Monday, October 31, 2005
The refrigerater door dilemma
In most households with young children the refrigerator door becomes the official repository/gallery of artwork, poetry and assorted flotsam/jetsam of our children's creative efforts.
We oooh and aahhh over their handiwork and assure them it is "wonderful"... "beautiful"... "we are soooo proud!" And for the most part we are being perfectly honest with them.
But as the kids get older, we parents have a responsibility to steadily (yet imperceptibly) raise the bar on our expectations of them... as well as their expectations of themselves. Let's face it... beyond a certain age, not every dashed-off scribble is worthy of the refrigerator door.
We still look forward to the poems, drawings and stories from our kids. But these offerings are often accepted with spelling pointers, design tips and plot suggestions. Such gentle nudges from parents are supposed to help encourage and develop our children's gifts... after all, aren't all children inherently gifted?
That's what we tell ourselves, but at a certain point (I'm not sure exactly where the point is), we are faced with the reality that our 'gifted' children excel at some things... and are, um, less excellent at others.
This is where I'm starting to get a bit lost as a parent.
You see Ariella and Gilad (A.K.A. the big kids) are both quite gifted in certain areas... and they each have, uh, limitations in others. The problem is that they excel and, well, don't excel at different things. Worse still, they are both quite competitive with one another, and frequently vie for our attention/praise via their creative efforts.
Ariella inherited her mother's gifted eye for design and color, while Gilad inherited only the color of his mother's eyes. By the same token, Gilad inherited my musical ear, while Ariella at best inherited the delicate shape of my ears.
So how do I praise Ariella's artwork when Gilad is clearly only average at visual tasks? And how do I lavish Gilad with praise for his musical abilities when Ariella's musical talents so far remain, er, hidden (I'm being kind)?
It would be one thing if each of them seemed to realize where their talents (and shortcomings) lay and began pursuing different creative activities. But to make matters more complicated, they each seem to enjoy participating in both visual and musical endeavors without any apparent regard for the relative quality of the outcome... and use these pursuits to vie for our attention/approval.
So, at what age is it appropriate for a parent to begin telling a child that not every piece of his/her artwork is worthy of the Louvre (or even the refrigerator)?
How old is old enough to break the news that, while sweet to a father's biased ear, not everyone finds a song sung in constantly (and randomly) changing keys to be worthy of lavish praise?
Both of the big kids are extremely enthusiastic about their creative endeavors, and give no indication of feeling limited in any way. So why am I feeling like I'm doing them a disservice by not steering them towards (what I perceive to be) their strong suits... and away from areas where they show less promise?
Do I simply wait for 'the real world' to deliver the painful message that some of their efforts may not measure up to the standards necessary for inclusion on that metaphorical refrigerator door of life?
Sunday, October 30, 2005
For what it's worth...
[Update: For those of you who are relative newcomers to treppenwitz, The Jerusalem Post 'Blog Central' has begun serializing some of my more coherent early posts. If you feel like 'catching up', you can read them daily over here. Once they make it through my decent older content (which shouldn't take long), I'll probably start cross-posting to the Jpost site once or twice a week. It's really flattering that they asked to use my material... I just wish they provided a link back here. Oh well... as the song says, "You can't always get what you want...".]
Not that it means anything in the grand scheme of things... but it's nice to know that even though treppenwitz has been
snubbed overlooked in nearly two-thirds of the Havel Havelim posts, I have something purely theoretical to fall back on:
Maybe I need to post more pictures of cats. ;-)
In all seriousness... as always a great job by Batya doing this week's J-blog round-up.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XLIII) [sleepy edition]
[Otherwise known as the Photo Friday that may end my marriage]
Friday is the one morning of the week that we can sleep in. Unfortunately nobody mentioned this to our almost-two-year-old Yonah, and he treats Friday mornings like any other day.
For the past few months Zahava and I have played a little game on Fridays where each of us pretends we don't hear Yonah waking up. We then pretend we don't hear him talking to himself. We then pretend we don't hear him crying and shaking his crib.
By the time he is shrieking and throwing stuff out of his crib we pretty much have to abandon the pretense of being asleep and begin openly negotiating with one another:
Zahava: [pretending to have just woken up] Can you go change the baby and get him some breakfast?
Me: [pretending to have been woken by her question] Huh? Um, didn't I do that last Friday? Isn't it your turn this week? [Rolls over and snuggles under the comforter in such a way as to hide from further discussion]
Z: [Up on one elbow now and poking me vigorously] No, last week was supposed to be my turn to sleep in and you somehow tricked me into getting up and dealing with Yonah... now get up before he breaks something or hurts himself! [rolls over taking a sizable portion of the comforter with her]
M: [whining] I know, but I didn't sleep well last night and...
[the next 5 minutes are spent comparing headaches, back-aches and quality / quantity of sleep each of us has allegedly had over the previous few nights. The loser in this weekly battle hauls his/her carcass reluctantly out of bed and goes in to deal with, Yonah (who by now is beyond consolation). The winner smugly does the combination roll-over/comforter snatch to begin another hour's precious sleep.]
This morning Zahava lost. Truth be told, she didn't even put up a decent fight today... but the end result was that she changed Yonah and took him upstairs for breakfast.
I guess the flash and shutter made enough noise to wake Zahava because without even opening her eyes, she mumbled something to the effect of, "I'll kill you with my bare hands if you even think about posting those pictures on Photo Friday".
Y'know, the power of suggestion is a funny thing. Up until that precise moment it hadn't occurred to me to do anything of the sort. But just like telling someone not to think about a pink Giraffe will make it virtually impossible to think of anything else... Zahava's statement sort of planted the idea for today's Photo Friday.
Just so you don't think Zahava made good on her threat right away, here is a picture I took a couple of hours later when we all went to have coffee and croissants at a little French bakery/cafe in Rahavia with some friends who are visiting from Connecticut.
