May. 22nd, 2017 11:11 am
[syndicated profile] amalahblog_feed

Posted by amalah


So this happened. Ike's getting an IEP. Welcome to the club, kid. 

But he's getting it for the least dramatic reason possible, at least by our household's standards: He has a pretty bad lisp. He needs some speech therapy. 


I asked his preschool teachers about the lisp last year -- they weren't too concerned, given his age. He was likely outgrow it on his own. 

(I looked into speech therapy anyway last summer, only to learn that articulation disorders aren't covered under our insurance and the cost would be YIKES.)

The elementary school, on the other hand, absolutely provides services for articulation disorders, so I flagged it as a potential concern on every piece of  enrollment paperwork that I possibly could. I asked his kindergarten teacher about the lisp at our first parent-teacher conference -- she'd noticed it, yes. She also wasn't too concerned, given his age, but agreed to have the school's speech pathologist stop by and speak with him.

She did, and blah blah blah not too concerned, given his age, blah blah let's wait and see. 

And so we've waited. AND GUESS WHAT.

He hasn't outgrown it. At all. Not even a little bit. He can't pronounce L or R and a bunch of other sounds. He has a tongue thrust that slows his speech down and trips him up on a ton of different words. It's affecting his writing because he can't pronounce words properly to spell them out phonetically. When he tries to go back and read his own writing even he rarely understands what he was trying to say. His peers constantly ask him to repeat himself, and it's affecting his participation in class because he's getting embarrassed to speak in front of the group. 

(And yet he wants to go to theater camp!)

(To be fair, both Noah and Ezra had pretty noticeable lisps as toddlers and preschoolers. Noah's speech therapists never thought it was a problem and never addressed it directly. Ezra's pediatrician took the "wait and see" approach as well. They both outgrew it before kindergarten.)

But now that there's a solid argument that yes, this is affecting Ike academically and socially, he will easily qualify for services next year. (And the speech pathologist will provide us with resources and exercises for over the summer.) It's about as good of an outcome and plan as I could ask for, even though ehhhhhhhh I still think the argument could have been made a liiiiiiiittle earlier in the school year. 


Not that the lisp has taken away a fraction of his larger-than-life hamminess. But I'm really happy and grateful he'll be getting this help. 


Open to me

May. 22nd, 2017 04:54 am
[syndicated profile] velveteenrabbi_feed

Posted by rbarenblat@gmail.com (Velveteen Rabbi)

My breasts are full and tender:
I ache to give to you.

Say yes and I will bathe you
in flowing milk and honey.

Taste and see that I am good.
How I yearn for you to know me!

I want to quench the thirsts
that keep your heart from resting.

I crave your gasp of surprise
and your sigh of completion.

My heart's desire
is to share myself with you.

Open to me, beloved
so my precious words can let down.



This is another poem arising out of my study and reflection on the relationship between yearning and the revelation at Sinai. (See also I want.) 

My breasts are full and tender. The Hebrew word for "breasts" is shadayim; one of Torah's names for God is "El Shaddai," which can be understood to depict God as a nursing mother.

I ache to give to you. See Pesachim 221a: "More than the calf wants to suckle, the cow yearns to give milk." (See also "El Shaddai (Nursing Poem)," the first poem I wrote after my son was born -- now published in Waiting to Unfold.)

Flowing milk and honey. Song of Songs 4:11 speaks of "honey and milk under your tongue." One traditional interpretation holds that this is a description of Torah's sweetness. Just as milk has the ability to fully sustain a newborn, so Torah is considered to provide all of the spiritual nourishment that we need.

(Reb Zalman z"l taught that this isn't necessarily so -- sometimes there are spiritual "vitamins" we can most readily receive from other traditions, rather than our own -- but the tradition's likening of Torah to milk is one of the reasons why it's customary to eat dairy at Shavuot when we celebrate revelation.)

Taste and see. See psalm 34:8: "Taste and see that God is good."

