The Third Play Date

Hot on the heels of the second one, no less.

There is one girl in school that is consistently the last or second-to-last kid to get picked up at the end of the day. She alternates with nooshkin for those positions.

Naturally, the girls have become serious frenemies. Like, to the point of one day they play really nicely together, and the next day they have bite marks on their respective hands because they couldn’t share.
It’s great, this parenting thing.

So on Sunday, I was schmoozing with other mother about these girls and their crazy relationship. Turns out, other mother and I have very similar parenting views, key among them that we understand how much energy our daughters’ have and they need an expressive outlet for it. Guess who’s going to start jazz dance after Passover?

Anyway, as we were talking and occasionally keeping eyes on our kids, nooshkin and the other girl were playing quite happily in the park. As it gets later and later we wrap up the conversation and tell the girls it’s time to go home. They both come running up to us, their words tripping over each other, just like their feet: “can we play together at my house today? please please pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?

(yes, it really was that drawn out. Also, I really need to come up with some better pseudonyms for all these other kids and mothers)

Other mother and I looked at each other and said “Sure, but not today. Later this week would be better.”
Nooshkin immediately turned to her friend and said “What day is better for you? Tomorrow or Friday?”

After some hemming and hawing, it turned out that Wednesday was the best day for the play date.

The whole week, nooshkin would ask me “I’m going to play today?” and I would have to respond “No, today isn’t Wednesday.”
This conversation was on loop for three days, multiple times each day.

Finally, Wednesday dawned. Nooshkin could not contain herself; but, she knew that she needed to be on her best behavior from minute 1 so she could go play with her friend.
And god bless her, she was.

Per her request, I went to school to meet up with other mother and escort the girls to her house. Everything went super smoothly, and other mother and I exchanged details. I walked home by myself and marveled at how much both the nooshkin and I had grown since the first play date. I do think I’m beginning to get the hang of this.

Well, sort of. I still kept my shoes on, but at least I wasn’t constantly looking at my phone.

The Hubby came home to find me cooking dinner in a quiet, clean house, and was definitely surprised when I said that nooshkin was still on her play date. Five minutes later I received the first whatsapp of the evening – “We’re on our way to you, nooshkin was great!”

At this point, I have no doubt that there will be many more play dates, at home and abroad. I finally think I can handle them (and without an entire bottle of wine too).

oh, happy days!

oh, happy days!

Not Giving Up, or Music: A History

A while back, I posted very briefly about school. Now for some depth.

I’m currently studying for a Master’s Degree in the Interdisciplinary Program in the Fine Arts Faculty at Tel Aviv University (that’s a mouthful).
I have a BA degree in Musicology from Bar Ilan University, which I received about five years ago.

I always wanted to go back to school, and for sure get a Master’s degree; perhaps also a Ph.D. – we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, in about 10 years.

Education and Music have always been very important to me, as I started both at the same time. Education was mandatory, but music was apparently my own doing. The apocryphal story is that I was watching a PBS special on musical prodigies, and excitedly pointed to the tv screen and said “Mommy, I want to do that”

Apparently, some kid was playing piano at that moment. And that’s how that started.

For ten years, I devoted an hour each day to practicing piano, and another hour each week for lessons. Not to mention various recitals, performances, and competitions. Piano took a backseat in high school, mostly because I didn’t have any time, but partially because I wanted to do other things. Like Yearbook, and Public Speaking, and Acting. And, you know, sleep.

Yeah - pretty self explanatory.

Yeah – this may have actually happened.

But music was always super important to me. It was constantly on in the background, much to the annoyance of LAK who shared a room with me.
I mostly listened to whatever was on the radio, and made really horrible mix tapes of what I managed to record from said radio (hey, this was the late 90s and early 00s after all). When I came to Israel and met Hubby (and several other people) I was introduced to the wonderful world of Pandora and Jango. My love for Heavy Metal, Punk, Pop-Punk, and Rock music also flourished.

About this time, I found myself in the practice rooms of the Music Department, reminding myself that I was pretty good at the piano. I had won a few competitions in my youth, and I think the medals are in a box in the basement of my parents’ house (if, you know, the repeated flooding hasn’t rusted them over yet).

So I applied, auditioned, and was accepted to the Music Program at Bar Ilan University.

Music was everywhere. It permeated my soul, took up residence in my mind, and refused to let go of my very being.

And then I graduated. And got pregnant. And became a full-time SAHM. And then I went back to work full time while keeping the full time parenting gig going. Music, unfortunately, took a back seat in another country. I would fondly and wistfully look back at the time I had spent devoting myself to that craft – and I missed it. Horribly.

