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Nov 28 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Gratitude

By at 3:27 pm

"Are you Irish?"

I’ve been spending a lot of time feeling grateful lately, and not just because I’m still enjoying the leftovers from Thanksgiving. My baby girl got croupy (again) on Thursday night, and we ended up back in the emergency room. Sure, I was thankful for the excellent medical care we got, but one interaction I had in the hospital reminded me of just how lucky my family and I are in other ways as well.

The respiratory therapist who came to give my daughter a nebulizer treatment saw her name (Rose) and asked if we were Irish. In a rare moment of self-restraint, I didn’t point out that our last name is Naumburg (not O’Naumburg or McNaumburg), but I did mention that we’re Jewish.

“Ohhh! That’s so cool! I totally have a Jewish friend!” And with that announcement, that nice young respiratory therapist proceeded to goo and gaa at Rosie, all the while talking to her about Hannukah and latkes and apple sauce. I managed to ignore the Jewish friend comment until she finished my daughter’s treatment and wished us “Salaam Aleikum”—a traditional Muslim greeting meaning “peace be with you”.

She was serious. She didn’t know the difference.

All of a sudden I flashed back to my childhood in New Mexico, when I was given ashes on my forehead for Ash Wednesday by my public school teacher. (The possibility that we weren’t Christian was never considered; neither was the separation of church and state, apparently.) I was reminded of the time in college when our dining hall was decorated for Passover with glorious pyramids of freshly baked challah. And I remembered a conversation just last week with a new babysitter. Although we had specifically looked for one who wasn’t Jewish (our previous babysitter was a Rabbi’s daughter, and thus unavailable for Kol Nidrei or Erev Shabbat services), I wasn’t prepared for her complete lack of knowledge of anything Jewish. (Although she was quite eager to learn about “our Sabbath”, as she was interested in some nice young Jewish boy.)

As I sat in that hospital bed, holding my daughter, I couldn’t help but think that I am actually part of the 1%; Jews make up approximately 1.7% of the population of the United States, and just 0.2% of the population of the world. I have lived in a suburb of Boston for over a decade, and as such, I’ve been sheltered, and incredibly lucky. We live within a 30-minute drive of several synagogues, Jewish day schools and preschools, and Judaica shops. The public schools in our town are closed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We can buy Shabbat candles at our local grocery store, and which bakery makes the best challah is a matter of hot debate in our community. I write for an amazing online magazine where I can make reference to Yom Kippur, and none of my readers accuse me of making up a holiday just to get out of an exam (and yes, that’s a true story).

I live in a happy little Jewish bubble, and when it gets burst, I notice it, and it reminds me of just how fortunate my family and I are to have such an amazing Jewish community—both in real life, and online.

Nov 18 2011

When Mom Is Too Sick To Be Mom

By at 11:33 am

My daughter makes fun of my inhaler!

For the past few weeks, I have been battling bronchitis. If the incessant coughing weren’t enough, I have developed tendinitis of the ribs because of it. The first wave of medicine abated but didn’t cure it. Now I am on two inhalers and a codeine pill to sleep at night. But my daughter doesn’t care about any of that.

Case in point: Ellie wanted me to carry her for 90 minutes straight at the zoo today. Somehow, my explanation didn’t fly. I can’t imagine what she didn’t get about, “Mommy has an ouch that makes it feel like 10 zillion knives are stabbing me in the chest and back every time I breathe, so it would be really great if you could walk just a little bit.” To add insult to injury, she thinks it’s hilarious when I take puffs off the inhalers.

My editors and my managers at the gyms where I teach group cycling classes understand that I’ve been under the weather. But my toughest boss, Ellie, is having none of it.

So how do you mother when it feels like 10 zillion knives are stabbing you in the chest and back every time you breathe? How do you get it across to an almost-2-year-old that Mommy needs a time out?

The answers I have come up with are two-fold. One the American Academy of Pediatrics wouldn’t like, but the other balances it out. First, I let Ellie watch TV. No, not “Law & Order” or “Sex & the City” reruns. She loves “Yo Gabba Gabba” and “Sesame Street” so instead of watching just some clips, I confess to letting her watch a full episode or two, as prescribed by my pain level. I sit and watch with her and we interact about what’s going on, but I don’t have to chase her around or carry her anywhere, and the less physical I have to be, the less I cough. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 27 2011

Babies Ruin Everything

By at 12:42 pm

...this is what we got.

This is what we imagined...

It’s become our motto. It’s catchy, it’s funny, and it’s true. It’s also a great way to tell if I’m talking to a parent or not. If I casually mention that babies ruin everything, and they look back at me in horror, disgust, and judgment, I can assume they’ve never had a baby spit up on their new sweater or a toddler throw a soul-crushing tantrum in the middle of the restaurant.

Say the same thing to a parent, though, and he or she will smile and nod and quickly regale you with stories about double ear infections and cancelled vacations.

Canceled vacations. Ouch. That one hits a little close to home. Josh and I were supposed to take the girls to Barbados a couple of weeks ago to visit their great-grandparents. After a long day of packing and sorting and counting diapers (somehow, no matter how many you have, it never seems like enough), we finally climbed into bed only a few hours before we needed to head out to the airport. That’s when the barking began.

We don’t have a dog. It was our toddler. It was croup. It was bad. It’s agonizing listening to your child cough, but we had learned through many, many painful nights and a variety of failed interventions that we just need to leave her alone. But croup can mean more than just a bad cough, it can mean a baby that can’t breathe. Croup has given us two trips to the ER (one for each girl) and one hospital admission for my younger daughter when she was 4 months old. Croup scares me.

And that is how I found myself on the phone with a clinic in Barbados the next morning. “Croup. C-R-O-U-P. No, it’s not asthma. It’s an inflammation of the vocal chords…” When I found myself describing the treatment, I knew our trip was doomed.

We hemmed. We hawed. We tried to tell ourselves it would be ok. In all likelihood, it would have been. But an island paradise becomes a lot less appealing when your baby is gasping for air and you’re an ocean away from the pediatric emergency room that has become all too familiar. We called our parents. We called my grandparents on the island. I kept hoping one of them would tell me to calm down and stop being such a Nervous Nelly, that it would be fine. But they all agreed that we had made the right decision not to go.

Well, shit.

Instead of flying off to the sun and sand, we spent the morning canceling reservations. We took the girls to Ikea and tried to ease our sadness with $3 pasta. (The damn Swedish meatballs have pork in them. Being Jewish ruins everything.)

And now, here we are, heading into yet another major snowstorm with no sunny memories or sandy suitcases to gird us through the long winter. I’m trying to put a positive spin on this, but the truth is, Babies Ruin Everything.


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