Monday, December 15, 2008

"If I Could Control Life " - to the tune of "If I Were a Rich Man"

It's countdown time.

"The final countdown...."

"Let's get ready to rumble..."


And all of the above.

Although I'm not technically due for another two weeks, I feel like I could have this baby any day. As I clearly know, man plans and G-d laughs - so I am clearly not in control.


What I would do if I was in control? Hmm... for starters I would have had this baby already and put an end to my aches, pains, and late night insomnia antics. But I'm supposed to be holding off for two important reasons: #1 - my mother is coming tomorrow night G-d willing and #2 - Josh ends finals of his first semester in medical school this Friday.

Both reasons have a special, if not infamous place in my heart.

My mother planned to come to Maryland to be with me when I had my first, Aviva. I was due April 21 - a full two weeks after Pessach and after much debating, my mother decided to stay home in Detroit for the second days of Pessach and come to Maryland right after to make sure she didn't miss the birth. G-d had other plans. On April 8th, As Josh and I welcomed in the second days of Pessach with a beautiful kiddish and the breaking of my water at my in-laws Yom Tov table we knew the plans had changed. I was going to have a baby within 24 hours and Yom Tov just started. Not only would my mother not be there, but we will have a child, possibly name it if it is a girl, and not inform her or my father until two days later.

And that is precisely what happened.

Aviva was born at 11:30 AM on April 9th, the first day of second days of Pessach. After sitting through what turned into a teary-eyed, emotional, anxious meal with all eyes on me - Josh and I headed out to the hospital in a taxi at about midnight.

(It was a miracle we made it. We almost lost our minds with the taxi service. The shul had a special code in the back of the phone book when calling a cab on Shabbos/Yom Tov so one would not have to pay the driver at the time. In the phone book, the code was labeled "The Aleph, Bet, Gimmel, Daled, Hey" code. Hmmmm... ok????

So when Josh was speaking frantically to the cab driver of Indian or Lebanese descent he kept on telling them the Aleph Bet Gimmel Code. Naturally, they thought we were crazy. But alas! Josh figured it out -- he tried again saying the "One, two, three, four, five code!!"

"Ohhhhhhhhh, the one, two, tree, for, faive people" said the taxi driver with the thick middle-eastern accent. "Sure!! Sure!! I know cho you are!" I'll be right there!

Oh, it's no wonder my husband got into medical school.)

So after Josh called the taxi, ran to his Rosh Yeshiva's house to have a 4.5 minute crash course on Halachos of dealing with your wife when she has a baby (which of course his wife begged him to attend weeks BEFORE she went into labor) - we were successfully off to the hospital.

And Thank G-d, 11 hours later - our most beloved daughter was born.

After all the excitement, adrenaline, and fatigue, I remember sitting in my hospital bed on the postpartum floor thinking one thing: My parents have no idea I am holding my child in my hands.

You have to know my parents. My mother would have sold her right arm to be there with me. Josh kept saying he envisioned her receiving vibes all the way from Detroit and SPRINTING down the Pennsylvania Turnpike in snow, sleet, rain, or shine to be there in the hospital. But she was not.

And as you may have guessed, since Aviva was born on the first day of Yom Tov - Josh walked to Shul on the second day to name her. We could have technically waited, but we already knew we were going to name her Aviva Bracha (Bracha after my father's mother) and we believed it was the right thing to do. Besides, I'm not a huge fan of calling babies "Herbert" or "Bob" before they are properly named.

"If I could control life...."

I obviously could not control when I had Aviva and I surely could not control flying my mother to Maryland on a magic carpet eating Matzah of course, since it was Pessach - to be there with me when I had the baby. Thank G-d, I had my more-than wonderful in-laws who were there every step of the way. They enjoyed the entire experience from beginning to end and will always remember that crazy night/day.

(And no words have to be said about how amazing my mother is - and I know she was there with me in spirit.)

The second reason why I have to hold off on having this baby is because of Josh's finals.

Yes, Josh is almost finishing his first semester of medical school. He can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. ALMOST. I told him that despite what he thinks, he cannot go this entire week without sleeping AT ALL. Knowing him, he probably can't think that far ahead and will begin the trend unknowingly. I was quite pleased with him when he tracked into bed at 3:30 last night. The definition of a good night's sleep definitely alters when you are a medical student. 3:30 -7:00 is a relatively normal night's sleep.

Although this baby is more important than school (depending on who you ask... just joking) - it would be nice if Josh could finish his finals peacefully before the baby. Let me remind everyone that Josh took his MCAT FIVE DAYS AFTER AVIVA WAS BORN. Yes, that's right. It wasn't great timing - but he chose to take it that month. He slept by my side at the hospital on the couch with the baby in one arm and his MCAT book in the other. Of course the four nights leading up to the exam gave him little sleep - but of course, he was the happiest new father anyone could ask for. The MCAT however, will remain a less fond memory in his mind.

Point being - I feel like I owe him to a certain extent. I feel like he deserves a break. Either that, or we have to do a better job planning things because this baby/exam relationship isn't going over well in my head. Babies and books should have nothing to do with each other if you ask me.

But once again, I cannot control my schedule. It is in G-d's hands. Josh believes that I am convincing myself I will have the baby early since Aviva was two weeks early. I am not convincing myself and despite what he thinks, I cannot MAKE myself have the baby (although I would if I could) - I just feel ready any day now.

One thing I can control is making sure Josh is accessible this whole week in case I DO need him. Whether that be handing his cell phone to the professor during his 5 hour anatomy exam or wearing a pager that says "MY WIFE IS IN HER NINTH MONTH AND ABOUT TO POP" - I expect him to be somewhat accessible. And besides, it's not like I'm going to begin my labor and have a baby within 2-4 hours of his exam time right??? I should only be so lucky.

There are so many other things I wish I could control. What if it's a boy? Where will we get a Mohel? We're in Des Moines. What if it's a girl? Who will come to our Kiddish? Our friends live so far away. I also would love to control is Aviva's reaction to the new baby, but I know that is out of my hands. I hope she is understanding and compassionate - as best as a 21 month can be with a baby sibling. I have confidence in her though, she never ceases to amaze me.

I cannot control any of these things. We're here in Iowa and if a bris or kiddish will consist of Lander's Bagels and jelly so be it (although I'm sure my mother and mother in law will work at all leanghts to make everything beautiful!) We'll miss our friends pouring in the Simcha, but we know we're in their hearts and they're in ours -- miles away!!

So just as a note to self: wait for my mother and wait for my husband to take his exams in peace.

Easier said than done. My mother is coming tomorrow night - I think I can accomplish task #1. Task #2... will be in G-d's hands.

"If I could control life..."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Community Calendar

Oh how my weekend is complete.

I received a gift wrapped in a plastic bag on my door knob this morning. (Actually, I received it on Saturday...but chose not to take it in until Sunday, yes I am very Frum. Either that or the big "L Word" = Lazy.)

Well, as I drove down my still icy driveway at 8:15 this Sunday morning on my way to Hebrew school in the 16 degree weather, I noticed the gift wrapped in plastic. At first I was hesitant. It looked like some sort of solicitation I'd throw directly into the garbage. But hence it was not a solicitation.

It was better.

Much, much better.

I had received the 2009 Windsor Heights Community Calendar.

Joy to the world.

Now, I'm not trying to be negative. It's actually a really beautiful calendar. I could always use a calendar in the house.

Nautrally, I looked for the Shabbos lighting times on Fridays and the Pessach and Sukkos schedule, but who was I kidding? I hate to break it to myself, but there are approximately 10 other souls in the city of Windsor Heights who are in need of documenting Shabbos and Yom Tov times on their weekly/monthly calendars. I began to think to myself - what's the point of having a calendar if it doesn't show Shabbos and Yom Tov times? I wonder...

