Sunday, April 24, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-in: Passover Knocked-Out Edition

I'm grateful that this seems to be becoming the trend here on the Frugal Ima SuperIma Sunday Check in: I love you guys.  LOVE YOU.  I think that the vast majority of everyone who reads this blog volunteered to be a beta reader for my book, and the cockles of my heart were totally warmed.  And even though I put out the call for readers just a week ago, I've already received three sets of feedback, and two of them were super-detailed and fabulous.  That's fast, people, and that's love and support.  So thank you, truly.

Our Seders were INCREDIBLE, and thankfully started before 7:00 each night and were short and sweet.  (They would have started earlier, but one or more of our family members may have pushed back the time a little.  So, our fault.)  We traveled for both of them, meaning that our kids got to bed around midnight both nights, and then woke up at their usual 5:30 (Why?????)

On Tuesday, after the two seders, everyone in our family fell asleep on the living room floor at some point.  We stayed in there vegging and watching TV all day, and  I didn't get ANYTHING done on my writing.  It felt so strange to me to get absolutely nothing accomplished, as in N-O-T-H-I-N-G.  Not even a load of laundry.  Clearly, it was necessary.

Then, on Wednesday, all the kids came down with a cough and general ickiness.  Asthma Boy (AKA Rami) is still wheezy and even losing his voice a little.  No one has slept well all week.  Last night, I was awake with one or the other at 1:00, 3:00, then up for the day at 5:00.  I am beyond exhausted.  Even as I type this, (9:13   PM) two out of three are up.

This is my mantra:  The children are a blessing.  I will miss this when they are grown.  I believe it.  I really do.  Just one night of sleep would help me believe it a little more.

This week has got to be a buckle-down-and-write week.

I still have 7,000 words to go till I hit my goal, but that's really an arbitrary number.  I'd say I have at least 3,000 to 4,000 left to tie up my story, write up scenes I've dreamed up by really have a sketch of, etc.

That's about 800 words a day, plus a lot more editing.  Everything has got to slide in order for me to do this.  Everything.

What about you, sweet Supers?  What are you going to do to make a little room for you in the craziness of this week?  What's going to move to the side to let you do it?

You are doing an incredible job.  Hugs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-in: Maybe Possibly Big News (?) Edition

I guess if it's only "Maybe, Possibly" good news, then it's not really news, huh?

Anyhoo.  You know how I was doing all that writing for pleasure for my Project 365?  The very writing I promised to spend 15 minutes a day finishing up during my SuperIma Sunday check-in last week?  Well, not 12 hours after I declared that promise, a friend of a friend of a colleague who is poised to be in an Important Position in the Publishing Business emailed me asking for a summary of it (called a "query letter" in the Publishing Business, if you're keeping track,) and then shortly after reading it, the first two chapters!!!!


This Important Person who read the query letter told me that it was "all kinds of win," which is a phrase I'm pretty sure has never been used in reference to me or anything I've done before.  That is really awesome, I guess, even when you consider that I never even really planned to ask any Important Publishers to consider printing my drivel, and thought maybe possibly it would one day be quietly posted to Amazon in Kindle format for $2.99 for some bored teenagers to accidentally one-click purchase.

The only catch is that I should probably finish the durn book and clean up those first two chapters REALLY well before I send them in, right?   So, who wants to beta read for me?  Anyone up for a little amateur YA scifi romance something-or-other?


Also, there is the typical ho-hum pre-Passover mania going on. I made, like, four dozen matza balls today, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

This week, I'm going to finish my writing for pleasure.  Hopefully.  Probably.  If you'll beta read for me.  And my kids will probably watch a lot of TV.  ('s a holiday, right?  So that's okay?)

What about you, my awesome SuperBeta readers?  What are you going to do to make your life a little less crazy this week?  Let your spouse clean up after seder?  Eat matzah PB&J all week?  Something non-Passover related?

And what's gonna slide?

I adore all of you.  You're doing a great job.

P.S.  Everyone PLEASE go read my fellow SuperIma Shannon's blog because not only is it riveting and hilarious, but she's kind of bummed that she's slipped inexplicably in the Technorati rankings, and there's only so far my 20 clicks over to her page can go.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Countdown to Passover: Making Matzah

IMG_3507Yes, I know.  I'm crazy. 