It's a lovely little spot with fragrant flowers growing around and above the seating area... with wonderful baked goods and good strong coffee. When we first walked into the cafe I spotted the woman sitting behind
Zahava (in the picture above) and thought to myself, 'jeez she looks
French'. Sure enough, as we waited for our croissants and coffee to
arrive we overheard the unmistakable murmur of French from the next
table. Like hearing Italian at a pasta joint or Chinese where you get
your Dim Sum... seeing French folks take their morning coffee
at this cafe allayed my initial snarkiness about a Jerusalem shop
calling itself 'French'
All-in-all a nice sleepy morning.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
"Today I am a fountain pen..."
My friend and fellow blogosphere denizen Jennifer (of Just Jennifer fame) sent me a link to a hilarious article from the Fashion & Style section of 'The New York Times' entitled 'My Big Fat 80's Bar Mitzvah' (you might have to register to read it).
The article and accompanying photos tell of a bunch of guys who got the bright idea to document the fashion horror of Bar/Bat Mitzvahs throughout the 70s, 80's and early 90s.
Call the fashion police ... but first go read it!
Just to share a Bar Mitzvah photo story of my own:
I played at a Long Island Bar Mitzvah about 10 years ago where the hosts had thoughtfully placed disposable cameras on all the tables with a note asking the guests to take pictures of one another and then leave them on the table to be developed later.
About an hour into the affair I went into the bathroom and found the Bar Mitzvah boy and about 20 of his friends standing around with their pants around their ankles taking pictures of one another's , um, newly minted manhood with what appeared to be all of the disposable cameras.
All I could think about for the rest of the affair was, 'Oh, to be a fly on the wall when the mother of the Bar Mitzvah boy gets those pictures back from the lab!'
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Left: It's the new 'Right'
I had wanted to write about this during and immediately after the disengagement, but things were still too raw (and emotions too high) to be approached (by me, anyway) with anything resembling objectivity.
Now that a little time has passed, I'm hoping that the broad range of political positions represented by treppenwitz readers will feel comfortable contributing to a discussion of a confusing issue.
I have always labeled myself a 'centrist'... not because I'm foolish enough to believe that such a thing actually exists... but because I subscribe to positions that have traditionally been associated with both the right and left. The idea being that if the two arms of the scale bear similar loads, the balance moves to the center.
For instance, on domestic issues such as social welfare, civil liberties, universal health care, and government regulation/oversight of certain key industries and agencies, I lean strongly to the left.
At the same time, on some issues related to homeland security, foreign policy, and even such taboo subjects as extra-judicial targeting of self-defined terrorists, I am well to the right.
In other words, I have conveniently cherry-picked issues and policies from each side of the political spectrum without regard to whether they are part of a 'matched set'. I try to look at things to see if they make sense individually... not whether they match the other policies in my 'closet'.
The problem with this approach is that most of the people with whom I would like to have an honest discussion have already invested heavily in the matched set of political baggage. As often as not they bolster their own positions by pointing out the flaws in the opposition's policies instead of telling me what's correct about their own!
This is where I get confused.
You see, here in Israel, not only are the two sides of the political spectrum no longer on speaking terms... but they seem to have shamelessly stolen more than a few of each other's central platforms.
Let's take civil liberties for instance.
Civil Liberties has traditionally been the bailiwick of the left. Let the government trod upon the civil rights of an individual in the pursuit of its agenda and the lefties are sure to scream bloody murder... and rightly so (pun intended)!
Yet during the disengagement the government (aided heavily by a traditionally lefty bastion; the media) systematically deprived supporters of the anti-disengagement movement of their right to assemble, demonstrate, travel freely, disseminate lawful communications, etc. Administrative detentions were employed without any meaningful judicial oversight, and minors were held without remand for weeks without anything approaching due process. Yet throughout these abuses the left (and the media) remained silent.
Buses and cars that were on their way to demonstrations were detained or turned around by army patrols and police cars simply because the occupants were visibly religious and/or on their way to protest against a government policy they found objectionable. These were tax-paying citizens that were singled out by the government and denied their ability to legally move about the country simply because of their thoughts... not because of any illegal action.
Throughout the disengagement process, the leaders of the settler movement worked heroically to keep their followers from inciting / participating in destructive or violent confrontations. Given the huge number of people actively involved in the protest movement, the paucity of vandalism, assault and criminal acts bears out the efforts of the leadership to avoid such counter-productive behavior. And those that did act criminally were loudly denounced by both the leadership and the rank & file of the right.
So why was the Israeli political left (and the media) so stridently vocal about what were obviously anomalies in the right-wing camp's behavior, and completely silent on systemic abuses of civil liberties by the government?
One can't easily argue that it was simply a matter of convenience. To suggest that the left remained mute throughout this period of glaring abuses simply because the abuses were against the 'enemy' flies in the face of a healthy Israeli left wing that has repeatedly championed Palestinian causes against both the government and the right wing when issues of civil rights violations have arisen.
The leftist part of me doesn't understand how Machsom Watch (a group of lefty activists who show up at roadblock) can stand out in the hot sun to ensure that Palestinians are treated fairly / not denied reasonable freedom of movement, yet utter not a peep when anyone with an orange ribbon or a kippah was arbitrarily pulled over and detained by soldiers and police.
I honestly have no (legal) problem with a right wing Prime Minister who steals a plank from the left-wing's platform to create a policy of unilateral disengagement, so long as he does so by legal means and with the support of his party. That the Likud hasn't brought down the government is proof enough to me that Sharon has been able to win (or coerce) the support of his party. But it is far from clear that he acted legally in the actual execution of the disengagement plan.
