Friday, December 16, 2011

No Rest for the Weary

As my daughter clung to the railing of my mother's house, screaming "save me, grandma, save me, don't let them kill me!", I suspected I may have made a wrong turn somewhere in my gentle guidance of her development.

Let me retrace my steps.

After we finished her morning work on phonics -- may I just interject here that phonics are very, very boring? -- she was supposed to have her piano lesson at her grandmother's. After her piano lesson, she and her brother were going to go with Tatty to deliver cookies to various ill members of our congregation.

All to the good. She was happy to see her father. She wanted to bring a glass of water. No, her father told her, you don't need refreshments to steel you for the five blocks to the home for the aged. You will not die of dehydration; this is not the Sahara.

We live in a rain forest.

This is where the little train started to run off of its tracks. Her father told her to get in the car. She refused. He insisted. She broke away screaming, running back to my mother's house, yelling, "grandma, save me, save me!"

By the time she was locked in the main floor bathroom, she was probably wise to lock the door against me.

Some time later she explained to me that she had attempted to hold on to her calm place, but it had escaped and run down her leg, disappearing.

Rather like she did, but with less screaming.

Then she wept for an hour.

Then something amused her and she fell on the floor giggling.

My daughter has more emotional range on an average afternoon than I have displayed in the last ten years.

Monday, December 12, 2011

All the weary mothers of the world . . .

Firefly declined his nap time. I hope to exact payment from him in the form of an early bedtime. And by "early" I mean "on time, like any normal child."

Thing I don't understand: the 180 day school schedule. Munchkin's books usually have lesson plans of 140 or so lessons. I don't know what the other days are. And apparently we're supposed to be doing 180 lessons a year. I have to work every day. Why is it that children don't? And given that children have the memories of goldfish (once round the bowl and they've forgotten everything they ever knew and are seeing the pink stucco castle for the very first time), would it be better to give them shorter lessons more often rather than full days only half of the year?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Drowning woman waving

I'm drowning. That's why I'm not updating here. Munchkin is spending three to four hours a day doing home school, which has tipped the workload for her mother from "controlled chaos" to just the chaos part. Plus this being-Jewish business is time-consuming. Especially in a city without a close by kosher bakery that we are willing to use.

I'm looking for someone to clean and/or run my boys in a circle a few times a week, and if I find someone (IYH) I will update more often.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


It makes me happy to know that should the police ever come to my house, they would know immediately that I'm not a drug addict. They would know this because, if TV and personal experience are to be believed (and of course they are), drug addicts never have sheets on their beds. I am marginally neurotic about sheets on beds.

No one has ever tested me for drugs immediately post-childbirth. No one has tested my children either.

If you are having a difficult day and feeling slightly tearful, it is important that you not listen to anything by Joan Baez. Just put the Joan Baez down and step away. Instead, watch documentaries about meth addiction and be pleased that you change your sheets regularly and are not in rehab. Rehab (why is it always called rehab and never rehabilitation?) looks dull in that workshoppy way. You know, trust exercises and brain storming and listening to dull people take turns speaking while everyone sits in a circle. I wish to avoid all of these activities, which is why I don't want to go into teaching nor become an alcoholic. Plus this particular TV-rehab looks like it makes you bring your children.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why My Child Needs to Narrow Her Horizons

Sinagpore Math is a very popular math program for home schoolers. It's supposed to teach children to think mathematically, broaden their horizons, and turn them into little math geniuses. Or something. Anyway, we were working on Math 1A. There is a picture of eight rabbits. Three are above ground. Five are below ground. Prompt: "Tell a story about these rabbits."

Munchkin: "Once upon a time, long, long ago, G-d created the very first bunny . . . "

Around about the time that Mummy Bunny met Daddy Bunny's eyes from across a beautiful spring field, I suggested we jump ahead to the part where she tells me how many bunnies there are.

"There are some bunnies, okay mummy? I'm trying to tell a story!"

We're doing Saxon Math for awhile now.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Homeschool Room

On Becoming Devoted commented on the last post about people who have a perfect homeschool room, nicely matched to their perfect homeschool life. I do not know how much space I would need to have before I could devote an entire room to homeschooling. I do know that we do not have that much room now, and I cannot foresee ever having it in the future.

Munchkin on the parsha: G-d told Noah He was going to flood the world, so Noah built an arch, so he could climb up on it to get out of the rain.

I am watching the movie Commune.

I do not normally watch movies because I have no attention span. I am trying to watch this one.

These people spent an awful lot of time naked. An awful lot. But their children are dressed like mine. What I mean is that my children have that non-Christian, west coast homeschooler look. "I dress myself." "Why of course my mummy lets me wear a princess dress and superhero cape to the grocery store. Doesn't yours?" You know the type. You can tell from twenty paces that my children are homeschooled, that mummy bakes their bread, and that they spent way too much time sleeping in mummy and daddy's bed. In other words, they scream "poor boundaries." It's charming to me, anyway. I always wear clothes though. But you can clearly tell that they're a bit feral.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I'm probably not cut out to home school my child. I don't actually like teaching. My mother is a natural teacher, but I've inherited my father's disposition in that respect. Unfortunately for us, my daughter is less cut out for school than I am for home schooling.

Slowly, slowly, she is learning to read and numerate.

I have heartburn.

This may be part of living with small children, but whenever I see some sort of "extreme hoarding" video, I always think that that is exactly what my house would look like if I just let things go for a few too many days.

I probably wouldn't acquire animals. I think I would notice that. Especially cats, to which I am mildly allergic.

Nonetheless, it is my job to beat back the hoard. And to beat back the teensy little hoarders who think that my home should be decorated in Early Fisher-Price. I don't literally beat them back; Don't call CPS.

Oh! And we have a toilet. And a bathroom to keep it in! And it isn't even yellow-on-green anymore. What more could a lady want?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Down for the count

The chag just ended. During the chag, our slightly-leaky toilet became a very-leaky toilet. The plumbers came and took the toilet away. Now there's no toilet, but at least it doesn't leak.

