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

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Incidentally, the cold I came down with on Sunday seems to be completely (please please) gone.

What's interesting is that my assistant, who I think had the same cold, has had it twice as long and it's getting worse.

I'm a little concerned for her and it continues to bring up baggage for me. Especially since her glands are swelling I have that little piece of me worrying she's REALLY sick like I once was. But I think I've just gotten very good at taking care of myself by comparison. I hope so. I've got my prevention methods down to an art and, in fact, I think it was a full two months instead of just one between this time and the last time I was sick.

My daily regimen:

Nasal wash in the morning and at night
Calcium with magnesium and D3 -- and taking ENOUGH of it. (I have to do this at night too.)
Fish oil - DHA in the DHA in the AM and EPA at night
500-1000 mg vitamin C each day

If I'm coming down with something, I take zinc and increase the C.

Also, weekly chiropractor visit and almost daily yoga (postures) practice including some of the techniques from the Kundalini illness prevention video on

If I cut out dairy and sugar I know I'd do much much better. I did that for awhile and it did help. But I'm on the school lunch plan right now and I just love cheese so much... so I use it in moderation. Truth be told, I probably could have avoided this last cold completely if I had not enjoyed the bounty of Purim so much. I actually crave sweets when I'm coming down with something. If I don't take that first bite, I'm fine. But this time I gave in, and hard. I want to talk about food another time soon in relation to spiritual issues.

I still use rice milk instead of regular. No point in overdoing the dairy on something that doesn't matter to me so much.

I'm especially glad to be feeling healthy today and especially concerned that my assistant is not because today we have parent-teacher conferences.

I miss ND already!

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

ER follow-up

My dad pointed out to me that I never actually said what they did to ND in ER.

So as I was saying, they put her onto a papoose board. I almost showed an image here but, frankly, it still just upsets me too much. In any case, I held her head and talked to her as the plastic surgeon looked at her. Turned out she just needed a little dermabond. She cried and cried as he applied, but as soon as he was done, she was fine. She just let me hold her and nurse her. She looked stunned but otherwise, no worse for wear. During the night she did wake up a few times (like when I was writing the previous entry) and at those times she screamed rather than woke up subtly, but now the shock is most certainly over.

We've been following up with the plastic surgeon. And although the wound is quite superficial, we still have to do some "scar management." It's nothing much. A little special cream applied daily and some visits to the doctor.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Rest Of Purim

That was an awesome Purim.

Friday morning we got up and got on our costumes. My mom had bought ND a lion costume months before so I decided to do the same.

Of course, I can't just be a lion without some deep meaning behind it. One piece was that I felt a little like the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz, uncovering my own inner courage. Another comes from this picture which I bought a copy of from a street vendor in NY awhile back to put up in my classroom. The kids like it and understand it too:

Our day: Megillah reading, seudah at the shul, seudah at a friend's house, home to prep. for Shabbos

I had low expectations for the first seudah. I was afraid it would just be another fancy meal without anything Purim-ish about it. ND and I arrived still in our Purim costumes and weren't surprised to see that, at first, we were the only ones. But as more people came, more costumes did too. And it wasn't just people from our shul, but also some of the Rabbi's friends from Chovavei. So it was good. Not too many people and everyone there was interested in the Purim insights and Torah learning available to share.

On Purim, the masks come off, the truth comes out and things are turned upside-down. As a result, my cowardly lion self rediscovered courage and I gave a spontaneous drash.

The second meal was at my "twin"'s house. That's what she called me, anyway, much to my delight. She's the motherly Israeli who teaches the Hebrew half of the day to my students. So I'm the English twin to her Hebrew teaching. I repeated the drash there.

That night, at Shabbos dinner, I said it one more time, now to U.

Each time it was revised a little, so I shouldn't have any trouble relating it here:

In Megillat Esther we see anger come up again and again, not just as a feeling but as a force with dangerous ramifications.

When Vashti refuses to come before King Ahashverosh, the king is ANGRY and his anger will not abate until Vashti's been beheaded.

