The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Looking for a Sefer

I am looking for a new or used copy of the sefer "Mitzvos Hamelech", a peirush on the Rambam's Sefer Hamitzvos.
Things I've Forgotten About Raising a Baby, I

Our youngest child is 13, so it's been a while. Over the last 5 1/2 months, while we've been caring for the Baby, we've been reminded about a number of things that go along with raising a baby.

Among them: If you are not careful when administering Amoxisil to a baby, you will likely end up with a shirt that is spotted pink.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Walking in Town

The last two weeks have been difficult for us walkers. Last week the subway strike and now tourists.

With the exception of the 8 or so years that I unfortunately worked in the Wall Street area, I have walked to work from Penn Station virtually every day for the remaining 17 years of my professional career. I walk in hot weather and in cold. I walk in the rain. It has to be either raining torrentially or the temperature has to be hovering around zero before I agree to take the subway.

I walk for a number of reasons. First, because I prefer walking to taking the crowded subway (that is not hard to understand). Second, it gives me an extra 32 minutes of exercise every day since I walk very fast. Third, when I walk, I am in control. I know exactly how long it will take me to get to my office or to the railroad; no subway delays to mess me up.

Last week, although there were fewer people in the city, whoever was around was walking because of the strike. The streets were so much more crowded than normal and it messed up my timing. Lots of ziging and zaging.

This week there are zillions of tourists in town. In a way, this is even worse than the subway strike. The tourists have no clue. They don't cross red lights thereby blocking intersections. They walk four abreast. Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue, the two main avaenues that I need to negotiate, are impossible during my evening walk to Penn Station.

I'm glad the tourists are here. It's good for the economy. I'll be happy when they leave.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Gadzooks!!! The Baby Likes....

Leftover stir fried vegetables with tofu.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Heartwrenching But Naive Question

In my previous post I discussed the idea of taking (or leaving) foster kids on vacation with the rest of one's family. I noted that we had left Fosterboy behind on a couple of occassions. I received this comment from Rocky:

How can you even question whether or not to take along a foster child on your vacation? You knew what you were getting yourself into when aggreeing to house the child. As it is the child feel estranged and different, do you need to emphasize that by not taking him along. The most you can do to help the child adjust is make him feel a part of the family. We are one family and if we need a vacation so does he. He deserves it at least as much as the rest of us.
Rocky is absolutely right. How can you do that to a little boy who already feels so displaced? But Rocky is also profoundly wrong.

Rocky says: You knew what you were getting yourself into when aggreeing to house the child.

Is that so? Ask any foster family that cared for a difficult child (most of them)whether they had any clue as to what they were really getting into. Not even close.

What about our children? Did they know what they were getting into? Did they sign on for this? Is it fair to them to wreck their vacations by taking along a difficult foster child? Are they entitled to a break?

What about the foster child himself? Is it in the interest of a child with ADHD to take him on a 12 hour plane ride when he can't, for example, sit in shul for more than five minutes? What if he does very poorly when taken out of his environment and not provided the immense amount of structure that he needs?

Is it in the interest of a foster child to have his foster parents and foster siblings stressed out beyond belief or would he be better off with foster parents and foster siblings who have relaxed and recharged their batteries largely because they spent 10 days away from him?

I am not trying to justify our actions. But things are not so simple as they seem. Leaving Fosterboy behind was a wrenching decision. But it was an easy decision and I think it was the right decision. I would do it again.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Trippin' With the Baby

One of the most difficult and saddest issues for a foster family to deal with is what to do about vacations. Do you take the foster child or do you leave him behind, typically in the care of another foster family that does respite rather than long term care?

Every January, the MoC family goes on its annual family vacation. We used to go skiing but for 4 of the last 5 years we have been going to Israel. This is our plan again, IYH, this year.

The two times that we had Fosterboy full time, the decision was wrenching but easy. We all needed a break. Badly. Very badly. Not just the kids but MHW and me. We needed to get away from Fosterboy and recharge our batteries as a family. Try explaining to a five year old boy that you are all going away but he is going to stay at a stranger's house. Try explaining that to a nine year old boy.

The issue has come up again now that we are caring for the baby. The issue now is a bit different. The baby is not hard at all in the same way Fosterboy was hard. The baby is easy and we all love to be around her. WE can't bear the thought of leaving her with perfect strangers.

We all know that bringing an 8 month old baby to Israel is not the simplest thing in the world. Just the thought of the flight is enough to make you cringe. And, for sure, it is bound to crimp our style. Nevertheless, there is a unanimous family consensus to bring her.

Ah, but that is where things get complicated. We cannot take the baby without biological parental permission. This is not always so pashut (simple). Getting parental permission can be an art form and I will write about this some other time.

