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I feel like my world has broken open like a pomegranate in the last many weeks - glowing, messy, staining, sharply delicious but difficult to eat.

The outside was beautiful dull red with a mysterious dried out crown. The inside is luminous red with irregular mysterious chambers.

Somehow, inexplicably, the inside seems fuller than the outside could have contained.

There are so many things that I want to do right now -
- dive into Yiddish music, which I have never been interested in before;
- learn how to take better pictures more quickly than I can learn by trial and error on Instagram;
- give editors, so many ok-but-not-yet-great ones in my company, the simple skills I could teach so easily but it would be so politically unwise to try to organize a class, in part because the people I want to teach are above me in the hierarchy of the newsroom;
- learn enough about coding so that I can manage the config files myself;
- tell the photo editor all of the parallels I see between her work and mine and discover more through getting to know her;
- invest my time in Tumblr so I can stay in dialogue with the producers on my side project;
- figure out, most of all, how I am going to do my part with this new app when the devs can't even get it to work. I have been saying, over and over, "If you build it, I can figure out how to fly it," but there is nothing that can get off the ground yet.

I can't believe how badly I want it all, and how I would not have named a single thing on this list in the last week of September.


Jan. 12th, 2014

This is so much of what makes music meaningful for me.

Yesterday while I was cooking, I put on some Pharoah's Daughter. I had a couple of their songs on my iPod years ago. Beyond that, all I know is that they sing Jewish texts mostly to middle eastern melodies, ones they write themselves or they learn from the tradition. I know many of the texts already, but none of the melodies.

Many songs in, they started a song and I was shocked because it had a familiar melody. The text I did not know. It took me a while to figure out what the melody was. It's something I learned to sing as a niggun (wordless song) or with the text "Ki MiTzion tettzei Torah," a line from the Torah service that has many, many melodies.

I love this melody. I've heard it around and led with it, both as a melody that is familiar at my havurah and as a new melody I taught at the synagogue. I asked one of the more musically knowledgeable women in the havurah if she knew its origin. Her guess was Carlebach, but now I know she was wrong.

On the Pharoah's Daughter recording, the woman is, shockingly, singing in Yiddish. It's shocking because their orientation is away from Eastern European traditions. The sound of this melody is very middle eastern. The words are very, very Yiddish, as a quick internet search turned up.

Ribbons, pearls, golden flags
the Messiah, son of David, is above us
he holds a goblet in his right hand
and gives his blessing to the whole earth.
Amen, amen, this is the truth
the Messiah will come this year.
If he comes by riding, good years are ahead.
If he comes by horse, new times are ahead.
If he comes by foot, every Jew will be settled in Eretz Yisroyl.

Shnirele perele gilderne fon
meshiekh ben dovid zist oybn on
halt a beckher in der rekhter hant
makht a brockhe afn gantsn land.
Oi, omeyn veomen dos iz vor
meshiekh vet kumen hayntiks yor.
Vet er kumen tsu forn
veln zayn gute yorn
vet er kumen tsu raytn
veln zayn gute tsaytn
vet er kumen tsu geyn
veln di yidn in Eretz Yisroyl aynshteyn.

This feels so Yiddish to me: a text that makes the coming of the Messiah one to anticipate, that names ribbons and pearls as the ultimate in fancy decoration, the specificity and technology of the modes of transportation the Messiah might use, the timeline - a year - speaks of people living a difficult life who need to believe that they will find a way out.

The internet coughs up multiple performances of this song, titled "Shnirele perele."

This is a piece of music I love. I learned it by hearing it in services. I have led it myself, and I have transmitted it without knowing its origin. The woman in the havurah I had asked about it just happens to be a student of Yiddish and Yiddish music. She didn't know it either. Now I know and I can't wait to tell her.

As a spreader of this particular song, I have connected myself to the succession of singers, going all the way back to the people who thought ribbons denoted wealth and power, people whose psychological well-being depended on leaning into the promise of their personal deliverance via a super-spiritual being. I can step right up into the web of orally-transmitted music with them. This is a miracle of human expression and desire. This is why I believe in music and in Judaism. We can keep alive the artistic vision of an unknown musician of the Yiddish shtetl, sing and re-sing it and pass it, from ears to voice to ears, until it comes out of Spotify on my iPhone, ready to be taught and sung some more. 


Date syrup is my new girlfriend.