I know! I can check to see what days of the week mine and Josh's birthdays fall out on.

Josh's birthday is on a Friday and mine is on a Wednesday. Lovely.

okkkkk, What next?

This is boring.

I then noticed there were small postings on many days through out the calendar. I wondered what they were. I looked closer at the title of the calendar reading "Community" Calendar and I then realized that there were community events written on various dates.

This ought to be good. Let's review together shall we?

1. Elk's Bingo Club: Meets Sundays at 2:00 PM and Thursdays at 7:00 PM
Senior citizens, hearing aids, a night of math = NO THANK YOU.

2. Lions Club Meeting: Meets at Hy-Vee first Tuesday of every month at 6:30 PM
I know that Hy-Vee is the local supermarket but I haven't the slightest clue what the Lions Club Meeting is. Honestly, it sounds like a gentleman's club... but I'm not going down there. And I don't know why they'd meet in a supermarket.

3. Mayor's Hour: Meets every second Tuesday from 9:00-10:00 AM at the Mayor's Office
I wonder what kind of issues they'd bring up? Kinder, gentler dog rights? More rigorous plowing trucks? Annual children-with-no-shoes day? I have a whole list of things that I'd bring up. Starting with prohibiting manual garages to documenting Shabbos times on the calendar.

Note to self - attend Mayor's Hour.

(What if Mayor's Hour means a discussion of the Mayor's agenda, not the community members' agenda. Oops, didn't think about that.)

Note to self - stop being so selfish.

4. City Council Meeting: Every other week 5:15 at City Hall.
Oh this must be where community members can voice their rights. Let the mayor talk during his hour, I'll be attending the city council meeting.

5. Community Coffee Club: Meets third Saturday of every month from 9:00-10:30 AM at Grounds for Celebration.
My favorite coffee shop in the city!! And they meet on Saturday mornings.
Great, the one community event I'm passionate about. Oh well, it doesn't beat Shabbos. Moving on...

6. Legislative Coffee: Meets last Saturday of every month at 9:00 AM at 3E.
OK, don't know where 3E is but I sure don't understand what the correlation between coffee and Saturdays is. Hello?? Include others!

7. Elk's Club Pancake Breakfast: Meets second Sunday of every month 8:00 AM - Noon.
Don't know who these Elk club people are, but I'm up for pancakes.
But wait, these are the same people that play bingo. I have a feeling no one under 65 will be admitted.

8. WHF Meeting second Tuesday at 7:00 PM/ / WHJCC Board Meeting last Friday of every month from 8:30-9:30 AM.
I don't know what WHF or WHJCC stand for - kind of reminds me of WWF. Who knows, maybe it's a Des Moines wrestling club. I'm not one to judge...

Well there are others, but that pretty much sums it up.

Despite the fact that the calendar lacks Shabbos and Yom Tov times, it does not lack humor in my opinion -- which is always well needed. Now I know what to do on days that I'm bored. Crash the local council meeting, covet the Saturday coffee club, steer clear of Elk's Club Bingo, and pray to Gd the Lion's Club isn't doing what I think they're doing in the local family-friendly supermarket.

This is Des Moines we're talking about. I should be ashamed of myself for even suggesting such a thing.

Oh and naturally, there are restaurant coupons on the back flap of the calendar.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Josh and I are having a bit of an issue. We're experiencing our first TRUE winter together.

We've been through winter weather before. We lived in Silver Spring for two years. Now I'm not going to get on a my bandwagon here because it drives my husband crazy, but Marylanders don't really experience the thrusts of winter like the midwesterns do. This is a phenomenon that I do not understand. It snows every year in Maryland, does it not? Marylanders have to drive in the snow, do they not? Then why does the city of Washington D.C. make the hugest deal when there are three inches of snow on the ground? The roads don't get plowed very quickly, the average speed limit on the highway drops to 35, and people begin to bring out their REAL winter outwear.... tiny little peacoats from Old Navy. Ohhhhh!! Now we're really prepared.

I've grown up my whole life knowing that winter coat shopping was a mere battle zone when it came to dealing with my father. (My friends relay similar stories of such battle zones.) My sisters and I would pick the trendiest coats - but we knew they'd have to pass the warmth test.. My father would literately have to feel the inside padding of the coat to make sure it was properly insulated. We'd plead our cases with googly eyes - but to no avail.

Warmth over style. We were forced to swallow it.

I have to admit - now that I am older and wiser (and a mother myself), I truly understand the value of proper winter outerwear. Because if it weren't for my father, I'd end up lost - like a typical Marylander with a peacoat when it's negative five degrees outside.

Like the time we went to Detroit in January with about 8-12 inches of snow on the ground. Of course, we didn't pack the most sensible clothing - but since I was in a house with three other Stawis women - I had my fair share of boots, hats, gloves, and coats (screened by my father) so I would be properly garbed when entering the winter wonderland outside. Then there was Josh. Josh is 6"1. My father is 5"9. My brother is 5"9 1/2. Josh putting on my father or brother's coats would be like an elephant squeezing into a turtle's shell. As good of a sport he is, he'd rather freeze thank you.

But then there were the galoshes. Somehow, some way, my father convinced Josh to use his extra pair of galoshes over his Shabbos shoes. Thinking it wouldn't be too harmfull, Josh squeeeeeeeeezed his beautiful patent leather wedding shabbos shoes into the rubber protectors and proceeded to wear them the entire morning. When he came home, not only were his toes red and completely malformed, he had officially ruined his shoes. So there we were, completely out of style, with our bodies completely misshaped, but once again---- we were warm.

(So much for not getting on my bandwagon... sorry Josh, please forgive me.)

We now live in Iowa.

I'm not sure if it annoys me or makes me proud, but the people here are so RIDICULOUSLY sensible when it comes to the weather. They wear REAL coats. They wear REAL boots. Walmart has been selling snow shovels and ice scrapers since the end of September (are you surprised??) - Don't worry, that hasn't expediated our need for buying these items. Sure enough, we waited until the middle of December to purchase these items, but that's besides the point.

I'll have everyone know that Aviva dresses very sensibly for the winter. She has boots, a Rothchild puff coat (I scored with the style and warmth with that item!)gloves, and a real snow hat that covers her ears and chin. She is a force to be reckoned with. She can roll in the snow and not get a flake on her. She makes me proud. She is the daughter of a Detroiter.

I have to admit, the winter weather has been quite controlled before we left for Silver Spring this Thanksgiving break. Sure, the temperature has been cold and it flurried here and there, but there were no major winter issues. That is, until the DAY we returned to our home-sweet-home. We were welcomed home HARD.

When we finally returned after our lay-over trip, Aviva and I patiently waited for over a half an hour for Daddy to fetch the car from the economy lot. The weather outside was definitely frightful. I was shocked at how much snow was on the ground even from my view on the plane. And to make things worse, it was coming down hard even as we were leaving the airport. Now for those of you who are thinking ahead.... economy lot = no car covering. Yes, we saved money, but yes, our car was covered in 3-5 inches of snow and no, Josh did not have the proper gloves, hat, coat, or scraper to get all of the snow off and retain his warmth. Being the good man that he is once again, he tried his hardest and got all the snow off bare-handed and all. The entire ride home from the airport we argued our "Detroit vs. Maryland winter argument" which ended in me not being allowed to go out to Walmart to buy the basic needs (milk, cereal, juice, etc.) after we returned from our trip due to the weather. I'm not allowed to say I can handle it because I'm from Detroit. That only makes him madder. So the milk and cereal had to wait.

The snow didn't end there. It's snowed most of the week since we returned from Silver Spring. Thankfully, our landlord has lived up to his word of plowing our driveway. Although this is a major help, if you don't shovel the snow as it comes down, it tends to pile up below the snow plow and freeze over - making a thin sheet of snow/ice even after it's been plowed. Great, just what we need for a sleep-deprived medical student, 9 month pregnant lady, and 1/5 year old who just started walking 4 months ago. Translation: Accident-prone!!