Likewise, even when Haman is being honored by the king and by Queen Esther, he is still so ANGRY when he sees Mordechai at the gate. That Mordechai won't bow down to him makes him so ANGRY that his anger won't be abated until he's killed all the Jews.

Purim is a time when secrets come out, so I will say that when I first starting teaching, I found there were times when I became incredibly angry. My students would refuse to give me the respect I thought I deserved or to do what I wanted them to do. I would hear myself take a deep breath and, in that moment, realize it was too late... then I would yell at them at the top of my lungs.

This kind of anger comes when we think we're not being honored, when someone in the room is not validating that YOU are the most important and powerful person there. It's this desire for honor that causes the anger.

But when you are caring for children, either as a teacher or as a parent, it's NOT ABOUT YOU.

When you can allow yourself to experience humility again and to realize, like Mordechai and Esther, that you're part of a much greater plan, the anger dissipates. Only then can you really teach, nurture and even discipline effectively and, as a result, not destroy the people who might otherwise have made you feel so much anger.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008


I've been trying to finish my Purim summary, but haven't had the chance yet. Just a quick note here that we had ND's first ER trip.

I was trying to get her to come with me to the elevator in our building to take some recycling downstairs, but she wanted to go up the stairs instead. I put my bag down, headed over to get her, and seeing I was coming after her she moved too quickly. She slipped and bumped her lip VERY hard on the step.

I have to admit my first thought was, "Oh good, she hurt herself a little. Now she'll let me pick her up and redirect her." But my second thought arrived very quickly when I heard her scream like she never has before and I saw the, dare-I-say-it, blood.

I dropped everything I was carrying and rushed her inside and onto my breast right away getting blood on my shirt, on me and everywhere. And she kept crying even as she nursed.

I tried to talk myself through it that it was no big deal and that kids do this sort of thing all the time. I figured other moms would think I was being hypersensitive because she's my only. But just to be safe, I went online and discovered that when a cut extends from the skin of the face onto the lip it sometimes means you need a plastic surgeon.

I called the pediatrician. He said to take her to ER. So off we all 3 went.

It was HOURS of waiting. The ER really did the best they could (I think) but their plastic surgeon on call lives over an hour away. I'm coming down with a full-blown cold so I wasn't feeling too good (and shouldn't be staying up this late). I told U. he could go home while we were waiting (we live right across the street from the hospital). But he said it didn't feel right and we all just waited together. It was the right thing to do.

Two really hard moments for me:

1. When we first went in back there was a gurney in the place where we were going to wait. ND didn't need it but we needed to sit somewhere. I found I really didn't want to sit on it. In fact, the more we waited back there, the worse I felt, partly because ND was really squirmy and wanting to run around. Once we left the room my energy came back. U. pointed it out to me and I realized how anxious I felt being back in a setting like that again.

2. Strapping her to a "papoose board." I have to go now. She's waking up.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Internal Haman

It's Purim night. I hope to do a second installment tomorrow with pictures.

But in the meantime, ND is sleeping (and nursing) in my lap as I type.

I just got home from the women's megillah reading. I read again this year, my fifth time ever. It was the first time for this section.

I did an AWESOME job.

I really did. I slowed down and was really clear.

During the reading, what stuck out for me (among other things) was the moment when Haman (the villain) comes home bragging to his wife about the honors bestowed on him by the king and the favoritism showed by the queen, but that he can't be happy as long as that Mordechai is around.

I think this is something we really struggle with on a daily basis. Blessings abound. REAL ones. Not honor from a false king. But sometimes just one thing will NAG at us. This happened to me this morning. I got an email with some negative feedback on something I was proud of but for which I actually had asked for the feedback. I got really angry for awhile until I was ready to look at it again with fresh eyes.

Tonight too. I love the women's megillah reading. I always do. It's a respectful crowd. The women and girls are dressed in awesome costumes, but they really listen quietly without interruption. As I said, I read really well and am proud of myself. I even got a good laugh for my costume... (pictures later).

