Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Monday, April 30, 2007

How Curiosity Killed The Cat

Well, maybe not killed. Maybe just scared. It's not the cat's curiosity, it's the baby's. ND is now at a point where she is utterly distracted from whatever else is happening if she can see my Aloe walking throug the room. Good thing ND can't crawl yet.

Today was our second day with solids. I've gotten smart and feed her BEFORE I change her into her clothes or pajamas. Then I just toss the old ones into the laundry. Than naked baby and I go to the sink. She loves sitting on the edge of the sink while I wash her face and hands (and whatever else is covered with baby-rice).

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Just Sitting And Reading

Way awesome cool...

During Shabbos I tried helping ND sit for the first time. She's pretty good at it. If she leans forward she can hold it several minutes.

And we were playing with board books, especially Numbers which has way cool pages that are different lengths so easy to turn. She knows how to turn a page, though she doesn't get why, and can either sit or lie with a book as though she's really reading it!

She also likes to chew on it.

I'll try to get pictures soon.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Mother's Day



I only just realized that this year, this holiday will be for me for the first time!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Idealism Vs. Power

I'm working on the project eluded to in number 3 of Earth Day. I still have to keep it a little quiet for now, but I was just talking to U. about the sad phenomenon of how often the age in a person's life when they have the most idealism is not the same age as when they have the most power.

I was talking about how childhood is when people learn about what's wrong in the world and want so BADLY to fix it, but so rarely can. I was talking about how unfair (though I still think it's necessary and right in another way) it is to teach children about diminishing rainforests when there is really nothing they can do to stop a bulldozer powered by fat cat wealth and greed.

I think it's really important to put into children's grasp the ability to make an ACTUAL difference, even if it's small. I think that leaves them less helpless in the present, and more idealistic and responsible in the future when they have the power to do more.

(Power to do more, by the way, can be good or bad power. Everyone has power as they grow up, but many don't realize it and cause a lot of damage along the way, whether emotional, environmental or whatever.)

May everyone in the world use their power to influence both themselves and others to do good.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Earth Day



OK. Sick little baby is now asleep... (Poor thing is mostly fine, but when she was "talking" this evening, she had this little smoker's voice that was cute and sad at the same time. She also needs some extra love, but her symptoms don't seem too bad. Her teacher today at daycare said she sneezed an enormous sneeze all over herself and cried out of shock, but that was only once.)

...leaving me time to right about EARTH DAY!

I get frustrated some times when pushed too much towards positive change because I feel I do what I can for the environment anyway, but lately I've been doing some new things that I'm proud of. So, though I didn't do these things FOR Earth Day -- I'm doing them for EVERY day, and for the future -- I'd like to share some things I'm proud of:

1. Taking A Stance
Here's an annoying story to share... last week there was a calendar meeting at the school that I was too sick to go to. On a scale of one to ten, the environmental consciousness at our school is about zero. So I wanted to go in order to get Earth Day on the calendar. I figured that would be a start towards some kind of programming. I could plan something for the whole school or just try to share ideas with other teachers to do in their own room. Hard to say. In any case, since I couldn't go, I called up a friend (a very well-respected friend) to push for it for me. When I told her my agenda, she laughed supportively but said, "Yeah, you and me, the two democrats of the school." I laughed back, but it left me feeling a little upset. Behaving responsibly in order to leave behind a planet for your children to live on strikes me as practical rather than political. But whatever... In any case, despite the fact that I've had some problems at the school in the past, and besides the fact that I feel as lonely on this as a polar bear on a drifting ice float, I'm ready to put myself out there. I just have to be careful how I do it. I don't want to piss people off or they won't take me seriously. So I'm starting small, such as...

2. Putting A Paper Recycling Box In My Class Room
I don't know what I'll do with it when it fills up. I've lived here almost two years and I still haven't figured out where to take it, but I guess once my trunk starts to fill up with used paper, I'll HAVE to find a way. In the meantime, my dad has made some helpful suggestions of how I can further investigate my problem, and, REGARDLESS, anyone who comes in my room, including the 32 kids who go through that room each day, will be impacted by the sight of this action.

3. (Shhhhh... On This, Or I Might Never Finish This, But...) Writing A Children's Book
I met a children's book author in shul with whom I discussed writing for awhile. She said I really ought to write children's books. People have said that to me for a long time, but somehow this is the first time where I really think it could work. I have a book in mind that I won't discuss here other than to say it's on an environmentally relavent topic. (I find talking about writing too specifically to be a surefire way to doom my plans.) So I've started a draft and have definitely been working through the ideas in my head. So far, it has actually proven to be rather difficult to write this.

