Book Review: Kosher S*X

I try to make this a family blog, and perhaps you could say that this is actually the most family friendly conversation I’ve ever had on this blog… about Kosher Sex.  Have you read this book?

 
Now I don’t claim that Working Dad and I practice this, but I do think it’s an interesting story.  It ties into the Rosh Chodesh class called SoulMates that I’ve been taking monthly, and I thought it would be an interesting topic of discussion.
The basic concept is that instead of answering your carnal urges at any time, there is a cycle to your intimacy.  For at a minimum of 12 days surrounding the start and end of your cycle you are off limits to your husband.  Then, after that time, it’s all fun and games.
The book talks about several basic ideas which I think are easy to get behind:
Part One: A discussion about what sex is, compared with lust, commitment, and love.  It drives down into the ideas of traditional thought, doing what’s expected and understanding why there are benefits to waiting until marriage.  My favorite is the ‘myth of compatibility’ which lays out the argument that you have to have sex before you get married to know if you are compatible with each other.  Totally crap according to this book.  And in a lot of ways I agree.  Once you get married the sex you had with someone else is utterly irrelevant as you’ve committed to never having sex with anyone else again.  Having someone for you to compare your partner to is probably a mistake.
Part Two: This the the meat of the book where he really talks about the mechanics, and offers a lot of opinions about specific questions.  It discusses porn and sex toys, as well as more adventurous sex techniques…
Part Three: This is titled sex for single people, but it’s really about discussing why we marry at all.  He lays out wonderful arguments about why people need to be in committed relationships, and how waiting until you are married to have sex can really enhance your relationship. 
Part Four: This chapter deals with difficulties in marriages, and the possibility of divorce. One of my favorite parts is where he discusses how children are important to a marriage, but that without the bedrock foundation of the married couple, the children don’t exist.  Today it’s so easy to put your children first, especially when they are little and have seemingly around the clock demands (yes 3am is totally a great time to be up Ocho!)…
Part Five: This is where he really discusses the tenets of Kosher Sex and Family Purity.  About how waiting until after a woman’s cycle creates a unique opportunity for a man to be constantly chasing his wife.  How it gives a woman mystery and specialness that comes when she isn’t in intimate contact with her husband.

Overall it’s an insightful book with a visionary way of looking at some of the more base aspects of a sexual relationship. 

Did it make me decide to start practicing family purity laws as discussed?  No, but it did make me think about how important it is to dedicate part of your time to both sides of your marriage.  The intimate and the emotional- because when it comes down to it, this is really what family purity helps protect.  It says these weeks are for intimate connections, and these weeks are for emotional connections.  It allows us to say yes, even when we might want to say no, because it’s only another few days before I’m off limits again.  It allows us to say no when we might want to, because it’s that time of the month, or because I really do just want to take a bath and eat all the chocolate in the house.

Have you thought about how you protect both sides of your marriage?   This might be part of Judaism’s answer, but what works for you? 

I really encourage comments about this part of Judaism, and as with all my posts I hope to illicit some sort of discussion. However, this topic being a sensitive one I won’t allow posts that harass or demean myself or others.  Happy commenting!

Jewish Learning Institute: The Art of Parenting Class 2

We had class two of the series I’m taking, and this one really clarified a few things for me.  The main point of the class was the concept of discipline.  When we think about discipline, we think about the things we do to correct the actions of our children.

We think about the time out chair.

We think about the spanking.

We think about all the things that we do to our children to correct their behavior.  But why do we do any of it?

The thing I learned from this lesson was that the most important thing we can teach our children is the art of SELF- discipline.  Why do we give them a time out- so they remember that what they are doing is not the right thing.  But what’s behind that?  The idea that the next time they think about doing what they just did, they will remember the punishment and not do it.

What’s the end goal of it all- Self discipline.  The ability to do the thing they should do, even when they don’t want to.  The ability to NOT do what they shouldn’t do, even if they do want to.  The ability to do the right thing, and refuse their ‘baser’ instincts.

We give our children rewards to help them understand that they are capable of overcoming their instincts.  We punish our children to help them understand that they are better than what they think they are capable of.

How can we teach self-discipline?  By modeling it ourselves.  When it’s time to do the dishes- do the dishes without complaint.  When it’s time to go to work, model the good behavior we want from our children and go to work with a smile.  Doing the things we don’t want to do because we need to do them.

So, when you next think about the things you want to teach your children and the values you want to instill in them- think Self Discipline. Think that the reward for going on the potty is the point where she learns that she can.  Think that the time out is the moment when she realizes that she doesn’t have to be.

