Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yom Kippur in review

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of repentance. On this day we ask for forgiveness for all the bad things we did the previous year and also forgive others for their wrongdoings. I really enjoy going to synagogue now; I find the sermon generally interesting, the music beautiful and following in the traditions of my ancestors reassuring.

I went for the morning adult service and my brother showed up in the afternoon with all of our little kids for the children's service. The sight of my dark-haired daughter and her two very blond cousins all snuggled up during the service made me teary eyed. Even the rabbi commented on it.

Last evening we hosted Break the Fast. Most Jews fast on Yom Kippur so at the end we do one of our favorite things: eat.

We had 32 to the house, more than half children. It's a fairly easy meal to do -- dairy only and things like fruit, bagels, lox and cream cheese, kugels and cakes. Dave's favorite is Cheese Blintz Souffle so I found his mother's recipe. It went fast.

Cheese Blintz Souffle
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1 T orange juice
  • 1 dozen cheese blintzes
  • 2 T butter, melted
Butter baking dish. Set blintzes in dish in single layer. Mix remaining ingredients together and pour over blintzes. Bake 1 hour at 350F. Serve hot.

My Mormon friends Paige and Celia have a fascination for all things Jewish so I invited them and their families, too. There are a lot of similarities between Jews and Mormons, which I'll encourage Paige to blog about. They showed the appropriate amount of enthusiasm at the amount and type of food although I'm not sure if Celia was more impressed with the gluttony or my walk-in closet with its entire wall of meticulously organized shoes. The picture here is of the three of us. I look 12. For those of you who have never seen a shofar before, I am holding one. And this is the leftover food, not at all representative of the initial spread.

Fall arrived overnight. Not seemingly overnight but really and truly, overnight. It was over 100F Sunday and on Monday the high here was in the 70s. So much for me washing the patio furniture thinking we'd dine al fresco last night ...

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's a good thing we moved to Anchorage.

It got me away from the mean girls.

Tween and teen girls just do this thing. They are competitive. They turn on their friends. They pretend to be friends with someone and then tear her down. They talk. They text. They are just horrible to each other.

There are many books written on this subject, Odd Girl Out and Queen Bee and Wanna Bees being amongst the most popular. I have read them both. They are both incredibly disturbing books, in spite of their chapters on why this happens and how we can teach our daughters to cope with it.

This has become my issue.

In junior high school I became friends with Karen, Sara and Tracy. They lived on the same street and I was the Odd Girl Out. In high school we parted ways and I was best friends with Vickie, who ran hot one day, cold the next, had way too much freedom and introduced me to things that people who don't live in affluent suburbs don't experience until college.

And then we moved to Anchorage. Where I met up with Courtenay, Kelly and Michelle, who were as normal as you can be when you live in Alaska. It was a foursome without backstabbing and we shared the common threads of intelligence, theater and the goal of college in the Lower 48. We hung out with mostly boys, not surprising since we were teenaged girls and males outnumber females 3:1 in Alaska.

Fast forward to today. Dave and I have three daughters. We are obligated and it is our absolute honor to raise them to be nice, socially conscious women, and to make the most of their gifts. Words and actions are powerful and we tell them, "Use your power for good."

Eldest Daughter is 11 and in middle school. I've been chatting with the other middle school mommies and I am not liking what I hear.

Again, this is my issue.

I wish they knew what I know at 42: Girlfriends are a tremendous gift. Treasure them. Do everything you can to help them. You will laugh with them and you will cry with them. You will call them, completely hysterical, from the doctor's office when you learn you are having surprise twins. They will call you moments after their children are born and say, "This has to be quick. I still need to call my parents." They will take you to the ER in the middle of the night when your husband is out of town and they will stay up all night with your newborn twins and cook meals for your freezer so you can get eight consecutive hours of sleep.

