the FoodWishes.com blog, where I found a nice Cabbage Roll recipe.

Now, I don’t know if I’d recreate the cabbage rolls exactly in future.  As a recipe, I’d give this maybe a three and a half out of five.  I found them a bit dry, and call me Jewish, but I like a bit of sweet along with the tomato. 

Okay, I give up and will admit here in public:  my “secret sauce” for cabbage rolls is the same as my pickled brisket “secret sauce”:  equal parts ketchup and ginger ale.  GASP!  No, seriously, it tastes yummy! 

For pickled brisket, add raisins so my mother can joke that it looks like the (GASP!) ham she used to make for really special occasions.  For meatballs, add Asian-sliced multicoloured bell peppers.  For cabbage rolls, add tinned diced tomato and leftover bits of cabbage.   Yum!  And easy!

So anyway, this guy, Chef John, has a recipe that is, needless to say, more elaborate than my usual ketchup plus soda.  And, frankly, garnered fewer raves from my eating crowd than my usual ketchup plus soda.  (what can I say?  I’m usually feeding Jews, too!)

However, the insides were quite flavourful (if a bit dry, as I said; maybe I shouldn’t have left out all the butter from the original recipe!) and way more peppery than I usually make them.  I’d definitely include tons of parsley again, also.

I’m happy I forced myself to sit through his video, however.  I thought it would be dull but I did manage to pick up these two techniques that made the process much easier.

The meat technique is basically – push the meat down firmly into the bowl so it’s well-packed.  Then, just cut it up like a clock face, according to however-many rolls you want to make:

erev Rosh Hashanah 2009-09-16 005

This is very basic.  Probably everybody knows this already.  But I didn’t, and it was a revelation:  rather than having too many leaves or too few or fiddling to have it come out even, just portion it all before you begin!  I ended up using this technique a couple of times for other things during my Yom Tov cooking, and could imagine doing it for stuff like blintzes, etc. 

Anything where you have to divide something evenly for whatever reason, I guess!

The other technique he demonstrated is the cabbage-spine technique.  Less easily generalized to other cooking, but oh-so-important to cabbage rolls!  I hate the spines of cabbages!  They’re alwyas getting in the way!  They make it hard to roll and they’re annoying to eat. 

Chef John’s solution?  Slice ‘em off! 

 erev Rosh Hashanah 2009-09-16 006

Okay, probably everybody knows this already.  Whatever.  It’s new to me.  I’m glad I watched the video; turns out there are still things I can learn about food.

Yom Tov was amazing, food-wise.  Definitely my best ever, best-prepared ever.  Oh, except for the leek soup spilling on Friday so we had no soup Saturday night.  Turned out the GIANT HUMUNGO LASAGNA and the bazillion desserts more than made up for it.

Guests coming and going, family coming and going.  Definitely a nice Yom Tov, apart from certain incidents which are now, apparently, over.

Hush!

My kids are sleeping and Loretta, our elderly Italian neighbour, is outside on the street shrieking at her granddaughter.  As she always does.  She watches the kid all day, every day.  And shrieks at her pretty much all day, every day.  I just wish she’d quit during my kids’ naptime.

Naomi asked today why she yells so much.  I said I think it’s because she has trouble hearing.  It could also just be the language barrier, the way American tourists shout everywhere they go to make themselves better understood.  I heard her speaking in Italian this morning and she was definitely much quieter.

“Mia, Mia, Mia!!!” 

Her granddaughter’s name is Mia.

The note

envelope 2009-09-22 001There is a feeling, at 2 a.m. on a darkened airplane with a screaming baby, when you are moving from seat to seat because nobody wants you sitting nearby, and you want to tell them the baby is a good baby; he's only crying because you got him out of bed, you are only flying because your father is dead in Toronto.  And you don’t know enough Hebrew to scream it out - would you anyway, even if you did? - so you just grit your teeth and move to a new seat and think quietly to yourself, "Abba sheli haya meit b'Toronto."

It is the same feeling of being kicked out of shul.  The same, "we don't want you here, don't care what your story is, just go somewhere else."