My husband promises me that there will be a toilet soon. I believe with perfect faith . . .

Every Sukkos, my nieces come out from NYC, the home of all things Jewish. Inevitably my children contract something snotty, or streppy, or both. It's been snotty this time. Slight fever. I don't know if my children give the nieces something to take home, besides a whole new vocabulary of words they aren't allowed to say at Cheder. I suspect they do, but my sister-in-law has excellent manners and would never mention it.

Firefly, never my best-tempered child, is using this opportunity to let his brat flag fly. If I put him down, he screams. Then he follows me, screaming. Often as not, he trips (being more interested in screaming than in walking) and lands on his face, and then he really screams.

My mother, the Mayoress, needed four scripts filled. As is often the case for people needing prescription medications, she was unwell and unable to fill them herself.

I think I've mentioned this scenario before.

I went to Store One to be told that:
- Two of the medications she needs will take 24 hours;
- One of the medications she needs must be filled at Store Two; and,
- I'm welcome to wait half an hour for the fourth medication.

I feel that this has been a negative customer experience. I eagerly await the day that drive through prescriptions come to Canada.

The other day on the radio Mark Steyn said that a country that can't fill a prescription in less than forty-five minutes is likely doomed. Twenty-four hours is much longer than forty-five minutes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Faux Judaism and Itunes

I think I've ranted before about people who are actually Christian, but for whatever reason want to practice some Jewish rituals. The most irritating example of this is Lina at A Set Apart Life. I am not responsible if you go there and your teeth rot out from the sugary prose.

Anyhow, "Messianic Judaism," a.k.a. Christianity, is catching on. Unfortunately, since we're a tiny minority, if a sizable portion of Christians adopt the "Jewish" label, their noise will drown out our signal.

Even more upsetting is that posing as Jews is a tactic that missionaries use to drop Christianity on unsuspecting and vulnerable Jews who are trying to learn more about their Jewish identity. Even irreligious Jews are strongly attached to their identity as Jews and therefore unwilling to listen to missionaries. As a result unscrupulous missionaries package their message as being about Judaism, only springing the Jesus angle later on.

Itunes is collaborating (unwittingly) in their deception.

When I went to the Judaism category, between a quarter and a third of the podcasts featured were actually Christian. Most were labeled as "Messianic this-or-that," which means I can at least filter them out. They shouldn't be in Judaism, but they are relatively forward about what they are.

Others required me to do a google search before I could confirm that they were actually Christian podcasts.

This is completely unacceptable. If we can't keep a category called "Judaism" for podcasts relevant to, well, Judaism, then at least we shouldn't have to sift through listing that are clearly deceptive.

If this annoys you as much as it does me, go to your itunes store for itunes and enter the Judaism category. Feel free to leave some reviews for some of these guys. Don't let them put a stumbling block in front of another Jew:

Jason Sobel
Talking Torah with Jeff Gilbert
Hope of Israel with Sam Nadler

Meanwhile, a warning: Be very careful when you explore websites and podcasts for Jewish learning. Make sure you know the speaker is worth listening to before you invest your precious learning time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Yom Kippur and onwards

I think that this is how Yom Kippur is supposed to work: We all fast, and push ourselves to new levels of religious devotion. We exhaust ourselves. We promise to do better. The next day, invigorated by our exertion, we do better. Or try to.

This is what actually happens: Two weeks before Rosh Hashanna, I am moving at full speed. I turn over the children's drawers for the seasons. I procure new clothes. I get hair cuts, locate tights, polish shoes, and bake nine loaves of bread. I cook. I style my wig.

In between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, I wash the piles and piles of laundry that built up over the three-day holiday (more or less everything we own). I remove stains and hand-wash tiny children's formal wear. I hem. I re-hem. I tack up hems. I re-style my wig. I iron. Now there's a rarity. I force the five-year-old through a semblance of reading and math. Also, I plant. I lay down newspaper, then soil, and plant it with onions and garlic. I cover the new seeds with plastic. When they sprout, I mulch. I plant all the spinach.

Also, our toilet decided to turn its slow leak into a somewhat less slow, really too fast for comfort leak. As a result we're having bathroom disruption. Don't worry! There's another bathroom in the basement! Of course, I had closed it up (because I don't want to clean two toilets) and the kids are afraid to go down there alone. We're using the opportunity to paint over the ugly green paneling with a charming shade known as "what we already had extra of." So add "sporadic use of a bathroom" to the balls that must be kept in the air.

At the pre-Yom Kippur meal, there were signs all was not going according to plan. I botched both the rice (undercooked) and the bread (over-risen). The rice was crunchy. The children didn't notice, because they were busy fighting over ownership of a glow-in-the-dark sticker.

Then we fast for 25 hours from food and water.

The day after Yom Kippur, I have a tiny mini breakdown. It involves crying a lot, and not having any desire to better myself, or to sit outside in the rain in a plastic hut.

Also, my husband's relatives are coming.

Also, we're taking his father's dog for the duration.

It's been pouring rain every night for three straight nights.

When I prompt my daughter with, "G-d gave Noah the rainbow sign," she cheerfully responds, "No more water the fire next time!" No more water? Not quite.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rosh Hashanna

Someone please tell me why all the Jewish holidays are at the least convenient times?

The High Holidays come during harvest, canning, and winter planting. Pesach comes right when I want to do summer planting. Plus I have a million little starts that need fussing over.

This is just a long way of explaining why I've spent the evening harvesting the parsnips and carrots, baking nine loaves of bread, three honey cakes, and ten pots of blackberry jam. I'm not normally this productive.

Once upon a time, Jewish cooking was a great thing. But Internet, these are not our glory days.

Munchkin is certainly theologically prepared. Her favourite song as of late is Hallelujah. If you've never heard a five-year-old croon Leonard Cohen, you haven't lived.

