Zooey update: two months

Eight weeks, eight questions for you, Zooey.

  1. How did you manage to form a perfect side-eye in just a  few weeks? 
  2. How do you feel about the fact that I keep dressing you in blue because Koala’s leftovers are the best kept clothes so far, and everyone tells me my son is adorable and I’m too lazy to correct them? 
  3. How do you manage to throw up exactly five minutes after I’ve bathed you, oiled you, dressed you, kissed you, and said to myself, ‘wow, at least she hasn’t thrown up!’? 
  4. What’s it like having three older siblings to help you, cuddle you, and annoy you? 
  5. What are you thinking about? 
  6. What’s it like to have already traveled across the world, at only six weeks? 
  7. What’s it like being on the outside? Is this what you expected? Hoped? 
  8. What exactly is so funny?! 

Oh, just another childbirth.

Here’s what I felt more than anything after the birth of my fourth nearly two months ago: so, so grateful.

I’ve felt very lucky to have had mostly positive experiences in pregnancy and childbirth, even if at times there has also been frustration, stress, and fear. My heart goes out to women and their partners who have experienced true trauma, pain, fear and loss – I don’t take for granted that the road for me has been smooth.

That said, here’s a little word on my most recent childbirth.

After Nettles was born, I realized something. All three of my previous births had turned out to be a good indicator of the child’s personality, which we only came to know deeply later on. I don’t know if that is some kind of hindsight bias, but reading the old birth stories and knowing my kids now makes it clear there is some kind of correlation.

If that proves true for number 4, then perhaps we can say that she is a ‘tachlis’, no-bullshit, in control and chill kind of person. That’s how it was.

We learned from Nettles that chances are it would be pretty quick this time too. So we went in prepared. Once again, I could not have a home birth unfortunately. This birth was like Nettles’ but with much less intensity.

I woke up at 3:30 am with a contraction and a cool head and, waited for two more – about twenty minutes later. Then I woke up huz. Next, called our midwife/doula, who promptly came over. She checked me out – 8.5 already.

“You must have been walking around in labor the last few days!”, which, if you know my work life, is probably just generally true for the last two years.

We had to make a call. Last time, I was 9.5 when I got to the hospital. Would I make it that far this time?

So the options were – drive and make it, drive and birth in the car, or stay home to birth and go by ambulance after. We chose the first.

We made it… calmly out of the car, calmly to the ward, calmly responded to 35734896 interview questions. I will point out, once again, the antibiotics situation was bullshit and I would have been better off at home with the proper antibiotics through an IV as needed, but I’m at peace with it.

Within three hours, in time for sunrise, my biggest by by a pound – 3.5 kilo – baby girl was out and into my arms (one after the other – first time I grabbed the newborn myself!). I had an absolutely lovely and encouraging midwife at Hadassah Ein Kerem. Don’t underestimate the value of excellent bedside manner.

One thing is for sure: when it’s the fourth, a major thought going on during pushing is ‘shit, I am TIRED.’ Like, existentially tired.

Like – I had to buy a seven-seater car tired.

Like – I have so many children now I have to keep track, tired.

Like – yeah I’m so tired but I’m actually also in control and calm and can think this through clearly, tired.

But it ends.

And when it was over, I looked at her and thought, so – is our experience symbolic of your personality?

We’ll find out.

Welcome to the weird, Zooey.

Hi Zooey.

Just taking this quick opportunity to explain to you why Zooey?

Nothing significant,  nothing overwhelmingly meaningful (or underwhelmingly meaningful).

When your mama comes up with a blog nickname, it’s not going to necessary mean anything at all.

In your case, it was as simple as this: I was watching this old SNL skit while waiting to get out of the hospital.

quirky with zooey

And it reminded me of when I first saw her name, I thought it was pronounced Zoo-ee. Like, if ‘zoo’ had to have a use as an adjective.

And I was a native English-speaking adult with a degree in English at the time.

And the video reminded me of this and I giggled. And looked at you and said, Zooey!

The lesson here, Zooey?

Welcome… this family don’t take itself too seriously.

The Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree“She’s like the Giving Tree!”

That’s what Koala said when I learned that my grandmother was at the end of her life, after I explained that his great grandmother was so tired.

“She is like the Giving Tree! She lived a long time and she’s like at the end when the tree is old and wrinkly and a stump.”

She is like the Giving Tree.

She’d give us a dollar to buy ice cream at her Brooklyn pool club. She’d relish in watching us enjoy it, smiling with her friends around her.

She is like the Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree | Apples

She wanted us all to be happy. “Better you spend it than I save it,” she’d tell us. Our happiness was her happiness.

She is like the Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree | Branches

Grandma, I’d think, is the quiet one.

