Jul 11 2014

4 Hour Body

Published by Karol under The body

When trying to be an interesting person, and, let’s face it, we all should try because it’s just too easy to slack off into mediocrity, we know that there are topics of conversation that are completely uninteresting to other people. Don’t talk about that weird dream you had last night. Or your acid trip in college. No one cares about the details of the traffic you got stuck in. Bad beats in poker. Don’t discuss what diet you’re on. Wait, what? Everyone wants to know everything about each other’s diet? That’s new.

It comes with age, I guess. G-d knows I never cared what wacky diet my friends were trying but as I got older I’d see a friend who lost weight and inevitably ask “how’d you do it?” And currently, I’m on my first ever diet-with-a-philosophy (ie: not just “eating right” but following a plan about which there is a book–which I have not read– and websites–which I’ve totally skimmed) of my life and when I mention it to people, usually with some degree of embarrassment, almost every single person has leaned in and asked to hear more. A number of people immediately joined me on my diet without knowing anything about it. My friend Meghan mentioned the diet to me a couple of years ago. The big thing I remembered about it years later is that there is a “cheat day” once a week where you’re encouraged to eat anything and everything you want. The other thing I remembered is I asked her why she was checking into the BBQ place Hill Country every morning and she said she was eating some crazy egg/meat breakfast dish that was ok on the diet and it all sounded very doable.

I am someone who has been overweight most of my life. Most of that time, I didn’t really notice. I was happy size 10-12 (and I know we’re not supposed to be validated by male attention and that whistles out of car windows get two days of hashtagged complaints on twitter and we’re not supposed to like when men like us but) men loved me. I had a big butt and big boobs and apparently those are features men in NYC seek in women. Again, I get that people feel bad about themselves despite outside attention but the top complaint I’ve heard from overweight people is that they feel invisible. I never felt like my weight got in the way of my social life whatsoever and, for better or worse, I wore whatever I wanted (I note this because my biggest complaint about my body right now is that clothes don’t fit me correctly).

I had back surgery in 2004 and rocketed to a size 14. That was the first time I remember thinking, huh, I’m not as in love with myself as usual. Yet, I didn’t do anything to try to lose it, just bought bigger clothes. It all came off 3 years later, in the summer of 2007, when in the darkest period of my life, unemployed and going through a break-up, I slept until 3pm everyday, woke up, went to a poker club where I’d order Chinese food as my one meal of the day, and play poker until morning. On nights I wasn’t playing poker, I drank. A lot. Depression works! I got together with my husband shortly after this period and on our wedding day I was a size 6, both of us in the shape of our lives. My friend Cora took a picture of us from behind and my ass in that shot is my main motivation for all subsequent dieting. Today I’m back in 10-12 land and so freaking miserable about it. I guess if I had never gotten to what I now see as my goal size (8) I wouldn’t hate myself as much. But knowing how much better I could look just kills me everyday. My wardrobe from those 6-8 glory days hangs in my closet taunting me. The silk white Prada dress I wore on our honeymoon. My favorite pair of jeans.

The real story of my body, since I’m laying it all out here, is that I’m not a big eater. I don’t make great choices in what I eat but quantity-wise I’ve had many people tell me I eat nowhere near enough. The biggest thing is that I don’t eat breakfast. I’m not hungry, at all, until about 3-4pm. I’m writing this right now on my “cheat day” and it’s noon and I’ve only had coffee. The diet mandates breakfast, which I’ve been forcing myself to have everyday, so I’m actually using my cheat day to *not eat*. The other thing is I don’t gain weight (back surgery and two pregnancies being the only 3 exceptions to this) nor do I lose it (other than when I’m at rock bottom in my life). I’m down 7 pounds right now in 17 days of doing 4 Hour Body and it’s downright surprising. I’ve been super strict about it, no drinking, no dessert, no bread, pasta, rice, though I have been eating dairy which 4HB prohibits. I just can’t cut out everything so I’ll accept slower weight loss and eating cheese. I miss fruit. I really miss bourbon.

