Monday, June 26, 2006

Red Blankie and the Shema

Every summer, LO spends some time visiting with my sister. This gives me a chance to have a little "me" time here and there throughout the summer. I'd like to report that I actually do something wonderful like spending the day at a spa or sitting on the beach and enjoying our weather but...what it usually means is that I do various things like clean the house, have a week go by without needing to do twelve loads of laundry, stare at the walls, give the TV a break from Disney films, etc.

LO never goes anywhere far without her blankies. These started out as one security blanket. But, as every parent is well aware, beloved items like these tend to get "loved" a whole lot and tend to need to be cleaned a whole lot, so in order to be able to wash "White Blankie", I made "Red Blankie". When we were packing her stuff to go to my sister's, she said, "I'm taking White Blankie with me and I'm leaving Red Blankie with you so you don't feel lonely without me". How cute is that?

I dropped her off at my sister's last night and the drive home (approx. 60 miles) was awfully quiet. Then when I got home, since this is her first extended time away this summer, the house seemed eerily empty. I sat down on the bed and realized how much I missed my little girl. Then the phone rang! Of course it was her. She had called to tell me that she missed me (which of course broke my heart). She had called to say "Laila Tov" and "Jo Tau" (Goodnight in Hebrew and Chinese). And she had called to say the Shema with me (which filled my heart with joy).

Some days I just can't imagine that it is possible to love her any more than I already do, but then a day like this happens. And I realize just how blessed I am to be LO's Mom.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Kosher Police

As LO has gotten older, she has become more aware of the laws of kashrut. Gone are the days where I could simply put food in front of her and she would eat without asking a million questions. Gone are the days where we could go to someone's home without her explaining what we can and cannot eat.

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. I am actually thrilled that she so strictly adheres to keeping kosher, especially when she is surrounded by kids at school who probably don't know what kosher is. However, in the process I am afraid I may have created the "Kosher Police".

Here for your reading pleasure are a few examples of my case and point:

  1. Since it's a good 30 minute drive to the large Kosher market for us, we have to go to the local big chain grocery store more often than I would like. As I am sure many of you know - this makes grocery shopping a long task. Now that LO can read, she decided to try to help make shopping happen a little faster by checking for heschers. This has been a huge help. However...with the good comes the "just shake your head and smile" moments. There are often times when I am at one end of the aisle and from the other end of the aisle and LOUD and C-L-E-A-R-L-Y enough for the entire store to hear, she will hold something up and announce, "HEY MAMA! THIS IS KOSHER!" Did I mention that this sometimes happens several times during one trip?
  2. LO has decided it is her job to tell the cashier and the person bagging our groceries at the local big chain grocery store not to put the dairy in the same bag as the meat. That's great - no complaints from me on that. But...the last time we finally got to the Kosher market, without any hesitation she asked for the dairy to be separated from the meat - the cashier stared at her in disbelief and then just started to giggle.
  3. I was packing her lunch for camp (matzoh and Aaron's salami - not my idea...her request). She comes into the kitchen and I hear this great big GASP! When I asked her what was wrong, she just looked at me while pointing at a Ziploc bag of Fritos and said matter-of-factly, "I can't have these with my lunch, they are DAIRY!" For a split second I thought I had made a mistake...oh wait, they're not dairy. (Scenarios such as this happen all the time, sometimes I think she is just testing me.)

Oh well...I guess there are worse things in life she could be.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

MMM take TWO

I thought that last week's "Morning Mom Moments" were fun but today took the cake...

We started out our usual ten minutes late and as we rushed to the car, I looked up at the beautiful blue sky. TEN minutes later (and just less than 7 miles away) as we pulled into LO's school, the sky turned pitch black and the rain was so torrential that I could hardly see the front of the car. Being the prepared mom that I am, I turned to get an umbrella from the back seat only to discover (yep - you guessed it) no umbrella - not even this one

which would be a little humiliating as I walked in to my "Corporate America" office this morning, but I would have done it if I absolutely had to. So - LO and I decided we would sit in the car in the parking lot at the school for a while and maybe it would let up. Twenty minutes later we were still there and she was no longer singing along with the songs on the radio and looking quite unhappy. I decided to drive back home to get some umbrellas. So, we did but it took longer than expected because of the rain and because of all of the lovely Miami drivers. But finally with umbrellas in tow, we headed back to the school. When we got to the school, the gate was closed.