I am genuinely interested in an intellectually-honest discussion of how/why the left and right have reversed positions so completely on such a litmus-test issue as civil liberties?
Is it simply a case of expedience?
Is it because the means were ultimately justified by the outcome?
If so, I'm really confused... because I had always considered Niccolo Machiavelli to be a champion of the right wing, not the left!
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Getting my 'mojo' back
Nearly everyone has a drinking story from their younger/wilder days that they tell with a mixture of nostalgia and nausea. Such stories invariably recall a particular liquor/mixed drink by name... and usually end with words to the effect of "... and I haven't been able to even look at [insert name of liquor/mixed drink here] since!"
I consider myself lucky in that my first real experiment with drinking took place with my best friend, and involved mixing a shot of nearly everything in my parent's liquor cabinet into a soda bottle. I call this 'lucky' because when one embarks on such a right of passage alone with a close friend, there is none of the false bravado that normally accompanies drinking in a more public setting. I also use the word 'lucky', because there were so many competing flavors in that soda bottle (everything from bourbon to kirschwasser to rye to banana liqueur) that when the inevitable happened, I had no single culprit at which to point my finger and say "I'm never going to even look at that again!"
I am fairly sure that this childhood friend will read this here, so I'll play it safe with the details. Suffice it to say we each drank about 14 shots of this vile mixture... insisting the entire time that neither of us felt any different... and then decided that it would be a good idea to take a break after said 14 shots for a brisk walk in the newly fallen late-evening snow (he was sleeping over at my house that night).
I lived on a dead-end street in the middle of the woods, so we had the honor of walking through the virgin snow in the silence of a snowy New England night. I don't recall either of us talking during our walk up the street... we simply walked side by side... straight up the middle of the snow-covered street.
On the way back down the street I noticed that our tracks in the snow were far from straight. There were several places where one or both of us had either fallen down or perhaps tried to execute an impromptu face-down snow angel. There were also a couple of steaming splashes in the snow that looked amazingly like asterisks where one or both of us had successfully purged our young bodies of the poison.
When we were nearly back to my house my older sister drove down the street from wherever she had been for the evening and stopped to ask us what we were doing. It was only while we stood talking with her that I realized I had no shoes on!
If you believe in the axiom 'G-d looks after drunks and children', then we benefited from double protection that evening.
The only reason I am sharing this story with you is because that evening taught me a very valuable lesson about over-indulgence, and I can count on two hands (OK, maybe toss in a foot) the number of times in my life that I have gotten 'shouting at my shoes' drunk.
Not bad for 44 years.
I was hugely impressed/scared by the almost total loss of control which came with large-scale alcohol consumption, and I can honestly say it has tempered my behavior ever since.
From that time to this I have never had to swear off a particular beverage/concoction. I went through a period of over two decades where I couldn't even look at pineapples (a story for another time), but the rum with which the offending pineapples had been mixed never bothered me.
In fact, one of the more memorable drinks (one that was responsible for at least 5 of the fingers mentioned in the paragraph above) was one I discovered while I was in the Navy (in the Philippines, to be exact) which was a mixture so wicked that I actually bribed a bartender for the recipe before finishing up my last tour through the Western Pacific.
The name of that drink was 'Mojo'.
As far as I can tell, Mojo was invented at a bar called Jolo's in Subic Bay (on the famous/infamous Magsaysay Drive in Olongapo). A lot of sailors called Mojo 'the sitting sickness', because you could sit and drink it for hours and not feel any the worse for wear. But the moment you got up and tried to walk...
A few years after I got out of the navy I tried out my recipe for Mojo on a bunch of college friends at Yeshiva University. Not only was it well received, but many of the guys from the dorm immortalized the recipe on a t-shirt that closely approximated the color of the drink.
Making up that shirt was one of those childish things that college boys do... and for years most of us cherished that t-shirt. Long after mine had started to come apart at the seams, I couldn't bear to throw it out... so it sat in my dresser drawer. But during one of my many moves it either got lost or tossed [looks accusingly towards wife].
So, imagine my delight when an old college friend (and recent addition to the treppenwitz roundtable) sent me an e-mail to tell me that he still had his Mojo t-shirt... and even sent along a picture of his lovely daughter Meital modeling the shirt:
For those who can't make out the recipe:
6 oz. Gin
6 oz. Rum
6 oz. Vodka
4 oz. Whiskey
16 oz. Cherry Liqueur
2 bottle San Miguel Beer
16 oz. Pineapple Juice
16 oz. Orange Juice
12 oz. 7-Up
It speaks volumes about this beverage that my friend managed to hold on to the shirt for almost 20 years... through college, medical school, residency, marriage and kids!
Perhaps you also have a fond (or not so fond) memory of youthful overindulgence you carry around with you. Care to share?
[Note: This post is not intended to encourage or sanction drinking to excess. In fact, if anything... I would hope it would do quite the opposite! Please keep your health - and your sense of humor - intact.]
Friday, October 21, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XLII) [Sukkot edition]
Just a quick one today...
First of all, Fall is officially here... I spotted my first Krembo today! I was in the store picking up some stuff for Shabbat and I saw them sitting next to the cash register. For those who aren't sure what I'm talking about... go here. For those who are already Krembo aficionados, this poster from 'A gift from Israel' should say it all:
© A gift from Israel
As to the holiday of Sukkot... we have been enjoying ourselves with some travel and activities with the kids. But the proximity and magnitude of the terrorist attack last week has had an impact on even the most enjoyable endeavors. When I joined Efrat's Kitat Konenut (emergency response squad) I made a decision to leave my M16 home for short errands around town. But the town Kabat (security officer) has asked all of us to keep our weapons with us at all times while we are in the Gush Etzion area. Now we all have this constant reminder with us of how the situation has changed (or perhaps we were fooling ourselves and it never changed at all) as all of us do our grocery shopping, attend synagogue and even go out to the sukkah with this added burden.
