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Apr 11 2014

My Mother Was a Master of Passover Cooking & I Still Don’t Know How She Did It

By at 1:59 pm

My mother was a master of Passover cooking and I still don't know how she did it.

Of all the Jewish holidays, Passover was the one my mother really owned. It gave her the perfect excuse to commit entirely to two of her most beloved occupations: cooking elaborate dishes and listening to Beethoven, preferably simultaneously and definitely the violin concerto. In my memory she cooked for two weeks in advance of the seders, for over 20 guests on each of the two nights.

While my grandmother set me and my sisters to work polishing the silver and the cleaning lady labored mightily, heaving the vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs, my mother reigned in the kitchen. She made everything from scratch–richly concentrated chicken broth that she simmered and skimmed until there wasn’t a speck of fat, fluffy kneidlach, gefilte fish from three types of white fish purchased at the most expensive fish shop in town and then ground by hand at home, roasted chickens, tzimmes, three different green vegetable dishes (including steamed asparagus with lemon sauce), brisket cooked in a mustard-garlic paste, individual meringues that she served with sweetened fruit for dessert, and sponge cakes. And I am pretty sure I missed a few things. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 10 2014

How To Survive the Seder When You’re Depressed

By at 10:08 am

dinner

As a woman, I try to be everything to everyone. As a wife and mother, that becomes magnified times 100. With Passover creeping up a bit too fast for me, I have to become superwoman. At least, that is what it feels like. While my husband, daughter, and I will only be home for a few days of Passover, I still need to clean. Additionally, our kitchen is being renovated during the week of Passover (good timing!), so there is that added stress. We will be with our family for the seders, but I have the pressure of watching my moods and being sparkly–like my daughter–while I am with them.

We are all dealing with a lot this week. The cleaning, cooking, and readying our bodies for (intestinal) destruction is in full swing right now, and the stress level is palpable. The truth is I am not that concerned with my cleaning (more so because of the pending kitchen destruction). I am concerned about interpersonal issues. I want to be “present” during the seders with my family.

This is easier said than done right now, due to being depressed. The road has lengthened and this stubborn depression walks on. I thought I would be feeling better by now, but I simply don’t. So, like many others, I am stressed about this holiday. I know I share this with many people but my stress is compounded by illness. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 5 2013

My Children Think I’m “Daddy’s Helper”

By at 9:39 am

scrubbing the toiletI, the cool and interesting mama, have been demoted. By my kids.

Exhibit A

Unnamed child, age 9, invited me to participate in Career Day at school. Then uninvited me because “Daddy works for Crayola and you just stay at home now. I don’t think the kids at school will find you very interesting.”

For those who don’t know, I was a pulpit rabbi for 12 years before off-ramping to stay at home full-time to do a better job of caring for our kids, one of whom has autism. A difficult decision at the time and many days since. Read the rest of this entry →

May 8 2012

The Grunt Work of Motherhood

By at 10:36 am

broomsIn my speechwriting days, whenever I was on deadline and stuck for inspiration, I’d turn on the radio and look through famous quotations. Given their way with words, the three men I always turned to first were Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I never had a favorite quotation, but in recent months, I’ve found myself frequently mulling this King comment:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 6 2012

Autism, Passover, and Spring Cleaning

By at 9:35 am

Raising a child with autism comes with a lot of crap. I’m not talking about the stares from strangers, the battles with insurance companies and school boards, or even the underlying, ever-present stress of wondering what my son’s future will look like. That’s all part of it, of course. But the crap I speak of today is of the tangible, dust-collecting variety.

What can I say? Autism takes up a lot of freaking space. There are the binders of therapist-recorded data, the pendaflex folders filled with evaluations and invoices, and, of course, the endless piles of teaching materials.

From the huge dry erase board on which we draw Benjamin’s daily schedule, to the card next to the bathroom sink featuring a pictorial breakdown of the act of hand washing (water on, wash hands, water off, dry), to the playroom closet stuffed with toys and games and visuals his therapist uses during sessions, our house is pretty much blanketed with tools that help Benjamin learn to communicate, follow routines, and transition more easily.

Benjamin, 8, was diagnosed 6 years ago, so by now these items have become a natural part of the landscape of our home—a part I rarely think about them. That is, until Passover rolls around. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 28 2012

Contest Alert: Spring Cleaning Giveaway

By at 2:17 pm

dapple cleaning productsWhether you’re cleaning your house in preparation for Passover, or just getting into the spring cleaning season, we’re excited to announce our latest giveaway, sponsored by Dapple. Dapple makes natural-based cleaning products for households with children, all made exclusively with baby-safe, non-toxic ingredients. From toy cleaning wipes to dish soap, Dapple’s got you covered.

