Ask Away Friday with A Cookie Before Dinner!

Hooray, hooray, hooray for the all new #AskAwayFriday! Get to know the new hosts and  grab the new logo! Be sure to check out the new Facebook page “AskAwayFriday” for a great place to meet up and send out a #BuddyRequest if you need a partner to swap with! And always feel free to contact me here or anywhere if you want to swap with me.

What is #AskAwayFriday? Well… 

#AskAwayFriday was created by the amazing Penny from Real Housewife of Caroline County as a place for us to connect with other bloggers by asking them ten questions to really get to know them. The sky is the limit with the questions you ask!


Tamara from Tamara Like Camera,
Christy from Uplifting Families,
and

Amber from Bold Fit Mom
I’m back again for my second-ever Ask Away Friday but I’m not actually here! I’m up in Maine, camping and offline for the week, so leave me lots of comments to respond to when I get back. This week, I’m swapping questions with NJ of A Cookie Before Dinner. NJ is another friend from the Valley, who I met through our mutual friends in Northampton. NJ is the mom of two adorable kids, Malone and Lola. (Fans of NJ will remember that NJ and I were in a race to the finish to see who would deliver her baby first. Me and Micah won, but not for lack of trying on NJ’s part!) Besides being a good friend, I admire NJ for her ballsy way of getting things done. NJ is NOT shy about asking for what she wants, and she almost always gets it. That’s the way to do it, folks! She has some excellent questions for me this week and I had fun going through my photos for this post. In fact, it made me miss Flickr, which I’ve neglected in favor of Facebook and Instagram. *sigh* 
Here are my responses to her questions, and be sure to head over to A Cookie Before Dinner to read her answers to my questions! 


1. I know that Stella, Alice, and Micah are all named for family members. Tell us their name stories!

My father with Micah, during his bris, where he recieved his Hebrew names. 

In the Jewish faith, children are typically named after the deceased, so all of my children are named after my grandparents. Alice’s middle name is Ann, after my paternal grandmother and she also has her Hebrew name, Chana, meaning compassionate or gracious. Stella is named after my maternal grandmother, whom I never met. She passed away when my mother was 17. Her name was Shirley, so Stella has the S in her English name for that, and her Hebrew name is Shir-Li, which means “I have a song.”  Micah is named after both my grandfathers, both of whom passed away in the same summer, the same year I became pregnant with Micah. Their names were Michael and Solomon, and his Hebrew name is Meyer Shlomo. Meyer means “light” and Shlomo means “God’s Peace.” I love that my children’s names are imbued with everything that I hope for them now and in the future, while also honoring our past.

2. How did you and Henry meet? 

 

Some photos from those early days, before marriage and kids. 


We actually met on Flickr! You can read our story here, written by Henry but here are some of my favorite parts of the story:

“Anyway, things were going nice and smooth until I got stuck doing some emergency work whilst having brunch with her on this, our first meetup, which began at the SoHo Apple Store then bled over to some cool pub in the area. She hung on. Cool!Weird things began happening to me. The universe was talking to me. While walking on Lafayette Street heading to the Triple Five Soul store, we had walked right past an ex-girlfriend!Wow!”


“We have the most smashing dinner and find our way to a friend’s bar in the East Village for some after dinner cocktails. That’s it! I couldn’t contain myself. We were getting closer. No doubt. I reached over an gingerly placed that kiss on her. I had been waiting to do that for oh so long. Finally! “


3. I cried as I read your post about Alice and kindergarten. I loved seeing her growth through the year in your story. Has there been a common theme of growth this year for her? 

This year has been all about learning to deal with conflicts with friends. Alice is a NICE girl and goes out of her way to include other kids in her play, and is sometimes too nice to stand up for herself until she gets frustrated and gets upset, so her teacher worked with her this year on helping her resolve conflicts with friends who were making a lot of demands and conditions on her attention. I’m curious to see what’ll happen in the Fall after a summer apart from her friends.