My heart's desire. This riffs off of a line from the Kabbalat Shabbat love song "Yedid Nefesh" -- in Reb Zalman z"l's singable English translation, "My heart's desire is to harmonize with yours." Here I imagine that God's heart's desire is to share God's-self with us.

When you cry out

May. 21st, 2017 08:36 am
[syndicated profile] velveteenrabbi_feed

Posted by rbarenblat@gmail.com (Velveteen Rabbi)

You think I'm not listening.
You can't feel my hand
on your shoulderblade, my lips

pressed to your forehead
my heart, ground down with yours
into the dust of the earth.

Sweet one, I feel your grief
like a black hole inside my chest
strong enough to swallow galaxies.

I can't lift it from you.
All I can do is cry with you
until I struggle for breath

all I can do is love you
with a force as limitless as gravity,
endless as the uncountable stars.



[E]ndless as the uncountable stars. See Shir Yaakov's Broken-hearted (psalm 147.)

This is another poem in my current series -- aspiring to speak in the voice of the Beloved, responding to us. (Previous poems in the series: Missing youBecauseAlwaysGod says yes.)

Classic Secrets

May. 20th, 2017 10:07 pm

strawberry graham icebox cake

May. 19th, 2017 04:23 pm
[syndicated profile] smittenkitchen_feed

Posted by deb

I have expressed in the past — oh, one, two, three, four, five, or perhaps 500 times — my adoration of cakes where the layers are thin and many and you have my word that one day, I will get to all of them so please tell me about your favorite here and now. For many years, I fiddled with ways to make cake layers thinner and thinner until I probably exasperated everyone, so it was just in the nick of time that I realized if I began with cookie-ish layers (say, soft macaroons or icebox cookies the size of cakes), and filled them with something fluffy that would soften them into “cakes” (whipped cream and its variants), it got easy enough that we could make them more often, which, after all, is the goal. Cookies aren’t limited by the number or size of your cake pans. Cookies can break and still stack into an excellent cake.

quick graham doughdivided into sixthsrolled thinwhile hot, trim into circle

Read more »

The Loop, Part 2

May. 18th, 2017 11:46 am
[syndicated profile] amalahblog_feed

Posted by amalah

Noah likes to take a pre-dinner bike ride around the neighborhood. It's part of his routine whenever the weather is nice: come home, snack, homework, load the dishwasher, ride his bike around the same set loop two times, maybe three, then back for dinner. I've encouraged him to explore the neighborhood a little more, but he got a little lost doing that not long after we moved so now he prefers to stick to the same path. It takes him around to the street directly behind our house, and he likes to wave at me if I'm outside or at the kitchen window. I wave back. 

The other night, I missed the wave. I was at the stove making dinner. Ezra and Ike came in from playing on the swingset and set the table. I put dinner out and realized Noah wasn't back yet. Which, okay, that's fine, he'll probably be back in a few minutes. 

He wasn't. I checked the garage for his bike, scanned the street out back, then the front. I went to his room on the off-chance he'd come back and retreated there to play without anyone noticing (his stealth move to get out of further chores, or practicing his saxophone). He wasn't there. But his wristwatch was, which: Crap. That's the back-up plan if he decides to take extra loops or deviate from his path: Home by 6 p.m.

It was more like 6:30, a really unusually long ride for him. Plus his dinner was getting cold. 

"He always comes back," Jason said, noticing the concern lines on my forehead and my restless pacing around the front door. 

"I know," I replied. 

I decided to hop in the car and drive around anyway, figuring maybe he went to a friend's house. Also not like him, but really all it would take is a neighbor kid mentioning that s/he had something-something-Minecraft inside he'd dump his bike on their yard and promptly lose all sense of space and time and hunger. 

I drove around his loop. No sign of him or his bright yellow bike. I followed the sidewalks around, here and there. I slowed at the sight of kids playing outside -- nope, not there. I drove further away and then doubled back to his normal route, just in case. 