She also likes Bruce Springsteen from The Seeger Sessions. As a result, she responds perfectly to the following prompt:

"G-d gave Noah the rainbow sign . . . "
"No more water the fire next time!"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Doom Dog

My mother's dog, Strawberry, hates me. Strawberry is a small, grumpy shih tzu. Shih tzus are not the picture of health and virility at the best of times. this one is obviously the shih tzu runt. But not runty in a cute way. Just stringy. When she's wet, she looks like a drowned rat.

Strawberry hates me.

Strawberry has always hated me. I think she thinks I'm an intruder on my mother's main activity of feeding and otherwise pampering Strawberry. I demand she pee outside in the snow. I try to prevent my children from feeding her cereal and ice cream. I do nothing but thwart her desire to eat food that's bad for her, pee on the carpet, and sit on a pillow.

Strawberry is fifteen years old. She will never die.

Or so I thought. This morning my mother called me to say that she needed help. Strawberry had been, well, emitting. From three orifices. Orifi? Anyhow, it was bad. My mother had been cleaning all night and was beside herself. She assumed that Strawberry was preparing to die. Strawberry was wandering around, stunned.

Because I am a good daughter and do not believe in cheap grace, I bundled up the children and off we went. I secreted the children in another room with my mother and set out to attack Strawberry's presents.

Did I mention this dog hates me?

I have three children. I have never smelled anything so bad in my life. Rotovirus has nothing on the smell that this dog made. And this dog made this smell in every room in the house, sometimes in several forms in every room.

I cleaned it all up. I got out the mop. I got out the bleach. I mopped up the entire house.

She wandered a drunkard's path on to the landing and threw up. Then she threw up on the bookshelf. Then she went to sleep.

It had been totally perfectly clean.

I cleaned it up again. I mopped the floors again. I took out the garbage again. Then, I took a breath.

My mother's house smelled exactly like a vet's waiting room. It was bleach-on-vomit. I hadn't identified "vet smell" before, but now I know exactly what it is. It is the smell of bleach on top of worse-than-roto-virus-doggie-puke.

Strawberry didn't die. She'd eaten some moldy carrots from a forgotten lunch, plus most of the ziploc baggy. She's still with us; or rather, with my mother. She still hates me.

I think she will live forever.

Firefly has said his first word. It's "woof."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Back Ache

Sometimes a zeitgeist takes the blogosphere. Minimalism, for example. The entire Christian blog community convulsed with pretend-amishness a few years ago. In the mommyworld, it's usually some reheated hippie stuff. Some new gloss on not vaccinating, or birthing in the living room, or never letting your kids within ten miles of plastic.

Right now a lot of people are into "living simply."

I have three children five and under. The only way I could simplify would be to ditch two of them. there is no socially acceptable way to do this, so we're going to have to work out a way to be happy with complications.

Well enough. But why does "living simply" translate into "moving to a farm"?

In that vein, I recently read This Life is in Your Hands and The Egg and I. The former is about an organic vegetable farm (affiliated with Helen and Scott Nearing) and the latter about a chicken farm.

Nothing about a farm looks simple or uncomplicated to me. I keep a fairly intense garden. I'm kind of glad that when something doesn't work out, it's easy to dispose of the evidence. I definitely keep a closer eye on the kids because of this quality. Cows, sheep, that sort of thing, they definitely fall into the "awkward disposal" category.

Second, I'm not sure that I'm responsible enough to own animals. I'm responsible enough to own children, but the standards are much lower for that. No one is going to get e coli if I forget to change the sheets this week.

Finally, as I explained in my previous entry, I'm heavily lettuce-centric. I'm not sure that there's a huge market for that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nesting Doll

My mother went to Texas. She brought Munchkin a Russian nesting doll. Munchkin is entranced. She carries it everywhere. I asked her why. Munchkin says, "mummy, she has no feet."

This is quite true.

Genome started yelling, AAAAAAAAAAH.


Genome said, "Mummy, shhhh! You as noisy as Firefly!"

That isn't the silliest thing I've done today. the silliest thing I've done is suggested putting a toy soldier in the time out chair, because it hurt Munchkin's feet when she stepped on it.

The winter garden is in. If I had a theme for it, it would be "lettuce." And kale. And more lettuce. So help me, the range is limited for outdoor gardening in Canada in the winter.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fashion Maven

I've always admired people whose children look coordinated and stylish. When confronted with my own children, insisting that they wear X or Y, I surrender immediately. Unless it's Shabbes, I just can't force myself to insist on clothing that is appropriate for the occasion, let alone coordinated.

With that in mind, allow me to share some of the recent outfits my daughter has selected.

For a trip to the park: Tutu, Hello Kitty leotard, bright pink knee socks, fairy wand, doll, fairy wings.
For Kumon: A "Spidergirl" dress, Spiderweb mask purchased from the dollar store and altered to add an elastic strap.
For the community centre: one purple sock, one white sock, both worn with sandals. cord skirt, pink. Pink shirt bearing bubblegum logo. Masquerade mask on a stick. Straw hat.
For Maariv, evening prayers, at synagogue with her daddy: A complete Care Bear outfit.

Genome is rather more subdued. He simply wishes to wear the same shirt (Star Wars) every day for the rest of his life. He can't understand why I cruelly insist on watching it when he's worn the shirt so many times that even unobservant neighbours are making comments. I'm afraid that please of "I wash it when he's asleep!" don't really make me sound better.

He would also prefer to jettison pants altogether. I suppose he is a sans-culottes at heart, but if I get my head cut off, I'm going to be irritated.

His yarmulke has Spiderman drawn in puff paint and is usually cocked one way or the other, or flying off. His tzitzits fall to his ankles.

Most curiously, he pulls the outfit together with a pair of rubber boots, even on the hottest day of the year. I'm not sure whether this indicates a lack of observational powers (other people rarely wear boots unless it's raining quite hard), or an excellent understanding of the local climate.

Monday, August 22, 2011


The other day, Genome was angry and wouldn't speak to me. To voice (as it were) his displeasure, he hid in the closet. With two feet sticking out. He lasted perhaps twenty seconds before he hurried out.