4. Using gDiapers
I've already talked about that plenty. As for those of you who have asked how they're going... I still love them. I have considered buying a starter pack every time someone in our shul has a baby, but I'm a little afraid it would be a fruitless exercise.

5. Living In An Apartment
U. and I don't have a lot of choice right now, given the price of living in this area. But even though we've been ogling over owning a house someday, -- (George, can I feed the rabbits?) -- I'm feeling good right now about living in a place that takes up less space and is easier to maintain based on being part of something larger. There are a lot of us living in this building... a building that takes up the same size as some of the McMansions in the neighborhood that hold single families.

6. Avoiding Buying New Stuff
I have not pledged off buying new stuff, but I have been renewing my interest again in finding used rather than necessarily buying new. One helpful resource internationally is Freecycle.

7. Avoiding Plastic Bags
This one's harder than it should be. How often do I forget to get the old bags out of the trunk? But U. and I have agreed to TRY to ban future plastic bags from enterring our home. It really helps that we're BOTH trying to do this. Also, I've been collecting snazzy reusables by donating to COEJL, buying reusables at the store, etc. The advantage of having snazzy canvas ones is that people notice them whereas they don't notice you reusing old plastic ones. See number 1: I'm trying to stand out here.

8. Trying Really Hard To Turn Stuff Off
It just takes reminders now and then. But I'm shutting my computer off instead of putting it to sleep a little more often. Also turning off lights more. I've also heard the suggestion of unplugging power strips when they're not in use. It seems so small, but somehow I'm not quite up to it yet. It's hard to think of bending down to turn them on when they're wedged behind furniture and you know you have a baby with you.

9. Eating Cold Food For Shabbat
'Tis the season. Gazpacho, salmon and salads are plenty during the summer. No need to leave on hot plates, or even kitchen lights.

10. Buying Green Products
It's sometimes daunting to see the price of toilet paper made from recycled materials. So every time I buy TP or paper towels etc., I buy one package cheap and one recycled. Later I may just do the latter.

11. Buying Music Online
iTunes puts it right onto my computer. No CDs, no plastic, no waste, no nothing.

12. Buying Less In General
Or at least aspiring too.

13. Writing About All Of This Here
I know I'm doing more than everything above, but can't think what else to tell right now, and I suppose there is no reason I have to. There are plenty of lists out there already on the topic. Just none of them talks about what I am doing personally.

Just like nothing else talks about the wonderful daughter to whom I want to leave all of this lovely world as long as it's still lovely.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Not About Earth Day After All

I have several things left I'd like to do tonight, including write about Earth Day as promised, but family comes first.

It seems that despite the cute picture we took of her today and posted below, ND has her first cold. No doubt she caught it from me in the last week. At least, I hope so. I have immunity to offer her for that one. Can't help her so much with other people's colds.

Anyway, despite the fact that she's sleeping in my arms as I type this, when I put her down she wakes up and tries to find me. So we're going to go to bed early together tonight and I'll see if I can't finish my various tasks in the morning.

If I don't then, well, making up sleep is good too. Especially if the night is difficult which I'm kind of anticipating.

Poor baby.

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Why I Almost Completely Hate Bergen County



So today's Earth Day, a point that will be addressed in my next post, and in honor of it, I really wanted to enjoy the gorgeous day OUTSIDE with ND and her dad.

It was a little bit of a dilemma because it would seem wrong to drive somewhere on Earth Day and waste gas, but I had been wanting to show U. Van Saun Park in Paramus. So we did drive... and we drove and we drove and we drove, because everyone else in Bergen County had the same idea as we did. We spent much too long idling in parking lots, trying to find a place to park.

So we left, but I really wanted to go SOMEWHERE. Well, there just aren't many other choices. If we had been in Portland, there would have been lush parks aplenty, but not here.

So things got tense in the car and I tried myself to be responsible and mature even though it's just wrong that a place I live can look so ugly when Portland is so nice.

So we stopped off at Home Depot because nationwide I understand they're having a big fluroescent lightbulb giveaway in honor of Earth Day.

But of course, of all the counties in New Jersey to still have stupid blue laws that keep most stores closed on Sundays, they have to choose Bergen County, probably the most Jewish and Shabbat observant county of all.

