Thursday, August 20, 2015

requiem for a thin girl

Once upon a time, I was thin. I was objectively, crazily thin. I did not diet, I did not exercise, I did not have an eating disorder. I just was thin.

Then life happened. I got married and had five kids. Each pregnancy came with very average weight gain, and each child left behind a few extra pounds.

I am not thin any more. I am not fat, and I do not feel horrible, but I am not thin.

I will not abuse myself by calling myself names, by beating myself up about the way my body is now. It did miraculous things, like nourishing and growing five human beings, and then it birthed them and then it nursed them. It carried them up and down numerous flights of stairs. It climbed to the top bunk to tuck a child in. It got up and paced for hours, trying to get babies to sleep. It ran to and cuddled a hurt child. For all that I was able to do, I am grateful.

What about that skinny girl, the one who could always eat without looking back, and who could try the smallest size on the clothes rack?

This is my little requiem.

That girl was always hungry. That girl attended a boarding school where, at times, food was not available or provided, yet she did not have her parents' credit card to buy extra food. That girl did not buy snacks or soda at the mall because she could not afford them. That girl carefully totaled her college food expenses and ate strictly from the cafeteria's food plan. That girl bypassed salad bar because it was sold by weight, and all those watery vegetables were expensive and lacking in calories. That girl had two slices of toast for breakfast with a tea made from free hot water and a tea bag brought from the dorm not because she wanted to, but because it only cost her 20 cents. That girl was super active because she walked to her apartment cleaning jobs instead of spending money on the subway.

Yes, it would be nice to be skinny again. But I do not want that skinny girl's life.

If I do slim down again, I want to happen because I am eating my fill of healthy food and spend my days chasing kids. And if I do not, then let that skinny girl recede into the past.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Jewish education my kids are not getting

Being a baalat teshuva and not attending day school makes me nervous about my Judaic knowledge. I am even more jittery when it comes to educating boys. When do they start mishna? When do they start Gemara? What format does halacha learning take? What about Jewish philosophy? I don't even know what it is supposed to look like, let along teach it. I feel so inadequate, so ready to put them into dayschool or hire a rebbe, someone who knows this stuff, who can teach them.

What I tend to forget is that learning without application is worthless. Luckily, there are plenty of situations to remind me about it.

Today the kids held a "student council meeting" and decided among themselves that they want to be governed by republican democracy. Well, 2 yo objected by saying no. When 11 yo offered tyranny, 2 yo jumped excitedly up and down. Part of this new system of rule included taxation. The kids set a tax rate at 10% of their allowance, after tzedakah. They decided to store their taxes in an envelope in 5 yo's drawer (being the most responsible and the least likely to lose it). They also entered a clause about stealing from the tax fund and that was set by 11 yo straight from his mishna.

Later on today, we had an afternoon bris to attend. (The baby was jaundiced, so the bris was delayed). This is a sibling of one of their friends, so the kids were quite eager to go. As the crowds shuffled into the shul, I surveyed the situation and decided that it might not be worth it to stay for the סעודה afterwards, as it looked very crowded and I had all five kids by myself. Moreover, the boys went downstairs while I stayed upstairs with three younger ones. 5 yo asked to go down to the boys, but since this is not the building that we usually go to, I was not sure whether she knew her way around. I let her go, but then I could not find her afterwards. As I was trying to get the stroller into the corner and find a seat for 2 yo, I saw people trolling next to the food table, with the staff telling them that the food is not being served yet. I saw kids grab fistfuls of candy from the sweet table, more that any one child can eat at a time. I stopped mine from doing the same. I saw a rabbi hover around the food with the plate, trading remarks with the staff as to why he is not filling his plate yet. And I saw kids swoop in and repeatedly grab cookies from the sides, where the staff could not get them to stop.

All these kids are going to local Jewish schools, getting a Jewish education. The rabbi is a teacher in one of these schools. Yet all I saw was a lack of דרך ארץ. If the purpose of learning all those mishnayot is to pass a test and then leave them behind in the classroom, I am not sure whether that can be called education. If the rabbi teaches Pirkei Avot, yet fails to behave as a mentch, I am not sure whether his teaching means anything.