Despite the wonderful plowing, our walk-way and stairs that lead up to our front door are still covered in snow. And ice for that matter. Which is when I informed Josh that we needed to purchase a shovel and salt for the ice. (We purchased the shovel, but have not yet tackled the salt.)

It suddenly dawned on me that we needed to shovel ASAP because other human beings may try to enter our home i.e. the UPS man, a neighbor, or our babysitter, Jessica. Instead of proactively shoveling our walkway, we simply told Jessica to enter our house through our garage. This has been working well until we received a note from our landlord that our garage should be shut at all times unless we are pulling out or pulling in. (Geez, so many issues with the garage!! If there are going to be so many rules... why not install an automatic switch for us?!?! and take us out of our misery?!) bottom line is - we can no longer take the easy way out. Josh - WE NEED TO SHOVEL AND ICE OUR WALKWAY.

I hope people don't think we're rude or lazy or that we would G-d forbid want their children to slip and fall in front of our house. (although we don't want intruders and like our space, we would never ever do such a thing.) We're just really really busy. I know that sounds lazy and it's a bad excuse but it's true. I almost feel like we need to plan our housekeeping chores around Josh's exam schedule. The boy barely eats and sleeps, let alone remembers to do housework. I wish I could just snap my fingers and have it done!

Between you and me, I would seriously get out there and shovel and salt myself. I don't for my husband's sake. I wouldn't want to embarress him. I wouldn't want others to think he isn't a good husband and isn't helpful and is making his popping wife shovel the walk-way. I'll wait until he does it.

(which better be soon.)

I know he'll step up to the plate, as he always does. Just think, he entered Iowa as a naive pea-coated Marylander and will be leaving a man - a true Iowan winter pioneer.

And then there's me - the natural, the native. Just joking. It's not easy for me either. I have to get back in the groove myself. Although I do just smile and nod when Josh instructs me to call Hebrew school to see if it will be canceled when it only snowed about 3-5 inches.

I know better.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Our Short Taste of Freedom

For Thanksgiving weekend Josh, Aviva, and I had our short taste of freedom. i.e. Silver Spring.

Our excitement for this vacation weekend knew no bounds. Aviva was completely packed approximately 5 days prior to our departure. I actually had to remove her undershirts and socks from the suitcase in order to dress her at home the days before we left. I practically brought every article of clothing that I still fit into so that I would have multiple options of outfits to wear. I feel like such a shlub around the house at home - why not bring a million choices of clothes for my vacation when seeing my family and friends? And yes, I did leave Josh a small corner of the suitcase.

Josh was beyond excited as well. The night before we left he told himself he was going to start his vacation early and not study. He just sat on the couch with his eyes half-closed murmuring "I just want to go out and play some poker."

Ok A. we don't have a whole lot of money to spare and B. knowing our friends, you'll probably get to play some in Silver Spring.

Josh had slept for 2 hours over the past 48 before we left for SS due to two back-to-back exams. I can tell when Josh stays up the whole night (which unfortunately is not an uncommon occurrence). First of all, with my ninth-month insomnia predicament (inability to get comfortable in ANY position) I find myself gazing at the clock at all hours of the night. 1:15...3:45....4:50.... numbers I don't like to associate with the night time, only the afternoon time. And sure enough - no Josh to be found. Then I hear the rustling of papers and crumbling of food bags. Yup, Josh is raiding the lazy susan for "healthy snacks" at 4:00 AM (which I have yet to master on the shopping list) and shuffling his papers all over the coffee table. Sure enough, on schedule, he stumbles into the bedroom at 6:30 to take a shower mumbling under his breath that he is going to fail the exam and that sleep is overrated and for the weak. Hmm... I beg to differ. As a mother knows, large quantities of sleep may not always be possible, but it sure as heck is not overrated! When Josh stays up the whole night, he'll usually fetch Aviva from her 13 hour slumber after he hasn't slept a wink. When I come out, I find the family room a wreck with papers all over, pillows and food everywhere, and our chenille throw on the floor (which distinctively smells like Josh since he must cloak himself with all possible warmth due to the pregnant lady's thermostat altering antics). But sure enough, he picks himself up and takes that test making us all proud. And I get over the fact that he forgot to shut the lazy susan..... most of the time.

Well that was pretty much the scene right before we left. So again, you can imagine our excitement.

The day finally came! We shut the exploding suitcases, eagerly loaded the car, shut our MANUAL garage, and ditched our one-horse town!!

Maybe I should call it the one-gate town, since the airport is approximately the size of the Southfield Public Library in Detroit. When approaching the terminal, instead of seeing signs that read "Departures" or "Arrivals" there is ONE sign that says "Loading Dock" because you do both in the same place!! Yup, that's right - our airport sounds like a construction site.

When we checked in, the lady behind the counter printed up our boarding passes and inquisitively asked me, "Oh, when are you due?" That triggered panic on my part. The first thing I sputtered out was, "I have a note from my Dr.!!! I am fine to travel! I'm not due for another 6 weeks!" (that's a lie... I'm due in four weeks... and will probably have the baby early... so we're really looking at 2 weeks... but wtvr.) She just blinked and stared at me and said, "Oh. I was just curious."

Oops. Snapping at the check-in lady. Not starting on a good foot...

But then she proceeded to tell me horror stories of when she traveled pregnant and threw up all over everyone around her on the plane. TOO MICH INFORMATION. Besides, I hate when people share their horror stories. Ok, I don't feel so bad for snapping anymore.

Aviva was a hit. She ran through the entire airport (not such a large feat), played in the play area, which I have to admit was very cute, and was all-around pretty terrific through out the flights. Of course, we brought Josh's computer and let Aviva watch a few DVDs, which fully entertained her when she was not pulling EVERY item out of the service flap in front of the chairs including emergency information, vomit bags, and air mall shopping magazines. (Remember Aviva's "HELLOOOO IN THEREEEEE!!!" antic her Daddy taught her for Imma's tummy? Well, she proceeded to do that into the vomit bag. Everyone got a kick out of that one.)

The trip was even more exciting because my mother and sisters met us during our 3 hour lay-over in the Detroit airport. I was so beyond thrilled to see them... but they did bring... me.... PIZZA. FROM JERUSALEM PIZZA!!! Yes - I mean real, authentic pizza (not just homemade dough and tomato sauce pizza). It was such a beautiful moment. I think the best part was when Shevy asked if she could have one slice and embarrassingly, but whole-heatedly, I said absolutely not. We had a great time playing, eating, and talking, until we unfortunately had to trudge back through security (the torturous death of us all) and make our way to our flight to Baltimore.

We finally made it!!! Aviva's Bubby and Zaidy were beyond thrilled to see her!! It was a trip six months in the making! No words can describe the love and attention Aviva got through out the whole weekend! She received a new Elmo Live from her grandparents and great grandparents and was thrilled to see the abundance of toys Bubby brought down from her from storage. It was a virtual playroom! It was as if we never left... and I can't forget the uncles and aunt (singular) that gave Aviva so much TLC through out the weekend! It was all wonderful!

Of course - Josh and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. I told myself that I was not going to pressure Josh for any major social obligations or big trips. We were going to relax. We were going to SLEEP. We were going to be laid back. And we pretty much were. I ventured out to visit some friends on my own - and Josh caught up on the rested he needed (translation: 75 games of game cube mario baseball with his 14 year old brother - but hey, I'm not complaining. He doesn't get to do it year round... thank the Lord above.) And I did make Josh live up to ONE social obligation - visiting some of our friends at the Warwick Saturday night. We had a great time seeing everyone, ate pizza and played scategories just like old times. As usual, Josh was the hit of the night - asking Jeremy Goodman if he was "tickly" and having his wife claim that Tamir Goodman "flies". (sorry y'all... you had to be there.)