But then afterwards...

one person complimented me by remarking how far I've come in my ability to read. So instantly I thought, "I was that bad before?"

But then, more importantly, I suddenly found I had no one else to talk to. The few people who had been there that I would call friends had already gone and most of the others are like strangers to me, even if I know and like them.

I'm not like Haman in that:

1. I'm asking for friendship, not honor.
2. I'm still proud and happy about tonight.

Best of all, I can look forward to tomorrow. I have low expectations for the shul seudah, but I hinted my way into someone else's seudah later in the day. I am much closer with my colleagues than with my shul community, and this is one of those. More than that, she's deep and fun at the same time. A good, Sephardic true Israeli friend.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

This Girl Of Ours

Lately she holds hats up to her head. She doesn't know how to put them on, but she can try, like sticking a folded up napkin on her head.

The other day we went in the bedroom to get her dressed. U. was sleeping. "Da, Da" she said. Then "Nye nye." (Dad, night night. In other words, my father appears to be sleeping.)

We live in a fifth floor apartment. Yesterday when we got home from lunch at a friend's house, she decided to crawl up the stairs instead of us carrying her up. (No elevator on Shabbat, of course.) She went all the way to the fifth floor and even tried to go the extra flight to the roof. When she saw there were no more floors up there she let me carry her back down to our place.

This morning when U. was putting his shoes on, he poured out almost a dozen blocks before he could put them on. You see from the video how they got there.

Then U. took her out for a walk. When they got back to our building they played downstairs a little in the courtyard. She got a little wet in a puddle so he brought her in to get dressed. He picked out the fresh pants. Then, when he put her down, she reached into the drawer and dug around until she found her striped sweater (see the grocery cart video). She followed him around until he took the sweater, held it like he was going to put it on her and asked, "Do you want to wear this?" She nodded yes and tried to stick her head into it.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Filthy... Field Trip... Flat Tire... What else starts with F?

Yesterday was cursed. You can't say I have a negative attitude, but I can say that yesterday was cursed.

Left for work early because of a field trip. Once at the car, discovered ND's carrot soup had spilled all over her bag. That's the "filthy" part.

The field trip to the William Steig exhibit in the Jewish Museum would have been lovely except that I had a major struggle with a student that I can't write about here for confidentiality. Meanwhile it was clear the tour guide did not think my students were behaved enough (as I was busy dealing with that one, the others were not following her directions). I'm mad she didn't take more control. Also, she and the guards kicked us out of a room when a bunch of my students touched an item that was irresistible. When one of my parent chaperones said there should have been a cord in front of it, the tour guide said no one had ever touched it before. "No one?" I asked. "My class only?" I was so embarrassed. The other parents said it was BS.

Several other things went wrong once back at school, but I was surviving... looking forward to going to the chiropractor, then home.

Then discovered my flat tire.

With ND in back, in no mood to try and change it myself and called AAA. Here's where you can't say I have a negative attitude. I spent 1/2 hour of the 50 minute wait walking ND in a stroller around the parking lot and looking at geese. Yay! Got my exercise!

Grumble grumble. Gritted teeth...

Writing this at night since I've been lying in bed replaying field trip in my head and wondering about everything I might have done wrong instead of sleeping.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Teaching Log: Parents

Back in my teacher's program, I remember we used to complain a lot about parents until the three parents who were becoming teachers stopped us one day and let us have it. They reminded us how much they love their children and that, despite the times parents might come head-to-head with teachers, it is all about trying to do what's best for their children.

The last thing I had to do last night before I went to bed was have a phone conversation with some parents about something they didn't want to hear. (I tried twice to call much earlier but they weren't home and, since I'd left a message, I didn't want them getting it late and then wondering what it was about.)

They were gracious and listened well, but I knew they were upset. I HATE making them worry. I HATE being the bearer of bad news. I HATE telling them that things aren't perfect. I have to admit... since I take too much on myself I assume that I will get blamed and that maybe I SHOULD get blamed.