I only came upon it because I was asked to teach that class about the seven species of ancient Israel on the synagogue retreat. I liked it at the time but didn't do a whole lot with it, until the past few weeks. I've put it in tomato sauce, muffins, granola bars, beans. It's so rich and complex and easy to dispense out of a squeeze bottle. It's great with dairy and chocolate. I bet it would be fantastic with meat, like the tamarind in steak sauce.

Date syrup is my new girlfriend.

E brought the phrase "my new girlfriend" into our vocabulary a long time ago. She means, it's the new thing that gives you a thrill. It makes you feel new, because the new love is so exciting and a little bit unknown. It's about the rush and the possibility.  It's a feeling E and I have not had beyond metaphor in a long time. We may very well never feel again for a person, and if we do it will have to be ushered in by some terrible tragedy. We don't want to feel it for real ever again.

(I use "my boyfriend" or "my new boyfriend" in a slightly different professional context. Mostly I use it to indicate the crush I have on a man's intellectual output, usually his writing.)

Jan. 10th, 2014

This morning I put on a beige knit shirt, huge and shapeless. I put a grey sweater on top, also shapeless, and I wondered what was up with that, because I like to wear tops that fit. Then I remembered where I got them, in a big bag of hand-me-down maternity clothes from E's friend when I was pregnant with R ten years ago.


It has been many, many years since I cried about work on a regular basis. I've cried about it here and there, but not over and over, not since I was in my 20s.

Crying about work isn't necessarily bad. When really talented people in their young 20s come in to our company, I often tell them that they are going to cry. "Everyone I know who came in in their young 20s cried," I say. "I cried. People who are now correspondents and hosts and senior supervising producers cried. You will cry." What we do is at a very high level. I say, "Your decisions - and you will be called on to make real decisions every day - will be held to the exact same standards as the decisions of journalists with many decades of experience. That is an utterly unrealistic expectation, but you will be held to it anyway. When you are found to be lacking - and you will be found lacking - you will hear about it. If you can manage not to cry, than you are doing something that hosts and correspondents and senior supervising producers could not manage."

That is where I am again, at the age of 44, crying because I can't perform with people who have so much experience I can't even understand what that experience is.

It's this app team. I am so excited by what we might do together, but they speak this language of Agile and Scrum (I think it's capitalized but not an acronym, but I'm not sure), of use cases and cohort analysis and config files. I am trying so hard to keep up, but it took me weeks to even figure out that this guy is the dev for the client side - and this woman I admire so much is the lead on the server side - or even that there is such a thing as client/server. And nobody even bothered to introduce me to any of them, much less tell me what their job titles are, much less what their job titles mean.

In the beginning there was a fair amount of passive hazing. They didn't know who I was and didn't see what I could be helpful for, so they were not helpful to me. I worked really hard to show them how much I have to offer. Now they all really value what I bring, and I feel how much they like what I can contribute. Still, there are huge swaths of planning meetings when I don't understand what they are talking about. They might be planning things I want to be in on, but I can't even tell because I can't understand them. And I can't make them stop to explain, because the other 14 people in the meeting take it all for granted and if I stopped the meeting every time I don't get it, the meeting would be three hours long.

Sometimes I need an explanation in the middle of the work day. I can't bear to bring it up in the chatroom, because in the chatroom they paste in bits of code and say, "Do you see what I see?" and "Oh, of course, there's an easy fix for that!" More often, they all chime in with gifs they collectively think are hilarious. They have entire conversations in gifs. I am so relentlessly unvisual that I can't imagine expressing something with a picture, much less one that moves.

So I am crying, regularly, because there is this work that I want to do so badly, but I am in so deep over my head I can't figure out how. I am trying. I am reading books about the style of software development that they are using. I have started using my Instagram account for something more than stalking B, to try to exercise my weak visual expressive skills.

I wonder if this is even harder for me, emotionally, than it was when I was 22. Now, I am a master of our journalistic trade. I have been for many many years. People come to me from all over the company to ask for advice and to sharpen their skills. In the last couple of weeks I have sent out five notes of praise for colleagues. The responses are all something like, "It means so much coming from you!" I know what it feels like to be at the top of my game, story after story and year after year. With the app team, it's not that I am starting at the bottom like I did 22 years ago. I have been knocked all the way back down to the bottom, having been on top. My authority and confidence is stripped away.


