I am not looking to be controversial by posting this blog. I have some thoughts and I want to share them.
Halloween is an interesting holiday. Once my parents became "religious" Halloween became a holiday we did not celebrate. I did not wear a costume and I did not go trick-or-treating. My parents did not decorate the house and Halloween usually meant staying at home, in the dark, watching movies and begrudgingly giving out candy if anyone was bold enough to ring our doorbell.
In other words, Halloween sucked.
Every year I had the "GREAT DEBATE" about Halloween in my head.
Halloween is about candy!
Halloween is a Pagan holiday!
Halloween is about wearing a costume!
Purim is a good holiday for wearing a costume. (And let's be serious, usually it's just the kids that dress up and the costumes are usually pretty lame.)
Halloween is celebrated by all my friends - it's just a great excuse to P A R T Y!!!
They are celebrating the dead... ewww.
As a woman in my 20's I treated Halloween as any other day of the week and a couple of times I went to clubs/parties and joined the fun. I dressed up because it was the theme of the party, not because it was Halloween.
When Sadie was born I bought her a bunch of costumes on ebay. Partially it was fun to troll the internet all night long as I nursed Sadie and partially I wanted to put her in as many cute costumes as possible and take photos of her before she got too big to be a green bean/ladybug/teddy bear/cow. I remember when Halloween rolled around everyone told me how they couldn't wait to see Sadie's costume - how she would be so cute in whatever costume I picked out for her. I didn't know how to tell people that *gasp* Sadie was not going to wear a costume. I don't celebrate Halloween. Now, Sadie was too young to argue with me and Halloween came and went without a peep of argument from her.
This year I had the great debate and realized I didn't want Sadie celebrating Halloween. I know it makes me a horrible parent. The worst really. I mean, how can I not let my child dress up and collect candy and have fun with all her friends? At this point in time I don't want her doing it. I want her to celebrate "our" holidays: Rosh Hashana, Purim, etc.
This isn't set in stone and I am not going to forbid Sadie from participating in the fun when she's old enough to have a discussion with me about it. I strongly feel she needs to know she is a Jew and what her holidays are about before she participates in celebrating a holiday we don't believe in. Honestly, I don't know what is the right answer. A majority of people dressing up are not worshiping idols or participating in a pagan celebration. They are dressed up to have fun. That's the whole point. I get that. Still, I'm not sure if it's really appropriate to participate. Thoughts?
[This blog is about the power outage Southern California and Arizona experienced the summer of 2011.]
As I sat at my computer with Sadie sleeping on top of me I had a moment of panic when the screen turned dark, the computer sat silently and the fan behind me stopped working. I immediately thought someone had cut my power. I stood up, hands balled into fists, Sadie a burden as my senses went into overdrive.
Someone was breaking into my house, what could I use to kill them? I looked around and didn't see a single weapon. My alarm system started to beep annoyingly. Okay, they killed my alarm system. I held on tightly to my phone prepared to call 911 and to fight for our lives. I put Sadie down and thankfully she continued to sleep. I stood quietly and listened for attackers. Why would they do this in the middle of the day? People are all around us. It doesn't make sense. Man I wish I had a knife or a police baton or something on me right now. Maybe there isn't anyone trying to break in. Maybe the power is out. I didn't hear anyone as I texted my neighbor asking her if her power was out. I was relieved to read her power was out too. Okay, I guess no one was trying to get into my house. Okay, good.
The next several hours were spent in limbo waiting for my computer to turn on, for my phone to work, for the electricity to come back. As the sun started to disappear I prepared myself for the idea that there would be no electricity that night. By nightfall I had candles lit throughout the house. My neighbors and their kids and their new puppy were all on our property hanging out. The kids were running around, the men were drinking beers and the wives were laughing watching their families connect. By some miracle I had prepared a pot of soup in the crock pot and was pleased to have dinner to serve. I was hesitant to open the refrigerator to prevent any food from spoiling - the pot of soup and freshly grilled chicken were a perfect accompaniment to the candles glowing throughout the house. My parents drove over and hung out for a while. We all speculated on what happened and when the electricity would return.