I love food. I love booze. My husband and I are both really into it. I’ve written about it before. Trips revolve around where to eat. We’re on a huge bourbon kick. I get an email about S’mores macarons and I make a mental note. My husband comes home and reports there’s going to be a Smorgasburg Jr. near our house serving tacos in parathas. YES. And Deb from Smitten Kitchen tempts me daily with brownie ice cream sandwiches, pictures of cherries and introducing me to something called the Perfect Manhattan which is like a million times better than the Classic Manhattan I’ve been obsessed with all year. I don’t want to be the person who orders everything on the side, can’t end the day with a bourbon, never eats dessert. I hear a lot about how dieting is stupid and it’s important to make a “life change.” I’m under no illusion that what I’m doing is making a life change. I want to get to my happy size 8 place and then coast. I’ll even go work out at that point, something my brother harasses me to do everyday. I’m not trying to be skinny, I honestly never wanted to be. At size 8 I feel amazing. Sure, I’ll take my wedding size 6, and my ass looking like that, but 8 is where I belong. Once I get there it will all be about maintaining. So here I am, about 20 pounds to go to get to where I want to be, doing this so I can get back to being me.

If you’re interested in the 4 Hour Body diet, this is a great guideline/summary. If any of my friends want to do it with me, I do find it’s easier when there are others suffering (not really) alongside me.

7 responses so far

Jun 27 2014

Letters to Sadie and Jack

Oh hey guys. Yes, this is your first joint letter. What, did you think you’d get individual ones forever? I already call you by each other’s names–an odd tic that must develop in pregnancy since I’ve never accidentally called anyone by someone else’s name like 50 times a day yet every mom of siblings I know (including mine and including your aba’s) does this all the time–so you’re very quickly becoming one unit. My children. Two of them. Sadie&Jack.

Sadie&Jack, we moved to Brooklyn almost three months ago now. I usually write these letters on birthdays but it’s been a time of great change so I thought I’d check-in. There were two weeks between moving out of our city apartment and into our Brooklyn one where we were in-flux because our new place wasn’t ready and we had tenants coming into the city apt. We stayed at your saba and safta’s for a few days. Then at your uncle Ronnie’s for a week. Then at a hotel. Then back to saba and safta’s. Sadie, your reaction was pretty much eh, my mama is being really lax about my ice cream eating, we keep going to the carousel at this empty Long Island mall and I’ve watched more TV in these two weeks than I have in my life, not so bad!

Back to the mall for quarter rides? Ok!

Jack, your reaction was I will CRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY and let everyone know this injustice will not stand. No, I will not make the best of it. No, I don’t want anymore ice cream. I will suck vigorously on my pacifier (which previously had not left my crib but out here on the road there are no rules) all day, everyday. You’re not a child who likes a lot of change. We visited our new place a few days before we finally moved in and you were so excited to see your bed:

I mean, you guys are 4 and 1. Who knows what kind of people you will be! But it will be interesting to look back at the way you were as little kids and see if it holds up. Is Sadie going to be easy-going, Jack a lot more set in his ways? Jack notices everything, Sadie is kind of lalalala.

We finally moved in and it’s been pretty awesome. Sadie, you are constantly marveling at how quiet it is in Park Slope compared to the Upper West Side. There was construction outside of our UWS building that began *before* your aba and I started dating. Dating, an engagement, marriage and two kids later it’s still ongoing. You appreciate the silence here. You both have your own rooms now instead of sharing what most people across America would refer to as a medium-sized closet. Jack, you love the chalkboard walls in your rooms. Your art skills at 1 are approximately your sister’s at 4. Maybe you’ll be good at art! Or maybe she just won’t be.

Sadie, today is your first day of full-day camp. It will be the longest you have been away from me and not with family. You will take a school bus to get there (not on the first day, I’m driving you, you’re very upset about this, mom is so lame!). I understand that 8:15-4:15 (so far only for July because I think by August I will want you back home with me and I’m selfish) isn’t going to college but wow, I’ve been dreading it because after full-time camp comes full-time school and I’m not ready! I am having mixed results trying to adjust to you growing up. On one hand, the older you get the more amazing our conversations become. We had two months of me driving you from Brooklyn to your UWS school everyday to finish out the year. You are a whirlwind of questions (“what’s that bridge?”, “what does ‘context’ mean?” “how come the people who celebrate Christmas don’t also celebrate Hannukah?” “Is G-d here right now? But where exactly?”) and ideas. You told me of your plan to marry a boy in your class. You’ll be a baker, he’ll be a stay-at-home-dad. You’ll live in Park Slope in an apartment with a balcony. You’ll have three kids. The drives were during the peak of Frozen-mania and we’d sing Let it go, Do you want to build a snowman, In summer and my personal favorite Reindeers are better than people the whole way until the last few weeks when you said “mama, can I just sing it by myself?” Mean! You are so freaking smart. Your teachers told us you’re gifted in math and you just want to know everything about everything.