"Is he home yet?" I texted Jason. "Not seeing him anywhere."

"No," was the reply.

"WTF," was the next one. 

Now, we are not helicopter parents by any stretch of the imagination. We chose this house and neighborhood specifically with the idea that our kids would be free and safe to just "go out and play." Everybody wear your helmets, Ike needs to stick with at least one brother, come home when you're tired/hungry/filthy, whatever. 

But in that moment, sitting in my car debating where else he could possibly be, my reptilian parental brain went straight to the worst-case scenarios. 

I keep meaning to buy a cheap phone or GizmoPal or something similar to send out with them; the fact that I hadn't yet for no damn good reason other than laziness filled me with familiar Ceiba's-not-microchipped levels of guilt. The fact that I hadn't reminded him to at least put on his regular watch added to the "what the hell were you thinking" voices in my head. He was wearing short sleeves and doesn't like to wear it on bare skin because he says it pinches his arm hairs, but I should have told him to put it in his pocket. It was almost 7 p.m. now. 

I started to feel a little sick to my stomach. Where was he? When exactly did he leave?  When was the last time I quizzed him on our address and phone numbers? At what point do we need to ask for help? Crap, what was he wearing? 

Blue shirt, grey shorts, bright blue shoes, green bike helmet. And on the Spectrum on the Spectrum oh God he's lost and he's on the Spectrum. 

Jason went out back and started calling for him; I asked a couple people out walking their dogs if they'd seen a little boy on a yellow bike. No, they said, looking alarmed. I smiled and said everything was probably fine, he was just late for dinner. Tell him to come home if you see him!

Then I'd drive on and let out a panicked gasp. Spectrum spectrum spectrum. 

"Did you check the next cul-de-sac overr?" Jason texted. "I hear kids."

I texted back irritably: Of COURSE I did. I've driven past it five times now. 

In fact, I was just about to make my sixth pass. I slowed down again and saw the same pack of kids riding scooters. And then.

On the far, far end, right where a driveway vanishes behind the main row of houses, I spotted Noah in his blue shirt, grey shorts, bright blue shoes. 

I parked and practically tumbled out of the car. I hadn't bothered to put my shoes on.

Noah saw me and smiled. "Hi Mom!" he said. "I'm having a playdate!"

He'd left his bike up on a path that connects that cul-de-sac to the one behind us, the one that was part of his loop. It wasn't visible from either street. He hadn't heard Jason calling; they'd all been busy talking about Five Nights At Freddy's. 

A slightly older girl, assuming I was angry, assured me he actually was just about to head home after sensing it was probably getting late. "I invited him to a playdate," she said. "He's been having fun." 

"That's great!" I replied. "It's totally fine! I just got a little worried. Thanks for inviting him."

I got back in the car. Noah sped past me on his yellow bike, with his green helmet and a sneaky grin on his face. "RACE YOU HOME!" he shouted, pedaling furiously. 

I drove past him and stuck out my tongue. He laughed. 

[syndicated profile] velveteenrabbi_feed

Posted by rbarenblat@gmail.com (Velveteen Rabbi)

19333512771_598cf38f7e_z (1)In early 2015 it was announced that we would serve as the next co-chairs of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.  Today we announce that we are stepping down. Our term will end in July.

When we began, we saw four key goals.  First, to help steward ALEPH through the complex aftermath of the death of Reb Zalman z”l, whose third yahrzeit soon approaches.  Second, to offer hundreds of people around the world ways to express hopes, dreams and longings – and bring their hearts and ideas back to ALEPH for integration.  Third, to support in tangible ways the continuing flow of Jewish Renewal for today and tomorrow.  Fourth, to model a stewardship that saw our roles as temporary and sought our successors quickly.

We did much that we came to do.  Along with Board colleagues and staff, we spent 15 months on the ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour, taking stock of who and where ALEPH and Renewal are -- how the renewal of Judaism has spread and matured, what is cherished, what should change and what must never change.  It was a tremendous blessing to journey into those deep places together.  We took hundreds of pages of notes, and brought what we learned back to ALEPH, the Ordination Program and OHALAH (the association of Jewish Renewal clergy).  Some of those ideas are starting to take root now.