The peace within our home was beautiful. It was as if we were all awake in the middle of Shabbat when the lights turn off and we only have the light from the Shabbat candles illuminating our home. Everyone was forced to stop and relate to the people around them. After my parents left, the three of us walked up to my neighbor's house and we sat around the bonfire sharing stories and talking. We weren't sure when the electricity was going to return and none of us were in a rush to see the lights turn on. We all wanted the hush that settled on our hill to continue. We loved looking around our neighborhood and seeing only what the light of the moon touched.
As nightfall transitioned to the late hours of the night we saw a hill across the freeway light up. With sad hearts we braced ourselves for the light to move from home to home bringing us all back into civilization. With a sigh Logan acknowledged he would have to go to work the next day and we all said our goodbyes - none of us wanting our break from reality to end.
Sadie is almost 20 months old (I think). She can say: Mom, Daddy, Dolly, Doggy, Da (it means "yes" in Russian), No, Yeah, hi, bye, owie and eow (for cat, the 'm' is silent). Despite the limited vocabulary she is excellent at communicating her needs. She wields her pointing finger recklessly and demands with guttural sounds our obedience.
"Unnnh." She points at the refrigerator. I ask her, "do you want water?" She nods and tells me, "dah."
"Mnnnhhhhdhdnnnnnn." She points at my lap, I pick her up and she nuzzles happily into my neck.
Sometimes my guesses are off and I am punished with Sadie grabbing the incorrect object, throwing it in frustration and then yelling at my stupidity. Of course I am forced to discipline her and then I am treated to the silent temper tantrum. In Judaism there is a prayer known as the Silent Amidah. Well, Sadie has the Silent Temper Tantrum. It's her signature move where she throws herself on the floor and kicks her feet and sometimes repeatedly hits her head against the ground and doesn't make a sound. It's funny, in public people get a kick out of it and outright laugh as she expresses her anger. I love this way of having a tantrum. Before I used to suffer for an hour as Sadie would scream and vent, cursing the world and her role in it. Nothing I would do would calm the daily fits until I started to pick her up, put her in her room and close the door behind her. After several times of letting her freak out in her own room the fits subsided. She stopped having daily hour long freak outs that made me hate my life. Recently my mother in law watched me put Sadie in the corner and congratulated me on my calm approach. She then shared how she found this to be a much better method than locking Sadie in her room.
Honestly I was surprised to hear her opinion. I didn't even remember telling her about locking Sadie in her room and I sure as hell didn't appreciate being told which way of disciplining was better. My method worked. After being locked in her room several times for being inappropriate Sadie changed her behavior. I didn't have any other solution. I don't believe in hitting kids (although I've spanked her on her diaper a couple of times) and I don't see the point in yelling like a banshee at her either. Being put in the corner only riled her up more and she would flip out for an hour or more without us being able to do anything. Forgive the rant here, I hated the feeling of being judged in my own home with my child. I know that temper, that is my temper, and I have an idea of how to reign it in. Either way, Sadie is much better behaved now. She has stopped hitting and biting and is much better about trying to be heard instead of freaking out.
I think the minute Sadie really starts to talk life will get easier. She will have a much better time communicating her needs and I will be able to respond better. We will be able to have dialogue. I want to know what she's thinking, I want to understand her reasoning and be able to explain to her why I will sometimes say "no."
Today Sadie woke up and there was something different. She wanted to talk, she spewed gibberish but they came out like sentences. The sounds were all right if the words themselves had no meaning. She even told us a story about the napkin she made Logan wear on his lap and laughed every time she repeated it using words of gibberish. Logan and I were laughing right along her enjoying Sadie's realization that she can communicate with words. I have a feeling we are entering the stage of speech and I can't wait.