I told myself I would get back into it, that I would practice. But things always came up. My musical tastes continued to grow, and although I would hum along to almost every song I ever heard, it wasn’t the same as before.

Now I’m here. My piano skills have rusted over completely, and I forgot almost 3/4 of what I learned all those years ago.
But that first day back in school, back in a musical environment, I couldn’t pay attention to anything that the professor said. I was just enjoying the moment of being back in such familiar territory. I felt actual joy seeping through me, to the point that my co-workers knew without asking that I was so indescribably happy to be back.

I am slowly and steadily welcoming music back into my life, and it’s riding shotgun. This time, I don’t intend to give it up.

Currently Grooving On: “Bulletproof”, by La Roux
(I fully intend to include this section with all future posts, and I’ll try to have the song not be school-related) (but no promises)

The Second Play Date

The nooshkin has, naturally, been asking for more and more play dates since the first one.

I, naturally, have been trying to postpone the next one until her tenth birthday.

Usually she corners me as I pick her up at the end of the day. There are always a few other kids waiting for their parents, and therefore her choice du jour changes each day.
Naturally, exhaustion (hers and mine) convinces her to come home with me. That and promises of yummy food and/or a play date with the neighbor across the hall.

This time….she caught me off guard. Because this time, the choice du jour‘s mother was there. And she didn’t mind.
And just like that, the nooshkin was on a completely expected, totally impromptu, very last-minute play date.

I walked with them to their house and went up for a few minutes at the nooshkin’s request. She practically threw me out a few minutes later, having been fully introduced to her friend’s collection of markers.

As I said goodbye, I exchanged numbers with the second other mother and asked her when I should come back. Her response? “Oh, you know – whenever.”

The only thing worse, I discovered, than a play date that doubles in length, is one with, seemingly, no end in sight.

I got back home and was fully expecting a repeat of what had happened the previous play date. But, as luck would have it, about an hour later I got a text message from the mother that read:
Nooshkin is sad, can you come pick her up?

My response: Of course (naturally)

When I arrived, the mother explained that it was bath time and her daughter wanted nooshkin to join her, but since nooshkin didn’t have a change of clothes she couldn’t, and both girls dissolved into hysterical tears. Once the girls calmed down, nooshkin said thank you (so did I), and we promised that next time her friend could come to our house.

Nooshkin promptly asked: “Can she take a bath with me?”

My response: “Nope”

P.S. the next morning I received another text message from the mother, basically saying that her daughter loves nooshkin and wants her to come over a play all the time. Yay?

(update: links are working! I’m a genius…)

Year 1, Semester 2: Begin!

The good news is, school started last week. Which means I’m getting out of the house twice a week for class.

The bad news is, school started last week.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m really happy to be back in a learning environment and I’m finally getting the hang of my degree (which is, simultaneously, not as and way more complicated than I initially thought).

Going back to school was something that I pushed off for my previous job. I don’t think they ever knew about that, but it’s water over the bridge, or under the dam, or somewhere. I always wanted to continue my education, if only to take a few classes here and there.
Getting accepted to a program, while not difficult for me, was something that I debated doing.

Did I really want a grind of education? Did I want to go back to a schedule that would possibly conflict with my work, my family, and my social life?

Or, like my former boss, did I want to just take a course every so often about something that interested me, because I’m a huge nerd?

Nerd Status: semi-professional Points: +1000

Nerd Status: semi-professional
Points: +1000

In the end, the grind won out. If only because I like having set schedules. Schedules are a godsend, for parents and for the restless alike. Knowing that certain days of the week have a certain event give structure to the day, and a reason for getting dressed in the morning.
They also give me a reason for not lingering over my coffee, but I’ll let that pass.

But more than that, I wanted needed to do this for me.

I have not been so good about doing things for me lately – I can’t remember the last time I went to the doctor for a general checkup that did not involve prescriptions for antibiotics. The last time I really did something for myself was a massage that the hubby gave me as a gift.

There have been so many articles recently about how women need to give more to prove that they deserve [fill-in-the-blank with whatever]. And, naturally, there are even more articles about how women need to take a step back and not drive themselves crazy with [fill-in-the-blank with whatever] and focus on the things that really matter.

But I don’t think I’m going crazy over my degree. Twice a week is nothing. Also, one of my classes this semester is about reality television. I think I’m doing myself a favor in that regard.