The Kicker-Outer came by while we were at Mrs. ViKi's today.  She left a note asking forgiveness since she'd obviously upset me.  Not really admitting anything, but sorry she’d hurt me.

Gosh, this is hard!  But yes, I forgave her completely the second I read her note.
I wonder if Hashem also wants me to forgive the people on the plane?

On a totally nother note

Have you ever noticed that there is NO smell as haunting, as pervasive, as difficult-to-track as an off lemon???
 
It starts small, an alcohol fruity tang in the air... and grows till the smell is EVERYwhere and you cannot find it, even, apparently, when you're sitting right on top of them.
 
When I came home from Calgary last month, I kept saying something smelled off.  I'm usually very good at tracking smells.  That and my unusually good spelling (not savant-level, but pretty good!) are what I consider my main "gifts," trivial though they may be.  (the spelling thing led to a pretty good start to a writing career, so don't knock it)
 
Spelling and smelling.
 
Anyway, after what seemed like weeks but was probably just days of being bothered by the rancid lemoniness, I finally found the source:  a plastic produce bag had fallen off the ledge onto the sofa, then slipped, unnoticed, under the cushions.  Surprisingly, only one lemon in the bag was moldy, but it was moldy enough for all five (Ted actually asked why we couldn't use the others...ew!).  Five lemons, lost in the sofa!
 
Now the smell is back.  I know it so well.  Ted can barely notice it, but I know.  Somewhere, in the house, lurks a lemon.  Maybe just one, maybe a bunch.  Maybe not exactly a lemon, but something citrusy and something definitely off.

Monday, September 21, 2009

KICKED OUT OF SHUL!

Now I'm calm… in fact, I'm wondering if I'm too calm to talk about how upset I was yesterday. WE GOT KICKED OUT OF SHUL!

Believe me, I was shaking when it happened; I couldn't see, I couldn't speak. I was nice and gentle to the baby, at least.

I kept thinking, "She had NO IDEA!" Over and over and over.

No idea what it took for me to be in shul with the baby… how hard it had been to find clean clothes in the chaos, get out the door despite my lethargy, apathy, neverending fatigue, whatever you want to call it. Ordinary struggles.

Finding an outfit for the baby – feeling happy and proud that he HAD a brand-new outfit, courtesy of our neighbour-friend Judy. Finding socks, shoes for him. In our crazy upside-down house, yes, these are challenges.

I chose to come after Kiddush, timed our arrival carefully so I'd arrive late, hear the sermon, hear the shofar and get in a good chunk of Mussaf. And it worked well the first day! The baby behaved super-nicely; everybody said so…

She had NO IDEA what it took to pack up a bag of books and toys for him: old favourites I knew he'd love along with some new and interesting things to keep him distracted and busy so I could focus a bit on my own shul experience.

I have no idea what she thought.

I was sitting in a chair, the baby was sitting on the floor. He was getting up, walking around, reading his "Who, who?" book and talking to it because he talks non-stop. Even when he's happy, especially when he's happy, this baby makes NOISE. Not loud noise, but unceasing noise.

The rabbi started his talk with a joke. I was sure it wouldn't be a good joke; they never are. But the minute he started, a woman near the front raised her hand and shouted "Rabbi!" After a few times, she got his attention and he stopped. "You told that joke yesterday," she said.

"I know," he said. He'd been speaking in the downstairs Social Hall service yesterday; I guess she'd heard him there. "I'd rather give one powerful talk twice than two watered-down talks." A couple of people did leave at that point. I guess they didn't want to hear the powerful talk twice. The rude lady stayed, however.

It seems to me that if he's the rabbi, you don't interrupt; you just leave quietly if you don't want to hear the jokes again. As the rav of the shul, in my opinion, he has the right to say the same joke however many times he wants.

In any event, there my baby was, on the floor, in the midst of this. Quieter than some of the grown-up ladies, is my point. He was on the floor; we don't have carpets at home, and all the kids at one point or another, have enjoyed stretching out on the carpeted floor of the shul. There was lots of floorspace and he wasn't even kicking or bumping anyone. Just lying quietly on the floor, then rolling over, getting up, looking around, and playing.