Then, in the newsroom, the boss of the guy who used to be the boss of my boss called me today to reprimand me. Seriously, the last time I was reprimanded was probably when I was in my 20s, I can't be sure because I can't even remember that ever happening. I was reprimanded over a misunderstanding. This is something that my direct boss would have taken care of, to make sure that the communication was clear between me and this woman three levels above me. However, my direct boss's last day in the office was 12/27. In fact, on 12/27 my direct boss, on her way out the door, set up the chain of events that led to this misunderstanding. In the very last conversation I will every have with her, she directly told me to do this thing. Today I was reprimanded for doing it.

So now we know, when you have a good boss - an amazing boss who always has your back - when she leaves, that's how long you are protected: 12 days. Not even two weeks ... and then you are screwed.


B is pretty much toxic and intolerable. When he comes in the house, he throws around so much negative energy, so many insults and slams, that I can't believe he can keep up that much hatefulness for hours. He does, and makes things horrible for the rest of us.

The thing is, though, is that he comes home. He doesn't stay out late or sneak out. He comes home and is horrible and eats dinner with us. He screams and spits (literally, spits) all through dinner but he's there. If he's doing drugs, it's not so many drugs that it's visible. His grades aren't great but he's not failing, either.

Tonight during hour 4 of his ranting, I thought that it would almost be easier if there was something actually wrong like that. I don't believe that, not really,  but the thought crossed my mind.


We went to Ikea and got a new pantry cabinet. It's going to replace the one we bought at a used store when we lived in DC. It gave me an excuse to count how many kinds of legumes and pulses (honestly, I don't know the difference between them except that lentils are pulses and beans are legumes) and I have 15 different different ones. I have used all of them in the last year.


E went to the grocery store today with a friend. She came home and said, "I am grateful for the Berkeley Bowl. The food there is so beautiful and there is so much of it. I have enough money that I can buy any of it that I want to."

Her friend was amazed at how little she spent, E said, so she and I did a quick calculation to figure out how much we spend a month.

$135/week at the grocery store = $530/month (this figure is remarkably consistent)
$300 at Costco every two or three months = $120/month
roughly $80/month at Trader Joes and the recreational shopping I do at ethnic markets

...and that's $740 a month. We might eat out as a family once a month. Maybe.

The USDA has a handy chart of what different kinds of families spend on groceries. The closest match is a family of four with kids under 11 (B eats way more than an 11 year old, I just want to point out) and they have four different spending levels. We come out between the lowest (thrifty) and second lowest (low-cost) plan. The biggest determining factor there is probably that we don't buy meat.


A family in our havurah has a Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat. They are doing this thing that most of the families do: a catered dinner for out of town guests, then the havurah joins for a service and dessert. During the service, seven family members and close friends give the B'nai Mitzvah kid a blessing. It gets very long.

We didn't do that. I made dinner for everyone - out of town guests and members of the havurah - and a little singing.

Tonight as all seven of these groups of people got up and said such lovely and heartfelt things about how great the Bar Mitzvah boy is - and their blessings for his future - I thought, I don't think we could find seven people to gush over Jacob and they sure would not have such great things to say about him.


"Why are you all into FIFA now?" I asked B as he fired up his PS3. For a long time he was playing a lot of Madden, and more recently he's playing NBA 2K14. But he bought the soccer game with his Christmas money and he's been playing it as much as he's been allowed on the PlayStation.

His response was so immediate, complex and fluid that I could tell that he'd made a deliberate choice about it. "My black friends play 2K14, so I play basketball with them, he said. "Well, some of them play Madden. It's mostly the white people I can play against on Madden. But all of my Latino friends just play FIFA, and I want to play with them too. They don't have Madden or 2K14. And I want to play with them, so I have to play FIFA."


I just want to kiss R's cheek all the time. But right now she has the hiccups so hard she is actually shaking the bed with them.


It's the driest winter I can remember. There has only been rain a couple of times, and the ground cover that should be lush and green in December is brown and withered. Even the air is dry, and when I breathe in my lungs are dry, too. 
Apple almond muffins - makes 12
3 T flax seeds, ground and whisked with 4T water (I know, this is not the usual formula)
1.25 c whole wheat flour
1.5 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
.25 t salt
1 t cinnamon
.25 t nutmeg
.5 c yogurt, buttermilk or soy milk soured
.25 c oil
1/3 c date syrup
1 t vanilla

1.5 c grated apple
.5 c sliced almonds

Whisk together the water and flax seeds and let sit. Preheat the oven to 350. Line or grease muffin tins.

Combine the drys.

Grate the apples.

Combine the wets and add in the flax slurry.

Begin to mix the wets into the drys. Halfway through, add the apples and the almonds. The apples will hydrate the batter more.


