My husband is home (WHEW!), but he’s working this morning. Therefore, my Sunday looks a lot different than usual. Instead of sleeping-in and working on my book, I found myself preparing breakfast for Isabelle. Here’s a snippet of our breakfast preparation conversation:
I’m happy to report she was pleased with the papaya and forgot all about the watermelon! (BTW: Click here in case you’re wondering what the “Watermelon Man” song reference was about.) But, when she didn’t want to eat any more pineapple, this happened:
I came home from synagogue in a surly mood this afternoon. It goes beyond Isabelle not participating in the Mini Congregation service (which I blogged about earlier this month). I’m tired because my husband has been in Chicago since Thursday morning. It partially has to do with being tired. I’m
tired exhausted from spending hours at the computer revising a manuscript. But what I’m really tired of is Isabelle’s demeanor towards people at synagogue. We’re in one of those vicious cycles of her refusing to be pleasant towards people who directly address her. But instead of writing a surly slice of life about my daughter’s behavior, I decided to find my happy thanks to a blog post I just read over at Kim Koehler’s blog, Live, Love, Teach.
When I make it to main service by Ein Keloheinu, even if my child wiggles in the seat next to me, I’ve found my happy.
When I find food I can eat during the Kiddush, like noodles marked “gluten free,” I’ve found my happy.
When I catch up with friends as my daughter runs around the synagogue, also known as “getting exercise,” I’ve found my happy.
When I think of how Isabelle made it through Passover last year, without consuming any chametz, I’ve found my happy.
When Isabelle tells me we cover our eyes for the Sh’ma, which she’s learned in Mini Congregation, I’ve found my happy.
When I overhear Isabelle sing the songs she refuses to sing at synagogue, in the quiet of her room, I’ve found my happy.
When my child takes an afternoon nap, after DAYS of not napping, so I can have some peace and quiet, I’ve found my happy.
Thanks for the inspiration, Kim. I’m not surly anymore. By turning around the morning’s evenings and thinking about the positive, you helped me find my happy.
Isabelle and I sparred with each other a few times before I dropped her off at preschool this morning. I was tired (I was at my computer writing until after 11 last night!) and she wasn’t listening. Neither of us were in the right. I figured things would be better when I picked her up from school.
Instead of completing her entering the house routine quickly (i.e., coat off, shoes off, washing hands), she took over five minutes to remove her coat and one shoe. It was agonizing. I raised my voice. She yelled back at me. This cannot continue, I thought.
“I have some picture books I want to share with you. Would you like to read them in the great room or your playroom?” I asked Isabelle once she finally finished washing her hands.
“The Gweat Woom,” she replied.
“Okay. I’ll get them and meet you in there.”
First we read I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, which allowed me to remind her how much I love her even though we had been fighting today. Next we read Beach House by Deanna Caswell and Amy June Bates, which allowed us to talk about how much we cannot wait to go to Maine this summer. Afterwards, we read Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox and Stephanie Graegin, which allowed me to snuggle Isabelle close and plant some kisses on her cheek. Finally, we read Goose by Laura Wall — twice! — which allowed us to imagine what life would be like with a pet goose.
30 minutes after we started reading together, we were at peace with one another. Reading picture books is one of the best ways to fix a problem, isn’t it?
“Guess what I’m making for dinner tonight?”
“What?” Isabelle inquired.
“I’m making baked macaroni and cheese from scratch.”
“No! I don’t want from scratch!”
IS SHE KIDDING ME? She said she was fine with this being our dinner together tonight seeing as Marc wouldn’t be home for dinner. And now she doesn’t want it? OH MY G-D!
“Yes, I’m making it from scratch. For you. Like you asked for it.”
“But I don’t wanna be scratched!”
I chuckled. “You’re not going to be scratched, Isabelle. Making something from scratch means I’m cooking the entire dish myself. Nothing comes out of a box. You love this kind of macaroni and cheese. Trust me, you’ll be happy.”
And she was. She gobbled up way more than I expected considering this is the first time I ever made it gluten-free.
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup low fat cottage cheese
2 cups milk (1 cup of skim and 1 cup of whole milk OR 2 cups of lowfat milk)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound grated, extra-sharp cheddar
1/2 pound gluten-free elbow pasta (Buy corn elbows, NOT rice elbows.)
Isabelle noticed an unlit Yahrzeit candle on the island in our kitchen before she went upstairs last night. (My mom is at our house through tomorrow. Today marks the lunar calendar anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. My mom is staying with us through tomorrow so she brought the candle to our house to light it.)
“What’s dat for?” Isabelle asked.
I said something like it’s to help us remember my grandmother who is gone.
“Who’s your grandma?” she asked.
I reached for a photograph of my grandparents that I keep atop my desk. I pointed to my grandmother and said, “That was my Grandma. That’s Bubbe’s mommy. You’re named after her.”
“Who’s dat?” she pointed at the little girl in the center of the photo.
“That was me. I was nine years-old in that photo.”
She was perplexed by the fact that I was ever young. So our conversation turned to how I could have ever been a girl.
This afternoon, my mother pulled me aside once Isabelle returned from school.
“What do you want me to say if she asks about the candle?”
“Has she asked about it yet?”
“Yes, she did this morning when we were eating breakfast.”
“What did you say?”
My mom told me her approximated answer and then followed up with, “What do you want me to say to her?”
I pondered. “A children’s author named Patricia Polacco talks about death as letting go of the grass. You could say Grandma let go of the grass.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” my mom scoffed.