Just read this definition of discipline and think about this definition: “training that develops self-control or character.”

Give your child the gift of good character and self-control.

Tu B’Shvat Tablescapes

I’m not the most fancy when it comes to table decor.  As much as I try, I don’t think I’m ever quite able to get across what it is I’m trying to.

You’ve seen my Passover table, and I’ve had some pretty Rosh Hashana tables, and I’ve done my best on Purim too, but I get so involved in the practical- especially when you have little children and tiny hands on the table.

This Wednesday is Tu’Bshvat, and while we won’t be hosting our dinner until Saturday night, I thought I would share a few beautiful tables, so we can all strive for something new this year…

License
Attribution Some rights reserved by Didriks

There are so many beautiful tables designs at Chai and Home.  She even has a whole pinterest page dedicated to these gorgeous tables.

I love the idea of using a platter and displaying some of the fruits and vegetables of the season, or of the holidays…

 This shows how gorgeous Wheat can be in a vase- and totally simple too…

Also cc  Didriks

The Jewish Hostess also has some nice tablescapes, so you can look at her website too for some additional inspiration.  Just because we have tiny humans doesn’t mean we don’t want pretty things… right…?

Shabbat Dinner- Easy Peasy

Tonight I’m going to recommend the easiest Shabbat dinner you might ever make.  So incredibly simple, you won’t believe how good it tastes.

The Menu:
Roast Chicken
Roasted Vegetables
Challah
Pears & Cranberries for dessert

Let’s start with the Roast Chicken.  Roasting a whole chicken can seem daunting, and while I’ve been able to cook one since college, it can be quite a process. That was until I got wind of the Buzzfeed Roast chicken contest.

If you haven’t’ checked this out, you are missing out on some of the best roast chicken knowledge that the Internets have to offer.  They compare the best of the best recipes, including Glamour chicken’s engagement chicken, Julia Child’s chicken and the Pioneer woman.  They follow the recipe exactly, and then compare the results.  And not only is the recipe that won the easiest, its obviously the best because it won.

So, let’s break down Thomas Keller’s roast chicken recipe.  Twine, a roasting rack, salt and pepper. 

Step 1: Dry the chicken inside and out

Step 2: Cover it with salt and pepper inside and out

Step 3: Truss your chicken.  It’s easier than it sounds.  Click the link above to follow the photos- so easy.

Step 4: Put it on the rack and in the oven at 400degrees.

That’s his recipe.  It’s really that simple.  I hope you’ve been following along, but not that closely.  Because for our Shabbat dinner we’re going to make a quick twist.  We’re going to throw some potatoes, onions and brussel sprouts in the bottom of the roasting rack.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil and a bit of salt on top, then put the whole thing in the oven for about an hour.  You’ll know it’s done when the juices run clear and a thermometer reads 165.

On to dessert: Oven Pears in Simple Syrup.  The best part about this is that you prep it on the stove, then stick it into the oven when you start dinner.  You can’t overcook it, you can’t really screw it up.  Half it, double it, totally easy.  Also, totally parve, so it’s easy with a dairy meal too.

PEARS: 

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (I prefer fresh)
4 firm-ripe pears such as d’Anjou or Bose (about 2.5 lbs total)
1/2 rinsed lemon thinly sliced (ends discarded)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
 
Step 1: Sort cranberries and discard stems and any bruised or decayed fruit. Rinse and drain berries. Peel pears: cut in half and core. In a 2- 2 1/2 quart baking dish, combine cranberries, pears and lemon slices.
 
 
I arrange the pears intermittent with the lemon slices and the cranberries, so it makes a pretty presentation when it comes out of the oven. It is also best to serve in the same dish that you bake it in. If you have a lot of people, you might have to double the recipe.

 

Step 2: In a 1-2 quart pan over medium high heat, stir sugar, vinegar, ginger,cinnamon,cloves and 1/2 cup water until mixture boils and sugar is dissolved. (You can make this syrup the day ahead if need be). Pour over fruit. Cover dish tightly with foil. 
 
I often bring this to someone’s house.  Put the pears in a dish ready to go and bring the liquid in a different container. Pour on top and put in the oven when dinner starts.
 
Step 3: Bake in a 350 degrees regular or convection oven until pears are tender when pierced, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.
 
Make it look pretty by arranging the lemons and the pears intermittent, along with the cranberries dotting the top.  If you make it in a nice dish, then you just serve it straight to the table.

So, there’s your easy peasy dinner…

Jewish Learning Institute: The Art of Parenting

I’ve begun taking this class through the JCC Chabad of the Beach cities, the same place that EG goes to school.  While it would be impossible to share all the knowledge I’m gleaning from the class, I thought I would share a bit about what I’m learning.

