Rav Meir ben David Yehuda, z’l

Dear R,

One day, you will ask me who the man in this picture is, and I hope that I’m able to tell you everything I knew about him. I hope I’ll be able to paint a picture of him with my words so that he is as real to you as he has been to me for the last quarter century. I hope so. But just in case time picks and chooses which memories and images to hoard preciously, and which to fade and glean from my mind, I thought I’d do my best to answer that question for you today.

This man, this special man, was your Great Great Uncle Monty. A relation that probably sounds too distant for you to even contemplate. He was my grandmothers brother, one of twelve siblings, the baby of the family by some years. He was born in 1934, was evacuated, moved back to London, went to Hasmo just like your Daddy. He grew up, went to Gateshead Yeshiva, became a Rabbi, and got married. He lost his wife, too young, my dear Auntie Adele, and never really got over that loss. He volunteered tirelessly for Jewish Care, raising tens of thousands of pounds for the Ella and Ridley Jacobs home in Hendon, especially with his famous Opera evenings that in later years, were in memory of your very own Zeida, my father. He was a husband, a brother, an uncle, a son, a friend to so many, and a Rav.

He captured everyone he met with his enthusiasm and sense of humour, always ready with a joke and a smile, loving life for its very essence. He had a close and rare relationship with your Zeida, more like brothers than uncle and nephew, sharing so much more than shabbat meals and private jokes and phone calls and nights out can ever tell. He grieved with me when I said goodbye to him, before you were even thought of, my son and his namesake.

For Uncle Monty, as he was known by nearly everyone, family or otherwise, ego was simply not a factor in his life or his decisions. He did what he knew was the right thing, by the Torah, by Hashem, and by his own heart. He lived simply and without fuss, enjoying simple pleasures like a bowl of Haagen Daaz, a Lager and Lime, or a new DVD of a favourite Opera. His memory was legendary, almost photographic, and he knew every capital of the world, every fact about the history he had learned in school, and every pasuk in the Torah, off the top of his head and with little or no prompting. He was often asked to speak at merely minutes notice, and would unfazed, deliver a sermon that someone with months to prepare would surely be envious of.

Uncle Monty was a huge influence in my life from an early age. Every week, I would go with your Zeida to his flat in Hendon, and we would have egg and chips and jelly and ice cream, and I would draw with Auntie Adele and make daisy chains in the garden. As I grew older, I moved on to watching Fawlty Towers with Uncle M, and discussing Torah and family together. Sometimes a man of few words, his house was always comfortable, even in silence.

We spent Pesach together as far back as I can remember, and I don’t know a family occasion of ours where he wasnt asked to speak. He spoke and danced at mine and Daddy’s wedding in Israel, and even walked me to the chupah in place of my own father. He was overflowing with love and pride for us both.

If I could give you a memory of the last 16 months, a great contender would be you being held in his arms, having opera sung at you, and being bounced up and down on his lap, his face filled with happiness. He held you for your Brit Mila, he played the same games with you as a baby that no doubt he did with me, and although he only got to know you for just over a year, you brought him so much joy.

Last night, during the early hours of the 5th of Adar, your Great Great Uncle Monty, Rabbi Aaronberg, left this world in peace and dignity, after a lifetime of only Chesed- kindness. It is a true merit to a man who has no children of his own, that he was surrounded by family members who wouldnt have had a second thought about being anywhere else but holding his hands, trying to return just a small amount of the kindness which we have been blessed with being in his life.

He will no doubt be given only reward and bracha in the next world, because I never knew a man who trod so lightly on this earth, and who did everything so clearly for the good of the many many people who loved him. He helped shape the life and the choices of not only your Zeida, but Daddy and me also, so although it is with deep regret that you will never remember him, know how much we all have to be grateful for, that he was our Uncle Monty.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

Love, Ima.

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Restaurant Etiquette: The “No-no’s”

Kids in restaurants. I witnessed a spirited debate on this topic recently, and as always, would love to get my two cents in. (By the by, do Americans say two pennies in?)