Behind the scenes, ALEPH evolved a new governance system aspiring to be more inclusive.  We established an Advisory Council to harness the wisdom of elders, teachers and visionaries across the Jewish landscape to support Judaism’s ongoing renewal.  ALEPH laid the foundation for a Communities Council so that ALEPH Network members -- communities, organizations, and individuals -- could help set a new bottom-up agenda for how to support ALEPH communities in the future.  ALEPH began strategic planning with Reverend Bill Kondrath, a consultant specializing in midwifing faith-based organizations through major transitions, including and especially the death of a charismatic founder.  

In the public realm, the magic of the 2016 Kallah happened at Colorado State University: 37% of attendees were first-timers, and brought the joy and “juice” of Jewish Renewal home with them. ALEPH began planning the 2018 Kallah.  (Stay tuned for more information soon.)  New spiritual communities joined ALEPH – both “new” ones (started from scratch), and existing ones rooted in Reform and Conservative denominational contexts.  New programs and projects sought ALEPH affiliation.  ALEPH was featured in a variety of publications and podcasts.  ALEPH began developing new initiatives, including Clergy Camp and Tikshoret (an education platform to bring tastes of Jewish Renewal to a broad online audience), while also better supporting beloved ALEPH stalwart programs and initiatives.  Finances improved, and funds were invested wisely and securely.

Perhaps most importantly, as co-chairs, we said from the start that we wanted to model stewardship that flows in ways we learned from our teachers.  We created a Nominations Circle, on which we did not serve, and asked that it immediately seek successors for the Board and its leadership.  We felt that, especially in this era after Reb Zalman’s life on this plane, it would be important for many reasons to fulfill this intention to serve with all our hearts while making way for the next turning.  The time for that next turning has now come.

For the confidence, volunteerism, and support ALEPH received during our time of service, we are grateful beyond measure: these are tremendous gifts, and we thank you for them.  We are especially grateful to ALEPH’s executive director Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin, ALEPH’s deputy directors Tamy Jacobs and Steve Weinberg, their predecessor David Brown, Lynda Simons, and Ming Shem-Lu, who have nourished ALEPH and have done the very hard work of bringing ideas and relationships to life.  They are ALEPH’s unsung heroes, and they deserve wild applause for their dedication and hard work.  We are grateful to our teachers, and their teachers, and their students, and the students of their students – both within and beyond ALEPH – for so very much that has come through them over the years.

The work of renewing Judaism, by its nature, is never complete (Pirkei Avot has something to say about that).  The next phase of this ongoing journey now is for our successors, to keep that flame burning bright in ways that perhaps today can scarcely be imagined.  We wish them every success and blessing as they dream and lead forward.

With blessings on this Omer day of chesed sheba yesod (lovingkindness in foundation),

Rachel and David


 (Cross-posted to David's website and to Kol ALEPH.)



May. 17th, 2017 10:50 am
[syndicated profile] amalahblog_feed

Posted by amalah


This post is sponsored by thredUP

I've mentioned once or 100 times that I'm not a big fan of clothes shopping. I'm very impatient and get discouraged too easily -- I don't like the first thing I tried on! These dressing room lights are killing my self-esteem! This is boring and my feet hurt! -- and I also don't have that awesome "shopper's eye" that translate how something looks on the hanger with how it will look on my actual body. Obviously I love online shopping but I still get really indecisive and unsure about clothing. I am an e-commerce cart-abandoning nightmare. 

Jason, on the other hand, totally has the shopper's eye. He also finds shopping fun, and even relaxing, both online and in person. I know. He's either a gem or an insane person. 

As a result, I'd say he easily buys about 80% of my wardrobe these days. Which is admittedly awesome and convenient. So...shine on, you crazy diamond, I guess! 