If you are available, the class takes place either Wednesday or Sunday morning from 9:30-11am.  It’s a great class so far, so I encourage you to join in.

This past week we talked a lot about how we make choices as parents.  About choosing what’s best for the child, and not making a decision based upon what’s best for us as parents.  This seems like a really easy and straightforward concept, but in reality, it’s often very murky.

We took two classic examples in class: the tantrum in the supermarket and the mismatched outfit being worn out of the house.  In both of these circumstances there are multitudes of different things playing out in our minds. 

There is so much pressure being a parent and it’s something that can effect every decision we make.  When our kids make a scene in the grocery store we most likely aren’t just thinking about what’s best for my child.  We’re likely thinking “what are these people thinking about me a parent.  This is so embarassing, how can I make her stop!”  We are overwhelmed with what others think about us.  Maybe it’s not their opinions that count, but the reality of the fact that we need to pay for the groceries, not buy something we didn’t want, ensure our kids aren’t stealing anything, and that if we don’t finish shopping, we won’t have another chance to buy milk all week.

So we give in.  We abate the tantrum with a candy bar, or the other things out kids are asking us for.  To make it all stop. 

Sometimes we do need to give in.  Sometimes it’s important to show our children that we listen to them, and buying the graham crackers they want can teach them that they are valued to.  Sometimes that candy bar is actually deserved.  But did we make that choice based upon what is best for them, or what was best for us.

Jewish teaching on parenting is complex at best, but at it’s core there are a few guiding principles.  When we were discussing these practices and values in class I couldn’t help but think about a few other classic Jewish conceptions: Derech Eretz and Shalom Bayit.  

Taken at it’s literal interpretation, Derech Eretz means ‘the way of the land.’  We can interpret this to mean that living a Torah life, a G-dly life, also means behaving with civility, earning a livelihood, and having common sense.  When we look at this concept, we can see that we have an obligation to teach our children to engage with the outside world in an appropriate manner.  Therefore tantrums in the grocery store aren’t permitted.  Thinking of our world from this perspective can help remind us of our obligation to teach our children the proper way to engage with the world.  Think the Jewish version of Emily Post.

Another is Shalom Bayit, or peace in the home.  Taking this concept into yourself and making it a part of our lives might help us to choose decisions that make the most sense for our home.  When we go through life there are lots of outside influences.  Many of them are critically important to us, such as extended family, work obligations, even the weather.  But when you look at these from the perspective of Shalom Bayit it can help put into perspective our obligations to those of our own home. Maybe today we don’t visit Grandp
a because it’s not good for the peace of our house.

I hope that these ideas can help you guide your choices in the best interest of our children.  Child-rearing is a complicated and complex idea.  The stress we can put on ourselves can be unbearable.  So, while we keep these things in mind, above all else, remember that G-d doesn’t give us more than we are ready to handle.  These children are yours- regardless of how they came into your life.  You are divinely created to help them, raise them, and guide them in becoming the adults they are meant to be.

Here’s to you, and making choices. 

Organizing Photos for Keeps

I’ve posted about Project Life before, but I wanted to write about it again, to help ensure that your children don’t end up with what I have in my garage…a large pile of pictures without context or thought.

Yup- those are adorable pictures of me as a youngin… Unfortunately, they have no rhyme or reason to them.  Collected for years in one drawer, or box- one place or another.

Do you have to use Project Life to display or organize your photos…no, but I do think it’s easy and totally worth it.  But lets take a step back.  Let’s look at how you get those photos off of your phones, off of your computers and make them accessible to anyone.

The first step to printing and organizing photos- to having your children’s life made accessible to them and others is to download monthly and organize digitally.  My recommendation is to start here.

Step 1: Make a folder on your computer- label it this year 2015

Step 2: Inside that folder make a 01-2015 folder.

Step 3: Download all the photos into that folder the first week of February.

Step 4: Repeat steps 2-3 on March 1st, and do on through the year.

It’s that simple.  Knowing when a photo was taken will dramatically improve your ability to know what was going on, and to have recall about the event.  I know it seems strange, but this is especially true about those little moments.  When did the baby first sit-up?  Crawl?  Walk?  Knowing what month these events happened in can really make the difference between being able to write about your child or not.

Want to take it a step farther?  Inside of the monthly folders include additional folders with the events labeled.  Like “Family Picnic to Alondra Park- Date” or “Wedding of Greg and Rachel- May 4th”.  That way you have the basics, and the photos can provide the details.