At Starbucks a few years ago a woman spotted me reading Odd Girl Out and struck up a conversation. She told me about her 17-year-old daughter, and the things she does. This woman had DENIAL tattooed on her forehead as the things she said clearly pointed to her daughter being the Queen Bee. She told me, "She's a good girl. She gets good grades, plays sports. What's the big deal about TPing a few kids' houses in the middle of the night?! The mother of a classmate called me a few months ago to talk about how our girls interact at school and I told her to have her daughter develop a thicker skin." I restrained myself from slapping her upside the head. Just barely.

Again, this is my issue. And I am doing something about it. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mommy Dearest (almost)

Have you read October's Vanity Fair? Levi Johnston, the Wasilla, Alaska 19-year-old who impregnated former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's teenage daughter, Bristol, tells all. And it's not pretty.

The article is a fun read, whether its content is true or not, or lays somewhere in between. Before I launch into the highlights for you, let's consider the source.

Johnston is a high school dropout whose mother was arrested last year on six felony drug counts. He is currently capitalizing on his 15 minutes of fame by providing this look into his life with the Palins, hoping to turn it into a book, and by modeling and pursuing movie roles (none of which have been inked at the writing of my blog post.)

He tells Vanity Fair:

"The Palin house was much different from what many people expect of a normal family, even before she was nominated for vice president. There wasn’t much parenting in that house. Sarah doesn’t cook, Todd doesn’t cook—the kids would do it all themselves: cook, clean, do the laundry, and get ready for school."

People in glass houses should not throw stones. Normal is a relative term in Alaska anyway.

"When Sarah got home from her office - almost never later than five and sometimes as early as noon - she usually walked in the door, said hello, and disappeared into her bedroom, where she would hang out. Sometimes she'd take an hour-long bath.Other times she sat on the living-room couch in her two-piece pajama set from Walmart watching house shows and wedding shows on TV."

I thought the governor worked quite a bit Juneau, the state capital, a little under 1,000 miles from Wasilla.

"Sarah Palin has said she's a hockey mom and a hunter but that's really not the case. She pays no attention to her kids when the camera is not around. [Palin's oldest son] Track and I grew up playing hockey together, and I only saw her at about 15% of the games. I've never seen her touch a fishing pole. She had a gun in her bedroom and one day she asked me how to shoot it. I asked her what kind of gun it was, and she said she didn't know, because it was in a box under her bed."

Where did he come up with the number 15%? That's quite specific.

He goes on, "She just couldn't believe the free clothes, the free room service, the private jets. ... They did all the shopping for us [at the Republican National Convention] and all our clothes were already there. Sarah would have a new getup every day, sometimes twice a day, all steamed and pressed. She was all smiles and giggles. She loved the lifestyle and that she impressed everybody. The campaign asked for us to give them back after we lost but I still saw some of it around the house after the campaign."

Duh! The only way to get Gucci and Jimmy Choo in Alaska is by getting them from the Lower 48. Nordstrom, the nicest retailer in town, doesn't even carry them.

Johnston goes on to describe the way Palin treats Trig, her Down's Syndrome child, but I can't even go there because I refuse to believe it could be true.

The October issue of VF is a good read, because of or in spite of this article. It also has a good piece on Jackie O and on the Craigslist killer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A year later.

My friend Paula died a year ago today. Her son is 365 days older. So is her husband. And so is her twin sister. But Paula will forever remain 49.

As I sat in synagogue this weekend bringing in the new year, I thought of Paula. Paula would have been sitting in her Connecticut synagogue. With her family. And this year Rich and Jack sat alone. Not entirely alone but still, without Paula.

I miss her.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What the tween taught me this week ...

Did you know that you can share iTunes libraries across your home network? Legally? This is a beautiful thing. Now I can listen to Eldest Daughter's music and work on bringing my hipness factor up. Some of her choices are very good for running. Go to iTunes and use the "Share Home" function. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tohmato, Tomahto

Although it's now September, our local Farmer's Market still has the most amazing summer produce.