It is a sometimes unfortunate fact of life, that once you have children, you are never alone. They follow you to the bathroom, they share your breakfast, and can generally be found clinging to your legs as you attempt to continue with life as you vaguely remember it. So it makes sense, that unless you are surrendering completely to the whims of the tiny humans, they will sometimes need to be in an eating establishment with you. However, if you are there, chances are that the eatery in question is open. Which means that other people are there also. And therein lies the problem.

Because you know how adorable it is when your LO makes that high pitched squealing noise that he just learned this week, and you’re busy storing the exact words she is gabbling to a stranger at the next table so you can recount the episode to your other half that evening, and you’re definitely super proud of your kid for getting almost a whole spoonful of that macaroni cheese into their mouth and swallowed.. But everyone else? Here’s a secret. They want you to go home.

Unless the restaurant in question is one of those where your seat comes with crayons to draw on the tablecloth, and there is a mini play area in the corner, it is not child friendly enough. Even if it is cheap, or not particularly fancy, that does not equal “Oh, my kids can run free in here.”

Some people are blessed with the kind of children who will sit at a table, or be placated with food for long periods of time. This means that you can often squeeze a quick lunch with a friend into your day. Congratulations. You are in the minority. For those of us who dont, restaurants are simply not an option most of the time. When with our kids, we prefer to meet our friends at the library, or walking around a shopping mall, or at one of our own houses.

I’m going to give all the parents I see in restaurants with their kids the benefit of the doubt, and say that you must all be blessed with those former types of children. (You’re not.) But I know, that even the best behaved of children have off days, or days when they have ants in their pants. As a parent, this should not be a surprise to you. Theyre kids. Why would they want to sit and listen to you gossip and catch up with a friend? Why would they want to people watch from a highchair when there are so many new things to intefere with, only metres away?

In my opinion, as you obviously cannot pick and choose when your kid decides to throw a tantrum, you only have two choices when all hell breaks loose. You can either quickly pay, apologise to your friend and leave the restaurant, or you can excuse yourself with your kid for a few minutes, and take them on a walk outside the door, or for a run around in the mall play area, or whatever is nearby, and then try again in a while. Although it may seem obvious, here are just a few of the things you CANT do. (All of which I have seen so many times in public that it seems to have become the norm.)

  • Let them ‘cry it out.’
    Babies in restaurants are notoriously difficult. You thought they would sleep, you thought the bottle would tire them out, you thought they would fall asleep on the walk there.. Disaster, they are still awake, and don’t want to be lying in a pram while you stuff ravioli in your mouth as fast as you can. People around you are paying for the environment as well as the food. Unfortunately, whether it means your food gets cold or not, you should be rocking the pram keeping your baby quiet, or outside the shop, apologies once again to the friend, soothing them properly. Crying it out techniques are for home, where only your own ears are being assailed.
  • Let them ‘run off some steam’
    How how how can you sit there talking to your lunch date while your toddlers are running in between other peoples tables and chairs? I don’t care if it is a Michelin starred eatery or a Pizza Express, this is not appropriate restauraunt behaviour. If they need to move about, it is your responsibility to be with them at all times, and not ‘watching from across the room’ with them, but actually physically standing holding their hand or looking after them. After all, I’m pretty sure you would be the first to complain if there was an accident.
  • Let them ‘go chat to strangers’
    I’m sure your daughter is gorgeous, and very intelligent for her age. But if I’d come out to talk to a toddler, and hear her sing me twinkle twinkle little star, I would be scouting out the local playground, not ordering steak and chips. Obviously it is cute for a minute or two when a child smiles or waves or repeats something funny, but again, your kid = your responsibility, you should be removing her from my table ASAP. Apart from anything else, weirdo’s and child snatchers have to eat sometime too.
  • Let them come out to dinner
    If it is 9pm at night, of COURSE they are being little terrors. They are exhausted! Time and time again I see children who sometimes arent even old enough to know whats flying, sitting around a crowded and noisy restaurant table with their famillies, late into the evening, when they obviously should be asleep. Special occasion or otherwise, there are always babysitters available, and your child should be in bed right now.

There are many other problems which are certain to arise when taking kids out to eat, and we cant pre-empt them all. Even the most organised mum, who has brought extra snacks, crayons, entertainment, a sleepy kid, an extra bottle, or all of the above, can be caught out. That lack of freedom to just socialise when you want, just comes with the territory of motherhood. When looking across the room at a flustered parent, trying desperately to soothe an angry and bored toddler, I don’t blame her, it’s really hard!