But here's the thing:  My kids have been getting really excited about the Passover story.  Asher has been asking a lot of questions in response to the dramatic retelling on Shira's Passover CD, and I've been happy to answer.  He seemed especially intrigued by the idea of the Jewish people's having to pack up and leave their homes so quickly, probably because of our recent move and sojourn.  Our family is in a very in-between place, just like the Jewish people leaving Mitzrayim, and so our conversations revolve around how the two situations are similar.  His curiosity and insight are remarkable, at least I think so.

Anyway, after writing this post about the value of Doing Without, I realized I was really moved by the part of the Passover story that chronicles the panic of preparing for a long journey in haste.  I pictured parents with babies strapped to their backs and children tugging at their ankles, deciding if the clothes on their backs would be enough as they slung unproofed dough into hot ovens.  Doing the best they could do.

Then, when I was writing my review of Shira's Passover CD, I ran across this blog post where she encourages us to make our own matzah, and to do it the Kosher-for-Passover* way - from the minute the water touches the flour, it has to be done in eighteen minutes or less, lest the flour has a chance to rise.   "Okay, Shira, I love you, but you are TOTALLY NUTS," I thought.  Then I kept reading.  The picture she painted of a family pitching in and bonding over the rushed steps was really enticing.  Plus, she says the matzah tastes AWESOME compared to the boxed stuff.  And, of course, it's way more frugal than the $3-a-box stuff at the store.  I was sold.

This morning, after Nesyah went down for her nap, we set our timer for eighteen minutes and got to work.

We sanded down our rolling pin to remove the chametz.

We mixed three parts of flour with one part water,

and mixed it by hand to form a ball.

We rolled it out as flat as it could get, and then rolled it out even flatter.

We poked it full of holes so that it wouldn't puff in the oven.

We slung it into a 525 degree oven on a couple of upturned Pyrex dishes that had been heated right along with the oven.  (Shira's dad recommends lining the oven with red bricks.  Awesome and authentic.  And frugal!)

We took it out after five minutes and let it cool.

We ate the matzah.  A lot of it.

Because of the way it fell on the Pyrex, some of the edges had a perfect jelly pocket (boxed matzah doesn't have that!)

As we worked, we kept saying, "hurry up!" and telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt like we were really there.  Asher thought it was awesome and is still talking about how we had to hurry to bake it before Pharoah changed his mind.

*Since we decided last-minute but before we have actually done any Passover cleaning to try our hands at matzah, we did not do the preparatory steps you have to do to make it truly KLP, like kashering bowls and utensils, scrubbing down the oven, etc.  If you are making matzah for use on Passover,  you should use kashered surfaces and utensils and make sure to thoroughly sand down your rolling pin and change your parchment paper after each eighteen minute batch to remove post-18-minute mixture, and frogs, from your surface (after all, we ARE still in Mitzrayim!)

  Also, it's custom to refrain from eating the matzah before the actual Seder, which we transgressed. Obviously.

Even though it's not practical this year because of our sojourn at the non-KLP Chez MyParents, I definitely plan to bake all our own matzah next year.

Does your family have a matzah-baking tradition?  Would you like to try to start one?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Frugal Jewish Education: Using Jewish Music to learn about Passover (ShirLaLa Pesach)

Oh, my.  Can you believe that the first Seder is just a week from today?  Passover will be here and gone before we know it, if you can believe it.  One thing that is really important to us is making sure that we make the most out of every holiday at home, so our kids both know what is going on at the actual celebration and are excited about it in the weeks leading up to it.

One of the best things about the Seder is all the songs and prayers that are unique to the Seder.  Who doesn't love a rousing rendition of "Dayeinu" or " Adir Hu?"   The excitement and warmth of sharing the same songs together year after year is what makes everyone feel like they belong.  However, the abundance of songs can also be scary, especially for kids whose list of Jewish song repertoire consists of "Bim Bam" and "HaMotzi." 

This means that one of the best ways to involve your kids in holiday celebrations is to teach them the music that goes along with them.  But maybe you didn't pay perfect attention during every minute of every riveting Sunday school lesson when you were eight years old, maybe you are a little older than eighteen, or maybe you haven't gone to a full seder each year. What if you don't know all (or any, oy!) of the tunes or words well enough in order to pass them along to your children? 