So no luck there. The place was closed.

At last, not to be outdown or bitter, we ended up at Flat Rock Brook. To be fair, it's not a bad place, but to be honest, it's not terribly exciting either. But we did enjoy a short walk there, just about the right length for ND who, as you can see, seemed to enjoy it despite the heat.

U., on the other hand, is wiped out now. So I'm letting him rest.

For now...

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gratitude

I wrote this two days ago but needed time to decide if I was comfortable sharing it...

A number of thoughts coming together here:

So the past few days I've been pretty sick. Last time according to my blog was Feb. 20, so that's almost two months. Not bad. And I have to say that ND is AMAZING. On Monday we didn't have to go to school/work anyway because flooding closed my work. Then Tuesday I stayed home with a cold. On both of those days, ND let me sleep in... on Monday until 10!!! (I say no more lest I jinx it.)

In any case, today we both returned to our daily routine and, being sick, I found it very hard to face the day.

Now, another thought that I was having back in Portland...

during my visit there I saw a number of long-time friends including two of my blog readers. They have known me long enough to have seen me at my worst in a number of contexts, and it's really scary for me, even now, to know that they've seen me say and do things I would never say or do now. It's humbling to think that we get along just fine and that our friendships only seem stronger over time.

So now, today, as I was feeling woozy and having trouble facing the day, I realized just how much of my life I have woken up and felt some kind of fear or dread about the thought of getting up. I don't think I mean hard to face the day in terms of depression, but a lot harder than just wanting to sleep some more. I mean waking up with major anxiety, racing thoughts, worries, fear etc. It's taken years of work to help me with this -- meditation and physical activity have been the best for me. I suppose it also helps to have fewer work hours.

But there has been a much much bigger and more fundamental shift.

It could be that my life has stabilized more, that I have been teaching long enough to have greater confidence in myself and to understand that a day is just a day.

But could it really, more than that, simply be that I'm a mother?

I still can't get over how much fear I was sort of told to have leading up to motherhood about how hard it could be. But today I was chatting with a student who has two siblings. She even said how hard it will be when (if) I have more children. But I explained to her that although my routine is definitely more complicated than it ever was, I'm also happier than I've ever been before.

The only thing that really comes in the way is something I'm experiencing this very moment, as I write about this gratitude, and that's the utter, paralyzing fear that this somehow could change. I think I would feel that way even if I hadn't experienced a life-threatening illness, but after the cancer, it's much greater. And along with that fear is a fear of even talking about the fear. So with that, I finish this post.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

More On gDiapers



And I thought I was the only one who was so ENTHUSIASTIC about gDiapers. Check out this gDiaper community.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

What Are These For Again?



On our way home today ND became EXCEEDINGLY hungry. (I always nurse her when I pick her up, but she had stopped eating early. I thought she was full, but she still needed to burp.) So I pulled over in the first parking lot I could which was in a gas station behind Hooters.

I wasn't sure if I felt weird or gratified to be using my breasts so correctly so near such an exploitative space.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Nice

This is the post in which I reflect upon how I am getting to be less nice or gentle in a lot of ways (see last entry) and experience a mixture of guilt and empowerment alongside a mild identity crisis but do not withdraw my phase of un-niceness as a matter of principle and as an experiment in which I guage the reactions of my readers and the effect upon my own self of trying on a harder and possibly hypocritical stance about something that seems worthy of my attention and self-righteous indignation.

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Infant In Arms



As I write this, my goofy little jet-lagged girl is falling asleep in her pouch that I'm wearing. She's not so into falling asleep without me right there next to here recently. Who can blame her?

We (ND and me, not U.) came home yesterday from our first plane trip together. Normally, I'm abnormal in that I actually enjoy flying, and I blow off the complaints people make about the process.

No longer.

We had two flights to get to Portland last week, and two flights to return yesterday. In both directions we had to rebook when weather prevented us from making connections. In the flight to Portland, this meant that we arrived at the airport at 11 AM, expecting to be in the air towards Cincinatti before 2:00. Instead, we didn't even board a plane until 4:30, and it was bound for Houston. We got to my parents' house around 1:30 AM. Coming back to NJ, a storm prevented us from landing in Cincinatti for a long time (and almost made me throw up from turbulence), and caused us to miss our flight out to Newark. We ended up going home via LaGuardia.

