Monday, April 27, 2009

The Pessach Marathon

I know Pessach probably seems like a fleeting memory of the past for some, but it is still very clear in my mind.

Partially because my husband and I are so cheap, we are still working on polishing off our last box of Shmura Matzah three weeks after pessach (Hey... for $20.99 a box we'll get our money's worth thank you very much!) and partially because it was the very first Pessach I made by myself as a married woman.

(It would be nice if I could say my last... but I won't go that far.)

Pessach is a wonderful holiday. I am not knocking it. Pessach evokes some of the greatest family memories -- sitting around the Seder table, my husband's precious marror, my precious charoses, stomach aches from the matzah and wine, all the interesting tunes during Nirtzah... you all know.

On the other hand, Pessach is a heart-breaker. It really brings out the man (or the woman, I should say) in you. I heard someone say this year that all women deserve a gold medal after pessach - for all the work before during and even after the holiday.

Finally, my mother likened preparing for Pessach to running a marathon... and boy was she right.

My experience went something like this:

I must start off by saying the sweat and tears of preparing for pessach were not my own. They were also my sister Rachelli's. Rachelli came to Des Moines for the week prior to Pessach to... well... help me make Pessach. I hadn't done one thing before that one week marker for better or for worse. Growing up in a house where chametz can only be eaten in the kitchen or dining room the day after Purim, this made me a bit nervous. On the other hand, we had one week in boot camp. One week to turn my three bedroom house (in which two kids under the age of two live, in which cherios, graham crackers, pretzels, and bagles can be found all over the house, in the very strangest places) upside down. I was ready - sort of.

Our game plan was to do as much as we can while both kids napped and while they slept at night. Knowing my history of crashing at precisely 9:00 PM when hopefully both kids are down the for the night, this was a bit difficult. But we did it. I don't think I ever bossed my sister around as much as I did that week. I made her clean, wash, fold, vacuum, move furniture. You name it, she did - but so did I. We made a great team. Not to meantion her method of payment was watching American Idol, Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill while we cleaned. That and some ice cream and unlimited access to my laptop. Hey, a girl's gotta work for a price... I respect that.

Favorite memory: taking pictures of me sitting INSIDE the fridge and freezer in our garage cleaning it out. Least favorite memory: acting like some professional weight lifter and lifting couches while vacuuming at the same time.

Somehow, we did it. We finished it off with toveling new pots and utensils, covering the counters, oven, stovetop, and fridge - and finally looked around at our hard work with content smiles.

(In case you were wondering, I didn't mention the food part since my saintly mother cooked a storm for me when I was in Detroit two weeks prior to Pessach. Since we were having almost 20 guests from Josh's school for our second seder, my mother didn't want me to worry about cooking. It's a good thing I didn't have to - because... superwoman or not -- there's only so much I can do. Even with an all star sister like Rachelli.)

So, it was the day of Bedikas Chametz - and we had a Kosher for pessach house! Which was quite important, because I forgot to mention that my sister in law had a baby boy in Silver Spring whose Bris was two days before Pessach. Missing her and the family as badly as I did and wanting to be apart of the Simcha - I flew in and out of Silver Spring within 24 hours with Yehuda to be at the Bris. It was a bit crazy...but no regrets, I'm glad I went. I wouldn't have been able to do it though if Rachelli and I hadn't worked so hard the week before.

So - back in town and ready for Pessach. After some marror grinding, professional charoses making, and romain lettuce checking - we were set to go!

The first seder was just me and Josh. It was lovely. Can you imagine having a seder with JUST two people? I was actually the one egging us on to continue talking through Maggid. We were great. Engrossed in coversation, eating our matzah and marror, doing our thing. (However, after the meal, I must admit that I was too tired to continue and we pretty much said Hallel and Nirtzah to ourselves. And when Josh told me to search for the Afikomen after a brutal week and a half leading up to that very Seder I simply looked at him and said, "you've got to be kidding.")

Second Seder was a different story. Since Josh is the Vice President of the Jewish club at DMU, we had approximately 18 guests for our seder, including Josh's Jewish advisor. It was a whirlwind - but it was incredible! Josh and I were so thrilled to allow his fellow students to experience a genuine Orthodox seder. You could tell some of the students had memories of sederim from their childhood - and others were experiencing it for the first time. We laughed, we ate Matazh, drank some wine, said a little Maggid, and ate a huge feast. Naturally, the guests peetered out after dessert, which was fine with me and Josh. (We went ahead and said Hallel and Nirtzah to ourselves once again.)

The amount of food was offensive, but hey, it was a traditional Orthodox seder, right?

Josh was on such a high when it was over. Some students stayed after everyone left to ask us questions and talk a little more about Judaism. He felt so accomplished and proud of us as a family. He got all frum and said, "Hashem may have sent us to Des Moines just to have this Seder!!!" You know what, he may be right.

So what I've learned from my first Pessach: Gather your patience and your stamina - and grab your favorite sister to give you a hand! All the sweat and tears are worth it because even if you're having a seder with just two people, or inviting 20 non religious guests - or both in my case -- Pessach is a beautiful thing and it really brings people together.