Shabbat Shalom & Chag Sameach!
Thursday, October 20, 2005
A foggy day...
... the Israel Museum certainly hadn't lost it's charm! *
Yesterday we had big plans to take the kids to some outdoors activities for the first day of Chol HaMoed (the intermediate days of the Sukkot Holiday), but the weather didn't want to cooperate. Rain and low clouds nixed the idea of doing anything outside, so we called up some friends and made alternate plans to take our kids to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Just a few observations:
I was brought up on museums as a kid, and I never get tired of them. But I now realize that I had always been looking at other people's history! What a revelation to wander through a world-class museum and listen to my kids 'ooh' and 'aah' over artifacts from their own history!!! Not only were there archaeological displays from nearly every period of history in this part of the world, but there were beautiful displays of costume, jewelry, religious items and tools from every conceivable age and location in the Jewish diaspora.
In the US, a trip to a museum with the kids always meant packing lunches and snacks for everyone and schlepping it from place to place. Not only did the Israel Museum have countless kosher cafes and restaurants (with delicious food), but each and every one of them had an adjoining sukkah so that those who were so inclined could eat there. This, along with the displays of our own heritage, gave me an unbelievable feeling of inclusion/belonging.
There were indoor and outdoor displays and exhibits for every taste/interest, and there was even a children's wing with performers and workshops where the kids could make projects. We only covered a tiny fraction of the museum on this trip so we will definitely be coming back soon.
* A play on the words to the old standard, "A foggy day (in London Town)"
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Warning: Politics Ahead
I understand that many of you who come here are not particularly interested in Middle East politics. That's fine... because I seldom make more than a passing reference to politics here on treppenwitz. However, today you get the full treatment, so if this isn't your bag please stop by another time.
I apologize for not responding to your thoughtful comments on Sunday's post in a more timely manner. Within a short time of publishing that post there was a shooting attack about 5 minutes drive from my house (at the Gush Etzion Junction), and I really wasn't in the mood to be chatty.... so I just immersed myself in preparations for the coming holiday for the rest of Sunday and Monday.
Monday evening marked the start of the holiday of Sukkot ... the holiday referred to as 'Zman Simchateinu' (our time of rejoicing). While I love this holiday and enjoyed spending time with my family, I found it hard to celebrate when families close by are grieving for their children.
For those who don't follow such thing (or who live in places where dead Israelis don't merit much press coverage), here are the specifics of the attack:
On Sunday afternoon a bunch of kids and young adults were standing at a bus stop/trempiada (hitchhiking stand) at the Gush Etzion Intersection. Just after 4:00 a Subaru pulled up and a terrorist in the back seat stuck an AK-47 out the window and fired several bursts at the people standing there. Six people were hit by gunfire before the car sped south towards Hevron. Of the six people hit, three died of their wounds. They were Oz Ben-Meir, a 14 year old boy from the village of Maon:
Matat Rosenfeld-Adler, a 21 year old newlywed from the village of Karmel who was just married two months ago:
and Matat's 23 year old cousin Kineret Mandel (also from Karmel):
(c) Channel 2
In addition, there are still three other young people still in the hospital with horrendous wounds.. . two of them in intensive care.
A few hours after the shooting the Egyptian ambassador to Israel made a public statement saying that the attack was "too small to stop the process of calm in the region". I spent quite a bit of time wondering just exactly what he could possibly be talking about.
Look at the innocent faces of these three young people who now lie in their graves. Forgive me if I don't find anything about this attack to be 'small'. Not a single day has gone by in recent months that an infiltration/attack hasn't been attempted or prevented. Not one day! Forgive me if I don't find this 'calm' worth preserving.
Our close ally, the US, has predictably tried to strong-arm Israel into not responding to the attack. Because, as we all know, not responding to terror attacks has proven to be an effective deterrent to terrorists all over the globe. But so far Israel has provided what I would call a measured response:
All of the 'confidence building gestures' Israel has made since the disengagement such as removing roadblocks/checkpoints and allowing free passage to the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) have been rescinded. Life is going to be very difficult for the Palestinians for the near future... and they have nobody to blame but themselves. It seems like every single act of decency on the part of Israel is met with exponential acts of Palestinian terror.
Where are the people who promised me that if we would only get out of Gaza we would turn a corner and find a partner for peace waiting for us? Where are the people who told me how I have to understand that the Palestinians are only reacting to the harsh closures imposed upon them by the occupation? We got out of Gaza and things immediately got worse. We removed the roadblocks and allowed the Palestinians free movement and the terror groups used their new-found freedom to strike at us and escape!
I'm sure I'm over-simplifying by what I'm about to say, but I feel like the only time in Israel's history that it has ever enjoyed relative calm (not the kind the Egyptian ambassador was talking about) is when it had a policy of hugely disproportionate military response to every single attack, and an ironclad policy of not negotiating with terrorists.
I'm sure I'll regret writing all this by tomorrow, but that's how I feel right now.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
The title of today's post isn't meant to be sexist, but rather is supposed to indicate that what follows is based on my experiences from the 'daddy seat' in our family. I'm sure that in many cases one could just as easily call this the 'Mommy Syndrome'... the point being that in all but the most rare families one parent has probably experienced some version of what I'm about to describe (and the other one... the 'primary parent'... will be reading this and shaking her/his head in disbelief):
My lovely wife Zahava has the mixed blessing of being able to work from home. I say 'mixed blessing' because on the one hand she is the one who gets to see much more of the kids in the mornings as well as the afternoons than I ever do. On the other hand, even though Zahava spends much more quality time with the kids, it also means that for roughly half of her work day there are things other than work (meaning the kids) vying for her attention.