BH, the baby's parents consented yesterday. Now we need to scramble to get her a passport and an infant ticket and get all the papers that we will need to prove our guardianship. Let the fun begin.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Baby's Down With Chicken Soup

The baby has not been eating much. She drinks like a champ but is not much interested in rice cereal, plums, apple sauce or any kind of vegetable (Would you be?). About the only thing she will eat (grudgingly) is a smushed banana. This has been somewhat frustrating because (a) we have thrown out many a jar of baby food, and (b) she gets most of the food on her cheeks and nose and makes a prety big mess. Notwithstanding her lack of interest in food, she is doing quite well, ranking very high in the height department (clearly not a biological member of the MoC klan) and doing very well in the weight category as well.

Nevertheless, we are concerned. MHW, a speech and language pathologist who specializes in infants by trade, is worried about something called texture. MHW says it's important for a baby's development that she gets a feel for different textures. Who am I, a lowly corporate lawyer whose last science class was 9th grade biology, to argue?

So, I was very pleased this past Shabbos when the baby sucked down a whole cup of chicken soup on Friday night. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that I believe, b'emunah sh'leima, that chicken soup is the ultimate food without a weekly portion of which it barely pays to live. So you can imagine my delight at the baby's liking of soup. And, it got even better. On Shabbos afternoon, we had a minestrone that MHW prepared in the crockpot. Again, the baby went ga ga for the soup. And, tonight, our older daughter reported that the baby ate another huge helping of the minsetrone for dinner (we were at a wedding).

It does not solve MHW's texture issue but, hey, we've got to work on one issue at a time. At least she's eating something that is not formula.

I suspect that the baby instinctively understands what is important to the patriarch of the Moc family and is trying to ingratiate herself with him. It is working.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Ride: Postmortem

The ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was extraordinarily challenging; a fitting end to the five day ride. I left Alyn hospital before the closing ceremony, very tired. My left achilles tendon was extremely sore but, other than that, I was in good shape. (Ironically, I think the achilles was sore because of all the walking I did in my bike shoes at lunches and rest stops; I don't think it was riding related.)

So, what are my overall impressions?

The ride was better organized this year. The vaad hired a logistics company because it was getting to be too massive to handle on a volunteer only basis. We got out on time every morning; no small feat when you are dealing with 325 riders. The food was generally good and plentiful (with the exception of my galus on the second night).

The mechanics were great, much better than last year. A few of them rode with us so they were always around. They were helpful and cheerful (even though, l'maisa, other than them putting my bike together upon my arrival, I didn't need them at all).

For the second straight year I managed to ride injury free, crash free and even flat free. I am very grateful for that.

I met some new people, including a rider and his wife who had been avid readers of my last year's ride summary, and a wonderful group from the Heschel school in Manhattan. The truth is that I not much of a social bug and I am uncomfortable in large group settings. I tend to find a few good friends and stick with them.

Once again, the worst part of the ride was the waiting for the slower riders at lunch and rest stops. At least it wasn't 100 degrees like last year (although on the first day, we froze at the top of the Golan for more than an hour). I don't know if there is anything they can do about it but it really is a drag. I'd actuall prefer to ride longer than wait.

And, again, this year it was clear that the ride is all about climbing. You can train 150 miles a week but if you are not working on climbing you are largely wasting your time. Where I live the best way to prepare is by using a spin bike and ratcheting up the knob to simulate climbing tough hills. Even though the longest ride I did since May was only 35 miles (and my longest ride all year only 50), I was able to manage because I would get on my spin bike for 45 minutes to an hour and crank like a fiend.

I was ok this year but I feel I could be much stronger. Between the baby totally screwing up my outdoor riding plans and the fact that I did not listen to music all year because I was in avel (mourning) for my dad (so my spinning was all music-free), I did not train nearly as well as I might have. I already feel that I am stronger now, now that I am spinning to music once again.

So, I already look forward to next year's ride. In my new job I am able to influence the calendar of events so I made sure that I have clearance for when the ride is likely to take place. I will maintain a very strong base and start hitting the road in April. I'm pumped already.

If any of you is thinking of doing the ride next year, a couple of words of advice. Lose some weight. The tubbier you are the harder it is to climb. Next, get yourself a spin bike. Unless you live in a hilly area and can get outside a lot, it's the only way to train. See you on the road.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Has MHW Gone Over the Edge?

Stir fried vegetables with tofu for dinner tonight.

...I think I'm working late.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My Dad, z'l: A Story

Last night we had a siyum and seudah (festive meal) to commemorate my father's first yahrtzeit. A number of my father's 11 grandchildren spoke, including our older son, whose own son, now 9 months old, is named after my dad.

Our son spoke beautifully, saying, among other things, how my dad was (and remains) a role model for him and how big a zechus it is that his son is named after him.

Then he told a great story that typifies my father's will and determination.