4. I know your family loves to camp! We’re considering take a short trek this summer ourselves. Do you have any advice for camping with an infant?

Camping at DAR in Goshen, MA. Stella is five months old and Alice is 2. 


It is so fun to camp with the whole family. It is not relaxing, per se, but being out in the woods does demand a little looseness and flexibility, and some shedding of routine. That said, as long as you are car camping, you might as well bring along some comforts of home! My number one advice for camping with infant or a pre-walker is bring a pack and play and/or an exersaucer. It’s nice to be able to put the baby down without worrying about the baby eating bugs and crawling near the fire pit. Bring the baby’s crib companions. A little familiarity goes a long way in helping with bedtime in a strange place with strange noises. Don’t stress over getting the baby to bed at her usual time. Sitting around the campfire as the sun goes down, with the baby on your lap listening to the lulls of conversation can be pretty relaxing! Take advantage of the campground’s offerings–if there is a creek to play in, go play in it. If there is a hiking trail suitable for kids, go hike it. Keep the kids active and busy, and they’ll be happy and tired at the end of the day. Most of all, just have fun.


5. In your post about your writing process, you talked about becoming braver in your writing. Since then, you’ve written about a hot button issue and talked about being fat. Has anything changed now that you’re putting “more” of yourself out there for the world to see? 

I’m feeling a little more fearless because I’ve gotten such positive feedback. I’m looking forward to exploring some of these issues a little more deeply and branching out into other areas, like maybe my marriage but we’ll see! But it’s really a case of just jumping in feet first and getting over some fear.


6. Give us an update on how your 2014 word of the year, FOCUS, is going. 

To be quite honest, I had to go back and re-read that blog post! Oops. Anyway, I do think I have gotten better at trying to focus on one task at a time, and to be less tied to devices and social media. When this post is published, I’ll be in the middle of a week-long camping trip in Maine. I plan to leave my iPad and computer at home, and to keep my phone turned off and in the car for the duration of the trip, with the exception of a day trip to Portland. I’m a little nervous and excited about that aspect of my trip, and I’m sure I’ll have lots of insights to share when I get back! I’m also focusing on reading more and being online less. This also means that I am spending more time on housework because it is hard for me to sit and read when I know there is a pile of laundry to be folded or dinner to be prepped!

7. You and I both belong to the online book club, From Left To Write. What has been your favorite book you’ve read for it? Why do you love it so much? 

                   

This is not an easy question! Happier at Home was a book I really enjoyed. I devoured it in days because I love her message of creating spaces that will make being at home enjoyable. We live in a tiny house, and with three kids, I’m often motivated to get out of the house but that comes at a price because it means our living spaces are neglected. In the winter, I basically hibernate, so it’s even more important then to make sure home is a place where I’m happy to be, even when it feels like we’re bursting at the seams and we’re in the throes of cabin fever.

8. In November, I gave you the Sunshine Award and asked you to describe your ideal day. You said that your ideal day was one where you could accomplish everything on your mental to-do list. Has this changed? If so, what does your ideal day look like now? 

Ha. This is another one that I had to go back and look for! I think accomplishing stuff on my mental to-do list still makes an ideal day for me, but my daily to-do list has gotten much shorter, out of necessity. I’m happy if I can get a load of laundry done, dishes washed and dinner on the table. I’ve also made it a point to accomplish one big project a week, like packing up outgrown clothes or scrubbing the kitchen floor, so I feel pretty good when I can get that done.

9. What is one thing Stella and Alice fight about? 

One thing? Ha ha. Oof. They fight about the stupidest, smallest stuff. It seems that way, anyway, on the surface but when I look deeper, I know that they are really fighting a kind of turf war, looking for a way to control outcomes. It doesn’t make it any less annoying but it does change the way I deal with their conflicts and helps me to decide whether I need to let them work it out or if I need to intervene. I usually intervene if I feel like there is not a fair fight going on or if one girl is being disrespectful of the other’s space.