I gathered up my kids and left, not waiting to see the stampede of everyone else once the food will be opened up. I did not want to see people pushing and shoving to fill their plates. I did not want my kids to see people piling on more food that they can eat. I did not want to see the parents of the baby shake their heads and regret this late afternoon bris and the crowd of hungry Jews that were lured by a free dinner. But before I walked out, I saw the disgust in the eyes of a not religious grandma, surely produced by the less than fine behavior of the religious Jews.

My kids might be missing out on Jewish education, but they will not miss out on being educated in how to be a mentch.

Monday, August 17, 2015

end of summer

Summer is drawing to a close. I filed Declaration of Intent to Homeschool for the boys. I also shopped for school supplies for 5 yo and 2 yo. I looked into Khan Academy for math and got Math Mammoth, just in case. It sounds like we are rolling into school year, yet, in a way, we were "doing school" all along. We have kept up Chumash study. 11 yo just finished שירת הים in בשלח. We skipped many Rashis and he complained plenty about the poetic language, even though he knew the words from davening. 9 yo is in the middle of תולדות. Both boys continued with taekwondo and just received a black stripe on their belts, putting just one more level between them and that coveted black belt. 9 yo begged and begged me to start violin. After ignoring his requests and wishing they would go away (and trying to sway him towards a less challenging instrument), I found a teacher for him. He has been very conscientious about it, treating the instrument gingerly and practicing. Of course, it has barely been a month, so I'm still taking "wait and see" approach, but this is definitely an unschooling step of following the child's interest.

At the zoo. They made sketchbooks and sketched some animals
5 yo, not to be outdone, wrote a note to her new aunt (who is a music teacher) to teach her how to play the piano. I'm not holding my breath on that either, but so far, she has been practicing.

Joint reading of Harry Potter
In the afternoons, the boys have been advancing through new levels of computer games. I have almost an allergic reaction to the amount of time they spend in front of the screen, but I don't have much to offer instead. Usually we are stuck indoors because one of the babies is napping, or is cranky or I have to get that dinner going or I am nursing. So let them enjoy computer time, let them figure out how to take turns and meet their own electronic needs. That will come to a close in another week, and we are all aware of it.
Nothing inspires creativity like a box of brand-new pencils.
While 11 yo and 5 yo are drawing,
9 yo is organizing them by color families.

We also made some changes in our house. They boys agreed to move their sleeping quarters downstairs, into the basement, so I can place 2 yo with 5 yo and give the other bedroom to the baby. The baby is a terrible sleeper, which causes me to be extra tired and grouchy. Then, after we put all the effort in getting her to sleep, we tiptoe into the bedroom and wake her up by rummaging for clothes, etc.

I wish to have more of a house to place all these kids, and less of a house to clean and maintain. I know that down the road, three bedrooms are plenty for our five kids, but right now, a kingdom for a spare bedroom, or even a nook where this baby can get some sleep.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

printer (encore)

Two weeks ago I took out 4 DVDs out of the library. One was a grown-up movie and rest were meant to interest my kids. When 9 yo saw them, he said they all look boooring. I asked him what he thought they were about. He said: one is about pianos ("Making of a Steinway"), one is about soup (Andy Warhol) and one is about holidays ("Mr. Bean Takes a Holiday"). I cracked up and said, you are missing good stuff because you are judging DVDs by their covers.

The joke was on me.

A week later I caught 2 yo with an open DVD case. He has been known to open them and play with them, so I was not too worried till I realized that it is Mr. Bean and that the disk is missing. We asked him where he put it, and he kept leading everyone downstairs where we have a DVD player. We looked and looked, but the DVD was not found. I kept renewing the DVDs, hoping that it will turn up before I will have to go to the library and confess.

Today I needed to print out the supply lists for 5 yo's school. 11 yo kept telling me how the printer is broken and won't print, so I put my husband in charge. He came to me: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the supply list is printed. The bad news is that Mr. Bean's DVD was crammed into the printer, and now it is cracked in half."

I will have to go to the library and explain that my printer ate the DVD...