He is like a bat, echolocating himself in the world every few seconds. He must hear himself. When the midwives first placed him in my arms in bed, he was making a noise, just a buzzy hummy sighing newborn noise. His noises have evolved, and most of them sound a bit like words now. But they are not very loud noises, and I thought I could keep him happy through a little while in shul, at least.

Especially because the first day, when a baby started crying, the person speaking on the bimah (not the regular rabbi), told his mother, "don't take him out – that's music in here; that's what you want to hear in a shul." Kal v'chomer, I figured my happy but slightly noisy baby could be welcome, too.

Happy he was, and I was actually listening to about eight in every ten words the rabbi was saying, in between shushing him and, I thought, very subtly entertaining him with activities, book suggestions, etc.

Until I looked up, and there she was. She's somebody we actually know pretty well. Not saying whether she's been over here before. Not saying if we've eaten at her place before. Because I know Ted and maybe others will be curious.

She was looking at me, trying to catch my eye. Suddenly saying, "Jennifer, you need to leave." Actually, I missed the exact words, but that was the intention.

I grabbed our stuff. Grabbed the baby. Couldn't see; I was instantly in tears. But we left the shul and went out into the hallway.

Where the baby continued playing, happily, oblivious to the change in scene.

There were a couple of little kids, maybe 2 and 3 (one very cute boy obviously almost ready for his upsherin), playing in the hallway outside the shul, running and screaming, literally screaming. Now THAT is not music in the shul because the way the place is set up, screams in the hallway not only penetrate the main shul, they echo around in the hallway first before piercing every single exit door. It is very audible in the shul.

I told the mothers they couldn't let their kids scream, but that there was a great kids' program right upstairs. They said they were waiting for shofar and continued letting their kids scream.

While my baby still played happily, quietly. And I schemed all the different horrible ways that I could murder the woman who had kicked us out.

I will say – she has kids! She knows kids! It was unfathomable to me that she would kick me out for such a small amount of noise. In some shuls, maybe. From a stranger, maybe. This was somebody I thought I liked. So then I thought, maybe she has a point. But NO. No, it was just pointless and stupid and I was shaking with anger and trying not to be all messy, obvious, crying all over the place.

I almost didn't make it to shul! We came this close! I even yelled at the baby the first day, potched his little bottom because I couldn't stand the mess in our house, couldn't stand my life, couldn't stand my family… just for a minute. He was trying to watch me get dressed and I couldn't find clothes and couldn't imagine walking out the door in one piece in time for anything.

What right did this woman have, when I finally do make it, all kind of organized, to judge me and my baby and decide we shouldn't be there?

Okay, so maybe I'm still a bit emotional.

Eventually, the rabbi finished his talk. Eventually, people came out, all in a rush.

And I started to go towards the door to go back in to hear the shofar. Yes, what chutzpah! Me, in shul, wanting a chance to do a once-a-year mitzvah! Baby and all!

And the woman who'd kicked us out came out just at that moment. In my imagination, she'd sprouted devil horns, fangs, a tail, raggy old shredded black dress, but no, she looked lovely, looked completely normal.

She took my hands, looked at me warmly, and she explained. Or tried to.

She said, "people were tittering; people were starting to make comments about you and your baby. There was so much negativity, and I just thought it would be better if you left right away."

WHAT?

Apparently, it hadn't even bothered her. It was bothering someone else.

So she elected herself as the representative of the congregation, my friend, to save me from some theoretical, ephemeral negativity of some catty, tittering miniskirted women I wouldn't see again 'till next Rosh Hashanah?!?

Huh?

I can take negativity. Screw them if they think it's silly that I don't just plunk a baby on a bench with nothing to do. Screw them if I don't hand my baby over to a nanny the second he makes a noise, happy or sad. Screw them if I want him to grow up in shul, catching sight of the aron, catching fragments of melodies and dreaming of the sounds, the tastes, the gleaming Torah garments late into the night afterwards.