Oh, I forgot to mention - I was privy to watching a "Rocky" movie marathon with the Rosenbloom men. After yelling at the boys for a half hour that I don't want such profanity on while Aviva is roaming the house, I actually sat down and watched some of the movie. And crazy enough... I actually enjoyed it.

We were so sad to leave. We really value our friends so much and we miss them dearly. We hope they don't go anywhere and wait for us to return some day!! And I'm sure you can imagine, the family was pretty depressed as well. We all concluded that we can't go a full six months without seeing each other again. We stressfully packed up our 500 bags and trudged off to the airport once again.

After a relatively uneventful trip (minus the snow in Detroit, 3 gate changes, and 15 minute stand-still to watch the Giants/Redskins game on the big screen) we made it home only to welcome 5 inches of snow, a car covered in white, and our house that we left at 64 degrees (HEAVEN!!!!!)

Our short taste of freedom was much needed and much enjoyed. I can't lie that it doesn't feel good to be back in my own home -- manual garage and all. We're here for a purpose - and we're actually getting used to it.

We're looking forward to more tastes of freedom to come.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You Learn Something New Every Day

The good people of Iowa have taught me a great many things.

Some good... some bad... some downright laughable.

Let's start with the vocabulary.

Now, as a technical writer (and a newly talented blogger), I consider my daily jargon to be relatively advanced. What else do you expect from someone who spends hours of her day writing? Well, besides the fact that my spelling isn't always perfect I believe I can definitely wing it where the English language is concerned.

However, that does not include strange, primitive, hick town phrases or words which I have never in my life heard!!

(Note: As is a usual occurrence in my blogs, I might be exaggerating just a tad bit, and the truth is - you may have ACTUALLY heard of these words/phrases before. Now I did not grow up a princess (although my husband and my brother-in-law may disagree on that point) but no, I am not familiar with slang terms for tools or words that describe farm-like physical exertions. Why is it that men know what these terms mean? I don't think it's because they look up the definitions in the dictionary. They just know it. They probably knew all the inappropriate words back in preschool before we women did because they make it their business to know. Either that, or they pretend to know what everything means and then just make us feel stupid when we have no idea what they're talking about.)

Ok, here's the vocabulary list:

1. Consignment Shop (otherwise known as a thrift shop - this one's for you Rachel!)

One day, I was on my way to TCBY ice cream with Aviva when I noticed a children's shop right next store. I immediately noticed that it wasn't an ordinary store - there was baby equipment (strollers, swings, pack-n-plays...) lined up outside and a sign on the window that said "Accepting Today". Accepting what I thought? Customers? Of course they are!! Then I thought, hey Aviva! Let's go in!

Once we went in, I realized what was meant by "Accepting Today". They're accepting items for their store!! People actually bring their used items to the store and depending on the quality and condition, receive money for it! Then the customers come in and have the option to purchase such items! Fascinating!! There was clothing, toys, shoes, books, videos. You name it, they had it. I called my mother and explained to her this wondrous phenomenon. She said yes, honey. That is called a thrift store. People bring in used items for other people to buy at a discounted price. She then probably mumbled under her breathe (Oh lord, where did I go wrong?!?!)

Now I have very dear friends who shop at these places and are down-right proud of it. You go girls!! That's not to say however, that I have not bought a single item from the store and each time I pass it, the only true thought that comes across my mind is "how much money can I get when I bring in my used items!!"

2. Sack

Now, ok y'all, I know what a "sack" is - but not in reference to grocery shopping! The first time I went to Walmart, the lady at the cash register kindly asked, "Would you like a sack for your milk?

A sack? for my milk? Whatever happened to "paper or plastic?" lady?! I'm going grocery shopping for Gd's sake not apple picking!

And yes, I would like a sack for my milk. Please don't make me feel guilty that I am not being kind to my environment. But I am carrying a toddler and pregnant, and it would just be a whole lot easier if I could carry my milk into the house in a SACK.

Now a friend of mine once told me that she thinks it's hilarious that her mother in law calls her shopping bags "parcels" or "bundles" or something of that nature... Well that least that sounds refined!! No, sorry. When I go shopping, I have to carry home my sacks of food.

3. Doohickey

Now, I actually had to look this one up in the thesaurus. It's a synonym for widget. Context in which I learned this word? Surely you are wondering because lord knows I would never use the word doohickey on my own.

Our landlord promised us an external paint job on our house pretty much since the day we moved in. Well, as July quickly turned to October, we had not yet received our paint job. Not to complain, because we've been very happy with our arrangements thus far- but I was really counting on that paint job!

Well, one day, out of the clear blue sky at the end of October, someone knocked on our door and asked my babysitter to move her car so the paint truck could park in our driveway. They were here! And ready to paint!! No call, no note, no heads up - just -- move your car!! We've got some painting to do!

Hey... gotta choose your battles. I said "Jess, move that car!!"

The paint job went rather smoothly. I was actually quite pleased with the two-toned ensemble they chose. Our house is a cream/taupe and the garage and front door are a deep brown. But when hick #1 was busy painting the garage, hick #2 went to work on the front door. Josh happened to have been home at the time, when hick #2 kindly asked him, "Hey man - what's that doohickey on your doorpost? Can I take it off to paint the door?

Oh great, the Mezuzah again.

No, we don't use it for witchcraft and no, no one has ever referred to it as a doohickey.

After quickly thinking on his toes, Josh realized the man was referring to the Mezuzah and kindly took 2 minutes out of his busy schedule to conduct a mini-kiruv session on Mezuzahs. And yes, kindly, after the paint job was over - hick #2 helped us put the our doohickey Mezuzah back on the door ever so lovingly.

4. Entertainment Packets

Last night, at my Student Advocacy Association Meeting, the theme of the night was "making inexpensive Christmas gifts". Granted, I wasn't going to stay for the actual activity, but I went to the beginning of the meeting to hear all the other announcements. Since the theme of the night seemed to be "being thrifty" one girl reminded the group that in the Sunday paper, there is a wonderful Entertainment Packet. What this is is not just a book of coupons for stores (which I understand that concept perfectly well), but the book also has coupons at restaurants - like "buy one entree, get the other one half off."

This just confused me. Maybe I'm sheltered because I only eat at Kosher restaurants and Jews would never do such a thing as mail out coupons for their entrees, but I just wondered what it would be like to hand a coupon to the waiter at a formal restaurant. Do they know they sent those coupons out in the mail? Is everyone on the same page here? Do they have to call the manager to scan it??

Hmm.... food for thought. (No pun intended)

5. Manual Garage

Pardon me, but no part of the word "garage" was ever manual in my lifetime. Until now. No clicker, no "open sesame", no playing with the garage sensor and making the door stop midway in its descent. Nope. It's called a rope. You pull it when you want the thing closed. You shove it upward when you want the thing open.

Enough said.

6. Elbow Grease

Now, my history with the term "elbow grease" goes beyond my Des Moines days. It started in my parent's kitchen on Harding Street when I was polishing the silver (one of my lesser favorite activities). When I couldn't get the hard stains out of the candle sticks, I maturely went to whine to my mother that we needed stronger silver polish solution. "Dear" she said, "It just needs some good old-fashioned elbow grease." Oh - why didn't I think of that?

5 minutes later my mother found me on the highest tier of our step stool in our walk-in pantry (no Stawis woman is above 5"4)with a frustrated look on my face saying, "Imma. You said it needed elbow grease. I can't find it!! Where the heck is it???"