In reality, I felt the phone conversation helped me reconsider how to deal with the situation. Obviously, it also informed them. So it was productive and necessary. But still, I wish I could only give good news and I hope it was clear that I'm doing what I can for their child.

Sometimes parents don't see teachers' good intentions. More than good intentions, even good acts! I've had some difficult children whose parents appreciated my work with them and with whom I worked well as a partner. So much so I was willing to come them weekly at my own choice. But I have others whose worries spill out onto me and so we aren't even having the same conversation when we talk. I've been accused of things so far off the mark it's almost funny. It's very hard for me to talk with them and be upfront. When I feel I have to protect myself, I can't problem-solve.

Maybe I need to lose some ego in this. Not that it's all my problem. It certainly isn't my fault if a parent isn't cooperative. But my duty still lies with the child. I can't allow my personal issues with a parent inhibit that.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Water Water Everywhere And Not A Drop To Drink

The title describes how I've been feeling lately about finding spirituality within a Jewish community. I go to shul regularly and teach at a Jewish school and yet often feel I have to travel to another planet, or at least find some retreat center, to find the kind of spiritual satisfaction I'm looking for.

There are a number of reasons for this:

Part of it is just that I come from a different place culturally than those around me. A hippie child can't expect to fit into materialistic and wealthy post-Manhattan suburb life style.

Part is that I've been under a lot of stress lately for several reasons, at least one of which I hope to disclose shortly. (Stay tuned in future weeks.) Juggling work and motherhood might have something to do with it too.

Part of it is that I admit that I'm rarely satisfied.

Either way, I've been asking myself some big questions about where I come from, where I am, and where I'm going in terms of both Jewish practice and mindset.

Today, though, I had one of those absolutely lovely experiences that made me feel I was coming home again, home to myself.

I've been missing nature for awhile and today it was un-cold enough that we could go into the woods, even with snow still on the ground. I took ND on my back and went for a lovely walk. But more than that, I had some dishes to tovel. (I'd link to info. on this but can't find anything useful. Basically, new dishes need to be immersed in a special way before being used as part of keeping Kosher.) There is a kaylim mikvah in town that was open, but I wanted to do it the natural way. So I carried the bag of dishes with me on my little walk until I found a good private spot near a creek. The water was freezing, but I felt much more that I was actually doing some wonderful ritual and linking in with ancestors as I did so. I was combining Jewish practice with the earthy nature practice I so identify with and which so few people around me seem to understand.

It was so comforting. I've most definitely written on here before about how rejuvenating nature, especially the woods, can be for me. But it still amazes me. Last week sucked. It doesn't matter how much I have to do. If I don't take that time for myself and my soul, I just can't function at capacity.

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A List Of Cruel Horrors I Inflict On Our Daughter

1. Not give her "real shoes."

Apparently Robeez shoes are not "real." I give her these (thanks to my mom's contribution) deliberately because they allow her to use her own little foot muscles and seem incredibly comfortable. I used to work in a friend's in-house daycare and we always took the kids' shoes off so they could develop balance and be comfortable. Parents didn't like this. As soon as we saw a car drive up, we always ran to get the shoes back on. I have a bunch of shoes for ND that a friend handed down to us. I finally did let her start trying them, and she actually really likes them. She stomps around, watching her feet, when I put them on her. But she also has a very hard time getting up when she falls down, and she falls down more too. We use them outdoors and sometimes on Shabbat mostly. Still, people do this thing where they turn their eyes away from me and casually ask, "So, do you have any "real shoes" for her?"

2. Deny her the experience of sleeping in a crib.

Although this is a major thing in our lives, I haven't written about it here because people have given us SO MUCH TROUBLE for it. I'm terrible at keeping a secret, but otherwise do my best simply not to bring up the subject of sleep. But here's the truth. When ND was born I simply couldn't bear the thought of her being out of eye and ear shot from me at nighttime. First she slept next to the bed in a carseat or cradle. Then we used an in-bed co-sleeper. Finally we just learned to sleep with her directly in bed with us. Once she was big enough to crawl out of bed we actually got a used futon on the floor. I go back and forth between that bed and the "adult bed", depending on the circumstances.