I'll readily admit that I couldn't possibly do my work from home in the afternoon if I also had to contend with doling out afternoon snacks, checking homework, wiping runny noses, etc. But the downside for me is that I don't know my kids (and their routines) nearly as well as Zahava does.
I get little hints of this imbalance in the family relationships from time to time... when the kids inform me, "Ima (mommy) doesn't let us have candy and coffee so close to bedtime", or "No, Abba (daddy)... Yonah can't use the toaster by himself". I mean, c'mon... I'm not a mind reader. Throw me a bone!
Well, today I got the full impact of the Daddy Syndrome because I hit the 'daddy trifecta': I was off from work... Yonah's daycare provider was sick... and Zahava had a meeting with a client in Bet Shemesh.
How hard could this be, right?
Everything started off OK. I drove the big kids to school and came back to find Yonah basking in the warm glow of his breakfast. As Zahava made preparations to leave I was feeling pretty confident... this would be a piece of cake!
As soon as Zahava closed the garden gate Yonah lost his mind. No amount of picking him up... hugging & kissing... or singing made a dent on his tantrum. His crestfallen expression between sobs made it very clear that "I want my Ima, and you can just go wherever the hell it is that you hide for 12 hours a day, thankewverymuch!"
After about 15 minutes he finally started to run out of steam and allowed me to plop him in front of Sesame Street video while I washed the breakfast dishes.
Once the dishes were done I tried to engage Yonah in a few games. Clearly there must be some magical combinations of things he likes to play with (in a very specific order) because most of my efforts were rewarded with him pushing anything I offered away and scowling at me from under furrowed brows.
A quick check of my watch told me that it was probably time to give Yonah a snack.
We started off with the beverage. He glared at the cup of milk I offered. Clearly either I was giving him the wrong cup or the wrong liquid. I wasn't in any mood to try all the combinations of cup/liquid, so I simply shoved the sippy-cup into his hands and waited for the explosion. After a few dirty looks in my direction he decided to humor me and started to drink.
However, everything else; the wonderful apple slices... apple sauce... yogurt... carrot kugel... cake... chocolate spread, etc. I served up caused him to shake head so violently from side to side that I thought it would start spinning around. Each offering that was placed in front of him was unceremoniously tossed to the eagerly waiting dog... and finally Yonah gave one final shriek to serve as a blanket refusal of all future offers.
After another 45 minutes of 'playing' (Yonah batting me away like an annoying fly), I decided to resort to one of his favorite videos. That bought me about half an hour of silence, but then he started to get fussy again. I figured it must be time for his mid-morning nap.
20 minutes (and countless trips into the nursery) later Yonah was still standing in his crib crying so hard he was hiccuping, and I was ready to pull out my little remaining hair.
By some miracle Zahava had a break in her meeting and decided to call me just as I was contemplating leaving a note and running away. I explained that I had tried to put him down for his nap and that he wasn't interested in sleeping. I could hear the patient exhalation on the other end of the phone (that exasperated sound that only mothers can manage) followed by her calmly explaining to me that it had been months since Yonah had taken a mid-morning nap. I mean really, how dumb can I be that I didn't realize his nap time wasn't until early afternoon?
OK... so by now it's 10:45 and I'm still in my PJs and I have a crying toddler who is now completely coated from nose to knees in his own snot from hysterically protesting the unscheduled detention. I figured that since I needed a shower and he couldn't be left alone (not to mention that he clearly needed to be hosed down), I decided to take him into the shower with me.
I used to have a cat before I was married. When Zahava and I first started dating I found out she was allergic so I made the mistake of trying to shower with the cat in order to wash the offending dander off the cat. Trying to handle Yonah in the shower reminded me a lot of that experience with the cat. True, I lost less blood this time... but I think Yonah made up for that by repeatedly grabbing the most accessible thing in order to steady himself.
Just as I decided that we were both as clean as we were going to get, Yonah decided to poop right there in the shower. As if the shower stall wasn't already slick enough, we now began a whole new round of him slipping and using sensitive parts of me to keep himself from falling.
Once we were both dry and dressed (and I'd managed to mop up the puddles in the bathroom, bedroom, office and nursery with our towels), I decided to take Yonah up to the local park to play. Luckily this was a fairly idiot-proof outing and Yonah was able to mostly entertain himself. On a few occasions I tried to coax him into doing this or trying that... but mostly I felt like anyone who passed within earshot must be able to tell that I was not the 'primary parent'.
By the time we got home it was time for lunch so I put on another video and set about making all the stuff I was sure he would like: Grilled cheese sandwich, sliced fruit, applesauce and milk. He turned up his nose at all of it and sipped sullenly at his milk.
When Zahava got home from her meeting, Yonah was finally pawing listlessly at his sandwich and had actually taken a bite... but his droopy eyelids indicated that it was finally his (real) nap-time. The only problem was that he wouldn't swallow his bite of grilled cheese... and no amount of coaxing would get him to spit it out either.
After protesting his regularly scheduled nap for about 15 minutes (screaming lustily around that uneaten bite of sandwich) he finally drifted off to sleep. I know, I know... all you 'primary parents' are screaming at your monitors now about choking hazards and irresponsible fathers. I checked to make sure he's still breathing but I am going to assume that either he finally swallowed the bite of grilled cheese or his little salivary glands did their work and dissolved the offending bit.
The point of this little story was not to vent about what a day I've had (OK, maybe a little of that), but rather to point out that in almost every family there is one parent who doesn't know the lay-of-the-land... who doesn't speak the secret language (filled with comforting buzzwords)... who doesn't know the schedule of events... and who feels like a total fraud when sent in to pinch hit. There is one parent who doesn't know the schedules... doesn't know which cup gets used at which time and what that cup is supposed to contain... and who doesn't know the right games to play or the right time to stop playing those games.