A moment later, I had to literately lift my mother from the floor who was rolling in tears of laughter. For those of you who don't know, elbow grease means MANUALLLLLL LABORRRRR - it means grind that elbow a little harder!!! It means.... no.... it does not come in a bottle!!!

And by the way, I was not 11 when this story occurred. I was more like 20.

Point being, I've used a lot of elbow grease since I arrived in Des Moines. The real kind.

7. Crawl Space

This one I have to hand to my husband. I was thrilled to notice when we first toured our house that we had a lovely storage space under the stairwell. A great place for storing our suitcases, paper goods, folding chairs, (85 boxes which Josh cut and folded PERFECTLY and chose to keep until our next move). When we were in the depths of unpacking and moving in - Josh would say, "Malkie, put this in the crawl space!!"

The what?

I am not a toddler. I do not crawl. What space is for crawling? Oh THAT AREA?? That's a storage room. Why do people call it a crawl space? I sure as heck ain't crawling in there.

Well there you have it. Your daily dose of Iowan vocabulary. Like I said, some of you (most of you) probably heard these terms before. I did not.

Go ahead, laugh. Make fun. Call me a snob. But I bet when I leave this city... I'll sure know a lot more about doohickeys and shopping sacks then you ever will.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Don't it Always Seem to Go that You Don't Know What You've Got till it's Gone

(Please keep an open mind)

My clothes. My beautiful clothes.

Where have they gone?

I know this sounds really shallow, but I'm in the process of pregnancy withdrawal right now. Put yourself in my shoes for a minute:

I spent nearly a month packing away my beautiful belongings from Silver Spring in preparation for my move to Des Moines. I ever so carefully folded my tops, skirts, sweaters, suits, dresses, into (FAR TOO MANY) moving boxes labeled "Malkie's precious clothing". (Just joking, the box didn't say "precious" although it should have). Josh was actually the one who labeled the boxes (Correction: Josh labeled the boxes, numbered the boxes, took digital photos of the inside and outside of the boxes, logged the box numbers and their contents in a spreadsheet, estimated the value of the contents in each you get the picture?) As I was thrown into the awful stresses of moving and kowtowing to Josh's organized yet torturing "labeling procedure", my one true pleasure was carefully packing away my possessions. I would pack my clothes thinking "Oh, I'll wear this this dress on this weekend" or "I'll wear this outfit when I meet this person..." (I understand there may be some of you who cannot relate to this idea. The idea of planning one's wardrobe. Well, the same people who take three hours to pack a suitcase because they have to plan out and try on each outfit for each occasion, like myself, truly understand.) This is what went through my mind as I was packing up for Des Moines.

So what if I don't know anyone! So what if I'm leaving my friends behind! So what if I'm leaving a city I can't wait to return to! I still have my clothing all packed up and waiting to be hung in a brand new house!


Wait a minute.

I almost forgot.

I'm 15 weeks pregnant.


Shoot! shoot! shoot! shoot! shoot! Scratch that idea. Then I thought, maybe it won't be so bad. I'll enjoy hanging up my new clothing in my closet and perhaps I'll leave my "I still can wear these although I'm pregnant" outfits at my front reach.

So that's precisely what I did. Although I will readily admit that Josh took charge of PACKING our belongings from Silver Spring, I was mostly involved in unpacking our 85 or so boxes once we arrived. (I cannot BELIEVE I don't recall the actual number of boxes we had... I sure hope Josh isn't reading this. He probably still dreams each night about the number of boxes we had an how our scammy movers ripped us off. Josh will dream about those number for an eternity. Such dreams belong in the category of "men who try to find the best parking space right next to the door although they constantly complain that they need more exercise to get into better shape." Men - stop being such men!)

Well anyway, since I was in charge of unpacking, you can bet I unpacked my clothes in quite a hurry - not to mention hogging all of the hangers we so wisely remembered to pack. (Note: Aviva's clothing are also extremely important on my list... so her belongings were unpacked very quickly as well!)

I enjoyed the scene. Taking out each garment with love and care. Wondering how I should arrange my closet. By season? By color? By favorite? The possibilities were endless. Husbands, when your wives complain that they don't have enough clothes, I suggest this tactic. Have them pack away all of their clothes and then unpack each garment one by one - marveling at each item. (I know it sounds a little over the top... but it just may work.) Or I have another suggestion. Get pregnant, leave your clothes for 9 months... and joyously return to the beautiful wardrobe!! Ok, ok, people should get pregnant for other more important reasons. Forget I mentioned it.

I'd like to take a break to mention - this isn't all about being snobby and obsessed with clothing (although it is about that a LITTLE). This is also about a need for organization. If you're the type of person who loves the smell of "a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils" (You've Got Mail) or you enjoy organizing your shoes in the order of how frequently you wear them, you will understand. Sadly, I admit, I can be that person.

Ok. So a recap of the scene: Clothes are unpacked, everything is organized, everything is beautiful. Except for the fact that I am entering my second trimester and I will not fit into these clothes in approximately 12 hours.

That's when I moved my wardrobe into the SECOND CLOSET! How wonderful to have a three bedroom house! I have been using the closet in our third bedroom as my "maternity wardrobe". It makes me feel important to rise in the morning and walk down the hallway to another bedroom to fetch my clothes. (Albeit, the walk to the third bedroom is approximately three steps and my ever-so glamorous closet is shared with comforters, suitcases, and Josh's 200 ties.)

Nonetheless, it made sense to me. One true closet and one maternity, "nine-months-seems-like-an-eternity" closet.

However, as the title of this blog reads "You don't know what you've got till it's gone". Each morning when I open my eyes (after I say Mode Ani of course), I look from my bed into my open closet and gaze at the beautiful colors and fabrics. It's such a beautiful image, I almost want to take a picture. How beautiful would your closet look if the clothes were unfettered for a full 9 months?! And after I stumble into my maternity closet and put on something I probably wore 4 times already that week, I peer back into my true closet and think of the days that I will no longer be 30 lbs heavier, exhausted, and completely reshaped.

Between you and me, there technically can be a third closet. The "I'm not pregnant, but I'm not a size ____ (fill in the blank) I used to be quiet yet." However, with Aviva sleeping in one room, the new baby sleeping in another, and me and husband in the third - I'm not quite sure where we can find closet space for that. Although my husband is a boy, he is entitled to his personal space and I will not stoop to the level of taking over his closet......................................................yet.

Again, for those of you who are having trouble understanding this (or those of you who understand it perfectly well and are disgusted) just remember, it's a hormonal thing. I'm 33 weeks pregnant, 33 lbs above my usual weight and just really looking forward to being the old me. In the case of pregnancy, I can say that the end surely justifies the means - and a baby is most definitely, absolutely, positively worth it!

That's not to say however, that I am already planning my outfit for this occasion, and that occasion.... hoping and praying to God that I will someday fit into those outfits once again!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween Confessions

I know, the words "Halloween" and "confession" aren't really a large part of the Jewish vocabulary. Yes, I am Jewish. No, I do not celebrate Halloween. Yes, I am writing about it anyway.

Halloween was an interesting event here in Des Moines. In the great Walmart spirit, costumes, candy, accessories, and decorations were sold in the store fore-front for about six weeks prior to the very important holiday. For Aviva, this was a bittersweet experience. There were some days we couldn't even walk past the aisles because some of the costumes were so God awfully scary. Other days, we regained our courage and searched the costumes for none other than... our best friend... Elmo. Elmo is referred to as "LaLa" in our house because Aviva's one DVD (Elmo's World) begins with Elmo's theme song, "la la la la, la la la la la, Elmo's world..." So when we were feeling brave, our Walmart experience consisted of finding la la (before the scary costumes could find us).