I made a point for a long time of not reading any of the famous books on the subject such as The Family Bed. But when I went to La Leche League meetings, this was all I could talk about. All my instincts screamed that she should be in bed with me and not in a crib, despite people telling me it was unsafe or that they could never imagine not having that time off from parenting. But I learned there is plenty of research to support that "sharing sleep" as Dr. Sears calls it in Nighttime Parenting, the book I finally did read and in which I found tremendous validation and comfort, is actually safer. It also feels good. ND likes it. I like it. I NEVER have to leave bed in the middle of the night to nurse with her. We just do it there. So when people tell me about their horrendous nights up with a baby, I just keep my mouth shut as much as I can. Yes, there have been some complications with negotiating all of this with U., but we're both basically fine with the situation.

3. Not demanding that ND go to bed early each night.

Now, for this, I am willing to say that it might be good for us to have a little more discipline with a set bed-time, but so far it hasn't worked for us. There have been far too many nights where I decided it was ND's bed time and we did the bath and the book and I even carried her around a bit in my Ergo baby carrier to get her sleepy and then laid down with her to nurse with the same CD on always and still it took over an hour to get her to sleep. This simply is not an efficient use of my time. Too many nights I've lost patience with her and got worried about getting my work done after she goes to sleep etc. So we have compromised. I put her to bed later than most babies go to bed and I go to bed earlier than most moms go to bed. Usually around 8:30 or 9:00. We lie down together and eventually, somehow, we both end up falling asleep. Sometimes I do get up again to get work done or hang out with U., but, especially Mondays through Wednesdays when I need as much sleep as I can to function well at work, this works better for us. I try to get up around 5 and have time to do my own thing then (like write this blog entry or meditate, do yoga, write in journal or even get work done for school). People are often impressed if they see I've sent an email before 6, but they aren't surprised when they see emails sent by someone staying up too late until midnight.

People have told me that I've GOT to learn to throw ND in a crib and let her cry it out. Oh, that makes me mad! Why have I got to... for my sanity? My sanity demands that I have a happy child. Why is it that if I say I like to sleep with my daughter I am criticized for looking out for my interests, but if I don't put her to bed early so I can have mom-time in the evening, I'm criticized for not looking out for my own interests?

4. Not teaching her things she can't learn.

Truthfully, no one has criticized me for this. This is a place where I criticize others. I'm so annoyed when people tell their one and two year olds that they have to share. Children at that age CAN'T SHARE. It's like asking them to do calculus. The adult should be the one to help her, providing a distraction, another toy or whatever. But telling them to share? Ever tell a lion he should try vegetarianism?

5. And finally, the worst thing of all, not weaning her until she's ready.

To anyone who thinks that people who believe in breastfeeding are self-righteous, I admit it. Many of us are. We have to be. I can't tell you how shocked people are that I would continue to nurse ND past a planned cut-off date. How many moms have I talked to who said that it broke their heart when they stopped breastfeeding, but that they did so because it was weird or that it was so horrible to continue once their children could actually ask for it verbally, or that they had to stick with some arbitrary plan of stopping them. There is no medical reason whatsoever that children need to stop at 1 year. And you all know I'm not about to give in to cultural pressure. I heard someone complaining about a woman who was breastfeeding her child well into toddler years and said, "She'll be culturally wounded," or something like that. Once the child starts worrying what the other kids think, she'll stop on her own.

I really work hard to keep my mouth shut on these things, but I really think I know what I'm doing better than some people think I do. Some of what I've written here is about choice and that's fine but, let's be totally honest, I am a professional. I have worked with kids my whole life and with that, combined with my own instincts, I don't think I can be doing as badly with my child as people tend to think. Yes I'm imperfect. Yes I've had plenty to learn and will continue to learn, but not from judgmental comments from people who aren't actually my good and trusted friends. I try hard not to be judgmental or at least to keep my thoughts to myself if I think they'll be badly received, and I'd appreciate the same respect.

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