But, I linger in stores by the baby girl clothes and remember you at 6 months, 12 months, 18 months. You were amazing then and you’re amazing now but you’re not a baby anymore and that’s hard to accept.

Jack, you are a nuzzling, loving, affectionate bundle of sweetness. Sometimes. Other times you are a destroyer of everything in your path. Sadie didn’t take on typical girl traits (such as liking pretty dresses, loving pink and purple, playing with dolls until she was over 2 years old). You were born a little boy. You’re seriously rough&tumble. If there is dirt, you are in it. If there’s a ball, you want to throw it. In a home filled with dolls and stuffed animals you located two footballs (one of them pink and the other one a promotional one with the NY Giants logo-YUCKY) at the bottom of one of your sister’s toy bins. You slept with those two footballs until your Dallas Cowboys-fan aba insisted his son get a non-pink football without yucky team logos. You frequently sleep with your full-size football cuddling it the way your sister hugs her stuffed bunny and bear. You love nothing more than puddles. “No, Jack, no!” remains a commonly heard phrase in our home.

On March 30th, I spent 22.5 hours with you. During the 1.5 hours when we were apart, you decided to walk. I’m not *bitter*, exactly, but what’s up with that? When kids start walking they do it kind of tentatively. There is nothing tentative about you. Under a week later, you were basically running.

You’re 16 months old and not talking that much yet. You’ve got a few words “hi”, “bye”, “hello” (you like greetings), etc. but you mostly like to point and grunt at stuff until we figure out what you want. I’ve been calling this upcoming time “the summer of Jack.” Like most second children, you’ve gotten the short end of the stick in terms of attention. We also say you’re not talking because your sister won’t let you get a word in. She speaks for you constantly “Jack doesn’t want that”, etc. With her at camp I plan to spend a lot of one-on-one time with you.

You’re both really into your family and we’re so lucky to have a close one. Eyes light up when baba, safta, aunt Shishi, uncles Ronnie and Ron arrive but Jack we need to talk about your obsession with your saba. I love your saba. He’s an incredible father, an incredible grandfather. But your fixation on your saba is truly baffling. You see him as often as the rest of the family. He is not the one feeding you or changing your diaper. But you love him like crazy to the exclusion of everyone else when he’s around which, let me tell you, doesn’t make you the most popular kid with the rest of the family. This is him trying to hang up with you on Facetime:

Get it together, kid!

The final thing I want to write about is how crazy you are about each other. Before you left for camp today, Sadie, you hugged Jack and told him “you’re going to miss me so much.” So far he’s taken the opportunity to watch Sesame Street (which you let him see in 3 minute doses normally before you flip back to Paw Patrol/Mickey Mouse/Sofia the First) and sit in your booster seat. But oh the love and affection between you two. If one of you is crying the other one is running over with arms open to hug them. I’m not foolish enough to believe you’ll never fight (just yesterday, in a fit of anger Sadie, you screamed “you hipster!” at Jack because it was the worst thing you could think of) but I hope you always stay as close as you are now. You’re both loved like crazy and you’re such happy children. My happy Sadie&Jack.

2 responses so far

Apr 29 2014

Conversations with Sadie

Published by Karol under Letters to Sadie

This was a few weeks ago and I immediately transcribed it in my iphone notes for posterity.

Me: And then next week it’s somebody’s birthday who is very, very important to you.
Sadie: Myself?
Me: Nice try, your birthday is in Feb. Someone very close to you….
Sadie:Gabriel?
Me: Closer! Maybe someone who gave birth to you, I don’t know….
Sadie: Birth?
Me: You know, gave you life…
Sadie: Baba?
Me: No! Your best friend in the whole world!
Sadie: Sonya?
Me: No! The person who takes you to the park and to frozen yogurt and reads you books and drives you to school…
Sadie: You? We’re not best friends! Come on!
Me: Ouch.

