Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Shiksa no more!

Last week I converted to Judaism. It's been a long time coming, I think I first approached our Rabbi about it when Delma was a few months old. So all told, it's been maybe a year and a half? And in that time I've done some reading, I took a course in the basics of Judaism, including some history and explanations of rituals and holidays and differences between Orthodox and Conservative and Reform. I've met with my Rabbi to ask him if it's a requirement to believe in God, and why my husband who was never raised Jewish but because he was born Jewish can just walk into the Temple and be accepted as a Jew, but I have to work hard and jump through hoops to be Jewish? But more than anything, I've essentially been living life as a Jew this whole time, regularly attending services, actively participating as a mamber of our Temple, and trying to create a Jewish home where our children will never question that we are a Jewish family.

It's been such a long (well not really, but it feels that way) process, and in my mind and my heart I made the committment to Judaism so long ago now, that the actual conversion felt a bit anticlimactic. More than anything, I was just happy to have it over with, so I can get on with my life. It's sort of like a wedding, or like childbirth... They're a big deal but they're really very quick, and then you get on with the business of marriage or parenthood, or in this case being a Jewish wife and mother and woman.

Last Tuesday I met with the Bet Dihn (3 Rabbis), who are supposed to ask you questions and ascertain whether you are prepared and sufficiently committed to become a Jew. It's really a formality, the Rabbi you study with would never bring you before the Bet Dihn until it was really clear that you're ready. Why waste everyone's time? I expected lots of soul-searching questions, but it was really very quick and easy. I think it makes a difference that I am already married to a Jew, that we're raising a Jewish child and are active Temple members. My committment is clear and proven. I'm not doing this just so I can have a Jewish wedding to keep my in-laws happy or something, there's no question of my motive. Then I had to immerse myself in the Mikvah and say some prayers. My girlfriend Katie was my witness (she herself converted just last year, so she knew the routine and was the most obvious and perfect choice for a witness), and the door was open just enough so that Josh and the Rabbis could hear me say the prayers but could not see me in there. It was pretty cool doing that while pregnant, having this baby there with me for such an important experience. Then I got dressed and we all held hands while my Rabbi said a blessing, we all hugged and that was it! I was Jewish. Ta-dah!

The hard part was on Friday during the Shabbat service when I had to go up to the Bimah and read some prayers, and answer some questions in a public ceremony before our congregation. That was absolutely nerve-wracking and I was just beside myself with anxiety. I had repeatedly warned the Rabbi that I may very well pass out up there, but amazingly I didn't. I think he might have actually been disappointed that I didn't deliver the drama I'd promised. I also did not go into premature labor, though apparently it looked like I was going to to since I was clutching my stomach for something to do with my free hand (other hand was holding the papers I had to read from), and at one point the Rabbi leaned in and told me that I was doing great and that I was NOT ALLOWED to give birth right there.

The worst part, as I knew it would be, was the crying. I am not a graceful cryer. I'm not one of those fancy soap opera ladies who can give a monologue with tears streaming down their face. No, at the first sign of anything remotely resembling an emotional display of any sort, my throat closes up and I can't breathe evenly and I can barely squeak out a word. So I would manage to say maybe 3 words (NOT exaggerating!), then stop and take some deep breaths and try to relax my face so I didn't look like one of those theater Tragedy masks, then say a few more words, and repeat, etc. It all took about 5 times longer than it needed to because of how hard it was for me to just physically be able to speak. And it set off this whole involuntary empathetic domino effect that had almost everyone there that night crying too. It was like CryFest '08. I think most everyone shared my great sense of relief when it was over.

Afterward everyone was so lovely and I got lots of hugs and kisses and congratulations from friends and family and also from lots of complete strangers. The nicest thing I heard was from a younger guy, maybe 20 years old, who came over and told me that his mother converted before he was born and he was so happy that she did. He was telling me that it was a beautiful thing that I did for my family. And really, that is why I did it. I want my children to feel 100% Jewish, and I don't know how to give them that gift without both Josh and me being Jews. And now we are. I'm still amazed.

My dad said a funny thing that night. He said he felt like he was giving me away, even more than he felt at my wedding. I don't know that I really understand what he meant by that, but I think he feels like Josh and I are starting out on some journey that in some ways will leave him behind. We are, that's true, that's just a fact when your children start their own families. But this whole process has served to just further reinforce how important our family is to us, and what lengths we will go to with the hopes and intentions of creating a strong immediate and extended family.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Mommy

Josh tried very hard to get Delma to say "Happy Mommy Day," but the most she could manage was "Happy Mommy." Close enough for me. We had such a lovely, lazy day... Went out for breakfast, went for a nice drive and ended up having a great impromptu visit with an old friend of Josh's and her family, whom I have never met. The weather was great and in the afternoon I got to plant a few little seeds and then while Josh mowed the lawn Delma and I went to a local playground and then did some shopping. In the evening Josh had arranged for a sitter so he could take me to dinner in New Haven. Delma was a mostly in a good mood and fun all day, and it was just a great low-key Mother's Day. Perfect.