I started out this year wanting to cook with more new ingredients. Even though I have not been doing it as mindfully as the year has gone on, I think I've got a good list:

Sumac - A new favorite. It's been trendy for the last couple of years, but I only just got around to it. Along with the new availability of sesame in our house, it enabled the making of za'atar flatbread. "I just can't stop eating this!" said one of our Sukkot dinner guests. Also, great with eggs, yogurt, beans, vegetables.

Dried limes - I've only used these in the context of cooking lentils. Too much is too much. If I cooked meat, I would be all over these in some kind of lamb braise.

Pomegranate molasses - You would think it's a sweet, but actually it's fruit-sour. Perfect dressing grains and beans.

Guava paste - I only have one application for this, but it's the best, most original dessert I make.

Tamarind - I know this has a hundred uses in cooking from all over Asia, but I've only ever used it to make a sauce for Indian food.

Split unhulled mung beans - Ohgod, my life was not complete without these in a dal finished with sizzled spices.

Kokum - I really only use these to make refried beans.

Rye flour - A gluten grain that B is intensely allergic to, so I've never done much with it until Jane talked about Russian black bread. I made it for her on her birthday, and then a sour rye for her Russian Sukkot dinner.

Sourdough starter - I've been reading about this for years but never got over the hump of making it until I started planning for Jane's Russian Sukkot dinner. This one started with potatoes and rye flour, and I have continued to feed it rye even though I am using it for wheat bread now.

Teff flour - makes great brownies. Kasher l'Pesach.

Sardines - G went on and on about how we should eat sardines years ago. E bought them and I left them in the cupboard for months and months and then, on a whim, added them to red sauce for pasta.It was fantastic. I want to make banh mi with them, too, but I have not yet.

Black lentils - In that week of Yotam Ottolenghi, I made black lentils for the first time, and now I can't get enough of them. They hold up better in salads than the regular kind.

Date syrup - I pulled this in when I was asked to teach a class about the seven species of ancient Israel. This was the one that I was the least familiar with. The complex sweet is great in so many places, especially when I need a little sweet in a savory dish.

Golden syrup - I bought this because I had a recipe for a pomegranate cake that called for it, but I never made the cake. It was amazing in challah and I'm on the lookout for another good application.

Chia seeds - I really like eating these on yogurt in the morning.

Grains of paradise - I made a beautiful salad of gold beets, blood orange, grains of paradise, olive oil and a little salt.

Black soy beans - I have not actually cooked these yet. They are soaking on the counter and I will cook them tomorrow. We eat them for good luck in the new year. I am doing it early because I am afraid of screwing it up. If they are terrible, I will have time to make more before Wednesday.


My aunt usually has New Year's Day, but she's just had surgery. My cousin is having something smaller and is parceling out all of the cooking that my aunt usually does herself.

He gave me the black soy beans to make. I hated them as a kid. Every year some adult would coax or shove me to eat them for good luck in the new year. Now, I love them and look forward to eating them. B and R are happy to eat them, for good luck in the new year. "If you need a recipe, I have one," he wrote in the email. Late in the afternoon he texted me a picture of a stained handwritten recipe in my aunt's handwriting.

I am sure that my aunt wrote down this recipe the same way my mother wrote down so many of my grandmother's recipes, by following her around the kitchen. Their prescience in recording the way my grandmother cooked is remarkable. One of my big regrets in life was that I only met E's grandmother once, which was not enough exposure for me to document her cooking, which everyone in the family loved but nobody had the skill to record.

The text from my cousin is an encapsulation of everything I believe in: cooking beans from dried instead of buying them canned, the place of food in ritual, marking of a moment of passage with a tradition, family observances. It also crystallizes my belief that the most important things in our lives are the same as they have always been. Technology and social upheaval can do little to change our basic needs for human connection and delicious food. We are moved by hunger and love, just as we have been for thousands of years. They will never be outdated or irrelevant, even if my cousin texts them to me instead of copying them on a 3x5 card.
moireach asks about being pregnant.

Some women get all emotional and spiritual about pregnancy. For me, it was just means to an end. I wasn't particularly looking forward to being pregnant and I didn't particularly like it. Both of my pregnancies were, as they say, textbook.

When I was pregnant with B, I didn't have any friends who had been pregnant, so I talked to a woman in my office who was in her late 30s and had had two babies. Although I had some good books, I think that having an actual person I could as questions was really important.

There is nothing - nothing - like being absolutely still and having another person moving around inside you. Every once in a while, I can't believe that I will never feel that again. There is a totally separate being inside your body when you are pregnant. That is totally mind blowing.