2 responses so far

Feb 24 2014

Leaving Manhattan

Published by Karol under Deep Thoughts

Happiest Junior 4 on the upper west side for rent.*

It was on a black leather couch in this formerly sprawling bachelor pad that I fell in love with my husband. I won’t retell the story but it involves years and years of close friendship, no-we-don’t-like-each-other-like-that’ness, late-night one-on-one poker games, discussions about relationships we were having with other people, and finally a deep, crazy love.

The formerly-1-bedroom apartment was gigantic for one person, cavernous. He had a huge desk in the office area where we now store 3 strollers, 2 car seats, a scooter, a bicycle, snow boots, shoes, jackets, as well as have a make-shift pantry area. In addition to the black leather L-shaped couch, and the largest tv anybody had ever seen, IC had a random couch in what became our dining room and then Sadie’s room and then Sadie and Jack’s room.

With each additional person the apartment grew tighter until we knew we were moving, just didn’t know when and where. Brooklyn was the obvious choice. It’s where I grew up and it’s near IC’s work. We looked seriously for almost 3 years. We concentrated on Carroll Gardens at first and then Columbia Street Waterfront. Nothing felt right and prices kept rising. We looked way outside our price range. I remember seeing a dark, small 2.7 million dollar brownstone and thinking “I can’t live here.” Or all the places we’d see that would require gut renovations and years of work. We thought we could commit to something like that but as our baby became a toddler and then a little girl and as one child became two we weren’t so sure.

The first place I really liked I saw without my husband on Sackett Street in Columbia St Waterfront. So much about it was wrong. The main living area was somewhat beneath ground and it basically had no closets. But it had 3 bedrooms, a huge backyard and a parking spot. We had looked for so long with absolutely no results that we weren’t messing around. We put an offer at full asking price before IC even saw the place. They accepted it but, as is somewhat typical in real estate in NY right now, dropped us when a better offer with cash and fewer contingencies presented itself.

A few weeks later our patient broker saw a place in Park Slope without us. He called us and said he had seen our future home. We didn’t believe it. It’s not that we didn’t like Park Slope, we did, just couldn’t imagine it having the home we’d want at a price we’d want to pay. We had resigned ourselves to up&coming, like Columbia St (I know as far as “up and coming” goes Columbia St isn’t exactly…rough. But we’re not pioneers and our top priority was a good school district which Columbia St has), but Park Slope had up and went decades ago. I think of it as the first hipster area of Brooklyn. Years before there was a Williamsburg there was Park Slope with its cool restaurants and Manhattan-like shops. It didn’t feel like the rest of Brooklyn. People from my part of Brooklyn (the south part) would go out in Park Slope as if it were the city. I remember when Blue Ribbon opened. It was groundbreaking. Places like that, Manhattan-type places, hadn’t existed in Brooklyn before. Also, three years of looking and making zero offers and then two offers in two months? Ok.

The first time we saw the Park Slope apartment we knew it was it. Bright and big, it had balconies everywhere we looked and a big roofdeck with views of just about everything, Manhattan on one side, Statue of Liberty on the other. We pictured parties, poker games, dinners outside. It was so quiet. We just saw our life there. When our offer wasn’t accepted we were pretty bummed. Everything seemed hopeless. We started to think of ways to make our current apartment work for the long-term. Then their original offer fell through and we got a second shot at it. And now it’s happening, it’s actually happening.

Saying goodbye to our current apartment has proven hard for me. My husband is so ready to go. But I think of life as time periods in places I’ve lived and measure out how happy I’ve been through them. And I’ve never been happier than in this apartment. No matter how tight it was, the toys all over the place, the closets overflowing, we were happy here. We were more than happy here. Life came together here. Every Sunday during football season almost everyone in our family piles onto our huge couch. We watch the games and eat all day. I learned to cook here, we bought our first furniture together here, our children came home from the hospital here. We’d dance around the living room and kitchen, first just together, then with one more, now with two. This is a home filled with joy.