In our house, I'm that parent... and today I got the full dose of Daddy Syndrome.
As I write these last few lines, my progeny in the next room is starting to stir. Thank G-d Zahava is here because I don't know what he drinks after his afternoon nap (or what cup it goes in!).
Friday, October 14, 2005
Sorry about the lack of Photo Friday today (although the mention of the word 'Friday' should be enough to once again get the Lioness's schedule back on track), but Yom Kippur (just finished) and Sukkot (with it's intensive preparation/construction just begun) are the excuses I'm using for the lapse.
Instead of actual pictures I'm going to ask my readers to take a moment to create a few of their own images (the mental kind). This will require that many on both the right and left put aside preconceptions and allow, just for a few moments, a new mental picture to emerge. To do this I'd like you to take about 5 minutes (10, if you read like I do) and read the linked article by Caroline Glick.
I happen to love Caroline Glick. Not in the romantic way, but because so many of her columns challenge me to think. I agree with about 75-85% of what she writes, and find that she is a stickler for fact-checking.
After the long ugly period of disengagement where the main Israeli dailies unabashedly abandoned their role as the people's watch-dog and became a willing extensions of the Sharon government (some of them have admitted as much in print), I am trying to look a few months into the future rather than rely heavily on the Hebrew media for developing information.
Here is the link to Caroline's piece about how my neighborhood (Gush Etzion... the settlement bloc that even Shimon Peres passionately proclaims will never be given away as part of a peace deal) is slated to become a test case for all of Judea and Samaria (the west bank). Remember that this is an editorial (an important distinction), but unlike many other Israeli journalists, Caroline has proven herself willing to paint her own camp (the right) in an unflattering light when necessary.
Go ahead... open your minds and think:
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
I've discovered during this past year that keeping up a blog/journal is an unparalleled way to both give and take offense... followed closely by reading and commenting on other people's blogs/journals. So, a few apologies are in order.
I apologize to everyone I may have offended.
This apology includes family and friends alike... but is also specifically directed at several people in the J blogging community with whom I 'took a tone' during the disengagement. It is also intended to include anyone who may have been hurt, offended or insulted by anything I may have written (or not written) in either post or comment here on treppenwitz.
If I manage to get through Yom Kippur without a bolt of lightning incinerating me (funny how nobody seems to want to sit near me in synagogue!), I should (G-d willing) be back later in the week.
Wish me luck.
Again... to be perfectly clear... I was wrong, and sincerely hope you will forgive me.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
The sights, smells and sounds of October
As a kid I was only aware of a few specific months during the course of the year. Most months were indistinct and ran together before the senses of the oblivious child that would one day become 'trep'. But October's assault ensured that I would take note... and I did.
One of the few regrets I have about moving to Israel is that my kids will not grow up with these same fall associations. They won't associate October with the changing leaves. Oh sure, we have deciduous trees here... but there isn't the same dazzling riot of color each fall the way I remember from autumn days spent in New York and New England.
They will also miss out on the smells.
Back when it was still legal to burn leaves in most places, October meant countless piles of leaves in every neighborhood We would jump in them, making extra work for our parents with our leaf fights and making our jackets musty with the smell of mouldering leaves. But each pile would eventually be re-raked and set afire, filling the neighborhood with an indescribable smell of comfort and homeyness.
The other smells of October could be found only in the neighborhood drug store.
Grown-ups tend to think of the supermarket as the source for Halloween candy. But they've forgotten that once upon a time, candy didn't come in jumbo bags of mini-Snickers and mini-Kit Kats. It was found in fragrant displays at the neighborhood drug store, amid paper witches, and overflowing from plastic pumpkins.
At the start of October the wax fangs and lips would appear just inside the entrance to the drug store... along with the bags of candy corn. Unlike orange mellowcremes, many of the treats were probably available all year 'round, but for some reason I only remember buying wax bottles filled with colored sugar-water in October.
The radio also sounded different in October.
Just as summer radio has its own peculiar 'sound', a person waking from a coma in October would immediately know what month is was. He'd know from the local football games being announced or recounted... a few days in a row of warm weather inevitably being dubbed 'Indian Summer'... and all the unctuous top-40 DJs welcoming their listeners to 'Rocktober' (do they still do that?).
The culmination of this memorable month (and the official kick-off of Thanksgiving season) was, of course, Halloween.
While my kids have always done their costume and candy binging in the spring (Purim), there has always been a bit of excitement in our house about being able to answer the door on Halloween and hand out candy to the neighborhood ghosts and goblins.
Maybe it's best that we're no longer there or I'd probably become one of those father's who tortures his children with stories of "...when I was a kid".
Instead I torture my readers.
Monday, October 10, 2005
What are the odds?
I couldn't just let it pass... so on a whim I responded
Jack... if you want to place a friendly wager based on your theory (say, a package of Jeff's Sausages against a kilo of rugalach from the Marzipan bakery in Jerusalem), I'd be happy to take that bet.
Posted by: David | Apr 4, 2005 7:41:34 AM
To which Jack quickly responded:
Let's define this a little and we'll see what we can do. What terms would you like?
Posted by: Jack | Apr 4, 2005 11:53:50 PM
Hmmmm, It seems like old Jack was willing to put up rather than, well, you know... so now I was sort of honor bound to let him have his pick from among the other 29 teams in the Majors:
Jack... You pick a team and I pick a team. Which ever of our teams finishes the regular season with a better record wins the bet. A statistical tie means we both pay the bet.
Posted by: David | Apr 7, 2005 7:36:10 AM
I wasn't sure he was going to bite since almost a whole day went by before Jack answered (an eternity in 'Jack time'). Then finally he responded:
I just saw this, it works for me. I'll be a good Californian & pick the Angels.