Our first personal Halloween experience happened when Aviva's Kindermusik sent out a newsletter inviting us to a "Halloween/Fall Festival Party". Ok, maybe I shouldn't have gone because the word "Halloween" was in there. But the word "Fall Festival" was also in there - and I felt that was pretty parve - so we went! Listen, on Sundays when Josh is studying all day I pretty much jump at any opportunity for a fun activity. And no, don't worry - I didn't put Aviva in a costume.

The party was fun. The kids pretended they were leaves falling from trees (Hence the "fall festival" aspect of the event title - see? parve, right??) They also sang "The Monster Bash" - Ok... I'll admit defeat when necessary.

After the singing was over, the kids were invited to a room full of fall activities such as jumping in a "leaf pile" (of scarves and pillows), riding through a pumpkin patch, and decorating wooden Halloween masks. Despite the wonderful other parve activities, Aviva chose to decorate a kitty-cat Halloween mask. As our parve outing was turning less and less parve, I decided to let it go. Aviva loves her mask, decorated it very nicely, and maybe will be able to wear it on Purim!!

Oh and don't worry - at our next Kindermusik class where the kids were invited to come dressed up in Halloween costumes, I did NOT cave. After much consideration of putting Aviva in her Purim bumble-bee outfit or Redskins cheerleading outfit (you can guess which one her father preferred) - I decided to stop the Halloween Mishigas and stand my ground as a nice Jewish family. It actually felt good :) And don't worry, Aviva wasn't the only kid left out. One other mother forgot to put her kid in a costume and she was looked at as the world's worst mother. I wonder what the only could have thought of me...

Well, after all the great anticipation, Halloween finally arrived. Now, you may not know, but the families in Des Moines are quite Frum. They go trick-or-treating on "Erev Halloween" - the night of October 30th, not the 31st. I was quite glad to hear this since October 31 fell out on a Friday this year and I sure was not in the mood for my barefooted neighbor friends to stalk us during our Friday night dinner.

I definitely overestimated the wonders of Halloween in our neighborhood. I had visions of the doorbell ringing all night with tons of kids bombarding us for candy. My mother gave us a good idea and told us to leave some candy on the porch and a note saying not to ring the bell or knock on the door - just take the candy. And hey, if one kid takes all the candy - there's no more! Sounds pretty easy. A sure way to keep the kiddies away.

Like I said, I overestimated. I bought three large bags of the Hershey's mini chocolates (milk chocolate, dark chocolate, Mr. Goodbar, & Krackle). I put up a note requesting that the kids don't bother us - and invited our guests to take TWO treats per person. Even though Josh rolled on the floor with laughter at my TWO treat rule (he explained to me that I was quite the dork) -it actually worked pretty well.

Our only true guests (who arrived before we put our note up) were of course... can you guess...? Our lovely neighbors!! Desiree was a cowgirl which was actually quite endearing. Although her brother (the one with the knives) was some horrid looking vampire thing on stilts that was sure to give any toddler nightmares. They were very pleasant and naturally... took the candy and ran.

I should say that we ASSUME everything went smoothly. I chose to attend Josh's volleyball game at his school that night and left the Rabbi's daughters to babysit on Halloween night. We didn't hear any horror stories and of course, we gave them tons of candy when they went home. We can only imagine what they think of us now. (Just joking... they totally understand).

In conclusion, to end our Halloween spirit, I purchased an Elmo trick-or-treat basket today at Walmart for 99 cents. Naturally, Aviva loves it.

Oh, and also - you can only imagine where our extra Hershey's candy is going.

I'm almost 8 months pregnant... you don't have to think too hard.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Belly...You're Belly

I was initially reluctant to blog about my pregnancy because I do believe that it is a private matter, but I have to share the funny stories associated with it!

Firstly, there's the issue of breaking the ice with Aviva. Any 18 month old would be devastated the day she realizes that she will no longer be the center of the universe for her two young, energetic parents (haha... we'll see how young and energetic we are after #2)! So in order to gradually break the ice with Aviva, Josh naturally wanted to talk to her about Imma's tummy. A few times a day, Josh would ask Aviva, "Aviva, say hello to the baby in Imma's tummy!" I know people think this is cute, but I honestly got a little worried. First, I thought she was going to get completely freaked out that there was a living thing inside me worthy of saying hello to (and not just the dinner protruding from my stomach), but secondly - I thought Aviva was going to start thinking that EVERY adult had a baby in their stomach! I had an image of her approaching teenagers, adults, grandparents, rabbis pointing to their tummies and saying, "Baby!!!!"

Well... that's SORT OF what happened.

Aviva believes there is a baby in her belly. In fact, she is so obsessed with her belly, when you ask where her tummy is, she'll roll up her sweater, shirt, and undershirt and point directly into her belly button. The belly button thing has become such an obsession, her babysitter had to mention something about it to me. She asked me if Aviva's stomach was bothering her because she is constantly lifting up her shirt and scratching/rubbing her belly button so much so that she is actually getting a rash in there!

All in all it is very cute. When Aviva says the word "baby" her pitch rises like 8 octaves and she starts to do a cradling/swaying motion. She also performs another antic her father taught her. She looks at my belly, puts her head against it and says HELLOOOOOOOOOO... as in "Hello In There!!!" As if my belly is some sort of haunted house.

I'm embarrassed to admit, but I took Aviva to the OB with me recently. The fact that we don't live near family and don't really know a lot of people is constantly causing a problem in the babysitting department. I figured, hey - I could probably take Aviva with me to the OB, just once even - it won't be so bad.


Well she was relatively wonderful the entire time in the waiting room watching the fish in the aquarium and eating her snack. However, when the nurse called me back and it was time to take my blood pressure - Freak Out #1 occurred. The second the nurse wrapped the arm band around me, Aviva burst into tears. I felt honored honestly, she thought the lady was hurting me for crying out loud!! Murphy's law had it that the machine didn't work the first time, so I ended up getting 2 blood pressure checks to Aviva's great delight. There I was sitting on the chair with a toddler in my lap getting my blood pressure taken. What a life.

I think Aviva's favorite part of the trip was the urine sample. She loved coming into the large bathroom with me and found the entire thing fascinating. Hey! Maybe this is step one to potty training! Mothers - bring in those children for the urine samples!!

But lastly and worst of all was when I met with the Dr. in the exam room. Aviva was reading her books so nicely when the doctor asked me to lean back in the chair so he could listen to the baby's heart beat. Aviva FREAKED OUT when he used the device on my stomach. So there I was once again - on an exam chair... with a child on my lap... trying to allow the Dr. to hear my baby's heart beat....

You get the picture.

All I can say was that the doctor was really understanding. Actually - I can say something else: I am never bringing Aviva to the OB with me again. I love her dearly, but the thrill of the urine sample sure does not justify the stress I went through to get us out of there in one piece.

Last and final item: The temperature in the house.

Oh man, I wish I lived in an Igloo. I say it's always better to be cold because you can always layer up as opposed to being hot when there's only so much you can take off. I'm not used to being the hot one. My husband grew up with a relatively cool temperature house and whenever we visit my in laws the basement is always sub-zero weather (my kind of environment these days). I'm also from Detroit, so I love the winter weather as well.

So you can imagine when it's 30 degrees in the early Iowa morning and lasts that way until it reaches about 50 mid-day, it's bound to get cold in the house! In fact, it was so cold overnight that I would get Aviva in the morning and feel that her hands and fingers were complete ice! I felt really bad... but I was so reluctant to turn the heat on. Call me selfish, but when the mama isn't comfortable - no one is comfortable!!

Ok, ok, don't worry I wouldn't do that to my daughter (or my husband, ,who began sleeping with the covers up to his nose which kind of reminded me of Steve Martin in Father of the Bride II when he wears a complete Eskimo outfit in L.A. because his house was set to like 50 degrees for his pregnant wife and daughter). So I succumbed to the horrible pressure and turned on the heat. My muscles begin to tense when I even hear the word. Here I am, barely sleeping at night, sweating during the day all so that my love ones don't freeze to death in the Iowa winter. Just another small gesture of selflessness (albeit a little common sense).