So when thredUP expressed interest in a second sponsored post (along with a tempting $150 shopping credit), I knew I wanted to outsource the grunt work this time around, and I set Jason loose on the site with my login, just to see what he'd choose. (If you haven't checked thredUp out yet: it's a HUGE online thrift store, full of name-brand and designer items for up to 90% off retail price. Filter and search by category, size, brand, color, whatever. It's awesome.)


(Please note how nicely the packaging coordinates with my children's chalk scribbles.)


Hi new clothes! And floofy dog!


After the unboxing -- almost three full outfit's worth of awesome. Good job, husband!

First up, from top left, a J.Crew sequined tee ($16.99, retail price $50), paired with a Citizens of Humanity denim miniskirt ($41.99, retails for $188). 


It's um...very mini indeed. Only Jason gets to see the uncropped version of this photo. He likes my legs even more than he likes shopping, I guess. I love this outfit and have worn it multiple times already -- I add my own black leather moto and knee boots for maximum kickassery. The red ankle boots (Franco Sarto, $26.99, retail price $95) work well too, when it's a bit warmer. And props to Jason for remembering that I'd mentioned wanted a red shoe/boot option to have as an alternative to my (many many) black versions. 


My cat would NEVER remember a tiny detail like that. 


On the dressier side is this really beautiful silk and sequined dress by Trina Turk. This was the most pricey of the items ($60.99), but considering it retails for $268....uh, not an issue. This is a PERFECT summer wedding kind of dress, but I also dressed it down over Mother's Day weekend with wedges and a denim jacket, then cinched the waist with the burgundy belt (Banana Republic, $14.99, retail price $50). 


And finally, in a shocking turn of practicality, I added a pair of work-appropriate black pants for $9.99 just before submitting the order. They aren't really exciting to model or anything, but 1) $9.99, 2) retail for $30 and 3) ha, I just noticed thredUP's packaging ALSO matches our back-up bedspread. 

(Back-up because an animal barfed on it, so I better fold those pants and put them away.)

Total cost of my order: $171.94

Total full-price retail cost: $681.00!!!!

Jason seemed like he had a lot of fun at thredUP, especially since he could go nuts with high-priced brands and find lots of coordinating basics. I actually removed another designer dress from our cart since we were way over the $150 credit, and when he realized I did that he was practically INCENSED because it was such a good buy. (I didn't know! I am bad at this!) He went back to buy it but it was gone, alas. But you never know what will be there tomorrow, so get shopping!

Thanks to thredUP for sponsoring this post! The first 100 people to use my code AMALAH will get an extra 40% off their first order! (Applies to new US customers only. Discount up to $50)


potatoes anna + new cookbook preview

May. 16th, 2017 03:51 pm
[syndicated profile] smittenkitchen_feed

Posted by deb

So, ahem [taps on microphone]… In the summer of 2014 I announced that I had not learned my lesson the first time and would be writing another cookbook. My editor and agent told me the second book always goes faster; it’s like they didn’t think I’d rise to the challenge. This 2015 release might have had some (tiny, adorable) effect on a rain-checked 2016 release, but as the first Smitten Kitchen Cookbook approaches its 5th birthday, the wildest thing has happened: this second book I promised you is (at last) out of my hands and headed to the printers.

Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites will be released on October 24th and I cannot wait to share it with you. I hope more than anything that it’s worth the wait.

Read more »

Persistence in All Things

May. 15th, 2017 12:19 pm
[syndicated profile] amalahblog_feed

Posted by amalah

I had a consult with a tattoo artist to finally, FINALLY get some cover-up work done on the truly terrible, highly regrettable J-A-S-O-N ink on my back left hip. Remember that? If not, yeah. I got my boyfriend's name tattoo'ed offset tramp-stamp style when I was 19 years old. Classaaaayyyyy. 