Posted by: Jack | Apr 8, 2005 7:14:25 AM
I hadn't really followed the Angels, so I wasn't sure how far out on a ledge I was getting myself... but pride and team loyalty were involved so I quickly responded:
Done. Now let me surf over to Jeff's web site and start picking out my order! :-)
posted by: David | Apr 8, 2005 7:19:13 AM
So here we are in mid October, and who would have guessed that the Red Sox and the Angels would actually finish the regular season in a statistical tie?! I mean... what are the odds?!
Hmmmm... let me scroll back up to double check the terms of our wager. Yup, if our teams ended the season in a statistical tie we BOTH have to pay the bet.
I'd have to call this a 'win-win' proposition as far as wagers go. Not only do I get to send a kilo of the world's best rugalach (which Shai once aptly called "yeasty, chocolatey heroin") to a genuinely nice guy... but in return I'll be receiving a selection of Jeff's Gourmet Sausages.
I did a little checking and Jeff's only ships within the continental US, so we're going to have to find someone (or maybe a couple of someones, depending on the logistics) traveling between LA and Israel to mule the payoffs back and forth.
mmmmmm, I can almost smell those veal bratwurst and chicken cilantro sausages sizzling away on the grill!
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Announcements and clarifications
1. Those of you visiting from abroad who insist on referring to the Israeli monetary unit as a 'shek' (e.g. "That place on Ben Yehuda sells rubber bracelets for 10 shek apiece!"), are starting to annoy the crap out of me.
You can call them shekels (alt. sp. - sheqels), new shekels or even the spoken acronym 'shach' (a combination of the words for shekel hadash)... but when you call them 'sheks' you just sound foolish.
So stop it!
2. I know I've mentioned this on many occasions but I need to reiterate my stance that there are only a few basic colors in the world: White, pink, purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, gold, tan, brown and black. The rest are either 'light' or 'dark' shades of these basic colors and should be referred to as such. Using made-up terms like fuchsia, mauve, taupe, periwinkle, chartreuse, etc. is a transparent attempt to make men look/feel stupid in the shopping mall almost as malicious as making them stand around holding your pocketbooks while you are in the changing room!
If you girls want to use these made-up terms amongst yourselves, feel free. But if you ask your husband/boyfriend to pick something up in a color they have never heard of, you will probably be disappointed with the hue of whatever is brought home.
Either use terms we understand or give us a physical example (e.g. paint chip/PMS # ) to hand to the store clerk.
3. There are only so many hours I can concentrate on even the most vital/important things. Therefore, if you are leading the services on Rosh Hashannah or Yom Kippur and you think that my enjoyment of the experience, or my ability to internalize the solemnity of the prayers, will be enhanced by an extended demonstration of your cantorial skills... please think again.
By all means, use the traditional tunes and make judicial use of emotive/expressive emphasis where appropriate. But please don't spend the whole day kvetching and wailing like Canio at the end of 'I Pagliacci'. The only reason I have ever made it all the way to the end of that famous opera is that Leoncavallo was able to squeeze the entire thing, from the troupe's arrival in the village to Canio's tearful finale, into less than 90 minutes (i.e. long before I get hungry or my ass starts to hurt) and he left the kvetching/tears for the very end!
So by all means, say what you have to say... but get on with it already!!!
4. You think I sound out of sorts now... just wait until Yom Kippur when I'll have a full day of being confined to an uncomfortable chair in synagogue and acute caffeine withdrawal to deal with.
Note to wife and kids: That won't be the day to trifle with me or request favors.
That is all (for now).
Friday, October 07, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XLII) [sneakers edition]
Photo Friday hasn't really had a unified theme. It has really been an odd assortment of stuff you people have asked to see... and random things that catch my eye during the week. However, I hope you'll understand that once in a while I have to post some pictures of the kids in order to remain in various relative's wills.
Besides... one of the reasons I started treppenwitz was so the far-flung relations could keep up with each other's progress. I see our kids every day so I sometimes forget that there are relatives all over the US who are aching to catch a glimpse of their Israeli cousins, niece, nephews and grandkids.
Fair enough... here ya go:
Yesterday evening we went into Jerusalem to the Malcha Mall to look for sneakers for the kids.
... but unfortunately they didn't have them in her size. Instead she picked out a nice orange pair (now that orange has lost some of it power to inflame).
Gilad is much less interested in color... and all about function. He picked out a nifty pair of leather black & white sport shoes that will be equally at home on the basketball court and the street. The angle of this shot makes him look short, but he is actually getting to be quite tall and lanky (blame the photographer!):
Where, you might ask, was Yonah during all this sneaker shopping? He was sitting quietly on one of the comfortable chairs in the store reading some of his favorite poems from a well worn Keats anthology.
I would have been happy if the 'sitting quietly' part was true. Who am I kidding... I would have settled with just sitting!
Seeing as we didn't get to the mall until well after Yonah's bed time, he was, um, a tad less than cooperative.
Luckily his behavior (running around in circles, shrieking and knocking over displays) was not easily distinguishable from most of the other shoppers in the mall... so we had that going for us.
Trying sneakers on Yonah in that condition was quite the adventure. Picture a calf-roping at a rodeo... except we weren't able to tackle and rope our 'calf' nearly as quickly as the professional cowboys. I was sorely tempted to have him branded once we had him wrestled to the ground, but I settled with just letting the sales girl jam a sneaker on his flailing foot as we all lay on top of his writhing little body.
I was almost relieved when the sales girl informed us that she had nothing else in his size.
For the rest of the excursion whenever someone wanted to go into a store the rest of us had to keep Yonah occupied out in the mall. I now understand what those coin-operated rides are all about. For 2 sheqels you can buy almost a minute of silence. Money well spent.