"Genome, why did you leave the closet?"
"Der GHOSTS in dat coset!"
He hurriedly closed the door, giving it an extra shove for good measure.
"Keep the ghosts in DER."

Genome is becoming a young man. Yesterday he cheerfully suggested that his toy be fixed with duct tape.

Someone suggested that if I didn't allow (nay, encourage) my children to read the types of books that they do, it's possible that they wouldn't communicate in knight-and-ghost talk. This is in all likelihood true. On the other hand, that Jack is out of its box, and I can't say that the results aren't colourful. I'll have to cook up some theory of being inspired by Bruno Bettleheim and advancing their psychological development in some way.

I live in one of those rainy single-season coastal cities that never gets particularly hot, nor particularly cold. It only becomes really hot for a brief period, perhaps a week or two interspersed with rain. This means that owning a pair of shorts is really surplus to requirements, let alone a proper summer wardrobe, one capable of keeping the wearer cool while maintaining his dignity. Come heat, people dig in their closets for whatever seems vaguely appropriate, unwilling to spend any actual money for what amounts to seven days of wear.

This week has been hot. About half the people I see are in their gym strip. Not "sports-styled" clothing. Actual gym strip, ratty shorts and occasional school athletic logos. Other people choose to wear the same Summer Outfit they've had since they vacationed to Disney World in August of 1985. One man in his late middle age looked particularly fetching in a pair of neon-on-neon shorts. Those were ravingly cool when I was a child. It was orange neon flowers on a green neon background. Do you remember orange neon? I never see it around now.

I can't wait until winter. That's when all our children go sledding in their rainboots, stuffed with several pairs of cotton socks.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Last week, the Captain was riding the subway home from work. Our subway system has no turnstiles. Instead, your ticket is checked by a highly paid, unionised employee who is also in charge of general crowd control, policing, and so forth.

Since the employees are highly paid and unionised, there aren't a whole lot of them. And since there aren't a whole lot of them (and, I assume, they're giving priority to resolving potential or actual Situations over checking tickets), not a lot of ticket-checking goes on. It's not uncommon to go months, even years, without being asked to show proof of fare.

So on Friday, the Captain was asked to show his proof of fair. He absent-mindedly pulls out his transit pass. The transit cop points out that he hasn't scratched out whether this is a transit pass for zone one, two, or three. Quite true, he hasn't. He scratches out zone one.

Walking home he notices that he has forgotten to replace his pass this month. He is riding on July's.

My daughter is on acid. She hears orange, thinks it's very pink today, and feels sorry for eight having to be there by mean Mr. Nine. She's usually having a good trip, but it's been known to go the other way.

My older son is on marijuana. He's happy and laid-back. He always has the munchies. He really, really likes Scooby Doo.

I don't know what my younger son is on. He buzzes around happily doing something or nothing, and then at the ninety minute mark he erupts in shrieking, the world's most hideous broken alarm clock. He does this at ninety minute intervals throughout the night, and sometimes throughout the day. He has this shriek that penetrates your reptile brain and urges you to suffocate him for the good of the tribe, lest a sabertooth tiger eat you all.

On the other hand, it's plausible that like a skunk or a hedgehog, his shriek is a way of signaling to sabertooth tigers that eating him isn't worth the aggravation.

I could be on anything, except I've got a massive addiction and I haven't had it for three days. In other words, today I could plausible feature as an addict in Intervention.

The problem is I didn't do any drugs (i.e. have any fun) to get here. It's just a manifestation of living with the world's loudest broken alarm clock.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Munchkin was punished for general bratty and impossibly spoiled behaviour, which she had the charming sense of timing to break into in front of several visitors.

She went in to the bathroom and poured out her woes to the toilet paper.

"Toilet paper," she said, "I am so sad and so tired. I have had such a hard day. I wish someone would come and carry me to bed and tuck me in."

I went into the bathroom. "Munchkin," I said, "may I carry you up to bed and tuck you in?" She agreed. I scooped her up and she said good night to the toilet paper.

As I carried her to her bedroom, she put her head against my shoulder and closed her eyes. "Mummy," she said, "how did you know where to find me?"

I should not let my children look at pattern collections. Other people, people with standards, have children who wear normal clothing. Maybe these children even request new regular clothing to wear. Someone has to be buying all of the clothing sold outside of the "costume" section.

My son alternates between dressing as a superhero, and as a dinosaur.

The other day, Genome was wandering around wearing a Darth Vader mask. He was carrying a long sword in one hand and a cutlass in the other. He was singing to himself: "I like dogs. I like dogs."

Good to know.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I was going to title this post, "this is how babies get shaken," and talk about my youngest keeping me up all of last night. But since this blog got dragged elsewhere, and someone was using my lack of sandwich-making prowess as an example of my sub-par parenting, it would probably be best to avoid the shaken-baby angle.

That was a joke people.

For the record, angry readers, I am not unfit to home school because I'm no good at making lunches. I home school _because_ I'm no good at making lunches. I'm also not particularly good at filling out forms printed on coloured paper and adorned with clip-art.

Really though. If you feel that you are more capable of making a dairy-free, nut-free, meat-free, and kosher jam; and if you want me to know that you are therefore a more fit mother than I am, please contact me c/o StealthJew. I will sample your wares and get back to you with a verdict.

An anecdote, to close.

Actual adult: Munchkin, you can't have an umbrella in bed.
Munchkin: It's a parasol.

Monday, July 18, 2011


My house is something of the flophouse of our neighbourhood. Sandwiched between accommodating neighbours and down the block from a large synagogue, we easily attract people, many of whom have an open invitation. Were we in college, ours is the type of house that would always produce wafts of marijuana smoke.

My house itself is in poor condition. I live in a city where the property makes up so much of our value that I await the day that the city deducts money from our assessment for having any structure on our property at all. As far as the city is concerned, I might as well live in a mid-ranged pup tent. My house is managed by a subpar housekeeper (yours truly). But I'm a good cook. So coming to my house gives the visitor that warm, happy feeling of being in the company of people who keep a much messier house than you do, with fairly good food to boot. Additionally, everyone living in my house except for me is a nice person, and good company.