Ok - my secret is that sometimes I crack open a window even when the heat is on just to get some fresh air during the day. I dare not publicize this because I know all the men in my life - my husband, my father, my father in law, etc. would probably have nightmares and stomach ulcers if they found out I was doing such a horrible thing wasting such energy and money.

That's why I don't really do it... only when I'm desperate.

Hopefully all of these issues will be resolved by the end of December, G-d willing. I am very thankful for all the blessings in my life and just like to add a little humor to the current situation!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Trouble with Neighbors

Our neighbors for lack of a better term... are quite the hillbillies.

Josh and I kept a relatively low profile when we first moved to Des Moines. We actually met our immediate next-door neighbors the moment we drove into our driveway after the 16-hour trudge through the night from Silver Spring (you can imagine how glamorous that encounter must have been... Aviva with vomit on her pajamas, Josh half-awake stumbling over his own two feet, and me in my bandanna and running eye-liner from two days past). The couple was very nice and even have a little boy around the same age as Aviva and a 7 year old girl. Let's call them the Jones family - and the little girl Natasha. Other than the Jones family, we never really interacted with our neighbors or their children... until recently.

Whenever Josh or I glanced out the window, we always saw Natasha playing with our other neighbor's two kids - a boy (12) and a girl (8). Blond hair and blue eyed, the kids were cute - but we couldn't get over one fact: they NEVER wore shoes or socks. They ran in their yard, on their driveway, in the street, and across the street at the playground... in their bare feet.

I don't know, maybe some people think that's normal. But for my foot-obsessive husband who makes sure we all clip our nails, scrub the bottom of our feet in the shower, and believes that I have bunyans (no, I do not have bunyans) thinks the idea is completely primitive! In fact every time he sees them running around in their bare feet, all he can manage to say is, "I bet their foot is just one big callous." Honestly, it didn't bother me all that much - until the day I realized their hands were as dirty as the bottom of their feet.

We probably would have continued our merry lives without getting to know these kids too well if it wasn't for Aviva who is beyond obsessed with other kids, calling every human being under the age of 20 "baby." So when she screams "BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!" out the window at the school-aged children, we know it's time we brought her out and introduced her to them.

Of course the two girls immediately fell in love with her, especially Desiree (the blond-haired girl. I just have to use her real name because it's so typically Southern!). They love watching Aviva walk in our backyard and on our driveway and they even try to pick her up whenever they can. I use the word "try" because I just can't ignore how dirty their hands are - and sometimes I tell them not to pick her up. My mother in law keeps telling me "dirt won't get her sick, only germs will" but I'm still having trouble allowing dirty hands pick up my princess. What do you want from me?? She's still my first...

Also, forgot to mention, they love me and Josh.

So basically - it was a normal setting - cute kids like cute baby (and cute couple). Wonderful. That is until the weirdness started.

First of all - there are no sense of boundaries. The girls ride their bikes up and down our driveway, across our lawn, and sometimes even into our open garage. Now keep in mind, I lived on one of the frummest blocks in Oak Park where six zillion kids (who don't have TVs) ride their bikes up and down our driveway all day long - but not our lawn! (and not IN our garage!) Our neighbors also leave wrappers and empty potato chip bags on our porch (since we share a porch with the neighbors... hence the duplex). But still, can't they comprehend some sense of space??

Maybe Josh and I were a little too nice to the kids - or maybe just they felt really comfortable around us, but on Rosh Hashana - we actually hit our limit. I left Aviva's stroller outside our closed garage after we came home from Shul. Our garage is manual and not automatic ( I know... HUGE bummer. Honestly didn't even know garages came in manual these days.) - so we can actually open it on shabbos/yom tov. I planned on putting the stroller in the garage after I put Aviva to sleep. Josh and I were sitting in the living room when we suddenly heard a rumbling noise that couldn't have been anything other than.... our garage (and a few giggles). We looked at each other perplexed and Josh (of course) ran outside to see who was possibly intruding into our garage?! The girls then told Josh that they saw our stroller outside and since we always keep our stroller in the garage, they very kindly opened our garage - placed the stroller in it- and shut the garage.


Not to mention the fact that the manual door could have fallen on them (potential law suit) - but where do you come from opening other people's garages?? That is so NOT OKAY!!

If that wasn't enough, about 10 minutes later our doorbell rings (on Rosh Hashana) - and it's Natasha with innocent, pleased eyes handing us two day's worth of mail straight from our mailbox at the foot of our driveway. Maybe the garage opening was a bit annoying - but tampering with someone else's mail is practically a felony! (and in Josh's eyes it's much worse, since he barely trusts me with it!)

Being the great man that my husband is, he rounded up the two girls and explained to them very nicely that (1) - it's one thing if you ride your bikes on our driveway, but you guys cannot open our garage without our permission!! and (2) we understand you were trying to be helpful, but DO NOT EVER GET OUR MAIL AGAIN!! There are private things in there - or you may accidentally drop something important (I know... I get the same speech).

Maybe it was just a bad day in the neighborhood, but we definitely needed to set some ground rules. Watch out Des Moines - the Rosenbloom's are in the hood!

Sometimes, we just don't understand where the parents are. Or worse, we find out that the parents don't care!! Or... the parents don't even know where their kids are!

For example, Friday night Josh and I plopped into bed completely exhausted (Josh got 1.5 hours of sleep the night before because he had a huge biochem exam two days after Rosh Hashana). We were both half-asleep when we started to hear giggles and make out flashing lights coming from our bedroom window. Honestly, we felt like it was some eerie bad dream. Very groggy, we both look out the window and see Christmas lights forming a large square around the tree in our neighbor's backyard with lights in the trees and hanging from the branches. Either Christmas was coming early this year... or the kids were preparing for a children's Mardi Gras! We thought we were imagining it, but we fell asleep that night to flashing lights and 10 year old giggles.

Sure enough the next day, our beloved friends (barefoot and all) are hanging from the trees, playing with the Christmas lights, electric wires, and extension cords. Oh - and Natasha is using a saw to saw down some branches that were in the way... she's 7. I asked what was going on - as if this was a normal occurrence, and the kids told me that they are having a party tonight (just the three of them) with hot dogs, s'mores and beer (for the parents.... or so they say) and they are decorating! OK!! Lovely!! Once again... where are the parents?! do they know their 7 year old kids are playing with wires, saws, and Christmas lights?

So that's pretty much the trouble with our neighbors. I did leave a few details out - like the fact that one of the kid's brothers was suspended from school for bringing knives into the 6th grade, or the fact that the kids asked me if our mezuzah or Josh's yarmulka helped him do witchcraft (Josh LOVED that one - he'll probably use it to scare them away sometime). But all in all, they are sweet, well-intentioned kids. I do let the girls push Aviva in the baby tree swing from time to time. Although I have to keep an eye on them because their definition of "fun" is probably swinging my 18 month old over the entire branch. We'll just have to set the limits as best as we can.

And when they saw Josh building the Sukkah and asked us if they can go in it, I explicitly said ONLY WITH ONE OF US because I can totaly see us walking into the Sukkah finding them in sleeping bags roasting marshmallows in their new "play-house/hut"!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Let's Talk About Des Moines

Ok. Let's talk about Des Moines.

I know you're all dying to hear what it's like.

My mother in law said Des Moines reminded her of Silver Spring.... 40 years ago. I can see that. Even though the city is established, people do move at a bit slower pace here and our immediate neighborhood kind of reminds me of a bunch of cabins where my family used to vacation in "up-north" Michigan.