Well, Shira Kline has you covered. 

Shira is a woman who is as passionate about Jewish music and Jewish family education as I've seen anyone.  If you play her Passover CD in your house and car for the week leading up to Seder, I promise you that you and your family will be familiar with and excited about the tunes.  Here it is:

Just one more thing.  Now, if you're like me, you've anxiously downloaded a bunch of CDs about which others have gushed, "No, really, you don't even realize it's kid's music! Seriously!"  And then you copy that sucker onto your iPod and excitedly plug it into the computer and WHO WERE THEY KIDDING?!!?!  Because anything that drones on about colors, the alphabet, brushing your teeth, or clapping your hands is kid music.

So, you know I'm telling you the truth when I tell you that you don't even realize that ShirLaLa is kid's music.  Well, half of it is - the honest-to-goodness kind, that instructs our sweeties to "shake your tushies" and make froggy noises.  The other half, however, is just great Jewish music.  She and her awesome band have recorded the old-school, straight-up Seder songs to a mildly rockin' beat so that singing the same old songs is actually really fun.  She even recorded the Festival Kiddush and Candle Blessings without background music, as you would hear them in someone's home.  She really, really wants to give families the tools to step into Jewish traditional celebrations knowing their tunes.  Especially for only $8.99 for 20 tracks... It's an incredible thing.
In case you're still wavering, here's my track-by-track review (since we've been listening to this nonstop for a couple weeks now and I could do it with my eyes closed anyway) :

1.Pesach Bamba - Sung to the tune of "LaBamba", Shira has one of these on every holiday CD.  It incorporates sweet verses about Pesach between choruses. 

2.Hal’l'l’l'luyah - Another song Shira has on every holiday CD, with "Halleluyah" as the chorus and holiday-specific tidbits in between.

3.Let My People Go - A song about Moses and Pharoah.  The chorus encourages the children to sing "No, no, no!" What kid doesn't like that?

4.Building Cities  - Er...we usually skip over this one.  Not so grabbing, maybe?

5.Listen King Pharaoh  - another song about Pharoah that encourages kids to shout along.  Love.

6.Frogs - A contemporary classic.  The one that starts with, "One morning when Pharoah woke in his bed..." Includes real frog sounds, a highlight for my little ones.

7.Hallelu  - Shira tells the story of the actual Exodus and crossing of the Sea of Reeds with a backdrop of "Hallelu" - the same tune my fellow hippy-dippy Reconstructionists like to use for Psalm 150.  She ends with "Kol Haneshema Tehallel Yah."  Your kids listen to this, and they'll know it for shul too.

8.Miriam’s Song - Debbie Friedmans, z''l.  Lyrics have been slightly modified to go "...and the children dancing with their timbrels..."

9.Elijah Rock - The classic gospel tune.  Love it.

10.Kadeish Urchatz - The "order of the Seder" tune as you grew up with it.

11.Mah Nishtana - The Four Questions sung to the traditional tune.

12.Lotsa, Lotsa Matza  - A song about all the foods we eat on Passover.  (Matzah, chicken, matza balls, gefilte fish...)  We've made up movements to go with each food.  SO fun.

13.Dayeinu - Traditional tune.  My kids are OBSESSED with "Dayeinu," especially Rami.

14.Passover Game  - Each verse gives "clues" to guess which Passover thing she's talking about.  Asher loves this one.

15.Who Knows One? - A rendition of "Who Knows One?" with different voices for each answer. NOT traditional.

16.Bashana Haba’ah - a fun, upbeat tune.
17.Candle blessing for festivals - Debbie Friedman's z''l tune sung a'capella.

18.Kiddush for festivals - Traditional tune sung a'capella.  Really great if you don't yet know how to make Kiddush for Chag - the same tune goes for all of them!

19.B’tzeit Yisrael - A short version of Hallel, sung in many homes.

20.Adir Hu - Old school, straight up "Adir Hu."  Still awesome.

