Sunday, September 28, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mensch in training

This morning at breakfast....

Me: that's a third of an hour

David: what's a third?

Me: (launching into an explanation of fractions, working my way through thirds and getting back to "half")....if I have this piece of cheese here and I break it in two pieces and I give you this one, what's that called?

David: Sharing

Yep, that's right.

P.S. Mensch is the Yiddish word that is used to describe a good person.
P.P.S. Immediately after, Sam pipes up: I want some cheese too! LOL.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Essential Mom Tools

I am published in this month's special "Family" issue of Real Simple Magazine. I answered the question... "Moms: What's the One Thing You Can't Live Without?"

While I've already posted about this before, I couldn't help but think of how well it fit into this week's Parent's Blog Blast.

I definitely rely on my Blackberry to help me out.

But I know that there are so many other things, like car seats and child-safety locks, that truly are a blessing to me as a parent. There are no guarantees in life, this I know, but these simple tools make me breathe easier. We so often take them for granted - but there were days without carseats, without seatbelts, without safety scissors and bike helmets. Maybe life was freer then, maybe life more calm, but I like to think that we are the ones who are blessed.

(And I said I was taking a hiatus but I just can't stay away. Oops.)

This post was inspired by this week's Blog Blast over at the Parent Bloggers Network , sponsored by Yoplait Kids.

P.S. Haveil Havalim - the Jewish Blog Carnival - is up live over by Jack's place. It's great, as usual!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hiding under a Rock

Okay so in case I don't get to post anything between now and Rosh HaShanah, I think I'm declaring a little bitty High Holy Day hiatus. At least I wasn't called for jury duty...but I'm still pretty darn busy. Tomorrow is the opening day of my new preschool Shabbat program (12 weeks of Friday afternoons), I've been teaching every night, opening Hebrew School, Tichon (our 7th/8th grade program), Sunday School, and just about everything else is moving along too. Oh, yeah, and preparing for High Holy Day services. Sermons, readings, my own personal preparation...


I might get to posting.
I might get to reading all of your wonderful blogs.

But I might not.

So I'm telling you now. In case you're worried about me.

I'll be back. After Rosh HaShanah.
Maybe before. (it's hard to stay away!)

So to tide you over....

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why Spin Instructors are Like Rabbis

I think I've discovered why I like going to Spinning classes.

It's just like being at services, except I'm not in charge:

It lasts about an hour, just like services.
I can get into a rhythm, just like in a good prayer experience.
There's a rubric to follow. Sprints, climbs, flat roads....Sh'ma u'virchote-ha, Amidah, Torah service...
There's music, sometimes to sing along with....
There's a sense of shared purpose. We're all in this together.
There's a lot of stand-up, sit-down.*
The instructor uses her hands to indicate "stand up" and "sit down"... just like I do.*
She offers encouragement, similar to the way that a rabbi might offer explanations of the prayers.
She sometimes throws out questions for the group to answer, just as I might when leading services or giving a sermon.
People are often reticent to answer. Just like at services.

I can lose myself in the experience, and feel uplifted at the end.

Do I think that Spinning or exercise can replace a religious experience?

But they do strike me as quite similar....

*This was the part that got me thinking during Spin class. Like any good blogger, I actually considered getting off my bike and jotting down some notes. It seemed like a reasonable excuse to take a break...but I didn't. I remembered anyway! See, working out is good for you.


Five Places I've Been This Week

Mini Caramel Apples - think I'll have time to make these for Rosh HaShanah?

The Carbon Footprint of my Diet Coke (from

Planting Fall Bulbs (think I'm going to get to that?)

Project Forgiveness

Juggling Frog's Carnival of Overdue Thanks
(I'm trying to get to all the posts!)

from my delicious (Are you in my network?)
P.S. Anyone know when they changed from to just plain delicious?
Where have you been?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rules and More Rules in the Torah....

Here, seventy-two
is the number of mitzvot*
within this parsha.

Wow! That is a lot!
Captives and inheritance,
what to do with sons...

Property you find,
who can wear dresses or pants,
and don't wear shatnez**.

A famous command:
If you see a mother bird
sitting on her eggs

You may not take both
the mother and the babies -
it is not so nice.

There are many rules
as we come to the Book's end --
many reminders.

*Mitzvah = Commandment, Mitzvot = plural
**Shatnez = Jewish law that prohibits mixed fibers (wool and linen)

Shabbat Shalom!