This Shabbes, we had not one, not two, but three young and attractive couples over.

That's the stuff. Anyone feel like taking some quizzes?

I have been married for awhile now, and my husband and I both had the same thought: I am so happy that I am not dating.

When one is married, one learns to take certain good qualities for granted. But having young friends who are just dating reminds the observer that there is an entire world of faults out there, faults that the observer had forgotten existed.

A young lady broke up with the Captain for "inhibiting the positivity of [her] self-worth." Date, and you may end up dating someone who speaks in psychobabble.

Date, and you may end up dating someone who eats octopus or eel and wants to share.

Date, and you may find a vegan, or someone someone who Master Cleanses.

The next man you date may be Casey Serin. The next woman you date may be Aria Star

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Casey Serin, serial fraudster.

A friend of mine is adjusting to a new marriage. They are compatible. They had a long courtship. Nonetheless, I think a certain amount of marriage adjustment just has to be done with teeth gritted and the thought "I could always torch this place and run off to stay at the Hotel 6" in the back of one's mind.

Actually, that last part might just have been me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

American Pie

My husband invited some American ex-pats for the Fourth of July. As the most humane climate in Canada, we have quite a few. i wanted to do something American for the Americans. Fourth of July, yes? So I made iced tea. I found some instructions on the internet.

Apparently it requires tea. But the recipe didn't specify which type of tea, and this gave me some trouble. First I found herbal teas, mint and such. I'm pretty sure that's too hippie fruity for Fourth of July iced tea.

Then I had Earl Grey and English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast. None of those seemed quite appropriate. They're all quite distinct-tasting, so I would think that if the recipe had intended for me to use Earl Grey, it would have specified.

So I found some bags that were unlabeled, and that's what I went with. After all, it may be the correct type of tea, whereas the others were almost certainly not.

I followed the recipe quite carefully. It tasted much too sweet for me. I was brought up drinking tea without sugar, so that may be the thing.

The Americans drank it. This may be a good sign. It may just have been politeness.

I had considered making an apple pie (As American as . . . ), but I've never made a pie and this seemed ambitious.

A second interlude: my daughter attending day camp for the first time. In fact, she's never been in any class, and never attended school. This is not because I am intentionally over-protective. She's five. More that I'm disorganised, and she was a late bloomer, and so on, and so forth. When I worked my children had a nanny. Having her attend an additional programme would be doubling up, since the second and third children followed in rather short order. One thing follows another and now she's five and attending day camp for the Very First Time.

I carefully pored through the parent's manual in search of anything that may have changed since my last day camp experience, which was some 15 years ago. One still labels everything with the child's name. Done. Send a bathing suit? Done. Make a sandwich. I can do this!

Make a sandwich with no meat (kosher reasons) and no nuts of any sort (allergies).

This became rather more complicated.

My daughter is lactose intolerant.

I made jam. Munchkin was pleased by a food that is sweet, strawberry-flavoured, pink, and devoid of nutritional value. All appeared to be going well.

She enjoyed day camp, but does not wish to attend tomorrow, as she said she was kept busy all day.

She also says that she slept poorly because her father and I kept waking her. I remember this. I woke her up to go to the bathroom. I woke her up because she was hungry. I woke her because her invisible friend told her something and I just had to hear about it.

Oh no, wait. That was all her, wasn't it? Well I can see why she was confused.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Medium is the Message

This evening I noticed that Noah and his wife (nameless) are riding around in a Fisher-Price TV van. This is from a Noah's Ark playset, of course. I think they may have some of the animals in there as well.

There is a statement there, something about religion and modern media and contemporary culture, but I have no idea what that statement would be.

In the meantime, I have a lot of rhubarb. Too much rhubarb. About six mature plants' worth. I inherited the rhubarb with the house, and we've harvested it thrice this season already. It would be nice if it weren't so cold, and then I could harvest something that isn't rhubarb.

Rhubarb has surprisingly few uses. Once you've made jelly, and compote, and pie, you're more or less rhubarb-ed out. It's one of those plants where a little goes a long way. And I have a lot.

From now on I think I am giving my children designated cups. This won't stop them from leaving the cups about. I will, though, have the opportunity to track down whomever left a given cup, and lock the offender in the closet.

Too bad I don't have locks on the closets.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Another Fantastic Expedition

I am cheap. You may remember this. I also enjoy reading, and I am too disorganised to make good use of the library. I also accumulate children's books.

So, library sales. There was one in North Van. This was over a bridge. I'm afraid of bridges, because I'm scared I will drive off of the edge. But my desire for books is greater than my anxiety, though both are substantial. I had originally planned to leave the older children, at least, with their father. But he had to work. So off I go, three children in tow. I also have more desire for books than I have good sense.

Before leaving I fed them a nutritious breakfast. I was particularly impressed when Genome inhaled three eggs. He can be a big eater. But I felt very virtuous. I am rarely convinced to cook before noon.

The lead-up to the bridge goes through a very large park, and there is no stopping or pulling over. I was surprised that, although it was Sunday, there was traffic. It would take about half an hour to get over the bridge. Oh, well enough.

Genome is being whiny and kvetchy, which is unlike him. I growled at him, assuming, falsely as it happens, that he had no good reason to kvetch.

Just as we enter the park, Genome throws up. Then he throws up again. Then he throws up again.

Then he was understandably bad-tempered, since he was sitting with vomit all over himself. It was egg-vomit and particularly rank.

He'd also wrecked his favourite shirt-of-the-moment.

When we arrived, I swabbed him down with baby wipes, planted him in the umbreella stroller I always keep in the car for Moments like These, and off we went -- me, a baby on my back, a sensible five-year-old, and my son Shirtless Hillbilly Jack. We could have used a toothless dog.