There are some REALLY nice areas with gorgeous houses closer to downtown Des Moines, where Josh is in school. Truth is, Josh and I almost rented a house in that area because when we came house hunting in May it was the ONLY thing we could find. The house was small, but it was completely renovated in a gorgeous neighborhood with tennis courts and fences. Hey, just because we're going to medical school here doesn't mean we have to slum it right??

Wrong! We're broke remember?!

We were leaving DC where we payed almost $1600 for a two-bedroom apartment. Now we were moving to Des Moines - where we figured we could pay half as much. And don't worry... we came to our senses. I only wanted that house because I was desperate to find a place before our trip to Des Moines was over. I'm a neurotic planner and the though of leaving the city without a place to live in 5 weeks was extremely unnerving. Thank Gd Josh found our house on Craigslist three days after we came BACK to Silver Spring. (Josh had to fly back to Des Moines a few days later to sign the deal...)

And for all who are curious, we're paying less than half the amount we paid at the Warwick for a three bedroom, two-car garage, full backyard duplex. Go us!

Ok let's talk about Walmart. I know every city has its "IT" place. Like in Detroit, it's the 7-11 on the corner of Lincoln and Greenfield. In Silver Spring it's that starbucks that's always crazy on the corner of Rockville Pike and Randolph. In Des Moines... it's Walmart.

Now this is where my snobby side is going to come out. I didn't even know where the Walmart was in Maryland. I always thought Walmart was a place to pick up soda and firewood when we were in "up-north" Michigan. But guess what everyone? Walmart is now my EVERYYYYTHING. There's a Walmart SuperCenter around the block from my house. And it's so ridiculously cheap!!! We get everything there - produce, groceries, baby products, school supplies, electronics, toiletries. Yup, we're one of a kind, small-town, can't live without Walmart hicks!!

This place is hysterical. You wouldn't believe the amenities in it. You could literately spend an entire day there if you wanted to. There's a Subway, a bank, a hair salon, nail place, portrait studio, pharmacy, and garden section. Ask my mother in law... she spent about 3 hours there EVERY DAY for a week.

And I'm sure you guessed it - it's open 24 hours a day. Lovely. When you have an uncontrollable urge to try out guitar hero in the electronics section at 3:30 am - you can go to Walmart. And believe me... people do.

To be honest, I know my way around the city really well. I work from home until about 1:30 so I have the entire afternoon to go exploring with Aviva. Obviously, I've been to every mall here (we alternate each mall about every 3 days). I'd love to say I go to the mall to shop, but it's usually so Aviva can play in the play area. (I use the word usually... because I can't lie completely). We've also been to the zoo, many parks, many libraries, many coffee shops, and many TCBY visits (that one's for you Tamar!)

I actually think I know my way around better than Josh.

The city itself is also really nice. There are a lot of attractions down town and of course, we love to visit Daddy at school. (Aviva's favorite part of DMU is the "mitochondria mist" which is a misty fountain in the front courtyard of the school. Seems like some very scientific people were involved in the landscaping at school.)

I can't believe my 18 month old will grow up and say that she lived in Des Moines for a few years of her early life. I really hope people don't look at her strangely (no offense Des Moiners out there). As Josh puts it, if you would have told me 5 years ago that I'd be in medical school with two kids living in Iowa, I'd probably laugh in your face. But here we are - big town Midwest/East Coast people who left a wonderful Chevra of young frum couples behind living in the Walmart-crazed city of Des Moines.

It's not so bad. We're liking the slow pace. I'm sure it won't last the rest of our lives...

Drinking Water from an Overflowing Fire Hydrant

After moving to Des Moines, my first attempt to understand Josh's life in medical school was demonstrated by joining the Des Moines University Student Advocacy Association (SAA). The SAA is a social group comprised of about 30 women (and 5 unlucky and embarrassed men) who are the spouses/significant others of DMU medical students. The club holds a social meeting every month to talk about the life of a DMU Student Advocate (i.e. the forgotten other half) and also holds numerous sub-groups one can sign up for such as book club, knitting, cooking, sports, etc. All clubs (except for the "Men's Club" which is comprised of drinking beer, eating pizza, and playing poker... my idea of fun) have an organized schedule and meet on a weekly/monthly basis. I joined the book club - and I'm reading some great books!

At my first SAA meeting, the club invited a DMU staff member - a mental health specialist to discuss with us what life is really like for our spouse/significant other in medical school. This is how she opened the discussion:

"Hello everyone. Don't tell me... I already know. Let me guess - your spouse/significant other was the smartest student in high school, top of his class in undergrad, most popular at home, and considered to be Gd's gift to the world by his/her parents"

(sounds very familiar in my circumstance...)

"Well... now that same person is in a class of 200 students who were all the smartest in his/her class and who all think they are Gd's gift to the world. All of a sudden, your honey may not be the best or the smartest or the sharpest. All of a sudden, your sweetie is struggling to pass tests and remain in the "upper half" of his class. And guess what... this is a huge blow to his/her ego."

(she couldn't be more right....)

And that's when she said it. The lady said that life in medical school/studying in medical school is like trying to drink water from an overflowing fire hydrant. It's almost impossible. There is so much material. There is so much water. And it's all pouring out so fast. Our mouths are only so big...

It's true. Here's the real scoop from a medical student's wife: Josh is learning more information at one time than he ever did in his entire life. There isn't enough time in the day (or night... since they are pretty much synonymous at this point) to learn, study, and review all the material he is taught. He'll learn an entire biochemistry curriculum (a year's worth in undergrad) in about 3 months. He'll have a "suggested reading list" that is comprised of about 25 1,000 page books on a specific subject. He's expected to know the entire human anatomy before he meets his new best friend for the first time... a once 86-year-old-woman cadaver.

And then the testing starts - and that's when the mental health specialist was referring to the student's ego. Remember always striving for the A? Remember never getting below an 89%? Now, Josh just prays to Gd that he passes his exams. 70% is a very special number in our house. A 70% equals a pass. Of course Josh says, he doesn't walk into a test saying he wants a 70 - of course he wants a 100! But if he gets above a 70... he's probably luckier than about half the students in his class.

Oh that's another thing... the specialist said that when your husband stresses and becomes anxious saying "I really think I'm going to fail this test" or "I really think I'm going to fail this course" -- he's not lying.

She brought up a good point. The students think we (the advocates) don't understand. And I can understand why they feel that way. They think that we think they can do anything. They think that we think "oh, you always say you won't do well - but you always do!! You'll be fine" It's not true... I don't understand what he's going through. All I can do is tell him that he can do the best he can - and I have confidence that he'll get through it.

Bottom line is - Josh is currently drinking water out of a fire hydrant - or, he's attempting to. But you want to know something? Sometimes in my life I also feel that I'm drinking water out of an overflowing hydrant. Here I am, mother of an 18 month old - about to have #2 (Gd willing), living in Des Moines for Heaven's sake!!! with no friends, no family, juggling all aspects of the house, working 24 hours a week for my company in DC and teaching Hebrew School 6 hours a week...

I know what it's like to have so much thrown at you and be expected to perform. I don't have a choice - I have to perform, I have to pass the test - because I am responsible for other people besides myself.

I do want to go on record for saying that Josh and I are so lucky to be Frum and understand the importance of family and Yiddishkeit. It really gives us both the proper perspective on what's important in life. Sure, Josh may be drinking the overflowing water - but he's also making time for his family (as best as he can), going to minyan (because believe me, they need him here!) and learning every night over the phone.

I'm glad I went to that SAA meeting. I'm glad I got a perspective of how difficult and demanding medical school is for Josh. This will be one of the hardest times he goes through. I hope that he knows - and everyone knows that sometimes we all feel like we're drinking water out of a fire hydrant. Our mouths are only so big and our capabilities are only so much - there's only so much we can handle.

Even me - the Frum wife of a medical student in Iowa - is desperately trying to drink the water!