We’ll be giving away baskets of cleaning products to three lucky winners in need of a good scrub. To enter, just leave a comment below with the first word that comes to mind when you hear “Passover.” Enter by Monday, April 2 at 5 p.m for your chance to win. Good luck, happy cleaning, and happy Passover!

How I Learned to Clean

By at 10:23 am

Even now, I can't handle a messy room like this.

When I was growing up, any item of mine not put away in its place was, more likely than not, tossed out the window by my mother. At the time, my parents and I were living within an 18-square-meter room (“A very good size by USSR standards,” my father assures me. “Usually it was 4 meters per person.”) in a 1970s Soviet communal apartment (i.e. a single family dwelling crammed with as many people as the government felt like cramming there, with a shared bathroom and kitchen). There wasn’t exactly a lot of space for clutter.

As a result, this was how I learned to clean. Something not in its proper place? Out it goes.

My husband, on the other hand, likes his stuff. He likes his stuff a lot. His love for his stuff extends to a transitive love for all stuff, especially our kids’ stuff. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 6 2011

The Power of a Clean House

By at 4:12 pm

Turns out that vinegar, baking soda, and lemons are more powerful than I thought.

As my past roommates can attest, I’ve never been what you’d call a neat-freak. I’m a little bit messy. (Not dirty-gross, just messy-cluttered.) And I never worried about that. Of course, I liked having a clean house, but I didn’t like having to keep it clean. So life was just cluttered.

But then we had a kid. And whatever level of messy I used to be is nothing compared to what my life is filled with now. Two-year-olds generate a massive amount of mess. (If you’ve ever given your 2-year-old rice, you totally get where I’m coming from.) So I’ve started thinking more and more about cleaning up messes, and how we do it.

We recently moved into a new apartment, and we very much needed to clean our dishwasher. (Though you might think that’s a self-cleaning product, it’s not.) So I googled “how to clean a dishwasher” and discovered that the best way to do it is really just with white vinegar and baking soda. And elbow grease. So an hour later, I’d removed a lot of gross stuff from the innards of my dishwasher (and a few pieces of porcelain and broken glass–thanks so much, people who lived here before us) and had an incredibly clean dishwasher that now cleans dishes better than any dishwasher I’ve ever had.

So now I’m wondering about those simple things I always have in my house: vinegar, baking soda, and lemons. Is it better to use those around young children than the harsh chemicals in traditional household cleaning products?

Help me out Kvellers–how do you clean your home? And what else can I do with vinegar and baking soda?

Jun 13 2011

The Dirt on Laundry

By at 11:24 am

Here at Kveller we work hard to provide our readers with relevant and useful information about all different aspects of parenting. From toilet training and knitting to books and toys to friendships and divorce, we’ve got you covered.

Well, mostly.

I’m sorry to say that we have neglected to explore one aspect of parenting that is universal, pervasive, stressful, and often unmanageable. It impacts our physical space, our relationships, our routines, and our appearance. Like I said, pervasive.

I’m talking about laundry.

You may think I’m kidding. Unless you’re a parent, and then you know I’m not. It’s hard to describe the extent to which laundry takes over your life when you have kids. There just aren’t words to explain how quickly the piles of clean and dirty clothes spiral out of control, covering every surface in your home. It defies logic, really. The children are so small, and their little onesies and overalls and socks-that-look-like-shoes are just so tiny, and yet they multiply and expand and then do it again. I still haven’t figured out how the four of us produce such shocking amounts of laundry, but we do. Week after week after week.

If you’re a new parent, you might not understand what all the fuss is about. You may feel like you’re on top of things. Enjoy it while you can. Your relationship to all of this clothing will quickly change.

At first you’ll take the time to sort the clothes into different piles, separating out the children’s clothes from yours, the colors form the whites, and you might even go so far as to take that fancy little dress the baby wore to her brit bat to the dry cleaners. You’ll put the baby into a new onesie every time she spits up, and you’ll make sure the diaper bag is stocked with a clean burp cloth every time you go out. You’ll do laundry once a week or twice a week, and the clothes will be folded and put away by the next morning. Read the rest of this entry →

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