I was buying a box of books, so I told the children that whatever they threw in there was fine, as long as they let me browse unmolested. When I got home, I discovered that their choices were not as bad as might have been expected.

We stopped at a fortuitously timed swap meet (violating Swap Meet Rule #1: Do Not Bring the Children) to obtain a new shirt. There were no Spiderman shirt. This is because the parents in this neighbourhood are much classier than the ones in the neighbourhoods I usually shop at. Nearly everything was educational.

My daughter is a natural shopper. She quickly located some of the few branded, Disney, no-nutritional-value items. They were in perfect condition, obviously gifts from less-aware relatives. She exited in a Disney Princess gown and he in Spiderman light-up sandals. Perfect condition. Five dollars. By way of the sandals, I bribed him into a generic blue shirt.

A summary:
1. Keep an umbrella stroller in your car.
2. Keep clothes in your car.
3. Best to go to swap meets where sellers are as tacky as oneself

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Stealth Jew Can Homeschool

Kind of?

Those of you who are good with math will realise that Munchkin is now approaching what is intended to be her kindergarten year.

When I was a child, kindergarten and preschool were considered optional. If your mother was absolutely-sick-to-death of you, you went. If she wasn't, you didn't. Optional. Now, all of a sudden, I'm "homeschooling" a three-year-old. No I'm not. I'm just too disorganised to take her to preschool.

Since I'm a firm believer in not teaching formally anything I'm pretty sure the child will learn anyway, we don't do any activities with colours, letters, play dough (heaven forbid), and so on. If at college age Munchkin can't identify "orange," I intend to attack it then.

Ahem. Back to the story.

Munchkin is now approaching kindergarten age, and she won't be attending kindergarten. So since her fifth birthday, we've been doing some formal school work -- Kumon, and reading. Not reading anything amusing or good. Reading via explicit systematic phonics, which is to reading what drilling the multiplication tables is to math. Not the exciting part.

I am proud to relate that she chants her short vowels like a pro.

My daughter is not interested in school. She'll do it, sure. She'll do it because she wants to please me. But she sees no purpose in doing it. It's completely irrelevant to her life.

What mummy wants me to learn: short vowel sounds. The number nine.

What I want to know: Where trolls live.

We are addressing this gap through a marvellous discovery I made not long ago. When I was in school, we used this book to teach Greek Myths:

I loved the D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. It's accurate, easy to read, and beautifully illustrated. So imagine my pleasure to discover that they had other books, some of which have been recently re-released.

D'Aulaires Book of Trolls.

I am in love. It was worth actually buying a book new.

Best of all, it gives me the opportunity to say "troll cocks with purple and green feathers" and not giggle.

I have a dirty mind.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Blowhole at the Top of Your Mouth

Yesterday the Captain asked me a question.

"Hey StealthJew. You know how I'm not all that aware of my body and health, right? Can you tell me if something is normal?"


"You know that blowhole at the top of your mouth?"

"You mean your throat?"

"No. The hole in the roof of your mouth."

"There's no hole there."

"Yes there is. You know that hole, the one in the roof of your mouth."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

" . . . *expletive*"

Turns out the Captain has a cleft palate, with a teeny little hole right on the roof of his mouth. The roof of his mouth is also, for the record, kind of flat. After presenting him with Munchkin's mouth as well as mine, I've convinced him that this is not the usual way of things.

Yes, it is strange that the dentist didn't mention this. I realise no one explicitly asks dentists to count the number of orifii in the mouth, but you think they'd mention it.

"By the way, you know you've got an extra hole in there."

Anyone ever known this to exist in an adult? Any suggestions?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Howdy, Neighbour!

So I got a negative comment -- my very first, I think -- on my little phosphate helper down there. It was left by some Suzuki acolyte who is sending her children to -- wait for it -- the elementary school I and my younger brother the Captain attended.

I feel obliged to warn you all that Captain and I are both Reagan conservatives, people who don't even _like_ polar bears, and who only recycle the stuff they pay us for. Now I can't say for certain that this was because of anything I was taught in elementary school, but I can't rule it out either. Be alert.

I do know they were beating the environmentalist drum pretty hard back then. Captain even dressed up as a recycling bin for Halloween one year.

You know, say what you want about the global warming people (or ask me to say it for you), but at least they make their case in public. I am already suspicious of environmentalists, because they seem as a whole to have an alarming totalitarian streak. Fine for someone to eat only organic potatoes, and please, do tell me about it. I'm open to being convinced. But increasingly the trend is not to discuss, say, phosphates, but instead to bypass us proles and trolls and instead legislate the change one wishes to see in the world. After all, why risk the unpleasant discovery that many of us would prefer working toilets to saving water, if one can impose one's will by fiat?

BTW: You're not saving any water if the darned thing keeps backing up, spasming, and vomiting all over my bathroom. Just sayin'. And when that happens, I'm definitely breaking out the bad-for-plants-and-animals chlorine bleach.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On the Move

We have a new child on the move, and already I can tell that the younger two are going to be trouble.

When you have one small child, you think that you should supervise the child at all times. When you have three, you know that you should supervise them all all the time. Since they rarely mull about the same area, and periodically one is tempted away to change a diaper or use the bathroom, this is impossible. Three children get up to much more trouble than three only children would.

The other day I explained the difference between a preschooler and a toddler to someone else. A preschooler tries to pour her own milk and spills it all over the floor. A toddler pours the milk into the flour. Then he spills out the resulting mixture, and then he trods in it.

Let me tell you what my toddler and my crawler are up to.

Crawler was a raccoon in a past life. He has tipped over trash cans twice and once gotten into the recycling bin. He's either looking for something to eat, or his natural reaction when he encounters something putrid is to move it mouth-ward.

Toddler was served lunch while Preschooler's birthday cake was cooling on the same table. He decided to eat said cake, starting at the middle part and working out.

Crawler tried to drink from my mother's dog's dish. This is disgusting.

Toddler obtained a sample bottle of his father's colonge. What, pray tell, was he trying to do with it when he was averted by his now-unusually-wary mother?