While I still like the guy very much, I really hate the tattoo. It was poorly done, embarrassing almost immediately (I mean, WHO DOES THAT? Besides impulsive and slightly tipsy 19-year-old girls away at college whose roommate is getting a daisy on her ankle oh wait okay never mind), and now it's 20 years old and completely warped and faded -- and annoyingly visible enough over my pants' waistline and two-piece bathing suits. 

I thought about just getting it removed, but always decided against that. It was a stupid thing to get done, but just like getting married less than a year later at 20 years old was ALSO not typically considered the greatest of ideas...we did defy a whole heapload of odds to remain married and happy this many years later. The tattoo has always felt kind of tied to that, and "erasing" it just never appealed to me. 

You'll have to wait until late next month to see the new work, since it'll be completely custom and the artist is crazy booked up. I'm excited though! It'll be what tattoos should be -- something deeply meaningful that I've thought about for a good long time. A tattoo I'd get even without the need to cover something else up.

While I was there, though, I did get something small done. Something I feel like I've also wanted to get done FOR AGES, even though in reality, it's been since February. But oh dear God, how long ago does February seem these days? I've aged 80 million years since then. 


(Design by Chelsea Brink of Minneapolis, execution by Red Thorn Tattoo in Baltimore. The design is free to use, she just asks that you make a donation to a women's rights organization of your choice. I chose Planned Parenthood. The tattoo took barely five minutes to complete so it's perfect for wussies.)

I never thought I'd be a super-visible tattoo placement sort of person, and certainly never planned on taking the plunge at 39 damn years old (with words from Mitch McConnell's mouth, for chrissakes!), but this is an odd time, when lots of things I "never thought" would happen...well, happened, or are frighteningly possible. This, at least, was something that made me feel a bit better, and a lot stronger. Don't ever stop talking, fighting, trying. Don't ever get complacent or take things for granted, or expect other people to do the work on your behalf. 

History has its eyes on all of us, as do our children. 


Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches. 

I want

May. 15th, 2017 04:00 am
[syndicated profile] velveteenrabbi_feed

Posted by rbarenblat@gmail.com (Velveteen Rabbi)

I want with all my might
to give you milk and honey

aspire only to feed you
(look: you're skin and bones,

the Jewish mother in me
aches to fill your plate)

but not just nutrients:
like manna that took on

each person's yearned-for flavor
I want my offering to you

to meet your every need
balm your every sorrow

fill your mouth with sweetness
you didn't know you didn't have

I want to give you my heart
but all I can offer are words

you'll misunderstand them
sometimes you'll resent them

often you'll resent me
for the neverending letters

that I can't stop pouring
because I can't stop loving you



I've been thinking a lot lately about God giving Torah at Mount Sinai, which we'll re-experience at Shavuot in a few short weeks. One of my favorite teachings about creation is that God brought creation into being because God yearned to be in relationship with us. I've been reflecting on how we might extend that teaching to say something about the revelation of Torah, also. What if God yearns to give us Torah, the way one yearns to give the gift of one's heart to a beloved? That's the question that sparked this poem. (And also a couple of other poems still in early draft form -- stay tuned for those.)



To give you milk and honey. Torah is often compared to milk and honey; this is one reason why it's traditional to eat cheesecake at Shavuot.

Like manna that took on / each person's yearned-for flavor. See Exodus Rabbah 5:9: "Rabbi Jose ben Hanina says: ... the manna that descended had a taste varying according to the needs of each individual Israelite. To young men, it tasted like bread...to the old, like wafers made with honey...to infants, it tasted like the milk from their mothers’ breasts...to the sick, it was like fine flour mingled with honey."

For the neverending letters // that I can't stop pouring. I learned from Reb Zalman z"l that the revelation of Torah wasn't just a onetime thing that happened to "them" back "then" -- it's something that continues even now.

As Reb Zalman used to say, God broadcasts on every channel; we receive revelation based on where and how we are attuned. The flow of revelation into the world -- the flow of Torah into the world -- is for me first and foremost an act of divine love. 

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