Who I do blame however, is the parent who doesnt realise it is simply time to go. The one who is willfully ignoring her running or shouting progeny, or spouting one-liners such as “Oh, he’s just a kid, what do you expect?”

You’re right. He is just a kid. But contrary to your behaviour, you’re actually an adult.

I’d love to hear opinions on this one! Agree/Disagree? Any other inappropriate restaurant behaviour I’ve missed?

Genetically Hungry

R has a new morning routine. He finishes his milk, crawls (FYI babies, apparently much cooler than walking) into the kitchen, opens the cupboard, and passes me the box of croutons. Then he moans at me and points at it.

He isnt hungry, he’s just finished his milk. I havent shown him the croutons, not since about 3 days ago when I (Bad mum alert) gave him about 7 to keep him busy while I finished the washing up. And yet, the past few mornings, he has done exactly as listed above, and gets seriously annoyed when I refuse to accomodate his breakfast wishes.

I’ve said before, how my own lack of willpower when it comes to eating habits I’ve always blamed on my household growing up. I have so many unresolved issues about food and health because of things I was told growing up and choices I was allowed to make too young. This time, I can’t blame the upbringing. I’m not just saying that because it’s me doing it, I genuinely think I’ve been doing a good job. R has three meals a day, and normally a snack midmorning and after his nap. The snack is usually fruit, and sometimes cheerios, a baby cereal bar, a breadstick/cracker, or some cheese. And unless he eats whatever it is ravenously, I’m pretty sure he knows that one snack is all he is getting.

So why is a box of crackers being thrown at my kneecaps multiple times a day?

If I’ve been doing all the right things, surely he shouldnt be craving food for foods sake. Discussing it with C this morning, we agree that chances are, even right after a huge meal, there are certain snacks that R will always accept. Not only that, but an unlimited amount. I once found him delightedly surrounded by a fallen (or knocked over) box of breadsticks, merrily stuffing as many in his mouth as possible. He is often found trying to eat through various plastics and foil packets. Where did this gluttonous streak come from? Is it nothing to do with upbringing, and just the lot you draw from birth? And if that’s true, perhaps I’ve been blaming my upbringing all this time, when really my bad eating habits were inescapable.

There are obviously pros to having a baby who eats. I don’t have to worry about his weight, I dont have to sit coaxing him to take ‘Just one more bite’, I dont have to plan nutritious meals around the 5 items of food he will deign to swallow. I can even generally sit in a coffee shop or a restaurant with a friend for up to forty minutes while he enjoys the various courses I’ve brought for lunch.

But maybe I’ve also been enjoying it too much, and not looking at the cons. More than anything, I want him to have a sensible approach to eating. When boys suffer with weight and unhealthy eating, I think they do so even more than girls. And while most men are known for being able to shed excess weight effortlessly, we all know that there are some for whom the opposite is true. And with the amount that my son has clearly inherited from me, I don’t think I’ll relax until I see with my own eyes that his metabolism is his fathers.

[ Just as a side note, what IS it with most men and losing weight?
Sunday: Hm, my clothes are a bit tight, I think I’ll have to cut back.
Monday: No, I won’t finish this whole cake right now.
Tuesday: That’s better. ]

Maybe I’m worrying too much, and with a few nudges in the right direction, he will learn that we eat when we’re hungry, and never to excess, and that snacking is not a way to pass the time when bored, or just because you’ve seen something you like. Or maybe I’ll be blogging in a decade or so’s time about my teenage boy who still brings me seventeen fruit cups a day to open for him.

Do you remember?

Waking up each morning, with purpose in your smile,
Feeling that hand picked for you, was every twist and trial.
Knowing that you’d taken time, out of your own routine-
To grow and change and learn it all, while you were still a teen.

To move with friends out of our youth, and into being grown,
To contemplate and sometimes change, which seeds had then been sown.
Standing in the sunlight, just talking, me and Him,
I’d never been so open, simply letting prayer in.

Hours of our days went by, we’d argue, talk, debate,
Discuss the meanings of our lives, the love, despair and hate.
That feeling when it came together, we knew our world was true,
I miss those bursts of energy, do you miss them too?