We’ve spent our last few weeks here going to neighborhood places we love. The Smith is our absolute favorite brunch spot, Red Farm for dinner again and again, shopping at Trader Joe’s, Citarella and, when I absolutely have to, Fairway. I’ll leave our new tenants a list but there’s an incredible sushi place called Yasaka on 72nd street. I’d say it’s our little secret but as it’s basically impossible to get into even during the week the secret is probably out. We order Chinese food from a hole-in-wall called Wok City. They nail that broccoli every time. When we’re feeling fancy we order from Shun Lee. I’ve been od’ing on visiting Century, the last days of Loehmann’s, Gap and Zara for kids.

If you’re moving here with kids I can’t say enough good things about the JCC. Sadie started going there when she was 18-months old and then started at the nursery school and camp there. It is a happy, welcoming, nurturing place. I’m most sad about leaving it.

I know it’s fashionable to hate Manhattan right now. Playground of the rich, boring, staid, over. Come on. It’s Manhattan. It’s the greatest city in the world, there is no other. I love Brooklyn, I’m from Brooklyn, I put my hands up in the sky when Brooklyn gets a shout-out but no matter the branding, theme songs, the artisanal pickle shops, Brooklyn is what it is because of its proximity to Manhattan. Manhattan is so crushingly expensive because everyone in the world (whatever, Shane Schleger) wants to be here. I’ll always love it and think often of the 13 years I spent living in this treasure of a city. Not everyone gets the chance to be here, to really live in Manhattan, and there’s just no way I won’t miss it.

I’m ready for this next chapter for us. I think of our new apartment all the time and I can’t wait to live there. I know we’ll fill it with the same happiness we had here. Life moves on, kids grow up, more space is needed. But Manhattan isn’t an old boyfriend you leave behind, I won’t just love Brooklyn to the exclusion of loving Manhattan. I take this city with me like a sibling or parent. It will never not mean something to me.

*The apartment has been rented but if you’re looking for a different happy Junior 4 on the upper west side, email our broker ronaldsheinin@gmail.com. He rented out our place super fast and has other listings like it.

4 responses so far

Feb 12 2014

Jack at 1

Published by Karol under Letters to Jack

I had heard, of course, that no two children are alike. Snowflakes, you people. And I had spent my life hearing that my brother and I were extremely different, particularly as babies. Yet I still sort of expected you to be Sadie, part deux. You weren’t. In a big way.

Your saba coined the nickname “tarzan” for you and let me tell you, it stuck. I don’t know if it’s because you’re a boy but wow, are you a (very happy) handful. You are freakishly strong. On the flight to Aruba in December, at 10 months old (your first flight was international-mine and your aba’s too!), you dismantled the television screen on the seat in front of you. Our running joke is that we are constantly saying “NO! JACKIE! NO!” And you look over at us so innocently and shake your head like “No? No, no, of course not, no, who would lick the outlet/chew on a shoe/lean way over the back of the couch/escape from a strapped in high-chair/put his hands in the toilet/try to ride Sadie’s scooter before being able to walk?” On the days I have to take you with me to pick up Sadie from school I am a sweaty, disheveled mess with a squirming 23 pounder in my arms. The other babies look like they’re so contented being carried. You? You want to run, climb, squirm, move. There’s so much to see, so many places to go, what’s that over there! If only you could walk and weren’t held back by your mama.

Despite your high energy, and oh it is high, you are super cuddly. You spent the first few months of your life just snuggled up to me.

You are incredibly loving, incredibly sweet. Sadie was sweet too but she pretty much skipped the baby phase and didn’t become affectionate till she was well over 2 years old. You were a baby all over. (I hate to keep drawing comparisons with your sister but she’s all the baby information I had before you.)

Most importantly, you are crazy about me. “His aba was a mama’s boy, his saba was a mama’s boy, no way he won’t be a mama’s boy” your aba said before you were born. We have so much family around that I was never sure if Sadie knew that I was A-#1-caregiver. With you there is no doubt. You speed-crawl to your aba too, don’t get me wrong, and you get super-excited to see your baba, your safta, your saba, your aunt and your uncles but the way you look at me is incomparable.

Some other things about you:

You have called me “mama” exactly twice, both times under extreme duress. It drives me more than a little crazy to know that you can say it, you know it refers to me, but you only say it when you absolutely have to. You might be stubborn.