He was attempting to get crawler to drink it.

Now they both smell funny.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Put your phosphates back in your dish detergent

Have you ever noticed that every time something gets environmental attention, my life gets less convenient in that area?

Low flow toilets don't flush. Curly-cue light bulbs break and turn into toxic waste. Recycling makes garbage day disgusting and complicated. And let's not even get in to my city's mayor and his bicycle fetish.

So when my dishes stopped coming out clean, I should have suspected some green do-gooder at work. But I did not. I started supplementing with my various cleaning tonics. Nothing was helping.

Side note: one thing that will restore the shine to your glasses is a cup of bleach (stop before drying) and then a cup of amonia (run the whole cycle). They will take my bleach from my cold dead hands.

Anyhow, it turns out that someone got the idea to take away phosphates. Thanks guys. David Suzuki, the perpetually irritating, has a variety of ineffective solutions.

But I'm not David Suzuki. I want my phosphates back.

Cue trip to the hardware store.

Ahhh, that's the stuff.

Your previous dishwashing detergent had about 9% phosphate. Now it's 0.5%. I add about a tbsp per cup of Cascade dish detergent. Don't use too much; it's not good for your metal.

Ahhhhh. Clean dishes at last.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Dear Internet,

I'm sorry I haven't updated this week. I didn't update because I was sealing my grout. Because I didn't seal my rount when the grout was new, I first needed to scrub the grout. This was rather a more intensive proposition than it had at first appeared. I have an awful lot of tile in my kitchen.

If any of my kids turn out 'funny,' it is probably because of the smell of the sealant, which really permeates the house afterwards.

In the meantime, Munchkin has started Kumon. They don't give me money for talking about it, fyi. Kumon is basically "doing sums," all that really boring drill that seems to have gone out of fashion. Since Munchkin is not in formal school, I figured the sooner the better. After all, it's better to start this stuff when they're too little to fight as hard.

Kumon involves an interview and a placement test. The lady ascertained that my brother and I both did Kumon as children. She asked what we did now, and I replied that I had become a lawyer and he an anccountant.

When Munchkin attended at the centre, the franchise owner pulled over her head teacher to gush, "Munchkin's uncle did Kumon, and hes an accountant!"

Nevermine me, and my law school going chopped liver self! At least I produced another generation for Kumon.

Kumon produced a few workbooks. This means that people now say that they are "doing Kumon" when they are working through the books. This is not "doing Kumon." Kumon is not a body of knowledge; they did not discover nor invention arithmetic. Kumon is a system, a deadening, miserable system that will have you saying your timestables in your sleep at age 27.

Except my daughter doesn't know this. She thinks that doing twenty minutes of math a day is great fun, that going to the centre is an excellent opportunity to obtain stickers and that the whole business is a fantastic idea. Yay! Math!

Genome even tries to do the little counting exercises. He gets a touch too enthusiastic, though. When he's done counting, he throws both arms into the air and says "yay!"

"Un, Ooo, Free, YAY!"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I hate Everett Bogue

Sometimes a zeitgeist is at work (a movement of the age) and I don't even notice. Actually, this happens a lot. It happens a lot because I've turned into that parental dottering type, wherein I remind myself as my mother and think that the music I grew up with is still "cool." Though even when it was cool, my age group's music sucked. Backstreet Boys anyone?

Anyhow, minimalism is one of those movements. Apparently all over this fine land, people are sitting about counting the number of things they own and trying to get under a hundred. By doing this, people in the third world will have bread to eat. Vegan bread. Or something.

A fun game can be had examining just what these lists exclude: most have no mention of cleaning supplies (12 bottles Dawn detergent, 2 boxes borax, 1 half-full jug vinegar, 1 large bottle bleach, 3 boxes baking soda, 1 box washing soda, 2 boxes cascade powdered dish detergent, 1 tin powdered alum, 2 bottles ammonia, 12 bars Ivory soap, 2 bars sunlight soap, rags, kitchen clothes, flannels, old diapers). They often include a brush, but few other personal hygiene items. They don't include cooking utensils. They don't include food items. Basically, the you can be minimalist as long as your possessions are not in the form of books (you should use a Kindle!), CDs (keep them on your hard drive!), clothes (you can have some, but not more than about 50 pieces, so try to keep your activities limited to things you can wear sweatpants to), or cars (strictly verboten, and we should all live in NYC).

Mr. Bogue, an early adopter and chronic self-absorbed jerk who blogs at Beyond the Stars, sums up the movement he helped midwife thusly:

"Minimalism can be reduced to a simple sentence:

"When you throw out all of you stuff, you free yourself to do anything.""

What a fascinating idea! Let's see how that would work.

If I threw out all my stuff, my baby would have no diapers, and he would pee on the floor. And I would have no rag to wipe it up.

(brief break as I realise baby actually has removed said diaper. Okay, back now.)

Therein lies the heart of the matter. Because what prevents me from being able to do anything is not my stuff. What prevents me from doing anything are my obligations, which are not to stuff but rather to people. I have three small children and a husband. I have a disabled mother and an aging father-in-law, a widow and a widower. I have a brother. I have a synagogue full of people. It isn't my three identical cast iron skillets nor my stockpiled bottles of Dawn that are keeping me from running off to Indonesia today. It's the people I need to cook dinner for and the dishes that need to be cleaned that are.

What Mr. Bogue actually describes is an extreme form of selfishness. He needs nothing because he does nothing for anyone, except that which he wants to do. Hardly an innovative way of life for someone in his mid-twenties (as I am), but hardly something to emulate either.

Most strikingly, I would not want to empty it because to me, his life seems empty not only of things but of purpose. My obligations shape and give meaning to my life. The objects of my life make me happy (in a general sense -- not every minute) because I enjoy fulfilling most of my obligations, and I enjoy the tools I use to do it. They remind me of my purpose. This life, domestic in the broad sense and not unusual, is meaningful and purposeful and fulfilling for much of the world. That seems to be something beyond Mr. Bogue and his ilk's comprehension.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Deeply uncool

Last week we ended up with a cluster of little girls at our house, all Munchkin's age. As girls will do, they all dressed up as princesses. They came out to the living room, which had been designated "The Princess Ball." I noted that Cinderella was missing. As mothers of girls know, where one girl is missing, odds are good that one girl is crying. I went in search of her.