I buzzed the intercom.
No answer.
I buzzed it again and waited a minute.
No answer.
I buzzed it again while dialing the school on the phone.
No answer at both.

Now I am wondering what the heck is going on. Then it dawned on was a field trip day. LO missed the bus. We drove to where the field trip was and luckily we were able to find our group. The camp director let LO join the group (even though he technically wasn't supposed to - shhh! don't tell!) but not until after he chided me thoroughly for my lovely morning so far. I finally got to work and only TWO hours late.

Oh please, oh please may it be sunny tomorrow and may the Miami Heat win tonight!

Friday, June 16, 2006

How can you be Jewish? You're Chinese!

Yep, that's the look I usually get when I tell people that we are Jewish. I don't know why it is such a surprise to people. Maybe it's because we don't look Jewish? (And what does Jewish look like anyway?) Isn't Judaism a religion and aren't we all free to chose what religion we want to be? Oh....I know - it's that whole race vs. religion thing right? Well, when they put a "J" for Jewish checkbox next to the W, B, H and A on all those silly forms we fill out in life, then you can talk to me about the race thing. (Oh, but if they do that, do I check the "J" box or the "A" box or am I allowed to check both?)

For whatever reason our Judaism is such a surprise, I tell the story quite often, so here it is out in the Blogosphere for all to see. I wish I could tell some great story like I traced my lineage to the Jews of Keifeng or explain it by saying that my neshama was at Mount Sinai and for whatever reason, G-d decided that my neshama should be in Chinese body this time around, but the story is less grandiose.

Remember the movie "The Jerk" with Steve Martin? It started with him saying, "I was born a poor black child..." It goes on to the point where he realizes that this was not really the case and he is something totally different. I feel like that sometimes.

Both of my parents are 100% Chinese. I was born in New York (isn't that where most Jews in the Diaspora are born?) My parents divorced when I was 2-years old and shortly thereafter my mother married a Jewish man. I didn't know until I was around 13 or so that this man was not my father. (The fact that I looked nothing like him or his family apparently meant nothing to me.) Many of my childhood memories are that of a Jewish child in a Jewish household...Shabbats, holidays, typical Jewish Grandmother, typical Jewish Great-Grandmother (who made the BEST gefilite fish and latkes!), etc.

Fast forward a bunch of years to when I adopted LO in China. Since halakha does not consider adoption a blood relation, I knew that LO would need to be converted. And so I went to talk to our Rabbi about it. In the process we learned that my mother had never converted and that she had never converted me. So, not only did LO need to convert, I needed to convert! Since we keep kosher, we go to shul on every Shabbat, LO goes to Sunday school, and all of our non-work/non-school activities are shul related, my circle of friends has often dubbed me "the most Jewish of all". The irony of the fact that I was not "technically" Jewish became the brunt of much joking around. I was angry at first because I felt like a part of my identity that I had always known was actually a falsehood. The anger was short lived because the process of studying our beloved Torah and the several meetings with our Rabbi taught me so much and gave me an even greater love for Judaism than I already had. And so on the 6-year anniversary of the first day that I ever held LO in my arms, she and I did our tevillah and officially joined the people of Israel. Never has anything felt so "right".

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

MMM or Morning Mom Moments

I am not a morning person. There are more days than not in which I don't know how I am going to get out of bed without the assistance of a tow truck or a large crane. If it weren't for automatic coffee makers, I am not sure if I would ever make it out of the house with my eyes open any time before noon but today was a little different.

It was an exciting morning - much better than what I woke up to yesterday morning.

When getting dressed this morning, Little Orieyenta (LO) decided that lime green, pale pink, and a metallic-like turquoise make a great colour combination. When she came out of her room, she almost shocked me into being awake. (I'll have to remember this when I am out of coffee.) While I am a fan of letting our children learn to make decisions on their own, I decided that not suffering the teasing from the other kids at camp for her creative colour choices was more important. So - she went off to change and I went off to find a lint brush because I had what LO calls "Cat Tuchis" which is when I have somehow managed to attract every stray cat hair onto the backside of whatever item of black clothing I happen to be wearing.