So, what are you waiting for?  Go do the download and blast this sucker as much as you can for the next week.  Any CD that can teach my kid to do this in (seriously, no joke) less than an hour total of singing along has my ringing endorsement:

(Full disclosure: Shira hasn't compensated or asked me to do this in any way, shape or form.  She doesn't even know I exist, actually, which now that I think about it makes me kinda sad.  Shira, are you reading this?  If you are, let's have a lady date.)

What Passover music do you love to share with your family?  Do you have any more recommendations for us?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-in: Squeezing In

Hey, my sweet Supers!  I hope you had an incredible week.  Ours was another whirlwind, so what's new?

We have been at Chez MyParents for almost four weeks now and we're still making adjustments.  We were occupying two bedrooms next to the master bedroom.  As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Asher and Nesyah haven't been sleeping through the night and my mom was having a really tough time with the sleep deprivation, so we packed everyone up and moved into my high school bedroom downstairs.  It's large for one person, but put in two queen-sized beds, a pack and play, and the big red chair my dad had in there, and there's really about five square feet in which to do actual walking around.  It's...challenging.

The good part is that there's a big screen TV and my kids love to veg in bed whatching DVRed Hulk or Iron Man episodes (thanks, Dad!) while I'm doing morning and evening activities.  The bad news is that they only really will sleep in there unless I'm in there too.  Which means that I am now with my kids LITERALLY 24 hours a day.

Also, we just found out our house in Columbus doesn't open up until May 15th.

(I'll just let that sink in.  Itiswhatitisitiswhatitisitiswhatitis.)

I'm trying to take a lot of deep breaths and remember that this move has been hard enough on my kids, and I'm not going to move them to another temporary arrangement before the permanent one.  Because I am a good mother.  Really.  I am.

This week was Insane because on Friday, MY SISTER GOT MARRIED AHHHHHHHH!

Here is her handsome groom who I love and adore and have a snobby book club with:
98/365- In Love

And here is my sweet baby sister!!!!
98/365 - Married

She was pretty much the least bridezilla-ish bride ever, and threw a beautiful wedding on a pretty tiny budget. So I am super-proud of her.  I may ask her to guest-post about it.  I pitched in by designing all her paper goods, from save the dates to menus on the table and everything in between .  And producing the cute ring bearers and flower girl, of course.

This week we are trying to detox and reset.   The weekend was just nuts because it was Thursday rehearsal dinner, Friday wedding, Saturday huge family dinner.  My kids didn't make it to bed before 10:00 any night, and they are totally cooked.    There's also a lot of cooking for Passover on the agenda, and remember, we are all sharing one room (!) so "sanity time" is going to be pretty hard to come by.   My goal is to write for a solid 15 minutes every day (I know, such a small goal,) even if it means flipping open my lap top in a pitch black bedroom after they've all fallen asleep.

What about you, SuperEveryone?  What are you going to do to help yourselves feel more sane this week?  And what's gotta slide in order to let you do it?  Have you been succeeding with schedules?   Building some more structure into your lives?  Consciously taking more time for yourselves?  Let me know!

You are doing an AWESOME job.  (((HUGS))) from me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Countdown to Passover: Plague Playthings

The Passover Seder, the ritual Passover meal, was designed with children in mind.  All kinds of tricks and gimmicks are employed to keep the children involved: the asking of the Four Questions by the youngest child, staying up late to hunt the for the afikomen, sweet special-for-Passover foods, kid-friendly songs.

If you're a little kid, all these things are very cool.  But there is one more thing about Passover that is cooler still.  The central element to the Seder is called "Maggid," which means "telling."  We tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, where, in order to push Pharoah to let the Jewish people go, G-d sent a series of plagues to afflict Egypt.  Those plagues included: Lice, Locusts, Frogs, and Vermin.  So of course, for Passover, we've got to have frog, bug, and snake toys to play with!

I think it is this very reason that Passover brings out the kid in me.  Have you ever gone to and searched for "frogs?" 

If your kids are obsessed with superheroes like mine (yes, I'm talking to you, Mara), they'll love that a lot of them have the same colors as their favorites.  Here's Iron Man:

This year, the dollar section at Target had the most awesome giant bug toys, and I found some insect finger puppets at Oriental Trading.

These snakes were a dollar at Wal-Mart.