During our son's first year studying at Yeshivat Shaalvim in Israel, my parents visited Yerushalayim (as they did countless times over the past 30 years). They were staying at my sister's house in Yemin Moshe. Our son came to stay with them on Thursday night. Friday morning, as usual, my dad walked to the Kotel and back to daven. He then had a few things that he wanted to pick up in Mea She'arim and asked our son if he wanted to come along.

They walked up the steps of Yemin Mshe to King David Street. Our son was about to hail a cab when my father said, "we don't need a cab, let's walk". So, they walked the 45 minutes up the hills to Mea Shearim and ran their errands. Our son suggested that they go into town for breakfast and was, again, ready to hail a cab. My father said, nothing doing, and they walked to Ben Yehuda. Finally our son was able to persuade my dad to hop into a cab for the ride back to Yemin Moshe. The whole cab ride my dad was muttering under his breath, "We could've walked. We didn't need the cab."

This was in 2001. My dad was 79, had had quadruple bypass surgery and suffered from Parkinson's. For 75 years he had been an amazingly vibrant and physical man (albeit as small as I am), a veteran of WWII, an avid walker and swimmer. Since his heart surgery, he was never the same. But his willpower and determination never changed.
Shmuel Ben Moshe Dovid, Z'L: One Year Later

Today is the first yahrtzeit for my father, Shmuel ben Moshe Dovid, Z'L.

This is what I wrote last year after shiva. I have a few more thoughts today but no time. Perhaps I will write more soon.

Monday, December 12, 2005

MoC's Ipod Shuffle

Tagged by Just Passing Through, so here goes:

1. All Worlds, Michoel Shapiro
2. Bo'i Kalah, Shlomo carlebach
3. Hasneh Bo'er, Aron Razel
4. Stranger to Himself, Traffic
5. Niggun, Yirmiyahu
6. 20th Century Fox, The Doors
7. Never in My Life, Mountain
8. 4 + 20, Crosby, Stills Nash & Young
9. Boys in the Band, Mountain
10. Y'hi Ratzon, Diaspora
11. Sh'ma B'ni, Chaim Dovid
12. B'Haviosim, Ari Waxman
13. Zman Hageulah, Aron Razel
14. V'nakluti, Ari Waxman
15. Shuvi Nafshi, Shlomo & Eitan Katz

Does the secular music age me, or what? Good spinning music, though.
The Baby, Part V

In a comment to my previous baby post, Joe writes about his experience some 30 years ago when an infant was abandoned by its mother in his home. He and his wife cared for the baby for two months before he arranged for a childless couple to adopt the baby. Although things worked out for the best, Joe says that he still feels a little sadness that they couldn't keep the baby.

In a second comment he writes:

...I've been curious about a question that we never had to address. The baby's mother was not Jewish, nor was her father. What would my obligation have been had we kept her. Even though her mother was just astonishingly negligent, would it have been right to have denied her and a father, who was totally absent, from having any say in the religious upbringing of their baby? I should point out that the adoptive parents were not Jewish either. I just don't know what halaka is in this situation.
Joe's comments raise two issues. The first, which a number of people have asked me, is why don't we let a childless couple take care of the Baby. We have already been blessed with four children and we're (relatively) old; wouldn't it be better for a younger couple who can't have children to adopt her?

(The second issue, one of religion, is also important and I will address it in a second post.)

The answer to the first question is actually quite simple. The Baby is not up for adoption. The Baby is in foster care. The initial goal of foster care is to rehabilitate the parents and reunite the child with the parents. Only when it is apparent that the intial goal is not possible does the state move to terminate parental rights and put the child up for adoption. This process can take years and depends on the many factors including the parents' situation (whether it's drugs, mental illness, or simply lack of parenting skills, etc.), who the judge is, and whether the parents put up a fight. The last thing that adoptive parents are looking for is this kind of uncertainty. And, assuming, for arguments sake, that a court would terminate the Baby's parents' rights three years from now and she'd been staying with us all that time, how unfair to the Baby (to say nothing of us) would it be to send her to complete strangers for adoption after all that time?

The foster care system is generally a very sad place. There are no simple answers or clean solutions. As wonderful a candidate the Baby would be for a normal adoption (healthy, cute and biologically Jewish), it simply isn't in the cards.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Ride, Day Five: Climbing to Jerusalem

The police where planning to close off all the roads as we left Tel Aviv. For that reason they required us to leave the hotel by 6 a.m. This meant davening at about 5 a.m. and no breakfast at the hotel. (Riders were given a choice of leaving by bus at 7:30 and meeting the group at the halfway point but very few chose that option.)