When I was pregnant with R, I was very, very depressed, and I am pretty sure that I wrote in this journal, "There is nothing alive inside of me except for the baby," though I don't have the desire to go back and find it. Maybe _swallow will - though I am not asking her to!

My friend JK says, "Pregnancy is a really good first draft," meaning that the process of pregnancy is not ideal. It gets the job done. Most of the time, the mother does not die and a baby gets born, but it's not a smooth process. Nature is not about making smooth processes, though. Nature is just about evolving to good enough to propagate the species. The people on my development team now would call pregnancy an MPV, minimum viable product. In that way of thinking, your MVP is not your final thing, but for nature and pregnancy, that's it.

It's been a long time since I have been pregnant. R is nine years old now. 
rose_garden asks: What are the pros and cons of working from home? Do you miss the work environment? Since you started to work from home, have you needed to change other aspects of life that you weren't expecting to need to change?

Number one pro: no commuting. It was taking me 50-60 minutes each way to commute into the city. Getting that time back - in sleep and in time with my family - is worth everything.

I am very disciplined about working from home. Most days I don't do any housework during my work day. The one exception is baking rolls, which takes just a few minutes of attention and a lot of waiting. Other people don't have boundaries that strong.

I've been working remotely for longer than I have been working at home. When I went to the office in the city, there were only a couple of people there and I wasn't working with them directly. My colleagues have all been in DC for the last 11 years. I cultivate those relationships very carefully over phone and IM, so we have a lot of casual conversations that lead to more substantive work. This takes a lot of deliberateness on my part. Most of my work is very collaborative exchange of ideas, and working from home makes that a little more difficult.

Frankly, I could be 15% more valuable to the company if I worked in the office in DC. I think they have done a calculation that 85% of me is better than none of me.

I go to DC regularly. Up until now it's been 3 times a year, but I have gone four times in the last ten weeks because of this new project. It's been a very steep learning curve for me to figure out how to work with this team of developers, because they are doing work that is fundamentally different from my work and using communication tools that are totally different. Working with the journalists, I know the rhythm of their days inside and out, so I know when to call v. when to email each individual person, how to make our communication as efficient as possible, and even when to call one person to get that person to walk over to another person to get their attention. With the developers, I'm still figuring it out.

There hasn't been anything unexpected.
muon1183 wanted to know if I am using something new in my cooking.

Over the past couple of years, I have been thinking about how the appropriate sweet fits into savory. I've been thinking about sweet in savory as long as I have been cooking - the raspberry jam in my standby salad dressing - but I've expanded my library of sweet a lot in the last few months and I am slowly working the different sweets into more cooking. I am thinking of it as a way to make each dish more dimensional.

Right now in the library:

White sugar
brown sugar
  mostly I just use these for baking

  some people get into kinds of honey, but I am not there yet. This honey E got from a neighbor with a beehive.
  I've been using this in lemon salad dressings for years

agave syrup
  a clean sweet that mixes well because it's a liquid
  I use it with miso a lot

date syrup
  I only started working with this in the fall
  I put it in a tomato sauce for pasta - which always can use some sweet - and the complexity of the dates was great with the garlic

burnt sugar (molasses-like stuff from Jamaica)
  I got this when I was in NY over the summer and I have not used it yet. I am thinking of putting it in the ginger cake for Christmas dessert

rose hip and echinacea syrup
  I got this in NY this summer, too, and tried a bunch of applications. The best was with cheese pancakes.

maple syrup
golden syrup
  Very British. I used it in challah and it was spectacular.

  Also known as gur in south Asia, piloncillo in Mexico, and by a variety of other names in Asia and Latin America
  this is unrefined cane sugar and it's great in Indian food, fish sauce, with winter squash

blackstrap molasses
  one of the darker grades of molasses, loaded with trace nutrients
  the magic ingredient in my whole wheat rolls
  great on yogurt

dried fruit
  I almost always put some dried fruit in salads - lettuce salads, grain salads, bean salads
  always on hand: dried cranberries, golden raisins, dark raisins, dried apricots, dried mango

fresh fruit
  diced fresh apple or pear to finish a soup of stew, one of my go-to tricks

barley malt
  I have baked with this once but I don't even remember what I did with it.
_swallow wanted to know if our relationship with our neighbors has changed.