Then with coffee in hand, newly dressed child, and having de-cat haired my clothing we were off to start the day.

Next challenge...bumper to bumper not even moving one inch traffic on the highway. Those of you who know me know that I am habitually late and today was no different than any other day --- except now the traffic was adding to it. Usually this would put me in a sour mood but from the back seat I suddenly realized that LO was serenading me with her version of "Adon Olam" - not the slow moving version but the toe tapping "oh my gosh can I say all those words in Hebrew that fast" version. (Ok, so she can't say them that fast so it turns out to be some combination of bad Hebrew, bad Chinese, and bad Spanish words but she has her heart in the right place.)

And with my LO inspired smile, I knew it would be a good day.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Od Yavo Shalom

I'm liking this whole blogging thing - I've actually heard from some people (you know who you are!) I haven't heard from in AGES!

In any case, I was thinking of something witty to write today and then I woke up this morning to the front page of the Miami Herald which reported "Israeli-Palestinian conflict threatens to explode". If I had my choice, this would not be what I would chose as the first thing to start my day. I know we all worry about what is happening over there at any given time, but I am more concerned than usual for Eretz Yisrael.

So, instead of being witty today, I'll leave it at hoping and believing B'H (as the song goes & please forgive my transliteration) "Od yavo shalom aleinu ve al kol haolam".

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Miami, what's with the bad rap?

Just last month CNN reported that in a survey done by AutoVantage, Miami earned the title of "Worst Road Rage". Yesterday MSNBC reported that a survey done by had found that, "Miami has the lowest brainpower of any large community."

Miami, what's up with that? I've lived in South Florida since I was 2-years old and I love it - sure, it's changed over the years but hey, what hasn't? My hope now, is that Miami will step up to the plate and find something positive to be reported about these for some suggestions?

(1) Most likely to win the NBA playoffs
(2) Best visitor attractions (i.e. South Beach, Fairchild Tropical Gardens, Parrot Jungle, Vizcaya, Coconut Grove, Seaquarium, Monkey Jungle, MetroZoo, Everglades, etc.)
(3) Most likely not to get hit by a major hurricane this year
(4) Best natural adventure (If you've been to the Everglades, I am sure you know what I mean!)
(5) Most number of plastic surgeries per person (Oh wait, is that positive? I guess it depends on how you look at it!)

Any other suggestions? I'll try to think of some more while I am talking on my cell phone, driving on I-95 and cutting you off...oh yeah, all that while trying to learn that 1 +1 does not equal 12.

Monday, June 12, 2006

If not now, when?

I guess I've been sitting under a rock long enough and decided to hop onto the blog bandwagon. I've certainly spent plenty of hours laughing, crying, staring in disbelief, and a whole boatload of other emotions reading the details of so many other people's lives - perhaps the details of mine will do the same for others (and perhaps not!) But in the words of Rabbi Hillel, "If not now, when?"

Hmm...where to start? I guess I'll start by telling a little bit about myself. I'm 100% Chinese and I am also Jewish - hence the name "Orieyenta". But I must admit, that I am not the original Orieyenta. The original Orieyenta was actually my Grandmother. My family owned a Chinese restaurant on Miami Beach back in the days when Miami Beach was not the trendy South Beach that it is today. Back then, you would walk down the street and instead of seeing all the glamourous plastic surgery enhanced people that you see today, you would see lots of people sitting outside in their lawn chairs and lots of women speaking Yiddish and playing mah jong. My Grandmother is quite the character and those Jewish ladies simply adored her - for even with her heavy Chinese accent, she could jump right in and gossip with the whole lot of them - hence the nickname "Orieyenta". I'm pretty reserved and probably don't qualify for the title of "Yenta" but for what I lack, my daughter makes up for. I remember when she was a toddler and would only make noises or cry when she wanted something and I would look at her and say, "If only you could talk and tell me what you want." What was I thinking when I said that? G-d must have been listening when I said that and he rewarded me more than generously with my little chatterbox. While I love her little voice and I sometimes marvel at what must be going on inside her little head, a little peace and quiet would be welcome every now and then. Here's a picture of "Little Orieyenta":

How's that for Jewish pride? Gotta love it.