“Everything is fine. No complaints here.”

She went through a lot as a widow and single mother for nearly 5 decades. For someone who went through all that, how had she never complained?

She is like the Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree | Trunk

Something I always thought when we’d see her – her hands, as she’d take mine in hers – her hands were so soft, her skin delicate and smooth like tissue paper.

She’d hold mine while wishing me everything good in life. Whatever I wanted. A good family. Great kids. Wonderful husband.

If she could have just given us all those things, she would have.

What she could give was her love, support, and the time necessary to figure yourself out. The patience to let you make mistakes. The acceptance needed for everyone to move forward.

“That was your great grandmother,” I’ll explain to Koala one day.

And she was happy.

The Giving Tree | Happy

 

For only ₪10.90: Sexism + newborn onesies!

What do you get when you combine a ₪10.90 clothing bin with a reliable dose of modern society?

Classic sexism, in newborn flavor! Here are just a few of the options I noticed at a clothing shop yesterday:

1. Money money money. And Daddy.

Nothing is more classic and sexist and just plain gross than “Daddy, buy me more!” with a picture of a pink credit card being swiped.

Or maybe she means, ‘buy me more college credit! I want to triple major!!’

2. Crushing on your doctor

I was pleased to see this one come in both blue and pink… so the baby boys can also have the hots for their (male, duh) doctors!

3. Promise we’ll keep this one going well into the 23rd century.

In my future book titled, Seriously? WHY Are We Still Perpetuating This? I will explore the reasons why we are making our baby boys into a. sex obsessed b. pedophiles c. who are oddly ahead of their age when it comes to interests.

Sex up those baby boys, parents!

Alternatively – inspired future gynecologist?

4. Ok nothing to do with gender, just weird.

A little boy who is so excited for shabbat to go out. A  universal sentiment. I actually almost bought that one.

5. Don’t get me wrong, I love puns…

Puns are always funny. 

But still, cats + flirting can only mean this girl has one sure thing in her future.  Unless I’m wrong and she will actually turn out a writer, maybe a B+ Huffington Post columnist.

And then I looked up from that onesie bin and realized there were SHELVES of this stuff…

And held my child a little closer before giving up on life.

P.S. Lest you worry your baby will grow out of her newborn onesie too soon, behold in the girls’ section:

Which, admittedly, all I could think when reading that was, then you have really wonky boobs.

New parenting level unlocked: Israeli school children on Yom HaZicaron

Here’s the scene. A mother is playing out her son’s childhood through a laundry metaphor. First the onesie. Then the tzitzit. School uniform shirt. Pants. Teenager jeans. Button down shirt. Army tzitzit.

When she gets to the army uniform, there’s a ‘knock at the door.’ She sees the soldier. She crumples. He salutes. She cries into her son’s uniform.

This is the opening performance at my first grader’s school’s memorial ceremony for Yom HaZikaron.

New level of Israeli parenting unlocked.

I had arrived just a little early, to find my boy, and offer him a hat. I had forgotten to give him one and we’re out in the sun. I wave at him and gesture with the hat. He smiles and shakes his head. None of his buddies are wearing hats. Of course.

I’m watching this scene, this bat sherut (an 18-20 year old doing her national service) play out this ‘knock at the door’ scene – the same kind of scene Prime Minister Bibi described himself going through today. She’s playing this scene that her friends’ parents may or may not experience in the coming months. There’s been the stink of warmongering in the air. The soldier who knocks at the door is a boy I’ve known since he was a toddler. He’s in fifth grade.

I look at my son; I can only see the back of him. He’s whispering with his friend. The back of his neck is turning red from the sun. He’s so light-skinned.

When he’s in the army, will he remember sunscreen? Will he just burn all the time?

I’m watching the older grade school kids sing and speak of the dead. I’m watching the other grade school kids watch this, sitting cross-legged on the basketball court. The kids all look so serious. The older kids carry out their roles with a deep sense of urgency.

I’m looking around. There are kids here I’ve known since they were babies. Ten months. Two years. They are tall, skinny things now. Messy hair. Toothy smiles. Quick glances at their moms in the back row.

There are places my kids will go where there won’t be any sunscreen. Decisions they’ll have to make where there won’t be a right one. I won’t be there in that moment. That’s the reality, I suppose, of making the decision to create children. You just understand it way too late. When it hits, you’re too deep in love. You’ll never not feel this twisted pain again. Ever.

After the knock at the door, I look around at the other parents and notice we are all crying. A few of us are immigrants. Many lived through this as students, siblings, and soldiers too.

My son’s still whispering with his best friend. Two seven-year-old boys in knit kippot, scruffy hair, white school t-shirts.

Seven years in, here we are.