My loves at breakfast:

My girl at the playground, running around and climbing like a real honest-to-goodness kid. Notice her going down the slide clutching a rock. She's obsessed with them, walks around with fistsful of them and will not put them down when she's playing. When she goes down the slide on her tummy, you can hear the rocks scraping all the way down:

And then I gave Delma a Twix. And then I got really excited when Nirvana came on the radio, and I might have maybe turned up the music just a wee bit too loud? I heard "Mommy!" from the back seat, and when I turned around I saw her all chocolatey and plugging her ears. Had to pull over and snap a pic:

The other big news for the weekend was taking Del's binky away from her. I've been wanting to ween her off of it, but have been putting it off. Then I found out she's the only kid in her group at school who still uses one, and I knew it was time. Started on Saturday morning and it did NOT go well. Major melt-down. I thought it was going to be awful for days, but really after that first freak-out she was pretty OK with it. She's asked for it and cried for it, but we just keep telling her that she can only use it in bed, and she's done really surprisingly well. Of course, when it's time to go to bed now she wants no books or anything, she just wants to get into bed and get that binky in her face. I can handle that, if it means not having to see her with that plug in her face anymore, talking with it in her mouth, etc. Not sure how well she'll deal at school today when she sees the babies in the next room with their binkies. I wanted to start it on a weekend so she'd have a head start before school on Monday, and I do feel bad that they have to deal with it, but I guess that's what we're paying them (a lot!) for.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

annoying day

It was beautiful out today. Zero enjoyed the sunshine:

I spent the day stuck inside the house juggling work and this:

Girly is home with pink-eye. Several kids at school have it. You'd think they would have informed parents, but no. $60 on eye drops that the doctor says she doesn't actually need, but that the school won't let her back in without having had. So. That was my day. Argh.

I do get work done at home with her, especially now that she can sit for longish stretches with TV or a movie or just puttering around and playing, but not as much as I would without her. And I can't take my laptop outside with me to work, because our deck is not childproofed. Just an annoying way to spend my day, feeling constantly torn -- I could/should be doing MORE work, I could/should be paying MORE attention to Delly. It's an impossible situation, and both tasks inevitably suffer. Deep breaths... Take a bath and read after Del goes to bed... Get a good night's sleep... Let Josh fight the good fight tomorrow while I escape to the office...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

19 and 20 Months

Delly, you are 20 months old. I completely missed month 19 and am late in writing this too. So lame of me, sorry. And you have so many new tricks up your sleeve, there's no way I'll remember it all...

You have been saying Yes and No for a long time, but you were actually saying Ya instead of Yes, and one day it occurred to us that we should remedy that. It only took one or two corrections for you to get it, and your little Yeses with your toddle slur that make it sound like Yesh are so precious. You've also just recently started saying OK! after we tell you something or after we ask you to do something. It's this amazing new development, this acknowledgement that you give us to let you know you've heard and understood us. You say it so easily and appropriately, like we're just having a normal conversation. It's great. And just this morning, after you'd been downstairs with Daddy for a little while and he told you it was time to go upstairs, you said "Really?" And he said "Yes" and you said "OK!" I think that might be the first exchange that could actually qualify as an honest-to-goodness conversation.

When you were very young we just refered to all three of our cats as "Kitty" with you. Since we've started teaching you all their names, for some reason the only one you've had any interest in addressing by name is Precious. You still chase Blau and Zero too, and like to see them and pet them, but Precious (aka Preshy aka Freshious aka Freshy) is the one you really like to speak directly to and talk about. She does hang around you more, walks into your room and sniffs things when she's doing her rounds, and lets you chase her. You two seem to have your own little special connection. I'm really happy about that, because I think it's so important for children to bond with animals, and, in all honestly, she's our youngest and healthiest cat and is the least likely one to force you to learn about death anytime soon. Knock on wood.

Last month you finally learned how to correctly use a spoon. It just clicked for you, you finally got a little bit of a handle on gravity I guess. One night we gave you a veggie dog and ketchup for dinner, and you ended up using a spoon to eat nothing but ketchup for dinner. The next night you'd been snacking late in the day so for dinner I gave you apple slices and peanut butter to dip them in. You ate the little bowl of peanut butter with your spoon, and nothing else. The night after that, Daddy was out of town and I took you out for a nice unhealthy dinner so I could have an excuse to eat grilled cheese. You only ate the things on your plate that you could eat with a spoon: apple sauce, the bowl of marinara sauce that came with your fried mozzerella, and chocolate ice cream. It was such a mess, but you had a blast. The next day it occurred to me that we could give you FOOD with some NUTRITIONAL value in it that you could eat with a spoon. I'm not always the brightest bulb. Now you're eating yogurt and soups and things like that, and while you still love eating with a spoon, the novelty has finally somewhat worn off and you will eat non-spoon food again too.

You've been going through a phase lately where you cry very easily. You can be completely content, then realize that you're thirsty, and go into full-on hysterics because you want your cup of water. No amount of us trying to explain to you that all you have to do is ask us for things, or for help, or whatever it is you want/need, will convince you that any approach other than a complete freak-out is the way to go. It is thoroughly exhausting for us, obviously. And it is clearly very distressing for you too, though we don't seem to be able to help you find any way of stopping yourself from getting so worked up. Speaking with some other parents, apparently this is not unusual. I just hope this phase is short-lived.

In addition to becoming waaaaay more aggressive since starting your new daycare at the beginning of March (don't even get me started), another new sub-charming bit you've picked up is claiming anything and everything as your own. "Mine!" Constantly, with everything. It is nerve-wracking. This morning Daddy was getting you dressed, and pulled out a cute new shirt for you to wear. You grabbed it and would not let up with the Mine! thing. We try every angle with you... "Yes, it's yours" (when it really is)... "No, that's not yours. But you can hold it..." or whatever, but it never seems to get through to you or calm you at all. Finally Daddy wrestled the shirt out of your paws and onto your body and you again yelled Mine! Out of frustration with the obviousness of the fact that the shirt you were now wearing was indeed yours, he replied with "Duh!" And you said "My duh!" Yes, rabbit. Your duh.