Well, that's about it for today. Sorry for the light journaling this week... lots of stuff to share, but Rosh Hashannah intervened.
Monday, October 03, 2005
Confessions of a 'content miser'
Have you ever intended to leave a quick comment on someone's blog/journal and ended up leaving what amounts to a blog/journal entry?
Worse still, have you ever caught yourself doing it, and before hitting the 'submit' button decided to post it on your own site rather than 'waste' it on someone else's?
Yeah, me too.
While I love many of the things I have gained from keeping this journal (clarity, self-awareness, a sense of humor about myself), I don't like the pettiness I've developed about hording 'valuable insights' and content for use on treppenwitz. I'll admit it... keeping up a web site has made me a 'content miser'.
The other day Shira Salamone, the talented author of 'On the Fringe' sent me an email asking for my thoughts on a post she had just written. The post was about an extremely difficult personal epiphany she had experienced. Simply put, she realized that no matter how good a Jew she might consider herself, she knew that her faith would never be strong enough to allow her to offer up her only son the way Abraham had.
As I wrote what started out to be a very brief comment on her blog, I realized that I was writing my Rosh Hashannah entry for treppenwitz... and a selfish part of me wanted very badly to save it to my hard drive and instead submit a comment to the effect of '"Nice post, thanks for sharing" in it's place over on Shira's site.
But this time I didn't do that. Shira had not only bared a very vulnerable part of herself, but she had inspired me by doing so. I owed her my honest first impressions... not some 'atta girl' pat on the head. So when I submitted the comment on her blog I was genuinely glad that I had given her my honest feedback... but I was a bit sad to have lost the opportunity to share it on treppenwitz.
However, as I was rereading her post and some of the other responses it garnered, it occurred to me that there is really nothing wrong with also sharing my response here. So, what follows are my Rosh Hashannah thoughts, thanks to (and inspired by) Shira's very thought-provoking post:
This was a very powerful post on a subject that any observant person (especially one with children) has confronted on one level or another.
I sit in 'shul' (synagogue) on Rosh Hashanna each year and look out the window at the actual route through Gush Etzion that Avraham and Yitzchak (Isaac) took on their way to Har Moriah. The hill across from where I live is most likely the one from which Hashem actually pointed out their destination (it is the furthest point south from which Har HaBayit can be seen).
Yet even with this close proximity to direct reminders of the Akeida story, I have wondered whether I would pass such a test.
Then last year as I sat looking out at the hillside over which this famous father and son must have walked, I realized the missing component from decision-making process; Direct contact with G-d.
For whatever reason, you and I live during a time when G-d's 'face' is turned away from us... or at least his intentions are obscured. Avraham, on the other hand, had the benefit of direct communication with G-d (ok, there was an angel as intermediary).
Our test today is with emunah - belief. In the absence of direct contact with the Creator of the world we face a daily struggle to simply continue believing in the existence of a master plan (and a Master guiding that plan).
Avraham's test was one of obedience. He and his wife had both had fairly solid empirical proof of G-d's hand in the event's of their lives, not to mention the world. Therefore their test (meaning both Avraham and his adult son Yitschok), was not one of belief, but rather of obedience.
It is frustrating to be so far removed from the Divine Presence that we must struggle daily with simply believing in It's existence. But I sit at my window in shul and listen to the story of Avraham and Yitschak and thank G-d that I am only asked to believe... and not offer up my most precious possession in order to prove my obedience.
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a sweet, healthy and prosperous new year (even if you don't follow the same calendar as I do). I mean really... who couldn't use a little sweetness, good health and prosperity, right?
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Brought to you by the letter 'M'...
It's funny what kids notice... and imitate.
For instance, I never noticed that whenever I give any of the kids kisses, I purse my lips and make a low humming noise (mmmmm) in the back of my throat.
Maybe it started out as an attention-getting device since as often as not the kids would be entranced by Sesame Street or Bugs Bunny when I would be trying to say my morning good-byes. But those days are long gone... and still I hummmmmm when passing out my morning good-bye kisses.
I might never have noticed this except that Yonah (now almost 2) has started handing out his own kisses whenever the mood strikes him. The way we know if the mood has struck him is that from somewhere in the room a low humming will start. A quick look around will isolate the source of the humming as Yonah who will be stalking the intended kissee with his lips pursed and a low humming emanating from his throat.
As he gets closer to his intended target, the pitch of the humming rises and his pursed embouchure takes on the determined look of a veteran trumpet player.
When he is on his final approach and has climbed into the lap of the intended kissee, the last thing he does before contact is to wrinkle his nose, smirk a sly smile and avert his eyes to one side.
This has cracked me up from the first time he did it to me because I knew exactly why he'd started humming before giving away a kiss... but I couldn't imagine where he'd gotten that last bit with the sly smile and the averted eyes.
Then I noticed that whenever one of the big kids gives Yonah a smooch (or becomes a target of his smooching), they invariably smirk and look towards Zahava or me to see if we've noticed his amorous attentions. From Yonah's point-of-view it makes perfect sense that the last thing people do before actually kissing is grin and avert their eyes to one side or the other. Mystery solved!
I guess we should count ourselves lucky that Yonah's affectionate little kissing quirks are all he's chosen to emulate (so far)... because I seem to remember that when Ariella was about this age Zahava once dropped her keys into an inaccessible spot between the car seats. For the next few weeks we were serenaded from the back seat with happy shouts of "Sh*t!... sh*t, sh*t, sh*t... sh*t, sh*t, sh*t, SH*T!"
So, if you happen to be visiting chez treppenwitz over the next few weeks and you hear a funny little hmmmmm coming from somewhere in the room, you'd better pucker up because it means Yonah just might have his little lips aimed at you!
Today's journal entry has been brought to you by the letter 'M' (mmmmmm)... and of course, the word 'sh*t'.