What we do in our family is put all our photos onto an external hard drive.  This makes it easy to take with us to friends or family- to give them their photos, as well as to grab in case of a fire. As much as I love my Project Life albums (and I do!) they are a bit heavy.  By grabbing the hard drive I ensure that we get all the photos and everything out of the house.

Still think its too much? 

I think one of the best things we can give to our children is their own memories.  My sister’s memories are strong, but mine are not.  This way I can help make sure that both EG and Ocho have not only their memories, but the images that go along with them.  That they can look through them and see the people we’ve lost, and remember.

A culture of Truth

I’ve reached a point in my life where I am sick of the limitations of social etiquette.  I’ve become exhausted of people ‘saving face’ by not telling the truth.

Has this happened to you?  It feels like it happens to me almost daily.  Let’s see, this week alone I didn’t tell at least 5 people the truth about what I thought or felt about the situation. And we’re not talking about distant friends, or inconsequential acquaintances.  We’re talking about immediate family, close relatives, what are supposed to be ‘best friends.’

We went and saw the last Hobbit movie this week, and there’s a moment in the movie when Bilbo Baggins tells Thorin Oakenshield that he’s being an idiot.  That he’s taken the most important thing to Thorin and given it away to someone else.  Because Thorin was going back on his word. 

It seems like everyone’s ‘word’ is becoming less and less valuable.  That we’ve reached a point in the world where the truth, and honor and commitment aren’t very valuable.

When you go to a therapist to seek the truth because those closest to you no longer tell it to you straight.  When they sit by and watch you make horrible mistakes, disregard others emotions and feelings, and just plain do dumb things.  Rather than stand-up, say what’s uncomfortable and lay it all out on the table.

I wish I could just spill the beans right here.  Tell all those people the truths’ I didn’t say. 

Do you tell the truth, or do you skate by on politeness? 

Maybe, if we committed ourselves to being open and honest it would mean a lot more when we say we care.  When we share our ‘I Love You’s.’  When we realize how much it means to us to be moving in the right direction.

Tu’Bshvat- A fruity celebration

It’s time to celebrate Tu B’shvat.  What is Tu B’shvat you ask?  The celebration of the trees.  A new year for the trees, if you will.  If it weren’t complicated enough that Judaism is on a totally separate calendar than the rest of the world, we’ll add some additional confusion by claiming to have four different new year’s.  This is one of them.  While it’s not the most significant (that being Rosh Hashana) it’s still important. 

There are lots of laws in the Torah regarding what you should do with your harvest and your trees.  When the temple was still in existence, we had specific tithes that we needed to set aside, as well as sacrifices.  It’s also a law not to take the fruit of a tree for the first three years it’s planted, so this is the ‘new year’ for all the trees.  If you planted it three years ago, now is the year to eat.

As you can see from the beautiful Infographic below (thanks aish!) it’s a fun holiday to celebrate.  When else do you get to concocte such an exciting menu full of fruits and veggies, and enjoy time out in the sun?

Speaking of menus, Chai and Home has a lovely menu planner printable. Perfect for you to remember which dish coordinates with which species.

I’ll be throwing my first Tu B’shvat dinner this year.  Have you thrown one?  Any advice?

Torah Portion = Life: The Ten Plagues

This week’s Torah Portion is Parasha Bo, the ten plagues and the people of Egypt.  I’m hesitant to say it, but this seems like the perfect portion for my life right now.

When we think about the Torah portion, many people are suprised to read the first sentence:

1. The Lord said to Moses: “Come to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, in order that I may place these signs of Mine in his midst,

I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants.  G-d has made it so that Pharaoh is not able to bend his will. Why would G-d do that? Why would he, benevolent that he is, create a circumstance where he isn’t getting the best from the people he’s created.  Rather, he’s creating a situation where he has to ‘punish’ them, as we usually think about the plagues.

‘In order that I may place these signs of Mine in his midst,’

Such a powerful thought.  In order that these signs may be there.  In order that he may see these signs.  When we read the story of Moses and the Pharaoh we come to understand that the Pharaoh would bend, then change his mind.  His advisors would bend, then change their minds.  Over and over again, they lose their resolve.

It’s like that with children.  Over and over they test our wills, and often we bend.  Often it is easier to give-in, or move along then to take the time, see the signs and do the parenting.  Sometimes, especially with a two-year old and a baby, I think I miss the signs right in front of my face.  You probably know what I’m talking about.  The signs that the day is to much, that the situation is out of hand.  The subtle signs that are right in front of my face.  It’s not until there’s an explosion, a plague if you will, that I really understand what’s happening.  It’s not until my child is doing something so beyond our values, our ideals, that I realize that I’ve bent right over.