Some hours after I gave birth to Sadie I remember the operating doctor telling me that I would be able to have more children by VBAC due to the low incision method he used to get Sadie out of my uterus. I remember scoffing at him, almost mockingly, that he would ever think I wanted to go through bringing another person into the world. At that moment I was convinced that he was crazy to even broach the topic with me.
Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.
Momma taught me better than that.
I now understood what pregnancy and childbirth were about and I wasn't going anywhere near that insanity again.
The first few weeks of Sadie's life I looked at her wonderingly asking myself constantly about the whereabouts of her parents. "Those fools left her and forgot about her." I had convinced myself that Sadie was going to be picked up and I was finally going to get some sleep.
Ah, mythical sleep. Well, suffice to say, I'm still waiting for her parents and for sleep.
Around 6 months postpartum life became more tolerable. I felt less inclined to run for the hills and more confident as a mother. I started to toy with the idea of another child.
It's not fair for her to grow up as an only child.
Maybe I'm ready for a second one.
Logan, are you ready for a second one?
As I spoke out loud the thoughts running in my head, feeling out the idea of being pregnant again, I secretly had zero desire to have another baby. Logan on the other hand was enthusiastic about trying for a second one. He repeatedly told me that it was my decision when I was ready to have a baby but he was on board with the idea. Strongly on board. Wanted another baby. Any day. Whenever I was ready he was ready.
When Sadie was around nine months old I got fed up with the extra weight I was carrying and put myself on a diet and started to exercise. Upon losing 20 pounds in the following few months I decided I was too sexy to get pregnant again. My twenty seven year old body would never be the same and I needed to wait until I was fifty to have the next child - at fifty I couldn't be a hot 20 year old so I wouldn't care about the weight gain and stretch marks then. There is something so unfair about having children in our best looking years. When I was 19 I had a male friend in his early 30's tell me my looks were only going downhill from there. I remember feeling outraged and disappointed at the notion. I wasn't even fully developed as a woman (mentally, emotionally) and I was already losing my most important asset (this is what I thought at the time).
At twenty seven my boobs don't have the same perkiness and my lower abdomen is covered in stretch marks. I may have some wrinkles I didn't have a few years ago. The crazy part is I feel far more beautiful today than I ever did at nineteen. I have come to realize that marriage and motherhood has given me the ability to appreciate my package. By being at peace with myself I can fully appreciate who I am and what I look like. Ultimately, I have come to terms with feeling beautiful/sexy and bringing more children into the world during my hottie years.
At fourteen months postpartum the desire to have another baby blossomed within me. Many of my friends were either having babies or nearing the end of their pregnancies. Sadie was transitioning from a baby to a toddler. My baby wasn't a baby any more. Some days the need to get pregnant was overwhelming and other days I was relieved to not be burdened. At seventeen months postpartum I weaned Sadie. I had several drunken nights celebrating the freedom of my body. I even popped some pain killers for the first time since my C-section for a headache. My body belonged to me again and it was the most exciting feeling. I could drink, eat, do whatever I wanted without worrying about my decisions' affect on Sadie's health.
In Israel I realized I was finally ready to have another baby. Any future pregnancy would be welcomed and resentment-free. I wanted to bring another soul into the world. I wanted Sadie, the kisser of all babies, to have her own sibling to kiss and cuddle.
The transition from not wanting anything to do with pregnancy/labor to now having an indescribable need to have another child is amazing. I like to joke that having more than one kid means you are nuts. There is no way you could want a second one after knowing what the first one is like, and yet, here I am willingly signing away the next several years of my life to bringing another child into our family. God willing I only have good news to share in the following year.