See more about this week's Torah portion here.

See more Friday Haikus here!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

13 Ways to Commemorate 9/11

1. Attend a ceremony. We will be at the flagpole at Am Shalom, 840 Vernon Avenue, in Glencoe, at 7:45am.
2. Give blood.
3. Donate money to a political campaign. Any campaign. Being able to participate freely in the democratic process is a victory!
4. Call or connect with an old friend.
5. Tell your children where you were when it happened.
6. Send a card or care package to soldiers overseas.
7. Visit a veterans' home or hospital.
8. Bring flowers, cookies, or just a note to your local police or fire department.
9. Read the biographies of some of the victims of the attacks. Share them with your family or friends.
10. Fly a flag.
11. Read the Bill of Rights. Remember how important it is to us.
12. Wear red, white and blue.
13. Smile at a stranger. Try to remember what it felt like on September 12th and 13th...we all felt connected, bonded. Everyone was a little kinder, a little gentler.

What are you doing today to remember?
See more Thursday Thirteen here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Using Cloth Napkins - Works for Me!

About six months ago, I decided we were just creating too much garbage.

Remember, there are a lot of people living in my house. And we eat at home a lot.

Paper towels and napkins were being used at an alarming rate.

First we switched to kitchen towels instead of paper.

I went and got about a dozen extra towels (love Target) and committed to using them instead of paper towels. We kept our paper towel dispenser, but our consumption has gone down to about one roll a week. When do I use the paper towels? When we're out of the cloth ones (oops, forgot to do laundry) and occasionally for certain kinds of messes, like paint, which would stain the towels permanently. Otherwise, we've all become accustomed to the cloth towels.

Then I brought up the idea of cloth napkins.

And interestingly, my family went along with it just fine!

I ordered these wonderful napkins (and snack bags) from Gnome Clothes, a great little etsy store. They're a nice soft flannel, in different colors, and my kids love them.

(And then I hit Cost Plus and found a whole bunch of napkins on super clearance. I didn't care what color, and they are great.)

But the best part of the whole thing is this: I bought, while at Cost Plus, a pretty little wicker garbage can. And I leave it in the kitchen for the dirty napkins and towels. When it's full, we take it downstairs and wash napkins and towels. Perfect, don't you think?

We have cut our napkin use down to zero. I even put the cloth ones into lunch boxes.

(Except when we had a large party outside the other night. We actually had to look for paper napkins.)

What other disposables can we ditch?

I'm still working on it, and you can too, with Amy's challenge: Ditch the Disposables.

This napkin thing is working great for me.
Go see what other things are working for folks here....

Consumer Culture Was Created....Tuesday Torah

Did you know that our American consumer culture was specifically created by economists? I had no idea.

This is just one of the remarkable things I learned when I (finally) sat down to watch "The Story of Stuff" with Annie Leonard. It was a truly eye-opening video, well-done and interesting. I have been putting off watching it since...well...I bookmarked it back in January. Please do not wait 8 months from today's post to go and watch it.

Actually, go watch it now. I'll wait.

....'re back? Good. What did you think?

The part that was most striking to me was when Leonard quotes Victor Lebow, a 20th century economist who said:

"Our enormously productive economy ... demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption.... we need things consumed, burned up, replaced, and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate."

She goes on to explain about the concepts of "planned obsolescence" -- that most stuff is just destined for the trash bin as it's being made. Computers, cars, ipods, radios, cell phones, you name it. We're just waiting for the next model. There's a whole bit in the video about the seasonal variance in women's shoe heel-size; it's completely done so we can see clearly when someone hasn't bought into the latest fashions.


I have to tell you: this movie strikes a chord in me for so many reasons. Obviously, we all know we use too much stuff. We all really want to do better. Some of us try harder than others and we take on personal challenges all the time to try and improve our "green-ness."

Aside from the environmental impact, however, I'm even more struck by the concept of obsolescence not in things but in ideas. Each week, constantly, Jews are studying and reading the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. The same words, the same book that has been studied for thousands of years is still being read and discussed on a consistent and regular basis all over the world wherever Jews are. Not obsolete at all! Pretty amazing in our "throw-away" society, isn't it?

(Not only do we read the Torah, but we also cherish reading from the scroll, a scroll that is hand-written on parchment over a period of about a year. It's not something that we can just whip off an assembly line! And reading it from a computer screen, while possible, just isn't quite the same.)