In hindsight, I realize this was ridiculous to say to my mom. I was teaching fifth grade in Manhattan when my grandmother passed away in March 2007. We had done a Patricia Polacco Author Study and my students knew that letting go of the grass equated death. Therefore, we talked about my grandmother’s death as her letting go of the grass after her passing. (My gosh, that was such a great class of kids. We had our own little language.)
“Well, I guess it’d make more sense if you were familiar with Patricia Polacco’s books,” I responded.
“So, what do you want me to tell her?” my mom asked again.
I thought. “You could say something about Grandma being old. Or you could say she was tired and went back to live with her parents in heaven.”
I looked at my mom and she looked back at me. We were both clueless whether heaven was a concept we should be introducing.
“You could tell her heaven us up there,” I said.
“Do you want me to say that?” she asked. “I want to say what you want me to say.”
“I don’t know what the answer is. All I can tell you is that I remember going to Uncle Irving’s funeral when I was four-years-old. And look at me. I’m not permanently damaged as a result of attending the funeral. Whatever you say will be the right thing.”
Fortunately, Isabelle went to sleep tonight without another question about the Yahrzeit candle. It will burn out later and will be thrown away tomorrow. Most likely, she won’t remember it was ever shining.
But I know there will be questions about where my grandmother is again. And I don’t have an answer ready. It is so hard to talk about death without scaring a young child. I want to say the right thing, but I’m not sure there is a right answer.
We talk about my grandmother all of the time in front of Isabelle. Talking about her keeps her memory alive. I’m not planning to stop. But one day, not long from now, I know the question about where she is will surface again. And when that happens, I hope I have some kind of answer ready for Isabelle.
Right now, I have nothing.
Isabelle accompanied me to the grocery store when we got home from our long weekend in CT/NY/NJ. We were three-quarters of the way finished with our food shopping when we ran into our rabbi on one of the aisles. He gave Isabelle a huge wave as soon as she saw him. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes.
At one point, Isabelle asked him, “Why are you here?” I chuckled. I knew what she was thinking (even though she’s seen him at Giant in the past). It’s the same thing kids wonder when they see their teachers out in public.
But her line of questioning continued after we said our good-byes and continued on to the dairy aisle.
“Why is the Rabbi here?”
“Because he needs to buy food.”
“Does the Rabbi have a house?”
“At the synagogue?”
“No. He lives on XXXXXX Street.”
“Is that near the synagogue?”
“Yes. I’ll show you his house next time we drive by.”
“How do you know where he lives?
“Daddy and I ate dinner with his wife there once.”
“He eats food there?”
“But why is he here?”
“Rabbis need to eat too.”
And on and on it went as we gathered everything on the dairy aisle. The questions finally ended when we reached the checkout counter and Isabelle assumed the task of unloading the cart, from the inside, on to the belt.
I wonder what kinds of questions she’d ask if we ran into him at Hersheypark!
The five of us drove to Stew Leonard’s to buy dinner. But we didn’t just got there for dinner. We shopped there because Isabelle loves that store… it’s one of the highlights of visiting “Grandma and Papa’s house.” The things that make Stew Leonard’s a unique food shopping experience can be boiled-down to:
Resting Breathing Sleeping
Sweet First Birthday Girl
Our nighttime routine with Isabelle has been the same for awhile now.
I don’t know if it was because she was trying to delay bedtime or because she loves my voice, but Isabelle has been requesting a song before I leave her room for the past two weeks. I tried singing D’ror Yikra, which is a song that used to lull her to sleep as a baby. She wasn’t thrilled with it. So, I defaulted to HaMalach HaGoel, a Hebrew Lullaby I learned when she was two years-old. The Maccabeats sing it and — since she LOVES the Maccabeats — she loves this song. Last week, all I sung, every night, was HaMalach HaGoel.
This past Sunday afternoon, we attended a William Close and the Earth Harp Collective concert. They performed “Erev Shel Shoshanim,” which is the song I walked down the aisle to on my wedding day. (It’s like the “Here Comes the Bride” of the Jewish world.) Hearing it performed live made me nostalgic so I offered that up to Isabelle as an alternative to HaMalach HaGoel on Sunday night. She’s chosen it instead of HaMalach HaGoel nearly every night since then… including tonight.
Tonight I asked her “Do you want me to sing ‘HaMalach HaGoel’ or ‘Erev Shel Shoshanim’ before I tuck you in?” It took her awhile to decide since she wanted BOTH. (Mommy was too tired and still has too hoarse of a voice from being sick to attempt to sing both!) She eventually picked “Erev Shel Shoshanim.” Once she got herself completely cozy under her blanket with her dolly under her arm, she told me “you can sing now.”
And sing I did. I rubbed her back gently. I tucked her wet curls behind her ear. I watched her eyelids flutter closed, though she kept trying to open them in an effort to fight sleep. My breath caught. There I was singing the song I hope she’ll walk down the aisle to one day — many years from now — when she marries. Was this the right song to sing? I mean, I want to pass down songs from our tradition to her at bedtime, but maybe this wasn’t the right lullaby.
When I finished, I kissed her smooth cheek and said, “I love you. Good night. Have pleasant dreams.”
“Good night, Mommy. I love you, too.”
And with that, I closed her door and she went to sleep.
I walked out of her room and stopped questioning myself. Any song that lulls my child to sleep and shares the music of the Jewish tradition with her is a perfectly fine choice.
For your listening enjoyment:
Feel free to let me know which one you prefer!