All to often in our life we miss out on the subtle signs of life.  Our partner needing more space or more comfort. Our children needing a bit more guidance or nurturing.  So it is with Pharaoh.  He needed something powerful, something so above the ordinary to really see the power of G-d.

There are plagues all around us, and sometimes we need a cosmic shift to make a change.  This portion reminds us that these plagues are not just moments, but calls to action.  A chance to change our actions, a chance to shift our thinking.

In our lives and the lives of those around us we need to take these signs, these plagues, and use them as a way to shape our futures.  To change what we can to affect the world.  To have our eyes opened to the path or rightness. 

Transformative Experiences

I was driving in the car last night on the way home from Disneyland.  It was a great day with my cousin, who recently lost his wife.  We had a lot of fun, and his 9-year old daughter was amazing with EG.  But I digress… I was driving home and I heard this song on the radio:


I couldn’t help but turn it up and start singing along.  Imagine my surprise when there are tears flowing down my eyes, and I’m thinking about my mom, my family, my marriage- the little girl asleep in the seat behind me. 

“Then it hit me like a lightning late one night
I was all out of hope and all out of fight

Couldn’t fight back the tears so I fell on my knees
Saying, “God, if you’re there come and rescue me.”
Felt love pouring down from above”

The moment it ended though, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit guilty. Now, please don’t misunderstand me- especially if you are a devout Christian.  I don’t mean that what you believe in isn’t true, I only mean to say that I don’t believe it the same way you do. 

It’s strange that a song about- I don’t know- baptism, conversion, christening?  would affect me so deeply when I fundamentally believe that there is more to conversion than just a single action and a thought.  I don’t believe that saying you believe in something makes it so.  I appreciate that Judaism has a formal conversion process, and that it can be a bit daunting.  I felt guilty because here is a song about an aspect of G-d I don’t believe in, yet here are the tears flowing down my eyes.

I can, however, say that I believe in the transformative power of different experiences.  I hope you know what I’m talking about. Those moments when you feel touched by G-d.  When something makes sense, or touches you so profoundly that everything inside of you is changed.  That’s what touches me about this song….

Most recently it was seeing my Mother’s dead body.  In Jewish funerals you don’t look upon the dead, however, it’s not only necessary according to law, but also traditional for the close family to see their dearly departed before burial.  For me that was the moment I really realized my mother wasn’t here on earth anymore.  I’ve always believed we had a soul, but knowing my mom, and seeing her body without her spirit, her soul there- I finally realized that it wasn’t her.  That she wasn’t here anymore.  The immensity of realizing that there is something after death in such a literal way.  Of knowing in my soul that my mother wasn’t here on earth, and at the same moment knowing that she was somewhere else- with G-d.

Before that it was a profoundly transformative experience to give birth to Ocho.  You would have thought that the transformative birth would have been EG’s, since she literally transformed me from a woman to a mother, but her birth wasn’t really like that.  Giving birth to Ocho was possibly the best moment of my life so far.  It was difficult, scary, harrowing. It was pain and screaming and doubt.  But I overcame.  We overcame together.  And when she came into this world her birth was like an amazing moment of serenity.  A transformative experience.  Meeting G-d in the birth of my daughter.

Before that I would have to say I’ve had one other transformative experience.  And this one is linked not only to the song, but also to a tenant of Judaism- the Mikvah.  For those of you who don’t know a mikvah is a natural body of water that a woman immerses herself in after she has had her cycle.  She has to be clean for so many days, then she goes and she changes.  There’s a lot more to it, but traditionally a woman would go before she gets married for the first time.  I did that before marrying Working Dad and I remember walking out of that water and feeling so peaceful.  So ready to be his wife.  So ready to take on the responsibility of a family of my own, of creating something new.  Of joining back together with my besheret.  So calm and confident. 

A woman is only obligated to do three mitzvot in the Torah.  Lots of people say this makes Judaism as an Orthodox Jew negative to women, but we can get into all of that later.  What our sages teach us is that when a woman fulfills one of the mitzvot (Challah, candles and the mikvah) she is ultimately closer to G-d than anyone else. That he is listening to her in an intense way.  I felt exactly like that in the mikvah.  As Carrie says, there must have been something in the water.  Because in those moments it felt like there was nothing between me and G-d.  Me and everything I could possibly be in this world.  Everything that’s out there in front of me- my whole future in front of my eyes.  The whole world.

Have you had a transformative experience?  Do you feel like you’ve met G-d?