Mostly, no. I think that's good. The neighborhood is stable, with very little turnover, and I think of our relationships as solid. We aren't personally close to many people except for RA across the street, who comes over at least twice a week just to check on us. We have new neighbors on one side and we love them a lot. That house was vacant for the first five years we lived here. Then it was filled by a series of renters and AirBNB-ers until finally this great family moved in. On the other side, we were closer to H when we first moved in, but her husband is a strange, antisocial guy. We feel like he has made her more distant and strange, too. They also have four dogs now, one of which was the perpetrator of the chicken massacre.

... I'll do your other question tomorrow.

And there is still some December left if anyone else has questions.
I had to come up with a thank you present for someone I don't know very well, and it turned out so well I thought I would share it. This guy is a designer, so I didn't want to give him something decorative; he carefully curates all the visual aspects of his life. Food is a natural present for me to give, but I had no idea if he cooks or not.

The day before I'd been to a restaurant that served something with grains of paradise on it. I've been reading about grains of paradise for years. Amanda Hesser advocated using them in a mill instead of pepper, that was my main source, but I never got to the point of trying them out. The restaurant dish wasn't even that exciting and the grains of paradise weren't on my plate, so I didn't even get a good idea what they tasted like. They were, though, newly on my mind.

I ended up with grains of paradise, sumac, a cheap table pepper grinder and salt shaker set from HomeGoods, a striped sock (from TJ Maxx) and a nice card. I put the sumac in the salt shaker and the grains of paradise in the pepper grinder along with a note that said, "Grind the grains of paradise where you would use black pepper. Shake the sumac for a lemony finish on salads, vegetables, hummus, meat." They went in the sock, with the card tucked in.

What is genius about this gift: you don't have to cook to enjoy it. Don't think of the grains of paradise and the sumac as spices - they are condiments. Wrapping in the sock makes it seem quirky and fun. It's practical.

I am definitely going to do this again.


elsewhereangel asks about our move across the country. I am a fourth generation Californian who went to college and started a career in the east. From the first semester of my first year of college, I knew that I wanted to move back to California. When E and I met in DC in 1992, one of the first things I said to her was, "I am moving to California, are you coming with me?"

It was 10 years before we actually did move. We were very dug in in DC, especially in our neighborhood and synagogue. We were happy. Little B was the prince of Adams Morgan. We had never lived in Berkeley, barely spent any time there. However, I was so fixated on this idea that we belonged in Northern California that we just kept working to make that happen. Frankly, I don't think I really understood what it really entailed. I just got this idea in my head when I was 18 years old that I had to move back to California and it never shook loose.

Financially, two things made the move possible. First, I bought an apartment across the street from a crack park in 1994, and when we were ready to sell in 2002, it was across the street from this bucolic park where children played. It had almost triple the value. We could plow that money into a house in the Bay Area. E spent a year looking at houses for sale online so she had an idea of the neighborhood we could afford. I went out in June and drove around it, talking to her on a cell phone, as we discussed the way the people were using the parks, the kinds of cars parked in front of the houses, if they had bars on the windows. She came out for a week in July during which we wrote contracts on three houses and got one. I never saw it until we moved in. The second financial thing was total luck. There happened to be a job opening up for my company that I could possibly do remotely - and I had a manager who was willing to fight for me to have it. So we moved.

In some ways, I am still not as connected in here in Berkeley as I was in DC, even though at this point I've lived here just as long. It has never, not one single time, occurred to me or to E that we should not have moved.
pene asks: How much do you think you will police/manage/be involved in/discuss/worry about R's clothing and external presentation as she gets older?

I am not sure. Personally I am both very concerned with clothing and external presentation ... and turned off by them. I remember a lot of conflict with my mother over how I dressed when I was a teenager. Now, I love makeup and clothes, but I work from home and most days I don't get dressed at all.

Right now, as R is entering her awkward phase, I find myself telling her to comb her hair all the time, or that she needs to wash it because it's smelly and greasy. When I do that, I hear my mother in my ear, telling me to wash my hair or wear makeup. E and my mom buy all of R's clothes. I don't think I have ever acquired a single thing for her to wear. I am fine with that. R is not interested in dressing glam or sexy like some other girls her age.

At synagogue I see the 13 year olds who are the friends of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and the girls all wear skirts that I think are horrifyingly short. The rule is that the hem has to be at least at fingertip length, which to me is a terribly short standard. When R is that age, I think to myself, will I let her? I know that some battles are better not fought with a teenager, and when we get there, the length of a skirt might seem like too trivial a conflict to get into.

NOTE: there is still time to ask me any question, and I will answer in December.