It's my shul. It's Gavriel Zev's shul. Yes, it's their shul, too, but nobody has any right to kick out my happy baby, especially if they think they're doing it to save me from – ahem – negativity. That, sorry, is just NUTS. Because call me clueless, but the only negative vibe I picked up yesterday was HER and her quieter-than-though decision to kick ME out.

Sighhh…

So where was I?

Oh, yes, at the door. Where the kicker-outer was leaving with a child of her own, and I was coming in to hear the shofar.

Through the shofar, the baby was wonderful. He silently blew his own little thumb and grubby fist, right along with the notes. While the other kids who'd been screaming outside grabbed candy from their mothers' bags and started hitting and pulling and shoving; making way more noise than mine, thank God.

And afterwards, they left, most of the people left, and we stayed for shmonah esrei.

While the rabbi gave over some preliminaries, I grabbed a seat, then grabbed a better seat, then gave up the better seat when the lady with the walker came back to claim it (whoops!). And ended up with one of my least-favourite seats, near the stairs to the bimah. Fine. It's not a good place to sit with a baby; I prefer the "bulkhead" seats where there's lots of floorspace for him to spread out.

And I am grateful that our shul doesn't have reserved seating, because, in general, you can get a good seat at any time as people come and go.

So we got seats, and during kaddish before shmonah esrei, I pulled out the pack of pretzels and raisins, the sippy cup, to keep him busy.

He mostly ate and puttered, I mostly davened, everyone around us was happy and amazed at his good, quiet behaviour. (the only time he is completely silent is when he's eating, hence the pretzels and raisins)

We stayed for kedushah, we stayed for v'chol maaminim, and then, I decided he'd had enough. He was lying on the floor a bit more now, not crying by any stretch, but the pretzels were gone, the raisins were gone, and he just seemed tired. Fair enough; it was probably after 1:00 p.m. by then.

So we went upstairs, found Naomi, and played for a bit until around 2:00, when Ted came and got us for birkas kohanim. Ted took Gavriel Zev, I took Naomi, it was beautiful, and we left soon afterwards for a lovely lunch at my parents' house.

And I'm still FURIOUS.

I still wish she would DIE. Just drop off the face of the earth.

Cease to exist.

I cannot coexist in the same universe, cannot imagine how she thought she was doing me a favour, and in some way, it feels so much worse than if she herself just hadn't been able to hear the rabbi talking. No, she was defending others who thought my baby was a bit too active and outgoing. Who thought I was a little silly, naïve, even inconsiderate bringing him to shul.

I would never bring a child, let alone a baby, on Tisha b'Av to hear Eichah. I would never bring a child, let alone a baby, on Yom Kippur to hear Kol Nidrei. I know when not to bring children. During megillah on Purim, I have been known to bring a baby if I have a baby, but I am the first to leave if the baby makes any hint of noise: I can always have Ted take the kids home and catch the later reading by myself.

I am NOT inconsiderate. I do NOT inflict rude children on the shul like so many other parents do. My kids learn early what's expected of them in shul.

And what about that woman interrupting the rabbi? I thought that was just about the stupidest thing ever! Who's going to kick her out on behalf of everybody who now thinks she's a moron?

Finally, why do I take this so personally that I could barely fall asleep last night, that I'm still ranting, more than 24 hours and 2000 words later???

Because all I have is my religion and my children. It's like I took a vow, 20 years ago, to become religious, to be fruitful, to have children and raise them frum. It's all I have done with my life, it's all I have to show for myself.

If I can't have that, there's simply no point. What right does SHE have to take that away from me???

Friday, September 18, 2009

DONE.

Going to beddy-bye.
 
Ouch and ouch and ouch.  Too many ouches to count.
 
And in the morning, I'm driving Ted to work and - because our ship will have come in by then - hey, Scotiabank says it's already here!!! - stopping at SuperStore to buy a ton of groceries before coming home for Circle Time.
 
Abigail, if you're still up and reading this (why?), don't even think about cancelling...I will definitely need backup!!! :-)))

P.S. It is very hard to work

And stay up late and feel appreciated to the near constant drumbeat of Elisheva's "So what?  If you're tired, go to bed!  Nobody usually eats much dessert on Shabbos, anyway!"
 
