Saturday, March 7, 2015

Life, Parenting, and the Jewish Book of the Month Club

I'm back! On a limited basis.  But I have something to write about, so I'm writing it, and I may update here or there as I feel like it. 

So some updates on my life generally: C is 19 months old!  She can walk, run, climb, push furniture places and then climb on it, get to scary insane heights while climbing, dance (and depending on the song will dance with hippie hand motions, head banging, rocking back or forth, or spinning in time with the music), snap, follow many simple commands (like this morning B sent her back to our room with a roll of toilet paper to give me to put in our bathroom) and say maybe 12-15ish words.  Her first word was "Cat" followed closely by "Kitty Cat" and "Dog" (plus "dad" and "mom"- but dad came first cause she loves her dad!).  B is a stay-at-home dad.  I'm still working full time as a sociology professor, in the same university and try to work from home 1-2 days a week (although lately it's been more like 0-1, sigh).  We still live in the South.  I still haven't gotten tenure -I go up in Summer 2016 (I delayed the clock by a year when I gave birth to C) and will find out sometime around Spring 2017 if I got it.  So this year I'm spending a lot of time on finishing up and sending out research projects, to try and get as much published as possible before going up for tenure. 

Since shutting down/going on hiatus for this blog and my other blog, I've been spending more time on other hobbies.  Most of all I've been spending time with C- she is a great playmate, and we draw together and read together and build megablocks, and go on adventures in our backyard and around our neighborhood and to various parks.  This coming week is spring break and we have a playdate to go to the park with 2 other prof friends of mine and their kids.  Playdates are so much better and less anxiety-producing than real dates!  I started a writing group at work which meets every week, where me and some other prof friends of mine get together to chat, bitch, drink coffee, and after about 45 minutes of that, buckle down and work on our research for 2-3 hours.  Through that I'm becoming friends with a new prof who joined our department this year- and in general now that I've had almost 5 years living here, I have a few different established networks of friends with whom to do specific types of things.  Apart from my research/writing group I have like 3 different parent/kid type groups of friends I get together  with for playdates and mom's night outs, a few friends I go to music shows with while leaving C at home with B (going to see Sleater-Kinney next month!!), and even have a regular game night we go to occasionally when we want to splurge on a babysitter.

I've also been spending a lot of time this winter planning my garden- last year we had to cut down a huge tree out front that was dying, so we cut it off at table-level and put stumps around it to make seats.  I decided to cut down the low boring evergreen bushes that were around that tree, and plant a new tree about 4 feet over from the old stump which will overhang the seating area. I already ordered a weeping cherry tree, and then a bunch of perennial herb plants and flowers to plant around the base where all the old bushes were.  I'm also getting interested in flower gardening which is a newish area for me, and I've ordered a bunch of bulbs and plants that should start arriving here soon.

So now for the stuff you all read this blog for: The OTD stuff: 

Chankuah 2014: C + My mom
My relationship with my parents is...interesting.  Since C was born they have been to visit us 3 times, each time for less than 4-5 hours, and we went up to their area to stay with my brother + his gf for a week last summer, and spent about a day and a half hanging out with them.   I complained recently to my dad that they always just come here for a few hours, when we live 10 hours away, and I emailed him a long plan for him to come down to visit for a couple of days and for us to have kosher food for them to eat.  After all that, I just heard from my dad that this summer they are flying down the week after C's birthday to visit for...7.5 hours! Ha.   Other than seeing them 2-3 times a year now, I also talk to them a few times a year on the phone and email with my dad fairly regularly. So our communication has not actually increased all that much, other than more in-person visits.

They seem to focus most of their limited interaction with my daughter on pushing Judaism.  In December they came to visit for around 4 hours, and made a point of lighting Chanukah candles here with her, even though they were going back to their own house later that night, and it wasn't even night time.  I figured it was harmless though- especially since the next day we were driving to visit her other grandmother for christmas.  For Chanukah in addition to a bunch of typical grandparent gifts (clothes, kids books) they gave us an awesome toy piano for kids which C loves, + a bunch of chanukah toys like a wooden menorah, menorah fingerpuppets, different kinds of dreidels, etc.   

My dad signed her up for a jewish book of the month club called PJ library. My mom sends packages of kid's related jewish toys and books for every jewish holiday.   This week we got a package that included: shalach manos (hamentashen + some other foods), a grogger, a wooden seder plate puzzle, a bunch of plastic frogs in a package that said something about pesach, around 5 kids books on purim and 4 on pesach + 3 not-Jewish-related kids books. 