Last week, out of nowhere, you decided that you did like to be read to after all (previously, not). Your favorite book is called Nosh Schlep Schluff . You’re clearly channeling your Yiddish-speaking ancestors. You keep bringing it over again and again to be read to you. It’s kind of awesome.

This is pretty much your life, always at risk of being squashed with love by your sister (and I apologize in advance for the matching pajamas, I really can’t help myself):

You love her like crazy (and also, wisely, fear her). We hear her wake you up every morning with a “HELLO JACK!” before she climbs into your crib with all of her stuffed animals. You’re best friends. I hope it’s always like that.

I don’t want to lie to you (and the internet evidence wouldn’t let me anyway). It has been a tough year. Two kids and a growing business has completely exhausted me. I feel so guilty that you don’t get what your sister got in her first year–Gymboree everyday and a mom who was there 100% of the time. You’re such a happy, content child anyway. You’re always having a good time. You’re just happy to be here. And we’re so glad to have you. We can’t wait to see what kind of boy you grow up to be.

One response so far

Feb 05 2014

Letters to Sadie

Published by Karol under Letters to Sadie

Today you are 4! A few days ago you had a party for 40, or so, of your closest friends. There was a show, there was pizza and then there was the cake. You are super into a Russian cartoon called Masha i Medved (Masha and the Bear) right now (we randomly came across this episode on YouTube and I’ve never seen you laugh so hard in your life) and the cake had this picture of the bear holding that silly Masha up on his paw.

Your aba and I got behind you while everyone sang happy birthday. When the song was over you, happy and in-the-moment, took three blows to extinguish the candles. Then you immediately turned and whispered in my ear “I’m still 3, right?”

That’s you all over. You’re happy, you’re joyful, you’re mellow. You’re this amazing little girl who takes such pleasure in everything and everyone. But there’s rules to this ish and just because you’re blowing out 4 candles on a birthday cake doesn’t mean you’re 4 yet and you need this confirmed.

I mention this side of you–your aba and I call it law&order but it’s actually a lot more than that–because it played a large role in our ridiculously poor handling of you in the first few weeks of your brother’s life. You were always such a little sport about everything. I think of landing in Rome when you were 18 months old and saying to you “Sadie, we really need you to sleep on this car ride” and you waking up when we reached our destination. Or, waiting outside your classroom on your first days of school last year in case you needed me but knowing there is no way you would. Or, even when you were a baby we didn’t have to babyproof anything because if we said “no” once then that was that (more on how that is not the case with Jack a week from now when it’s his birthday). And how even now, I can tell your babushka 500 times not to give you M&Ms in the morning but I only have to tell you once for you to refuse candy on your own.

So, in keeping with all of that, a few days before Jack was born we moved you out of your crib and into your big girl bed. And we we figured it was time to drop your pacifier so we took that away and you didn’t put up any fight. And with that one-two-three punch of new bed, no pacifier, new screaming infant you dropped your nap and cut way back on your nighttime sleep.

What. A. Disaster.

You loved him right away but oh did you despise us. I had never seen you angry before, not really, but you were so exhausted and this led to crying, screaming, defiance. You had never been defiant before! Now every word was “NO.” Nothing was making you happy. I cried so much in those first few weeks. I really thought my happy girl was gone. You got two ear infections back-to-back. You wanted to be held and also wanted us nowhere near you. It was a really hard time.

I maintain, to this day, that you weren’t jealous of Jack, just overwhelmed by change and idiot parents who ruined your sleeping. But I started taking you on outings just the two of us. We’d go to Alice’s Teacup and then walk by the Dakota to see where John Lennon lived. You were better when we were alone but still not completely better. The first time I really saw you back to yourself was Shavuot–in May. I dressed you and Jack up in all white and we went to a Shir Fun party. Shir Fun is a Hebrew music class run by this amazing woman named Dafna. You went to Shir Fun from the time you were about 6 months old until you started school. You loved it so much. You were excited to go to the party:

Maybe it was seeing your beloved Dafna, or doing something familiar that you did in the time before Jack, but after the party was when you snapped back to the way you were. We were standing outside the shul and you were eating something and pointing up at birds and just laughing the way you used to:

Thinking about all of this now it seems like ancient history. It was almost a year ago and you have become an even better, stronger, smarter and happier little girl since then. But if these letters are to tell you about your life right now I didn’t feel like I could leave that part out.