She thinks she has one of my buttons, and can push it over and over and over.
 
But I look at her and the things she says are just so silly and nonsensical I want to cry and hug her and pray together that this puberty thing passes quickly.
 
I want my Elisheva back.

Gaaah... still UP!!! :-o

Spent most of my "productive" time this afternoon up to my neck in Neapolitan cakes... leaving this evening to single-handedly create:
 
~ Pumpkin cheesecake
~ Cinnamon rolls, and a... 
~ HUGE ginormous mega-lasagna
 
The lasagna doesn't sound like much, but involved a bazillion steps:  cook & drain pasta, cook & drain spinach, boil down garden tomatoes & basil into a sauce & blend with tinned tomatoes and paste, blend spinach, ricotta and egg, and then layer the whole mess together.  It's currently taking up a full shelf in the downstairs fridge
 
Luckily, Ted was here to make his trademark famous Netivot Cookbook Salmon!
 
Right now, I'm shvitzing as the oven self-cleans.  Three challahs to roll out and I'm done for the night!  (morning?)
(they'll rise in the fridge)
 

Still to cook tomorrow (Friday):

Dairy soup (leek/tatoe)

Pareve cholent

Roast beets

Chocolate olive oil dessert

Finish squash soup

Make & bake Ginger cookies (from a mix, shh, don't tell...)

Broccoli salad

Sushi salad

Bake cinn buns

Streusel & bake challahs x 3

 

Not bad... not impossible at all.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yom Tov baking

I am hemorrhaging butter.  We cannot buy it fast enough to keep it in stock in the freezer.
 
This is the way life should be.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How to get CRANKY: Shop with your kids - at Superstore!

Sent today to the good folks at StuporStore.  Where I hate to shop if I have children along!!!  Grrr...
 
----- Original Message -----
"I was in the Dufferin/Steeles Superstore location in Toronto today with my two young children, and wanted to let you know about the astonishingly poor customer service we received.
 
Our bill came to nearly $300 for what I'd consider a fairly large quantity of groceries.  I deliberately avoided the self-checkout lanes, wanting the service and efficiency of a cashier and needing to keep my hands free to deal with my children.
 
However, store policy has apparently changed, and customers are now entirely responsible for bagging their own items.  There is no help available from store staff.  After I paid for the groceries, I had to stand at the end of the checkout line for nearly ten minutes, arranging the items in two bins and three or four large grocery bags.
 
At one point, I had so many items and nowhere to put the bin, so I had to use some space in the cashier's second bagging area; she was quick to tell me that I had to move it, but never once herself offered assistance or asked if she could call one of her colleagues to help.
 
My children are generally well-behaved, but the fact remains that they - not the groceries - are my full-time job.  If they need attention, as they did a few times during this process, I must stop bagging and help them, even if it means delaying the checkout line and inconveniencing other customers.
 
It seems like Superstore has made every effort to shift responsibility from its staff onto customers.  I can see how this is a smart cost-saving move:  customers often do all the work of scanning and bagging their own groceries, pay for them, then haul them out to the car ourselves (even if they are elderly, pregnant or burdened in other ways). 
 
In fact, there's a store right around the corner at Bathurst and Clark called Sobey's that (as of last week) will still do all these things for me (alright; I still have to pay!).  I might have to ask for help with a carryout, but at least the staff are available and cheerfully offer the service.
 
If I wanted to be a supermarket cashier, I'd apply for the position.  In fact, your store seems to have several individuals who actually seem to want the job of supermarket cashier.  In my opinion, that job includes bagging groceries or, at the very least, assisting those who can't do it for themselves, rather than treating us as a nuisance.  Not to mention going the extra mile to make sure that grocery shopping is a pleasure.
 
Finally, I stopped on my way out to mention this at the "Customer Service" desk.  I waited as the representative stared at me, blankly, chewing and swallowing to empty her mouth so she could reply.  When she was eventually finished eating (!), she informed me that customer bagging was Superstore policy; it wasn't up to the store.  This response seemed typical of the zero-responsibility attitude that permeates the store.
 