10. What does the summer look like for your crew? 

Tamara asked me last week what our summer travel plans are but I can answer this question a little differently. Summer looks wide-open, for the most part. Outside of our travel plans, we have no set plans. The general routine is to hang out at home in the mornings, or go to the library, then go swimming in the afternoons before dinner time. Sometimes, we go swimming closer to ddinner time and just have a late dinner. I’d like to take a few day trips, and fulfill Stella’s wish to go on a “car-boat,” (ferry) so our options are the Staten Island ferry, the Governor’s Island ferry or the Newburgh-Beacon ferry, two of which don’t actually involve putting a car on the ferry but I don’t think she’ll care! I also have a summer bucket list that includes going to the Red Rooster Drive-In in Brewster, NY and taking the kids to Lake Minnewaska in New Paltz, as well as to Storm King in Newburgh, NY but I won’t stress if that stuff doesn’t happen. I’m perfectly content to spend the summer at the library and the lake!

Okay, you guys. Wish me luck on our week-long camping trip…we’ve never gone for more than a weekend! You can look forward to a post about family car camping, for sure. And if you haven’t checked it out, read the latest installment in my interview series A Blessing and A Curse, in which I interview mothers with disabilities or medical conditions.


Ask Away Friday with Tamara Like Camera!

Hooray, hooray, hooray for the all new #AskAwayFriday! Get to know the new hosts and  grab the new logo! Be sure to check out the new Facebook page “AskAwayFriday” for a great place to meet up and send out a #BuddyRequest if you need a partner to swap with! And always feel free to contact me here or anywhere if you want to swap with me.

What is #AskAwayFriday? Well… 

#AskAwayFriday was created by the amazing Penny from Real Housewife of Caroline County as a place for us to connect with other bloggers by asking them ten questions to really get to know them. The sky is the limit with the questions you ask!


Tamara from Tamara Like Camera,
Christy from Uplifting Families,
and
Amber from Bold Fit Mom



Folks, I am thrilled to be doing Ask Away Friday. This is my first go at it, after months of reading other #AAF posts and really digging the questions and answers. I decided it’s finally time to jump on the bandwagon and today, I am paired with one of my all-time favorite bloggers who also happens to be one of my all-time favorite people that I know offline. I first met Tamara through our mutual friend NJ. As a new transplant to Western Mass, I felt that this Jersey girl spoke my downstate language. Her daughter Scarlet made quite the impression on Alice back then. We had a meet-up at the awesome Eric Carle Children’s Book Museum in Amherst, and though it was three years ago (or more?!), Alice still talks about “that girl Scarlet that we met at the museum who has the curly hair.” In any case, I am pretty sure, in the #AAF circle and on the Internet at large, Tamara needs no introduction! But in case you’ve been living under a virtual rock, check out her blog, which I read religiously because she is an amazing storyteller, both with her words and her photographs.

You can read Tamara’s answers to my questions here and below are my answers to her questions! Happy reading! 

1. What do you miss most about Western Mass? Oh, jeez. I don’t know where to begin. The thing I miss most is how quickly everyone jumps in to help a mama out, and how laid back the social life is. I like that it isn’t always about going out to have fun but just staying in and hanging out. I also really miss driving all the back roads and taking the long way home but luckily, we have settled into a town where I can do the same thing! I made some great friendships in the valley, so thank goodness for Facebook, though it will never substitute for the real thing.