A few Saturdays ago Thing 1 and I got up early and exercised before hitting the market. She rode her scooter and I walked. It was in the mid-60s out and just a perfect morning to be outside. The Ironhorse Trail was quite crowded, not surprising given the weather and the fact that so many foot races are in September and October around here.

We stocked up on white peaches, strawberries, raspberries, eggs and heirloom tomatoes. A few weeks ago I was out of extra virgin olive oil and bought two house-brand bottles at Whole Foods, one Spanish and one Italian. I prefer the Spanish one! So for a late morning snack I sliced up a tomato, put a little Spanish oil and blue cheese on it and went to town.

I will be sad when the summer produce leaves the market and is replaced by apples and decorative gourds.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday is for Foodies

I worked from my client's San Francisco office today and also had two very good meals. It was a perfect Fall day and the San Francisco Symphony gave a free concert in Justin Herman Plaza at noon. The whole town just seemed to be out celebrating life; September 11 does tend to remind you of your blessings.

Lunch was at the Slanted Door with Wendy, who came in from Marin. Wendy's a smart cookie -- she took the ferry. Slanted Door opened in 1995 and has had rave reviews since. Sadly, I had not been until today. It's so well regarded that I gave a gift certificate to my client this summer when she brought her two sons on vacation. It is a good spot, because of its modern Vietnamese food using local produce and ecologically farmed proteins, and because of its location in the Ferry Building looking out on the Bay. Wendy had cellophane noodles and crab. I had Shaking Beef. We shared baby bok choy with shitake mushrooms. And both of us had fresh-squeezed lemonade that was more tart than sweet, yum! Who wants to go back with me?

On the way back to the office I popped into Miette and took away a lime tartlet smothered in meringue for a late afternoon snack.

Dinner was at Bix, a restaurant Dave and I have enjoyed many times. Bix is clubby, dark and feels like a 1930s speakeasy. One of the previous times we were there we played a great joke on friends visiting from Philadelphia. They'd been visiting other friends in Sacramento prior to having dinner with us. Peter, the husband, is tightly wound in general and, while we hid in the restaurant watching, the maitre d' told them that our plans had changed and that we would not be coming. Peter went ballistic and we nearly peed our pants.

Tonight was without similar incident. Our group of six ate family style sharing salmon, tuna, truffled fries and grilled cheese, chicken hash, foie gras, mozzarella and tomatoes, lamb sliders and ceviche. This was a nice ending to a frenetic work week.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Princesses of Tides

On Labor Day Neeracha and I took a subset of the kids to Bean Hollow State Beach to visit the tide pools. The timing wasn't great on two fronts: Dave had just returned home from running the Disneyland Half Marathon, his first (Good job, Sweetie!), and the tide wasn't far enough out to see much. But the ocean breaking against the rocks was spectacular and we all had fun crawling around on the rocks and pebbled beach. Thing 2 has the dexterity of a mountain goat and a lot of curiosity so this was a perfect outing for her.

The terrain was unlike anything I'd ever been on -- very much like I picture the moon to be, craggy in some places, smooth like firm sand dunes in others. The weather was Chamber-of-Commerce perfect -- 70ish and sunny. I recently got a Flip Video. Clearly I am still perfecting my technique, as is evidenced below!

As is typical of any outing Neeracha and I do, food played a part. Bean Hollow is nearly two hours from our house so our first order of business was lunch. By the time we got to Pescadero, the line at Durate's was very long so we had a quick bite at the local BBQ / grocery / pizza place. There was live music outside and lots of people! Pescadero, population 2,042, is not exactly a metropolis so this was surprising.

After the tide pools we drove up to Half Moon Bay for a stop at the Moonside Bakery on Main St. The last time Neeracha and I were in Half Moon Bay together was for my 35th birthday, a weekend we all spent at the Ritz-Carlton. Next to the bakery was a gourmet cookshop and the kids talked me into buying an Ebelskiver pan, a purchase that didn't require too much convincing after eating the kinda-sorta-pancakes our neighbors make with theirs. I'd be remiss if I did not mention our two stops at farm stands.