My favorite find of the year?  Hefty zooPals products.  They make frog plates and utensils in the shapes of frogs and snakes (you do have to pick through the packs to find ones you want.)  The plates are disposable, but you can use the utensils all Passover long, or probably year-to-year if you want.

I have been known to decorate the Passover table with frogs and bugs.

(If you are reading this and you are one of the kind souls hosting us for Seder this year, I apologize in advance.  My kids will probably insist on bringing at least some of our creepy-crawlies with them, unless you are seriously opposed...)

I collect a few things each year.  This year's haul was disproportionately large because all the toys I've collected are sitting in storage somewhere in Columbus.  But I'm happy to add to the stash!  In a normal year I'd spend about $10-$15  on Passover plague toys and accessories - I spent about $30 this year.   It is so, SO worth it to see my kids excited about Passover!

Stay tuned for a post on Passover books and haggadot for kids, and one on Passover music as well!

What are you doing to get your kids (and yourselves) excited for Passover?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

SuperIma Sunday Check-in: Sleep Deprived with No Newborn?!?!?

I am exhausted.

All three children are sharing a bedroom here at Chez MyParents.  When I put them to bed, I get an hour to an hour to an hour and a half of quiet.  Most nights.  (Some nights, they won't go down at all, but that's another post.)  But for description's sake, let's call this a good night.  I get an hour and a half of quiet.  Then Nesyah cries, loudly and angrily.  I would even say "lustily," except that sounds like something good, and this is NOT. GOOD.

If I rush in and pick her up, she giggles, coos, and smiles, if I just stand around holding her, which you might think is good.  Hey, I can just watch "Outsourced" with my happy baby, right?

Wrong.  The attention-demanding, hey-Ima-please-hang-out-with-me screeches from her Highness never fail to wake Asher up, terrified.   So now I have two screaming kids, both who want me, but one wants me STANDING and the other will never return to his bed if I don't lie down with him and coax him back to sleep.  (He calms after a minute or so, but then wants to stay up to hang out as well.)  If one needs a diaper change, or a drink of water, or has messed the sheets, forget about it.  I'm out of hands.  Then there's scrambling, screaming, and sweating, and Oh Lordy, I'm starting to get stressed just thinking about it.

Monday night, this awful she-screams he-screams cycle happened no less than three times.  I tried removing Nesyah to my room, but her screams woke Asher up IN THE NEXT ROOM.  It was so bad that at 3:30 AM I told Asher I would give him whatever he wanted, do anything, if he would just stop yelling.  Mercifully, he realized he had broken me, let out a mournful sigh, and fell backwards onto his pillow.  I got about two hours' sleep before Rami woke up for the day. The rest of the week wasn't much better, each night unfolding with a new and progressively horrible sequence of events.

But it's okay, because David will be here Friday night.  Friday night, I'll get some sleep.  Six glorious hours, at least, of unbroken sleep, in the dark, probably with headphones.  Oh, it will be incredible.  Right?

Wrong.    David rolled in this Friday afternoon with a killer sore throat, a chesty cough, a four-digit fever, and about 20 hours of work to get done before Monday.

Last night I was up from 10:00-11:00.  Fine.  Then at 2:45, the wails started again.  Kvetch, grunt, back to sleep.  The wailing started to become more dominant than anything else around 4:00.  You don't  need to know any more sordid details - truthfully, I don't fully remember how it all went down.  I just know that at 4:15 AM, I had thrown a DVD in the player, a plate of babka in the middle of the room, and a pillow on the floor, and was letting my oldest and youngest literally walk all over me, awake for the day.

93/365 - When the Babka Comes Out...

I powered through today with well over eight cups of coffee and the sheer force of will.

My goal this week is to sleep.  Whenever, wherever I can.  My sister's wedding is this Friday (I know!  Married on a Friday!  Isn't she clever and cute?) and I have to be in as good a form as possible.  I'm going to pretend like I have a newborn and sleep when the babies sleep.  What am I going to let slide?  Everything else.

What about you, my beloved Supers?  Goals?  Slacking?  Did you make yourselves schedules and plans like you wanted?  (Go check out Shannon's check-in too...)

P.S.  As you may have guessed, Rami is now indisputably and completely understandably my favorite child.  Don't pretend that you would say any different, either.
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