I'd love to hear back from you about the change in bagging policy, and do hope you will find some way to implement my suggestion that all staff adopt a slightly more helpful attitude.
 
Yours truly,
 
{moi}"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

You know you're a parent when...

Rushing to get out the door to class, round up supplies, duck into bathroom.
Wash hands and inadvertently flick necessary-for-class pen (hard-to-find pen because kids take everything) across room into flushing toilet.
There are NO other pens.
 
Without a second thought, duck down, grab the pen from flushing toilet.
Wash pen.
Wash hands again.
 
Duck out and out the door.
 
I'm off!
 
 

Which is why

I'm sad that it comes down to a dishwasher.  Something as small as using a dishwasher for both milk and meat can mean I don't get to eat in somebody's home. 
 
A dishwasher, and not the quality of their soul.
 
A dishwasher, and not the seriousness of their intentions.
 
This is the exact sort of thing that people accuse Orthodox Jews of.  Of caring more about the dishwasher than the conviviality, the breaking of bread, the sharing of life and experiences and, dammit, spirituality, that arises in an atmosphere of friendly openness.
 
I once read a line - when a woman, hurt, found out someone wouldn't eat by her because she didn't cover her hair - "I wonder, does she mix her cakes with her sheitel???"
 
(I may be misquoting, but cannot remember which book, so you'll have to trust me that I'm close to the mark, at least)
 
My liberal past rears up and smacks me on the head.
These are people I know and like and want to spend time with.
 
But the dishwasher.  Milk.  Meat.  And it's hot.  Oy.
 
But then... after a few days, a week, I think, maybe it's a good thing.
 
Fair enough for Hashem to judge people by the quality of their soul, the seriousness of their intentions.  I'm pretty sure He's up to the job.
 
But God forbid people start trying to do that.  Okay, enough people already try to do that.  I don't want to be one of them.
Hard enough for me to judge people based on their pots and pans, their kitchen cupboards, the colour of their dishtowels.
 
Kind of a relief - if you think about it - that we don't have to peek into their souls as well.
Halacha isn't in shomayim, isn't hidden away inside a person's soul.  Halacha is about here and now and what you see and what there is to do about it.
 
"Sorry, we can't eat by you; your business practices are corrupt and I happen to know you glanced at another woman besides your wife last week."
 
"I'd love some honeycake, but I believe you were thinking back nostalgically to a Buddhist retreat from your youth as you baked it; sorry."
 
More than kind of a relief.
I'm so happy it's just about the dishwasher, because that means we can still be friends.

Irritating

At Mrs. ViKi's today, a mother I should know better than to be irritated by somehow got launched on a rant about "fundamentalist" Jews.

She is Jewish herself, and openly, proudly non-practicing. She sprinkles her speech liberally with Jewish words but conveys absolutely nothing of it, that I can tell, to her children.

She was talking about the difficulty of renting space in her home to fundamentalist Christians, who apparently "don't want to talk to her" when they find out that she is not only Jewish, but not practicing. Frankly, if I was a proselytizing Christian, that would be the person I'd salivate over:

I suspect Jews who don't care are prime targets for the type of lovey-huggy welcoming spirituality that missionaries pretend to offer.

But anyway.

She then said that fundamentalist Jews are even worse than the Christian kind. She apparently had a woman come, a "born-again" Jew, who refused to live there unless she made the entire kitchen kosher.

Which, according to this mother, is not only so expensive it's ridiculous - "You need two of everything!" (and it had all better be Portmeirion or Wedgwood).

I didn't say a word. Just did not speak.
Took the kids and went outside to the playground.

Postscript

Why did this bother me so much?
This is a mama I don't know well but have encountered many many times.
Every encounter is just that, an encounter. An experience. She pretty much, to me, seems to live her life as an "in your face" to the entire world. I don't know if that's really her attitude; I don't know her well enough to judge.

BUT
I think it's partly because this is Elul, almost erev Rosh Hashanah, when there is so much to cherish and look forward to about being a Jew. And she just hasn't got a clue. I guess if I was more kiruv-minded, I'd find a way to reach out.
Gotta work on that.
Maybe.