2. I know you have more success with me at getting your kids to eat balanced meals. What’s a meal or dish recipe that your whole family will eat?  Oy! I have to say, I’m having much less success lately. It really ebbs and flows but I find that any meal involving fish, rice and beans or chicken will be met with universal approval from all three kids. I just checked my blog to see if I have a recipe for rice and beans but I don’t! Here’s two that I’ve been using lately, both made in a pressure cooker, which is the greatest invention ever: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/black-beans-in-a-pressure-cooker-recipe.html (I omit the ham hock)  and http://weelicious.com/2013/01/24/pressure-cooker-pinto-beans/


3. What’s something you have always wanted to do that you have yet to accomplish? Mmh… I feel like I have a list in my head and of course, I’m having the darndest time pulling it up! Well, I was just talking to my  mom last week about how I want to go to New Zealand. One of my favorite writers is Janet Frame and she was from New Zealand. Also, it just sounds like an amazing place!


4. I remember reading and loving your “how we met” story with Henry. What was the  first date you went on? What do you remember noticing about him that made you know you wanted to marry him..or at least have a relationship? Our first official date was at Tribeca Grill, an upscale restaurant owned by Robert DeNiro. I was really excited to go there and… I dragged my little sister along! She was in town visiting me, and I didn’t want to go alone. We were celebrating Henry’s birthday, so I made a layer cake for him and brought it to the restaurant. The frosting was a mess by the time I got out of the cab. The kitchen staff was incredibly gracious and fixed the frosting! They stored it in the fridge until it was time for us to surprise Henry with it. He was really touched by the gesture and might’ve shed a tear or two because no one had ever made him a homemade cake before, which seemed incredibly sad to me! After dinner, we went to a bar where his friend was bartending (and yes, my underage sister came along… don’t tell). We had our first kiss at the bar, after a few drinks. I think I just felt that he was really sweet and so different from any other guy I had dated, especially my ex-boyfriend, with whom I had recently broken up. Also, I met Henry right around the same time I met this other guy, and felt drawn to Henry over the other guy, who was nice but not right.


5. Got this one from Diz Mommy – When people meet you for the first time, what are they surprised to learn? You know what? I have no idea! I had to crowd-source this question for an answer! My friend Bain said it was that fact that my family gets along and functions better than most “traditional” families, even though we have an unconventional family dynamic. In fact, long before the TV show ever came on the air, my friend Suzanne used to say that I had the ultra-modern family, with a gay mom, two stepmoms, half-siblings and step-siblings. My friend Sandi says that she is still amazed how well I speak for having been born deaf. She’s right– it’s a frequent observation from new people in my life! She also said she would’ve guessed that I was Latina. To those Puerto Rican girls in a bar bathroom who told me that there was no way I could be Puerto Rican, I say: Take That! But seriously, it’s my olive skin tone and nutso curly hair that throws people off, I think, plus the fact that I have my Puerto Rican husband’s last name.


6. I ask this a lot but I really like it for you: What profession would you most like to try for a day? And what profession would you most hate to try? I would really like to be a librarian for a day, or forever. I think I would be good at it but I can’t go back to school right now, or ever, probably. *sadface* I definitely would not want to try a job that involves touching people or being around bodily fluids. Blech.


7. Do you have any plans to travel this spring (what’s left of it) and summer? Well, we already took a camping trip over Memorial Day weekend with my sister, her family and her friends, and my friends. It was a lot of fun. Next up is a week-long camping trip in Maine. We’ve never gone camping for more than a weekend with the kids and I really don’t know how it will go. We’re staying at a family campground so there will be plenty for us to do, and some more modern conveniences that don’t come with regular car camping. After that, we are headed to the Cape for two weeks at the end of July and beginning of August. I am really excited about this. Henry is joining us for the second week so I will have to drive there alone, with the kids. The long drive makes me a little nervous but I think I can do it. I also have plans to take a solo trip with the girls to Lake Ontario, to visit a friend who has a lake cottage up there, and of course, I would really like to make it up to the Valley! Someone up there needs to have a party and invite me so that I have an excuse to go…


8. What’s the last great book you read and what did you love about it? I need a recommendation from a fellow reader/writer! Oh, the pressure!!! It’s actually been awhile since I read a super great book but here are three that I really loved in the past year:



9. Can I ask you your own question..because I love it. What cancelled TV show would you bring back from your childhood? Tough one!! But I’m going to nerd out here and say that I would love for Ghostwriter and Square One to come back for my own kids to watch. Do you remember those shows? I thought they were awesome and would watch them every day after school!