P.S. – All those books in the picture are for a seminar paper for the class I took last semester. And I will be taking out more from the library once I’m done with these.

Happy Purim!

So it’s been a while since my last post, but I have a good excuse!

I’ve been busy (gasp). But hey, that’s part of my blog description.

Last week was the annual Jewish holiday of Purim, which is kind of like Halloween but more religious and based on historical events.
This holiday celebrates the fact that Queen Esther (a Jewess) convinced King Xerses of Ancient Persia to pass a decree allowing all Jews in the Kingdom of Persia to defend themselves against armies of Anti-Semites, who were allowed to hunt down and kill all Jews in said Kingdom by a previous decree passed by said King.

The initial decree to kill all Jews was suggested to King Xerxes by his adviser Haman, who didn’t like Jews because we didn’t bow down to him and worship the ground he walked on (literally). Apparently that was something that was expected back in the day.

But – Haman didn’t know that Queen Esther was a Jewess because she kept it secret. This was common practice in ancient times, because general sentiment towards the Jewish people were, and continue to be, mixed.

So, Queen Esther invites Haman and King Xerxes to back-to-back private parties. I’m assuming she gets everybody loaded at the first one because nothing worth noting happens. At the second party she informs the King of the plot, and that Haman is behind it.
To nobody’s surprise, King Xerxes gets pretty mad and sentences Haman to death by hanging, his 10 sons are thrown in for good measure, and then the Jews are granted permission to defend themselves against anyone who tries to harm them.

The holiday is celebrated each year on the anniversary of the day that the Jewish people were meant to be killed. The name Purim comes from the Hebrew word “Lotteries”, as that was how the date of the massacre was chosen.

As with many historical Jewish events, the moral of this one is: They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.

Food plays a big roll in Judaism, and not just because of the Kosher thing. Many of the holidays involve a food item that is central to the holiday; for example, matzah (unleavened bread) on Passover. For the holiday of Purim, many of the events central to the story occurred at parties and/or feasts, involving copious amounts of food and drink. Additionally, before Queen Esther went to King Xerxes to plead for her peoples’ lives, she did not eat for three days, as a form of prayer to god to assist her.

Naturally, this means that we eat a ton of food on this holiday. We also give gift baskets filled with food, drink, and home-made baked goodies to friends and poor people, because the core of this holiday is to be filled with joy. Joy that we are alive, and joy that such a miracle occurred.

So, I present the most traditional of Jewish baked goods – Hamentaschen.

Hamentaschen; (Yiddish) – Haman’s pockets, Haman’s ears.
I don’t know why. Just because.

The finished product, with blueberry filling.

The finished product, with blueberry filling.

These doughy goodies are traditionally filled with jelly of any flavor, poppyseed filling, or a spread like peanut butter or date.
There are a few lists on BuzzFeed with fancy-shmancy hamentaschen too (linking isn’t working right now; sorry!)

Alas, this year I went the traditional route even though I didn’t have an excuse. The hubby kind of put his foot down, but next year I’m gonna go crazy.
As with previous years’ batches, I used strawberry, blueberry, and apricot jelly. I sprinkled a few with chocolate chips so the nooshkin would eat some, but for the most part we stuck to boring old jelly.

I made the dough the night before and put in the freezer to help the ingredients solidify. The next morning, I removed the dough and left it on the counter for a few hours to thaw while I did (fill-in-the-blank; probably eat breakfast).

After getting all my tools (rolling pin, cup, spoons, spatula, baking pans, parchment paper, flour, jelly, and chocolate chips) I was ready to go. I put on a Miyazaki movie and got to work.

Dough rolled out.

Dough rolled out.

A few notes about my hamentaschen:

I tend to end up with enough dough for two trays of each flavor, which is enough for the gift baskets and a few extras to have around the house.

Because the dough is pretty sticky, I used a lot of flour on the surfaces. All that extra flour gets into the dough, which is okay – the recipe only calls for 4 cups to compensate.

The cup is used to make perfect circles in the dough, so the larger the mouth of the cup the larger the hamentaschen will be (and the less you end up with overall).

The spoons help with getting the jelly in the center of each circle of dough. I usually put in a full teaspoon, but again – the amount of filling/jelly will depend on the size of the cup you use (I use a cup that’s 3.5 inches/8.89 centimeters in diameter).

After the jelly has been put in the center of the circle, the edges are gently folded up onto themselves to form a triangle. The tips are pinched together so no jelly escapes (but this happens anyway, especially in the first few batches while I find my groove).

