Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I wanted to write one last time in 2013. I started to in line at the post office today, by hand, scrawled into the back of a literary journal. But I just don't have the energy to transcribe it here now, or finish what I started to say. I like to go to bed sometimes before midnight on New Year's Eve, like diving under a wave, going to sleep in one year and waking up in the next. But I'm running out of time to do that. Alex has Anderson Cooper chattering on in the background. The children are nestled all snug in their beds -- different holiday, but here, the same quiet house. Just a mile away a million people are gathered to watch the ball drop. Listen to this song. Be safe. Happy New Year. (The answer to the song is yes.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pinwheel Galaxy

Some days feels like I am pushing pushing pushing all day, and as soon as I can finally stop, I'm too tired to do anything but go to bed. So then it feels like pushing -- but to get to what? But invoking Sisyphus, that's ridiculous. The things I am doing are all mostly good things. Yes it's hard to get Wally up and out by seven in the morning and today we waited outside for nearly an hour for the bus in 25 degrees. Petra has a cold so she is unusually grumpy (she is scream-crying right now in the background - she had been asleep but Wally woke her up moving things around in the bathtub after he was supposed to be in bed). I have felt a bit overwhelmed by my work lately. I'm out of lunch ideas to pack. I  keep forgetting to cook various greens until it's too late. The apartment is a classic "Before" picture. Petra's crawling everywhere but nothing is baby-proofed (in fact the opposite, Alex's cables and hard drives are everywhere) and I just found a graphic for my current night-time schedule from this site:

This looks like a cartoon - doesn't it? Like a joke somewhere about re-defining an all-nighter once you have a baby. But it was from a totally serious article about night-wakings.

I feel bad that Wally gets home from school and it's like -- put your things away, dinner, night-time routine, bed at least. It feels like that anyway. In truth we do have a little time in there most days because unlike most of his classmates he doesn't have after-school activities. Today we "baked" cookies (cut them from pillsbury ready-made dough) and he decorated them with Christmas M n' Ms leftover from Hanukah. It's a family tradition to use them for playing dreidel. I did make frosting from scratch though I couldn't find the mixer if we ever had one. I said, "We can just mix it by hand" and Wally said, "Why don't we use a spoon?" So we did. Then he said, "I think Santa Claus might just be a guy people know who dresses in a costume." We haven't made a big deal of Santa but hearing him say that I realized I had hoped he'd fall for the whole thing a little longer. I'm pretty sure I believed he was real for at least another year or so past his age.

Meanwhile there's Fox News with the whole "Santa just is white" bit which cast such an unseemly pall over the story last night. 

Anyway - you may remember a while back I mentioned trying to do a minimalist version of a Shabbat dinner on, naturally, Fridays. It's not something we grew up doing--at all--I mean, we may have had a family dinner and play music but there was nothing ritualized about it. Anyway, I think I started out sometimes buying challah bread and definitely we had grape juice. Now Alex is gluten-free; I skip the bread and just pour out whatever juice we have on hand. We each say something we're grateful for. And I try to light a candle. It's dark so early, and even darker in our East-facing apartment. It's not the right candle, not the right holder and the matches are from a gas station in Paramus, New Jersey and now we can't put the candle on the table because of Petra plus we have to blow it off soon after we put it on because we leave the kitchen to start the night-time routine but for a few moments it's there, on the counter, in between the colander and the coffee machine that hasn't been cleaned out. 

The house is still a giant "Before" picture, the paperwork and PTA requests and phone calls to make all feel endless. And that's just on top of everything else. That's just barely the fringe of what it feels like I still have to do. But tomorrow there will be snow. And in the background for a few minutes during dinner Friday night there is that little candle. It flickers, bright and cheerful. It doesn't cast much light, but it seems, in a very small way, against the rush, against the noise, against the early dark, defiant. 

Meanwhile, 22 million light-years away in the Pinwheel Galaxy, there's a black hole that's much brighter than it's supposed to be.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Zen Judaism

I was re-reading The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel the other day, a book I've referenced before on this blog. I don't go for the religious aspect of it (and though from the subtitle you'd think it's hard to avoid, it's really not) but it's by far some of the best parenting advice I've ever read. One thing that has stuck with me recently was this part I can't find now, of course, but she recounts I think maybe a rabbi talking. The idea is to ask people--What's the single most important moment in Jewish history? And they'll give various answers like the exodus from Egypt or the return from Babylonian exile or the destruction of the second temple and the diaspora. Maybe someone would say the establishment of Israel or someone else would bring up Moses getting his copy of the Ten Commandments (forget hardcover). So there is this build up and you're thinking, okay, which is it? Who is it? Moses? Abraham? Jesus? Einstein? But it all feels pretty archaic and irrelevant to your life today. And then comes the answer. And suddenly everything feels so completely grounded and the universe stops expanding exponentially out of control and you're right where you are, where you're supposed to be. The single most important moment in Jewish history is right now.