It makes me very proud to be a part of a people and a culture that have survived and thrived, that have kept the idea of "planned obsolescence" at bay for quite a long time.

I hope we can keep it that way.

That's my Tuesday Torah this week.

What's yours? Leave your link in the comments below.

Monday, September 8, 2008

18 months going on 18!?

Looking at this picture, it's actually not hard to imagine Yael as a teenager, is it?

She is carrying this (spiderman - it's her big brother's) phone everywhere, along with a set of keys.

Yes, just like mom and dad. Keys and a phone. (And sometimes a coffee cup!)

This is my best shot this week. See some other beautiful pictures here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

i am...and you?

a meme from Mama Zen

i am . . .

i am: thinking a lot about the High Holy Days
i think: the days go by too fast.
i know: that i'm not sleeping enough.
i want: a quiet space.
i have: a lot of organizing to do in my office.
i wish: there were more hours in the day.
i hate: feeling overwhelmed.
i miss: my friends who are far away.
i fear: losing myself.
i feel: everything.
i hear: beep beep beep.
i smell: the skunks that live in my neighborhood. (maybe under our porch!?)
i crave: caffeine.
i search: too often for my keys and find them in Yael's "purse."
i wonder: what people really think of me.
i regret: whenever i yell.
i love: to read.
i ache: when i read the newspaper.
i care: about making a difference.
i always: think too much.
i am not: as put together as i wish i was.
i believe: in the power of faith.
i dance: with my kids.
i sing: as often as i can.
i cry: when i need release.
i don't always: go to the gym.
i fight: against fighting.
i write: blog posts. in my head.
i win: scrabble.
i lose: my temper. probably too often.
i never: go to bed on time.
i confuse: outer calm with inner serenity.
i listen: less well than i should sometimes.
i can usually be found: in my car.
i am scared: of losing my grip.
i need: a day off!
i am happy about: just about everything.

And, you are?
Play along - whoever you are! Join me.
Come on, after my post this week in which I called you all out I think I know who my loyal readers are... Delurk and play along.


Five Three (it's been a busy week) Places I've Been This Week:

Stuff on Stuff (watch for a post this week on this topic!)

Bento Supplies Ichiban Kan (Can I take a trip to CA just for this?)

The Story of a Sign (great video, go see it!)

From my (Are you in my network?)
Where have *you* been?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof*

Justice, O Justice,
you shall pursue her always.
It is a great goal.

This week's Torah portion, Shoftim, reminds us that justice is our highest goal, our loftiest aspiration. It is a Torah portion full of rules -- rules for judges, rules for kings, rules for Levites, rules for prophets, rules for witnesses, rules for war. Interesting, then, that the Wordle for this week's portion finds the word "shall" as its most common word.

And, of course, I made one of the famous verse: "Justice, justice shall you pursue."
*The title of this post is the Hebrew version of this phrase.

Read more Haikus here.
Read more about the Torah portion here.

Shabbat Shalom y'all!

Did you post about the Torah portion today or this week?
Leave me a link if you did! (And comments. I'm a fan of comments.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Eat this Lunch

So...I'm sure you (my 6 loyal readers) have wondered where I've been! I haven't commented on your blogs. I haven't been posting to my own. (Maybe that's because there are 829 posts in my Google Reader right now and that just seems intimidating.) I haven't installed the new Chrome browser. I haven't been twittering...much. Let's just say getting school started for the kidlets has made me b-u-s-y!

Not to mention there are a few holidays coming up soon.

I had big plans for my blog for the month of Elul. And while Elul isn't quite over yet (thank heavens, since I'm not at all ready for that), I think I might not quite get to a big Elul fest around here. But I will work on it. Stay tuned.

Just to show you what kinds of things I've been doing (and enjoying mightily, I must add), here is a sample of the kinds of lunches I've been packing. Will these lovely masterpieces continue for the whole year? Well, the kids have got to eat, and not school-lunch-food. So...probably.

Isn't it pretty? Not quite as ambitious as some. But it works for me!

(And those of you 6 loyal readers know that I usually participate in the Works-for-me-Wednesday carnival. Wouldn't this have done nicely? But you see, since I've been living in the non-online world, I didn't notice the memo that it was a Backwards Edition this week. Oops. Oh well.)