We’ve only just begun.

Questions I answer for my kids on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Winner of this year’s national Poster Competition for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day.

I’m not against the early, introductory Holocaust education of nursery and kindergarten aged kids. I think it’s a reality and if done right and age appropriately, it can enrich as opposed to stir excessive fear. It’s a hot debate in Anglo-immigrant circles; many people are taken aback by the openness. But I didn’t move here to hide from reality. I would have stayed in America for that.

During dinner tonight, after my kids sang a song that involved a certain debatable chocolate cake, we got to talking about race – you know, the כושי conversation – and navigated toward American slavery – and swerved through what it means to have different skin colors – and landed on Holocaust. What can I say, my older kids had talks, lessons, ceremonies about it today.

“Those bad guys… ummm… what are they called again?”

“Nazis.”

“Yeah, Nazis – so did the Jews say nu nu nu to them?”

“Ummmm no…”

“But you said when someone is bad to us we should yell at them.”

“Yeah… but Nazis had a lot of power. The Jews had none. You know, a lot of people died.”

“Six million!”

“…oh. That’s precise. Did anyone say that had savtot rabot or sabim rabim that were there?”

“Yeah!”

“You know, ours weren’t. They were in other places. Like America.”

“And did they help?”

“Umm…”

“But America helped them?”

“…did they?”

“And England.”

“Yes… they eventually helped. England helped.”

“And Hashem!”

“Uh huh.”

“But if our savta raba is now 101 she was 30 when it happened?”

“I guess about that…”

“Because it was 71 years ago…”

“That’s also precise…”

“I did subtraction!”

“You sure do learn a lot in school.”

 

 

 

 

Koala update: seven years

Koala,

This was a great year – I loved going through age six with you.

The questions you ask. The interests you take on.

The requests you make, constantly, for an ‘iPhone, iPad, or even a computer.’

Uh huh.

Anyway, I can’t keep up with you. Here are (just) seven new things you learned to do this year:

1. Swim

It was clear you had matured enough to try this out; we just weren’t sure at five if you would handle it. But this year it’s been a total pleasure cheering on as you tackle this. You bonded with your swim teacher and left any kind of fear in your trail. Maybe the best part is, you know you have to keep going and that great skill doesn’t come in five weeks.

2. Education

This is my absolute favorite. Watching you navigate through first grade has been inspiring, nostalgic and a lot of fun. I realize how lucky we are – you’re the kind of kid born to go to traditional school. You’ve played a role in getting your younger sister excited about the prospect of learning math, reading and writing.

Probably all the candy you get at your Israeli school helps with that, too.

Anyway – my absolutely favorite part of the year has been sitting by you while you learn to write, learn to read – in two languages.

You’ve taken a serious and oftentimes freaky interest in math – like the time you just walked on over to us with this piece of paper where you had just casually scribbled out some math problems we had no idea you were even capable of recognizing.

3. Computers

This helps redeem the fact that you incessantly ask us for an ‘iPhone, a computer and an iPad.’ I don’t even know why you know what an iPhone is (I mean, I do, schoolfriendsolderkidsparents) but I do admire your drive to attain one or all of these items by saving money you get instead of spending it on crap.

Anyway – yes – computers. They’ve taken a backseat to the smartphone you’re always snatching from me behind my back… but become familiar with them. I wouldn’t be sorry if you went into hi tech.

4. Jokes

I know we are your parents and will support you in (most) things you do, and your father and I are pretty ridiculous and laugh at the dumbest sh-stuff… but you jokes range from ‘eh’ to insane person and keep it coming. That stuff takes practice. At least you crack your friends up.

5. Negotiation

When you were younger, tantruming, and frankly, kind of intolerable, I used to put my hands on your heaving shoulders, look you in your red crazy eyes, and tell you: instead of this, try negotiating with me.

A few times it clicked and you’d pause from your outburst and ask me what negotiating is. And I’d tell you. But you didn’t try it on the spot.

Maybe it got through to you when there was money at stake, though. Your letter to the tooth fairy says it all.

6. Wanting to know how things work 

You ask to try new things, to learn more about the kinds of things we adults do, or to understand how certain things work. You get that from your dad, the guy who watched one repairman fix the window blinds once and from then on not only fixes them himself, but also goes over to fix other people’s when the mood strikes.

And it’s awesome for us since we’ve been getting some coffee out of it.

 

7. Become a more affectionate big brother

When I started putting this together you had two younger sisters, now you have three. That’s a lot of sisters – way more than I ever had.

You’re doing a good job of it, Koala.

I can’t speak from experience but I can hope that you continue to cherish the affectionate relationship you have with them, and nurture that side of yourself.

That will take you far in relationships one day.