The passion and the zeal to learn, the way we had to grow,
It sometimes seems a distant me, a life from long ago.
Now, going through the motions, I long to be inspired
But life gets in the way somehow, and I just end up tired.

In some ways I have so much more than ‘six years ago me’ had,
A home, marriage, my baby boy, so much to make me glad.
But still sometimes I glance behind, and hope I’ve not forgot,
The girl I knew back then who felt, so strongly, at Orot.

Spam

I’ve been drafting this post for a while, and adding to it when I can. I hope this wont only be entertaining to other WordPress users, but as I’ve developed a bit of a following *blush* I don’t mind just this once deviating from my universally relevant themes.

But just by way of explanation for those that dont blog, the comments feature on WordPress is extremely interesting. It is split into 3 parts. Comments, where people you dont know, or your friends, can add witty or interesting anecdotes to your posts, which sit there waiting for you to approve them and then get posted to the main page. Trash, where you can delete any posts you might not want up there, hate mail for example, which I would love to get, then I know I’ve made it. And finally, Spam.

Spam is truly one of the most brilliant things I have ever seen. The WordPress filter ensures that the posts never end up in the comments part, so you have to actively go to spam to look for them, but it is SO worth it.

Spam is made by computers. The intention is that by posting something to your blog, you will unwittingly lead readers to their advertising site through the link on your page. Sometimes through interest, other times through flattery, or insightful comment, Spam has to be pretty clever, using all its wily tricks so that you dont see through it and send the post straight to Trash.

[NB: Each one of these examples is copied and pasted directly from my comments tray, not edited or adapted at all.]

Here’s one such example:

This is the first time I comment on your site, but I’ve been reading your posts for about a few weeks. I admire the passion with which you tell your stories and dream that someday I can do the same. Love

Kind of sound like a foreign exchange student that’s trying too hard? Yep, that’s Spam all right! It kind of makes you want to let it through anyway, cause if you’re reading quickly, you might think it’s a genuine compliment by someone literarily challenged. Unlike the next one, which is never going to work. Stopping mid-sentence, losing your adverbs, and the casual “btw” thrown in to make you sound more human. Sorry Spam, you’ve been busted.

hi I was luck to look for your theme in yahoo, your Topics is impressive, I learn a lot in your Topics really thanks very much, btw the theme of you blog is really wonderful, where can find it

Some Spam posts are slightly cleverer. Stay short, stay to the point. Then you wont get tripped up by google translate or whatever other do-gooding detector robots you meet on your travels. The next one proves my point. It starts well, only one grammatical error, which surely we are all guilty of from time to time..

Great blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Cool….

Angel Wash…

Gosh darn it, You probably shouldnt have signed it. You’ve sort of given yourself away there.

Another type of Spam that pops up pretty often, is SMS. Not Spam via text message, no no. This is Subliminal Messaging Spam. Take the example below, and see if you have the skills to spot the advertisement hidden amongst the compliment.

hi i found your website today and I have read some good information over here. I just wanna thanks you for publicing Gratis Sex Dating it so we all can learn about it!

I think the next one might be my favourite. Realising that the advertising bot isnt going to get anywhere by complimenting me, it turns to insults to see if I’m that kind of masochistic blogger who just needs to maintain her low self confidence. Word for word, this is what I found in my comments box.

This is pointless, why am I even reading it and not enjoying verdens beste gulrotkake? I should learn to spend my time better.

Why would I post that to my blog? Even if I thought it was a real comment? Clearly written by the kind of guy who thinks he’s going to get a girl back to his place by telling her she looks fat.

And then you just have the bizarre.

If Jesus Christ lived in the here and now, he’d probably be able to pick up any chick he wanted, or so you would think.

At least with Pop ups, we cannot help but have them appear on our screens if we want more useful internet content. This scheme doesnt get past a little box on my screen which says ‘delete all.’ In fact, this blog is probably the most attention that Spam has ever recieved, combined. So who is being fooled here? After due analysis, I am therefore adding whatever money goes into this pitiful advertising venture, to my list of ridiculous financial wastes of time.

But it sure is entertaining.