A few days later- Christmas 2014
Now that we are in our second go-around of these holidays, we are starting to accumulate a massive collection of jewish children's books.  Between PJ library and my mom, we have books for every obscure holiday (TWO tu'bshvat books!) and probably 5-10 books for every major one.  In fact this year my mom sent me a purim book that she already sent me last year, so now we're getting doubles.  They take up a whole shelf of her bookshelf.  I can start a lending library!

I'm thinking of using the fact that we are now getting doubles to tell my mom (gently) that maybe we have enough of these kind of books for now. 

So what to do with all these books? I'm certainly not giving my kid pure unfiltered religious brainwashing the way I got.  What I've taken to doing is first reading through the books to see what is in there.  Some are purely cultural- there is no mention of god, blessings, miracles, prayers, etc.  All it does is describe things about the holiday.  These I have no problem with.  Some I even like- there's a tu'bshvat book that is all about planting trees and saving the environment.  At first I tried to change around the words for some things to make them entirely secular.  Like the book would say "On tu'bshvat we plant a tree" and I would say out loud "On arbor day we plant a tree." But I almost immediately decided that I have no problem with her knowing what things like tu'bshvat are, the correct jewish names for things - in fact I want her to at least know that much, so in that respect, these books are good. 

On the other hand, some of these books make me want to take out a big black marker and start busting out the yeshiva-style censorship.  Stuff about god (or "g-d" as they write it), instructing kids to start saying blessings over stuff, messed up stories about first born sons being killed only illustrated with children's pictures, saying we hope to move to Israel....I definitely don't want to be reading that stuff to my toddler.

Some of the books it's only one word here or there, so I will just skip that page when reading it, or insert a word substitution. So if it talks about thanking god for a meal, I will talk about thanking all the hard workers who worked on growing and making and driving over and cooking the meal, including mommy and daddy. Or something like that.  Some I'm just keeping on a high shelf way out of her reach so we have the info available if she wants to check it out when she is older and capable of having a conversation about what we are talking about. The very worst stuff I have thrown out. 

The other major development with my parents is actually regarding my OTD brother.  For almost 5 years he has been dating a kick-ass (literally- she used to play roller derby!) non-jewish woman, and he's been living with her since around mid-2013.  Last summer when we went up to visit them + my parents for a week, he used that as an opportunity to tell my parents he was living with her (after a year) and introduce them to her for the first time- he didn't ask them or anything, he just called up my dad and told him that on the sunday we were set to have breakfast and spend the day at my parent's house, he was bringing her along.  My dad pulled me aside that day to ask how serious their relationship was and then answered himself by saying 'well if they live together it must be pretty serious." That trip was actually the first time B has ever been to my parent's house, and my first time going home since 2008, which was super exciting for me- I got to show him the place and tell him all my fun stories about sneaking around with BF's, the place I had a big fight with OTD brother and pushed him through the wall, he got to see my childhood room and my neighborhood and where I grew up...

So anyway during the trip my brother brought his non-jewish girlfriend to the house. She was really nervous and dressed very modestly- I actually wore pants deliberately (she wore a skirt- that was my first time wearing pants in my parent's house) and was like "this way I'll take the heat off you cause they'll be too busy staring at my pants!"  :)

We ended up having brunch at my parent's house, going to the Van Saun Park zoo (the saddest zoo in the world-the enclosures are way too small!) and then going back to my parent's for some truly awful and inedible kosher chinese take out for dinner before heading back to my brother's place, which is where we were staying.

This is pretty huge, because my parents did not meet B until a full year after we were married.  Since this trip I've heard my brother and his GF have hung out with my parents again, and they are all going to a family wedding this weekend I think (we were invited too but arn't going) for my second cousin who's family is not orthodox.

The one annoying passive aggressive mom part of the trip was during the zoo when we were looking at the lion- my mom started talking about Ligers to my husband and my brother's GF and said something about how "We jews don't do hybrids" to which B shot back something about hybrid vigor. I didn't even pick up on how insulting that comment was, given that we were hanging out with B and C, until B brought it up again later.  But that's my mom- she takes these underhanded shots and thinks she's being so fucking clever.  But now I have a whole team of people to vent and laugh about it with later- B, my brother, my basically-sister-in-law, and soon C will probably be joining in too.

So that's it for now. I'm going to NOLA in a few weeks for a conference, but without B and C, and then will be going to visit the Outer banks of North Carolina in June for a week with B's family. My parents are coming to visit again in August.  C keeps growing up and we keep on keeping on.