As I read back through this post I think it should be renamed: Hwy 1 Eating + a stop at Bean Hollow.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Our health insurance sucks.

Health insurance is tricky whether you get it from your employer, you have an individual or group policy, or you're without it altogether. For the eight years that my husband worked at a large technology company, I read through the information each year at benefits re-enrollment time. I found it a hassle. I had an inkling how good our insurance was when our twins were born, premature and after a complex pregnancy, but I took it for granted. Now I really know how good we had it.

Earlier this week I attended a webinar on the health insurance maze, hoping to learn something to make better our current situation. We have an individual policy, which means we purchased it through a broker. Our co-pays are high, our deductible is obscenely high and not all that much is covered. I ended up in the ER perhaps six months ago and it was more than $2,000 out of pocket for the 45 minutes I spent there. My injury was definitely compounded when I got all the bills.

After listening to this webinar, though, I feel fortunate we have an individual policy at all. Apparently they're hard to qualify for. You're diabetic? Forget it. You've broken more than two bones? Forget it. You have a heart murmur? Not a chance.

Universal healthcare is tricky. No one should die just because they do not have access to medical care. But how do we provide quality healthcare for all? My husband read in the press that the city of San Francisco spent $13.5 million last year to transport 225 vagrants from the locations they passed out to San Francisco General Hospital. Is the US government really capable of providing the solution?

My friend's mother is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed and treated in the country in which she lives, and where there is socialized medicine. David Lebovitz speaks highly of the French healthcare system. Our Canadian friends are just fine with it and my cousin, the pediatric neurosurgeon known for his pioneering treatment of Saggital Synostosis, did some of his training there. Perhaps it's just the transition which will be so painful?

At least we have health insurance. For now anyway.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back to School, Back to Work

In the schoolyard, kindergarten year, the mommies talked about returning to the paid workforce once their children went full days in first grade. Now that the economy is weak, many of them are actually doing this.

Not a week goes by that someone doesn't ask me how to find a flexible work situation. They see how I volunteer in the classroom and have a career and somehow think I've figured this out.

In reality, I gave up the career when Eldest Daughter turned one and I left my corporate job. The climb up the corporate ladder stopped then and there and I didn't care. In fact, I still don't. I just want to keep my brain engaged, set a good example for our daughters and provide for my family.

Here are some ideas for those of you mulling this over:

Retail. Jodi's husband was transferred four times during the first decade of their marriage. She worked for the Gap and whenever they arrived in a new city, she found a local store that needed a manager or assistant manager. You can also work just nights, just weekends, just while your kids are in school, or just during the holiday season.

Teach. You have summers off and work primarily the hours your children are in school. If you teach at the college level, you can teach a night class or two and your husband will have valuable time with the kids.

Jobshare. Do you have a friend who loves their job but only wants to do it half time? Approach them. This is a win for the employer, too, since they have two brains working on the same job, which often means better outcomes.

Work from home. I have a virtual assistant in Ohio. We've never met. She works from her house. You can do web design from home. Or bookkeeping. Or editing. You can do a corporate job from home a few days a week if you've already proven your worth to your employer.

Turn your hobbies into revenue. Do you love to scrapbook? Many people would love to have scrapbooks of their child's first year but aren't crafty. Are you a fabulous cook? Become a personal chef - one of those people who makes meals for busy families then drops them off to go straight into the freezer. Do you speak a second language? Tutor a few kids.

Of course all these things involve putting yourself out there. It blows me away when the most extroverted people I know tell me that they can't network. If I can do it, and those of you who know me in real life know that my social skills are marginal at best, you can. What is networking anyway? It's listening and talking. If you can talk to the parents at school functions then you can talk to people about what you want to do for work. It takes a village either way.