Maybe I was just upset from having to literally run with my baby through one of the most poorly organized airports I've ever visited, or maybe it's because the airport employee who I went to for help didn't tell me she was busy and that I should speak to someone else, but just stood there ripping the little shreds of paper of her printout until I frantically asked if she was going to help me or if I should go to someone else because I felt faint from dehydration and nausea, but I was not at my best on that last flight out.

Please read this letter I've sent to the airline in question:

It would be very helpful if you could make flight attendants more aware of how they can help customers traveling with small children.

On a recent _______ flight I took my 4-month old daughter to the bathroom in order to change her diaper. The two bathrooms each had an icon showing a changing table, but when I entered the vacant bathroom, I could not locate the table. When I asked a flight attendant for help, she said they only had changing tables on international flights. (I knew this was not true as I had already successfully found tables on three previous domestic flights.) She then instructed me to change my baby on the floor in the back of the plane. As I was doing so, my daughter was nearly seriously injured when a flight attendant came within a few inches of stepping on her head and shortly afterwards dropped several water bottles on the floor right next to us. If my daughter had been injured in anyway I assure you I would have pursued a law suit and most certainly would never have flown with Delta again.

On my way back to my seat, I glanced into the now-vacant second bathroom and discovered that it did, in fact, contain a changing table. Had the bathrooms been labeled correctly (with an icon showing a table only on the bathroom that actually had one), and had the flight attendant been informed, all of this could have been easily avoided.

Thank you,


Of course, I try to be a nice person (TOO nice sometimes) and try to be positive when I can. It is often more effective. So I also sent the following:

I recently traveled cross-country with infant in arms for the first time. I want to thank your flight attendants for:

• Repeatedly asking if there was any way they could help me.
• Upon request, providing me with water to drink before the flight even departed.
• Showing me how to hold my baby safely during departure and landing.
• Helping me to access the changing table in the bathroom.

On three of the four flights I took on this trip, I received a great deal of support. Even the smallest gestures of understanding made all the difference between a good flight and a bad one.

Thank you,


But honestly, what makes the flight is not the flight attendant, but THE OTHER PASSENGERS.

I think what ticked me off the most about being wedged between two completely unhelpful people during the last flight was that one of them was reading a book about spiritual principles, and yet never once asked if she could help me.

Here are some suggestions of what you can do if you sit near someone travelling with a child:

Offer to help them get stuff in and out of their bags or to help them store luggage

Volunteer your tray as a place to store drinks or kid paraphernilia.

If they get up to use the bathroom and snacks come through the cabin, for crying out loud, take one for them and offer it when they return, even if they don't want it. (Come on, people. Duh!)

Finally, just offer to help. Offer often. If they don't want it, they'll tell you.

With respect to any and all who have ever NOT helped, here was a time when I didn't know that I should do these things. I'm as guilty as anyone for being unehlpful, but now I hope I've reformed and that both you and I can make a difference in another person's day.

That's my activism for the evening.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Erev Ant Day



And one more note... tomorrow is April 9th, National Ant Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So far this year, no ant sightings. (Don't tell anyone, but I'm kind of glad.)

So wonderful... ND's first ant day...

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Four



I'm currently in Portland visiting my parents with not much time left before the last two Yom Tov days of Pesach.

I just want to say two special things about Pesach this year.

1. The second seder was, I think, the best I've ever had except that I wish my parents could have been there. We were at our Rabbis house and people ACTUALLY PARTICIPATED in asking great questions and having great discussions. It was kid friendly as well as adult friendly, not to mention just plain friendly.

2. During the Hallel section of the seder I suddenly was hit with a powerful realization. I was reading a passage (not accessible right now, and I can't get it with this baby nursing as I type) about G-d saving us from death. As the last moments of the last seder of the year dwindled, I tried to experience that thought of death deeply. In doing so, I realized that, for me, it was not a metaphor. Four is a crucial number during the seder. Four questions, four cups etc. Well, four years ago I had just received my first chemotherapy treatment a few hours before the seder. This year, I enjoyed it in good health with my brand new baby.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Poor Susie



It's 10:45 at night here and we're still working on our Pesach cleaning.

My hip hurts a lot -- it's an old problem of mine. Something I've been struggling with for over ten years. A war wound you might say... except I've never been in a war and there's no wound.

I was just wondering about the song "Wake Up Little Susie"

The movie wasn't so hot.
It didn't have much of a plot.
We fell asleep.
Our goose is cooked.
Our reputation is shot.

What movie do you suppose they were watching?

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