Like the last time I wrote you, you’re in for another time of change. We’re moving to Brooklyn, hopefully in the next month. We had been looking to move for a long time and we’re excited to finally have found a place we love. You are excited about it too. You know you’re leaving the big white building and you know you’re leaving your school. I think that last part is harder on me than on you. I love your school so much.

And the thing that’s really hard for me to imagine, since we’re talking about me, is that this is our last year of being together all the time. Next year you’ll be in pre-k fulltime. This year is the end of Sesame Street mornings (or you swap it for Sophia the First, Mickey Mouse or lately Masha all the time) where you put my arm around you and snuggle into me, the end of whole days playing hide-and-seek with your baba, or sitting around with your safta reading Hebrew books. It’s hard to imagine you’ll be somewhere else more than you’ll be with me but I feel so lucky and privileged that we had these 4 years together.

Some things about you:

Your favorite band is the White Stripes. Which I love, obviously, even though I wouldn’t call myself a huge White Stripes fan. You also love the radio hits Blurred Lines (“try to domestakitchen”) and Get Lucky (“I’m up all Mexican lucky.”)

You are starting to read, to sound out words, and you are crazy good in math. Just more evidence that you’re a lot like your father. You can do basic addition and subtraction already and you can count to 100 in English and to 10 in Hebrew, Russian and, yep, Spanish:

Spanish counting

You learned about death this year. Lou Reed died and for some reason that turned into a teachable moment in a lot of ways. We talked about how dead means gone and never coming back. You said “is his daughter sad?” and then I totally blew your mind that he didn’t have any kids. You know families with one parent, or two same-sex parents, and you’re unfazed. But families with no kids is something you kept coming back to again and again to have me explain it to you.

You love your brother so much even though he’s a little troublemaker. You yell “Jackie! You little troublemaker!” at him a lot. He adores you to no end.

And you’re crazy about your family. You love your baba and your safta coming during the week. Your favorite day of the week is Sunday when almost everyone you’re related to piles onto our couch to watch football. The last two summers we’ve rented a house in the Hamptons for a week and everyone came to stay with us. You talk about that week all year long. You mentioned it to me yesterday. You like having a pool and you like bbq’ing (and making s’mores) but you really love that everyone is together then.

I could talk and write about you forever so I should wrap it up here. Happy birthday, our incredible, happy little girl. You can come sit under my arm and watch Sesame Street whenever you want.

4 responses so far

Oct 12 2013

Deal of the Day

Published by Karol under Deal of the Day

Sign up for Amazon Mom to get deals on diapers and wipes and free shipping on all of it.

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Aug 26 2013

No you never took me to a reggae club

Published by Karol under Misc.

Today is my husband’s birthday and as his present I wrote the lyrics and hired Andrew Reid on Fiverr to sing him a reggae song.

You can listen to it here: Reggae Club

(Background: My husband and I are both reggae fans and when we first started dating we frequently talked about going to a reggae club. For one reason or another it never happened and now, two kids later, it probably never will.)

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Aug 12 2013

Letters to Jack

Published by Karol under Letters to Jack

Happy 6-month birthday, Jack!

I thought your sister was the happiest 6-month old I’d ever seen. But you give her a run for the title. It turns out your aba and I produce super smiley children. Who knew!

Yesterday:

You smile at your family. You smile at strangers. But no one cracks you up like your sister. You see her and just start laughing. You can’t eat when she’s around. She’s too hilarious and also there’s the chance she’ll jump on you and start kissing you in a way that makes you fear for your life (“Jack is making such a serious face!” she says when you have the look of mortal danger). She used to say “why does Jackie think I’m so funny?” but now she just enjoys being the one who makes you laugh like no other.

We call you Jackie. We call you Giacomo. Your baba calls you Yasha. Your safta calls you “SO good-looking” and your saba says you look just like him (you really do).

Your interaction with Sadie melts me and I hope you’re always as loving to each other as you are today. In my last letter to your sister, shortly before you were born, I wrote that I love the us that we’re about to be. It’s already hard to remember the us we were without you. I can’t wait to see the boy you become.

One response so far

Aug 05 2013

Yes, I want my daughter to be nice.