I found her borrowing my two-year-old son's dagger. I asked her what she was up to. She said, "I'm bringing a knife to the princess ball."

Those Princesses hang in a rough neighbourhood.

Munchkin asked why her friend (not the dagger child) had, many months ago, wronger her in some way. I said, maybe she was having a bad day. Munchkin sasked, what's a bad day?

As it happened, the next day was a bad day. So now I can answer.

A bad day is when your two-year-old gets into your flour and treads it all over your house. Worse, all over your mother's house. She's unimpressed. Then her small dog eats the flour you're trying to sweep up. Then the small dog vomits into the flour. Then the two-year-old tracks through the flour-and-vomit mixture and spreads _that_ all over the main floor.

Then your husband calls and when you relate the story, he can't stop laughing.

Then that night you learn that garbarators do not like shot glasses.

Right now all three children have respitory colds. This has hit the baby the hardest. Babies are born as obligate nose breathers. This means that if their nose is stuffed, they become very unhappy and slightly panicked. He's also sprouted two new teeth. He is seriously crabby.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Eleven years young

I promised that I would blog tonight. Half past midnight counts as "tonight," doesn't it?

Anyway, I'm going to tell a story.

In my province, we have something called graduated licensing. That means that when a person learns to drive, he passes through a number of phases. First, he takes a written test. He receives a learner's license. A year after he's received that, he takes a road test. He then receives a novice license. A novice license functions as a regular license except that:
- one must display a "novice driver" sign (an N);
- one's license may be yanked for a smaller number of tickets;
- one must have a blood alcohol content of zero; and,
- one must not drive more than one unrelated passengers.

Fair enough. Two years later, the driver may take an hour-long road test and obtain a full license.

My year was the first to enter graduated licensing, some eleven years ago.

Last week, a friend of my brother's had his license suspended for two months over a minor novice-related violation. And I thought, my goodness, that would be bloody inconvenient. After all, I have children to haul around. Granted, my children are all related to me, and I've never had a ticket (kinehura), but it's bound to happen sooner or later. And so anxiety about the one (losing license) overcame my anxiety about another (road test) and I called to schedule a road test.

Only, let's see, nine years past due.

But it was more complicated than that. You see, it turns out that my license had been expired. And I've been driving about on that expired license for some, let's see, seven months. They cheerfully invited me to come in to the DMV and have it renewed, post-haste. The nice man also scheduled my road test.

I passed the road test. I have a full license. I also have an award, of sorts.

The DMV said that this is the longest anyone has ever held a novice license.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Going crazy dreaming, the American dream

A number of blogs I read are anti-consumerist. Here's an example: the smuggy mcsmuggersons. Homesteading, downshifting, whatever. Everyone's doing it.

I enjoy consumerism. I went down to Seattle with Husband the other day (and Firefly), and we got our meat for the next several months. It was great. We get all our meat in the states. We actually buy almost everything there, at least everything for me. I only buy eggs and produce weekly.

We eat a lot of eggs.

In fact, here are some things about modern life that I really, truly love:

- Washers and dryers. Oh, my wash. I love my washer and dryer. Hanging out the laundry? No thanks. Besides, it gets crinkly.

- ipods, iphones, cell phones you can use to check your email and take pictures of the kids too, and podcasts. How did I live without these?

- shopping on the net. There is no longer any reason to take children to stores, and used books can be procured from half a world away.

- coke. Yes, I like coke. I admit it. In fact, I like coke quite a lot. Diet coke isn't bad either.

- products from China. My knitting needles have pandas on them.

- Cesaerean births. Dying in child birth is very not my style, and I don't really want to lose the kids either. I work so hard to make them.

- Vaccines. See above. I hate being pregnant, so I've got to look after the ones I've got.

- Deep freezers.

- Non-iron shirts. Brooks Brothers make some now. If your husband wears dress shirts, and you're still ironing, get these shirts. They are worth the cost (although Brooks Brothers has regular sales if you watch the outlets). They even have the crease down the arms. Do not iron.

What do you like about modern, consumerist life?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Schedule Forming

Neurotics like me love schedules, because they help us manage anxiety. My whole religious practice is basically one massive over-compensation for what is probably a tendency towards OCD.

It's not a mental disorder. It's piety.

Unfortunately, I'm very bad at following schedules. I eventually figured out that this was because I was imposing a perfect schedule on my sub-par homemaking abilities.

My solution was to figure out when I was doing things anyway, and to call that my schedule. So without further ado, here it is:

Daily: Sweep. Empty and load dishwasher (it runs overnight). Wash and fold whichever laundry hamper is full.
Sunday: Kitchen. Mop. Bake that which is not challah. Eat at Father-in-law's
Monday: Living/dining room. Vacuum only rug in house. Stir fry for dinner.
Tuesday: Children's room. Change their sheets. Empty diaper pail. Stew for dinner.
Wednesday: Parent's room. Change our sheets. Fish things out from under the bed. Soup for dinner.
Thursday: Living/dining room - see Monday. Challah baking. Vegetarian for dinner.
Friday: Shabbos prep. Shabbos dinner.
Saturday: Bathroom. Change bathroom linens and switch out bath mat. Light dinner -- large lunch.

My children have helpfully adapted. Their schedule looks something like this:
Sunday: Have a serious potty accident in the bathroom.
Monday: Spill something vile in the kitchen. Grind it in to the tile.
Tuesday: Smush play dough into the only rug in the house.
Wednesday: Wet bed. Eat muffin in bed.
Thursday: Wet parents' bed. Eat muffin in parents' bed.
Friday: Defile challah.
Saturday: Run around like crazy people.