10. Which fairy tale character do you (or did you as a child) most associate with? I have to confess, I was not and still am not into fairy tales! My knowledge is woefully inadequate in this area, despite having two girls that are a little princess crazy. Can I pick a contemporary fairy tale character? I really love the Paper Bag princess and I think I am more like her than any other character! I have to thank my friend Sue for introducing me to this character when she gave my girls a copy of this book.


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My Writing Process




I admit, I was surprised when Tamara, my IRL friend and superblogger, asked if I wanted to participate in this blog author tour.

“She thinks I’m a writer? She thinks I’m a writer! Am I a writer?” The pressure was heavy but fleeting, thankfully. 

In her post, Tamara writes about needing permission to call herself a writer, which, of course, she doesn’t. But I do! Why am I the exception? Maybe because lately it seems like I do a lot of writing in my head and not actually on paper. There’s definitely an element of fear and a lack of self-confidence at play here. This is a post about my writing process and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to answer the questions but I did! 

1. What am I working on?
I am working on a series of interviews featuring mothers with physical disabilities. It is taking me a looooong time but I hope to get it up on my blog in the next few months. But I am also working on being a braver writer. So far, I am not doing great but I’ll get there. I know the rewards will be great when I do. 
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Do I have a genre?! I don’t know. Is journaling and blogging a genre, like being a diarist or memoirist? I guess my work differs in that I’m very sensitive to how my writing will be perceived by the people I know and love in real life, and that holds me back a lot but hopefully, some of what I’ve written has substance and meaning. I have always been a writer of few words anyway, way back to high school when Dr. Benton gave me a pass on paper page minimums because I was able to say what I needed to say without hitting the required word count. No flowery language or hyperbole for me! 
3. Why do I write what I do?
I write because I can’t hold it all in my head. Most of that stuff is in a notebook, not online. But the stuff that is online, I write and share it because I think people will like to read it, will find it useful, will be interested in it. I write what I do because sometimes thoughts are like demons. You have to let them out, so they won’t control you. 
4. How does my writing process work?
When I have an actual assignment and topic to write about, I just sit at my computer and start typing whatever I’m ready to say about it, then I stop and do research as necessary. Sometimes, I have to write on paper and not just any paper. If I’m telling a story, I use my journal. But if I’m pulling information together, or doing a writing prompt, I use a notepad. Don’t ask me why! A few months ago, I was tasked with the incredible honor of writing an obituary for a friend’s mother and I had to write it on a notepad first. Nothing else would do! 

Sometimes I just start writing in my  head, then I realize that I should probably write it down, which is why I always have a notebook and pen in my bag–sometimes, I have to write at a red light and once, I pulled over!  The other day, I left my bag in the car when I went to a friend’s house. I had to rip a page out of a spiral notebook sitting on her counter, when I thought a thought and needed to put it on paper before I lost it. So, head, then paper, then I decide if the thought is going anywhere, if it needs to be elaborated on, and if it needs to be shared. Then, I go from there. Usually, I have to be struck by inspiration. I’m a very undisciplined writer. I have no routine, no rhyme or reason to my writing sessions, which kind of describes my personality, now that I think about it… mmh. 

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I’m passing the baton next week to my internet friend, Thien-Kim, and my IRL friend, NJ. Thien-Kim is the author of I’m Not the Nanny and the editor of my online book club, From Left to Write.  Thien-Kim writes about raising biracial children, and while her experiences are much different from mine, I do relate in some ways, since my children are Jewricans!  NJ is a friend from Western Mass who has found an online home at A Cookie Before Dinner, and has a real knack for keeping it real and not being afraid to share the stuff we never talk about, like dirty cars and droopy drawers. Look for their posts on April 21st!