Published by Karol under Deep Thoughts

When I was a teenager I loved a poem called Daughter by Nicole Blackman. I didn’t imagine I’d have children but if I did have a daughter I would surely teach her to “say Fuck like other people say The and when people are shocked to ask them why they so fear a small quartet of letters” and “that her body is her greatest work of art.”

I loved the free spirit, take-no-shit tough woman Blackman wanted her future daughter to be.

But having an actual, live, non-theoretical daughter, and also not being 17 anymore, made me hope she isn’t much like that poem. I’d rather she didn’t say fuck too often and the time she Sharpie’d her legs I didn’t applaud her treating her body as a work of art. And no, I don’t want her to be the kind of woman who gets up and goes straight for the door after having sex nor do I want her to “talk hard” like the woman in the poem wishes for her daughter. That woman doesn’t seem happy to me. That woman seems damaged.

I want my daughter to be nice, kind, outgoing and yes I’d like for her to smile at people.

There’s a piece by Catherine Newman on the New York Times’ Motherlode blog last week, that is making the rounds among moms who have daughters, which reminds me of Blackman’s poem. Newman wants her daughter to be hard, harder than her, and she loves that her daughter scowls at strangers.

“I bite my tongue so that I won’t hiss at her to be nice,” she writes. “I tell you this confessionally. Because do I think it is a good idea for girls to engage with zealously leering men, like the creepy guy in the hardware store who is telling her how pretty she is? I do not. “Say thank you to the nice man who wolf-whistled!” “Smile at the frat boy who’s date-raping you!” I want my daughter to be tough, to say no, to waste exactly zero of her God-given energy on the sexual, emotional and psychological demands of lame men — of lame anybodies. I don’t want her to accommodate and please. I don’t want her to wear her good nature like a gemstone, her body like an ornament.”

As if the only options in the world are ignoring well-meaning strangers or being nice to your rapist! What kind of lesson is that for a girl? You’re in danger all the time, honey, so if you smile at little old ladies in the elevator that’s practically the same as encouraging sex without your consent.

Newman continues:

“And, currently, she is not in danger. She is decisive and no-nonsense, preferring short hair and soft pants with elastic waistbands. Dresses get in her way, and don’t even get her started on jeans, the snugly revealing allure of which completely mystifies her.”

Wait, what? The way for girls to avoid danger is to have short hair and wear pants with waistbands? And this from a self-proclaimed “radical, card-carrying feminist?” I want my daughter to wear whatever she pleases–dresses, pants, shorts, whatever. I don’t want her to associate certain clothing with certain behavior. Her mama spent her teenage years wearing fishnet stockings, platform boots, short dresses, blonde wigs, long eyelashes at clubs in NYC (and then on the subway back to Brooklyn). And woe to the man who thought that meant he could touch me inappropriately. I am friendly, I am nice, I have been been accused (by my anti-social husband) of wanting to befriend the world. But I am no-nonsense when I need to be. I can stand up for myself despite my ability to make chit-chat with my pizza guy. I understand there is a wide gulf between pleasantries with my neighbor and putting up with sexual harassment.

Blackman’s poem ends “never forget what they did to you, but never let them know you remember.” But her daughter, yet unborn, hasn’t had anyone do anything to her yet that she would need to remember. Similarly, Newman projects her experiences onto her daughter. It’s not healthy for a girl to have to live with her mother’s fears and phobias. It’s one thing to give a girl guidelines for living, another to make her fight the battles you couldn’t win in your own life.

Newman also has a son, one she doesn’t worry about being too nice because he “still has the power and privilege of masculinity on his side, so, as far as I’m concerned, the nicer the better.” Treating her children differently, and teaching them such different life lessons because of their genders doesn’t sound like the equality-driven woman Newman purports to be. Strength, weakness, niceness, surliness, these aren’t traits doled out according to one’s gender. I will teach my son and my daughter both to be nice, but strong, and more importantly to read each situation for what it is. I will teach them that life isn’t a series of scary encounters against which you steel yourself. People don’t all want to harm you, even if you’re a woman and they’re a man. Closing yourself to the world won’t always protect you from pain the same way short hair, elastic waistbands or being a boy won’t. And mama will always love you just the way you are.

3 responses so far

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