Israel. How do I describe Israel? It’s a place that gets into your very bones. Israel is food. Israel is passion. Israel is God. Israel is intense. The first time I went to Israel I was a college student in a relationship. I went with a Russian Jewish Birthright group based in NY. My boyfriend, my friend and I were the only CA Jews in the group. At the time I was an observant Jew who did not drink, smoke or party. Unfortunately I had chosen the wrong Birthright group to experience Israel. They spent their evenings drinking, playing cards and smoking. I was looking for a holy, religious experience and I didn’t get it. I came back with a skewed perspective of Israel marred by drama with my former friend and a realization that my boyfriend and I were completely wrong for each other.
This time I wanted Israel to be a truly spiritual experience. Prior to our trip I visited the mikvah. After my three dunks I asked the rebbetzin to allow me some time to sit in the mikvah and pray. I asked God to grant us a safe trip revolving around Judaism. I didn’t want to see Israel from a secular perspective as I had last time, I wanted to feel like a Jew and be part of the Jewish heartbeat.
I am a Jew and proud of it. I keep kosher at home (eat vegetarian and kosher fish outside of the house), have a shomer shabbat house, drive on shabbat to shul or to see our family, and I keep the laws of family purity. However, it’s very difficult to feel connected as a Jew in San Diego.
When I came back to the states with Sadie in my arms and Logan walking beside me and I exited the plane and made eye contact with an airport employee who smiled in return to my smile I realized I wasn’t in Israel anymore. My eyes filled with tears and I cried knowing that I was far away from Jerusalem.
Israel is amazing. Jerusalem is mind blowing. There is an energetic flow in Jerusalem, a heartbeat of the Jewish people that fills you when you enter the city. Maybe it’s the energy of all people who come here to pray to God. I don’t know. But God pulsates in Israel. You don’t need to be at the Kotel (the western wall) to feel it. The air pulsates with God's energy.
On the second day of Rosh Hashana we walked the streets of the old city and heard the sound of shofars coming from every direction. It’s heart stopping. Near the kotel there was an Aish filled with men praying their hearts out, singing out to God. You could almost see the prayers flowing from the building and dancing around the old city.
By the time we made it to the Kotel on Rosh Hashana the vast majority of supplicants were tourists. There were obviously many non-Jewish people filling the square and taking in the experience. As Logan prayed on the men's side and Sadie ran around after the pigeons in the square I once again felt disconnected to the space. When I went to the Kotel with my Birthright group I did not have a spiritual experience. I remember feeling very sad that this central place to my religion had no meaning for me. And then, out of nowhere, a shofar's cry rang in the air. Its note piercing, cutting through the noise of foreign languages and people moving around me. I searched through the square and saw a man with a curly red beard and red hair blowing a beautiful shofar. It was long and curved, its voice reminding me why I was here. Around me people stopped and listened to the shofar cry out. It reminded me that Judaism isn't about a wall, it's about the people that find solace at the wall. The Kotel is a special place because it reminds us of what we once had and millions of people have come there to connect with God. The Kotel is a monument, but Judaism is about the people. Israel is special because of the people that love it so much. Their prayer elevates the land.
When we came back to our home I rejected everything I saw. I didn’t want to live this San Diego life anymore. I wanted my life in Jerusalem back. I wanted to be part of the Jewish culture in a real way. I wanted to live in a place where on Yom Kippur everything shuts down and the whole country prays for redemption. I wanted to find kosher restaurants anywhere I went. I wanted to see people praying while crossing the street. I wanted to be supported by my environment, I didn’t want to have to bring Judaism to my world – I wanted my world to be filled with it already.
Life stayed a haze for me for nearly a week. Now I am more adapted to being far away from the holy land and I continually hear what a friend said to me upon my arrival to San Diego.
“Welcome to Exile.”
Never before had I understood with such clarity and longing what that meant.
Meet the Blogger!
I'm a mom. A writer. A lover of good fantasy. A proponent of nursing when possible. A birth advocate. I am absolutely horrible at keeping my house clean or the dishes washed or the laundry done. I strongly believe in women having a positive birth. When we start to respect women's rights to birth the way they want, we can start to treat women as equal people in this world.
Sites I Value