I think with each year I'll become more confident in preparing the house and actually cooking all the food. And maybe even say Hallel and Nirtzah aloud :)

My Comeback

Wow. Flash forward 4 months.

You know how most people take a legitimate maternity leave from perhaps a job, position, professional commitment, etc? Well I took a maternity leave from blogging.

For those others out there watching two kids full time (in Iowa shall I add) or acclimating to some other life altering experience that combines exhaustion, sleep deprivation, a ridiculous amount of patience, creativity, and physical stamina, not to mention a bit of seclusion would understand why I've been preoccupied.

I'm not fact I don't ever remember being happier now that I have two kids. Skinnier, yes. Less bags under my eyes, perhaps, more time to focus on myself, maybe. But nope, never been happier. That's because on January 1, my little boy graced us with his presence and added a new element of joy (and unfortunately less blogging) to my life.

Now, I'm not a fan of sharing labor stories with the general public, but I believe you all deserve to hear a bit of this one... in Iowa and all. Let's start with the fact that I could not BELIEVE I went three days overdue with Yehuda. Aviva was two weeks early and surprised the world on her Pessach debut (remember the last blog about my mother missing Aviva's birth? This time around, I was nervous three weeks prior to my due date wouldn't be early enough for my mom to arrive.)



Boy did I learn my lesson. NEVER think you're going to be early. It'll destroy you. It'll make you impatient, grouchy, and feeling one hundred times bigger than you are. Believe me, I was all those things. When the Dr. told us at our appointment on my due date that I must be having a boy because he's "a mama's boy" and doesn't want to leave the womb, I just laughed and envisioned a mama's boy son attached to my apron strings for the rest of his life. Fine, I thought, I can live with that...just get it out of me ASAP, I can't stand being pregnant anymore!!

Well, on January 1st, one hour after my mother in law arrived in Des Moines, my water broke and I was officially in labor (Thank Gd!!) There must be something about my in laws that induces my labor. I'll have to remember that the next time I consider requesting pitosin. (No thanks about the drugs... I'll have my in laws instead). To spare you all the details, I had a very interesting and quick labor. I dilated from 4 to 10 centimeters in FIVE MINUTES no exaggeration. (I had a super effective method - call me if you want details.)

The nurse couldn't even believe how quickly I progressed. In fact, she told the Dr. to relax at home during my earlier stages of labor. Hey, enjoy New Year's, right?? Then.... five minutes later...when I was ready to push....she MANHANDLED ME back into the bed, called the Dr. frantic to get over to the hospital ASAP, all the while keeping me calm that the Dr. is on his way.

I vividly remember looking the nurse straight in the eye while she refrained me from pushing until the Dr. arrived and asking veryyyy sternlyyyy, verryyy slowwllyyyy: "Ok. Tell me, wheeerrreeee doooooessss heeee liiiiiivvveee?? Translation: How quickly can he get here?!? She assured me he'd be there in 10 minutes.

Silly me, this is Iowa.

In the words of my husband, no destination is more than 10 minutes away in any direction. Besides, it's 11:30 PM, New Year's Day. That means, either everyone is home sleeping off a hangover which means no traffic for my OB (or at least I hope.... he's not one of those people himself) or - everyone was so bummed New Year's was so dull in Iowa - they decided to sleep the whole day through... until the 2nd, which again, means no traffic for my OB.

Either way, the ten minutes my nurse assured me felt like 10 years. After a grand entrance from my OB running into the room, he graciously bowed his head, extended his arm, and told me in a calm, regal prince-like voice, "You may push."

Two pushes and 7 lbs, 3 oz later, our Yehuda Aryeh was born.

All in all, it was a great experience. I must say in Des Moines' defense... the hospital was WONDERFUL. The staff and accommodations were wonderful. Although they definitely were not used to Orthodox Jews in that my Dr. couldn't believe we weren't naming him for 8 days and the nurse was confused why we kept asking her to turn the lights on and off in the hospital on Saturday, everyone was very lovely. In fact, at Yehuda's first pediatrician appointment, the Dr. took one look at his Bris Milah and said - geez! that's the best circumcision I ever I saw! When I proceeded to tell her it was done by a Rabbi and not a Dr, she simply said, "Well I think your Rabbi could teach some of my Drs. a thing or two!"

Hey, Kiddush Hashems come in all shapes and sizes... and body parts!

So yes, my son was born in Iowa. We had a Shalom Zachar and a Bris. Our wonderful family came in from Detroit and Silver Spring, which made it just like home. So we had 10 people Friday night instead of 100 and the Bris was home made by our Shul instead of by a professional caterer, but beautiful nonetheless. When life throws lemons at you, you make lemonade. Besides, with a family like ours, there's no need to be lonely or upset. Someones only a plane/car ride away.

I still laugh about having Yehuda grow up telling everyone he was born in Iowa. Aviva will roll her eyes, his Rebbaim will smile, his friends will laugh, we'll probably do all three. Either way, we're thankful that everything went smoothly. And yes, we are excited to bring Yehuda back into civilization in a few years.