The spatula gets the prepared hamentaschen onto the baking sheet without breaking them. You can use a metal or silicon one; I have used both and there was no difference.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

This year, for the first time, I was actually able to use up all the dough – I usually have a tiny amount left over that I can’t do anything with, but not this time!

The second-to-last one, with strawberry filling.

The second-to-last one, with strawberry filling.

The whole process including the baking took about two hours; and then I made another half-batch because why not?
And, there is nothing more ego-boosting than tasting the raw dough after a whole year, and knowing it tastes just right.

2 sticks margarine (16 tablespoons or 200 grams)
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons orange juice
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
salt, pinch

1. Mix together margarine, egg, sugar, vanilla, and orange juice.
2. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well, until everything is incorporated.
— If you are preparing the dough ahead of time, you can cover the mixing bowl and put it in the freezer (for overnight) or in the fridge (for a few hours). Regardless, make sure to give yourself enough time for the dough to get back to room temperature before you start preparing the hamentaschen.
3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch (0.63 centimeters) thickness.
4. Cut into circles, using the cup.
5. Fill the circles with the jelly or filling, and pinch the dough into triangles around the filling.
6. Place on cookie sheets or jelly roll pan.
7. Bake in the oven on 375 F (190 C) for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.

Recommended to eat ASAP 🙂

The Waiting Place

As a follow up to my previous post, now I’m bored.

What I didn’t mention in my last post, after all the self-congratulations and pie eating had been done, was that most of the time was spent waiting. In offices, on a bus, for a phone call, or for test results to come back.

Kind of like in that Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”:
Waiting for a train to go,
or a bus to come or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for a Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

I shouldn’t be complaining. I gave myself two months to accomplish everything on my list, and I think that I’m slightly ahead of schedule (even with the extras that got thrown in, like the hard drive saga). But the most annoying thing about being restless is when I know that I need to rely on others to help me accomplish something, and I also know that they are busy and I may not be their first priority.

Me being respectful I will sit on my hands and keep my mouth shut, and watch “Howl’s Moving Castle” for the five hundredth time.
Or I’ll make cookies again, much to the delight of my family, and the chagrin of my former coworkers.

But I have never liked the waiting place. It is grey, and soft, and pliable, with no discerning borders. It is a place that echos with words like “eventually”, and “perhaps”, and “another time”. Clocks do not work in the Waiting Place, for this place is timeless and does not have a known end date.

The Waiting Place; purgatory for those that are not quite bored, but not quite occupied.

There are things that I do to bide my time, while I find myself here, in addition to the actual checklist. I bake, and cook, and clean, and read, and write. But as more and more items are crossed off my checklist, and I get closer and closer to finalizing some other things, I find myself reaching for the door to let me out of this place – even though I don’t currently have anything on the other side. Heck, I don’t even know where the door is.

But, I have been in this place before, and we are old friends. I know that, sometime soon in the future, I will be granted leave from the Waiting Place. My ticket will be punched and I will be allowed through that elusive door to whatever waits on the other side.

Probably a job. Definitely something that will keep me busy on a more routine schedule.

Whatever it is, I do know that I will occasionally look back fondly at the time I spent in the Waiting Place, if only because at least I was able to enjoy my coffee without doing something else.

This is what Restlessness is all about

It’s amazing how much stuff you can do when you find yourself not working.

In the last month, in no particular order, I have managed to accomplish the following:

– File for unemployment benefits
– Be denied said benefits (as I left work of my own volition) (which makes sense)
– Be referred by the Employment Office for jobs that I’m not qualified for because they didn’t put the correct information in my file
– Get blamed for said issue
– Point out that I have no idea how to do this, and it’s therefore up to them to help me out (which shut them up pretty good)
– Fail my written driving test twice
– Pass my written driving test
– Hand off the paperwork for the actual driving test
– Clean the apartment like nobody’s business
– Donate a pile of clothing and household goods that we didn’t even know we had
– Help my sister look for a wedding dress
– Find said wedding dress
– Buy my sister things that she will need for married life
– Look for a bridesmaid dress for myself
– Fail miserably at finding one
– Lose about 3 kilo
– Get strep throat twice
– Mourn the loss of my hard drive
– Celebrate the resurrection of said hard drive (and buy a new one)
– Bake cookies for a friend who had a baby
– Make dinner for another friend who had a baby
– Start an extremely halfhearted attempt at job hunting
– Start an even more halfhearted attempt at finding another apartment
– Teach myself Spanish (there’s an app for that!)

I think I deserve a pat on the back, and some chocolate-peanut butter pie.