Once again, I started right up front in order to avoid the more dangerous casual riders. The traffic-free ride through T.A. early in the morning was a lot of fun. Once again, we were blessed with a magnificent day (nevertheless, because we left so early in the morning, it was very cold for the first segment of the ride. I dressed appropriately with a windbreaker). We rode for about 45 minutes when we stopped for a snack. The next segment took us the remaining 20 miles to the foot of Ramat Raziel, near the Beit Shemesh industrial area.

Although this part of the ride was largely flat with a number of rolling hills, it was into a very strong headwind so the riding was challenging. I decided to ride very comfortably until the climbing started. I knew there would be a lot of waiting anyway so I saw no point in cranking hard. I wanted to save my strength.

I had done the climb to Ramat Raziel six weeks earlier with my friend Yehuda and a couple of his neighbors. I had been in Germany on business and was able to work out a weekend in Israel. I landed at 4 a.m., rented a car and met my friend in Hashmonaim. He had rented a road bike for me and we drove to Nais Harim and did a killer 50 kilometer loop, including Ramat Raziel. So, I knew what to expect. Or so I thought.

Just before Ramat Raziel we stopped for a boxed breakfast that had been prepared by the hotel. I made sure to load up with enough energy to get me through the difficult part of the ride.

And so we began.

It's hard to describe just how difficult the first part of the climb was. The gradients were ridiculous, some reaching 17%. Since I started in the front, among some of the strongest riders, I was amazed at how many riders got off their bikes and walked. It was actually very difficult to ride because so many people were struggling and weaving. You had to be very wary of the riders in front of you not cutting you off. (If you were forced to stop, it was almost impossible to start without help on a gradient that steep).

I was surprised by how hard this climb was. I didn't remember the ride being this difficult. I think it had to do with the fact that we were riding right into a headwind and, of course, that I was doing this climb after more than 200 miles and lots of difficult climbs.

I kept focused, pedal stroke after pedal stroke. I was not about to get off my bike and walk. I did, however, have to get out of my seat much more than normal. In certain spots it was the only way I could move forward.

I finally made it to the top of Ramat Raziel but I was not done. There were a few descents and another couple of brutal climbs. During this segment I was able to look around and appreciate the magnificent views provided by riding through the Jerusalem Forest. Mah Nora Hamakom Hazeh. Finally, about 75 minutes after I started the climb, I got to the lunch stop (whose name escapes me).

As usual, lunch was extremely long, while we waited for the slower riders. This time, we waited a very long time. When everyone got to the top, we took group pictures and finally got ready to go. The only good part of the rest stop was that I was able to get one more Magnum ice cream bar (that a local dog shared with me) and a very good cup of coffee.

From lunch we descended again and then started another brutal climb to Ein Kerem. This climb was really tough, especially after all the other climbs and a long break that just worked to tighten your muscles.

From Ein Kerem we went to Har Hertzel where we waited again for the slower riders. We were only a couple of minutes from the end, a group ride into the hospital but, again, it would be a long while before we would be off.

Finally, we left.

One of the funny things that has happened both times I've done this ride is that many of the really slow riders decide that they want to be at the front of the group as we pull into the hospital for the closing ceremony. After causing the better riders to wait countless hours during the week I guess they want to show off to their relatives how great they are by getting into some pictures. I wouldn't care so much if they weren't creating a dangerous situation at the front of the pack. Whatever.

We pulled into the hospital parking lot that was full of patients, staff and friends and relatives of the riders. It's a very moving scene.

This year I blew off the closing ceremony. You've seen one you've seen them all. Instead, I just took my bike to the mechanics, found my bike travel box and grabbed a cab. I got to my sister's house and took a hot shower for about half an hour. Mechaya.

I was really exhausted from a brutal day of climbing and a very difficult but exhilarating ride. I can't wait for next year's ride.

Next: a postmortem.
The Baby, Part VI

What is an alter cocker like me doing with an infant?

I am reminded of something I saw almost ten years ago. I took my younger son to register for the Young Israel Fall soccer season. Also registering his son was a man about ten years older than my 40 years and older still than most of the parents, who were in their 30s. He and his wife had already raised a passle of kids and had had another one much later in life. The look on his face said, "Gadzooks, what am I doing here?"

This story crosses my mind from time to time because of our current circumstances. When we walk to shul with the Baby, we mingle with parents who are 25 years younger than we. Indeed, we have a grandson older than the Baby! In fact, most people think that that is who is in the stroller. When they see pink you can see their minds working. "Didn't they have a grandSON?" But I digress.

Last night I remarked to MHW that it's so funny that no matter where you put the baby in the crib, she ends up sleeping with her head lodged in a corner. I asked if she remembered if our other kids did that. Neither of us remembered.

There's a lot of stuff that we don't remember about raising our biological kids. I suppose we are going to forget all these little quirks about The Baby.


Friday, December 09, 2005

The Ride, Day Four: Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv...

We interupt the series on the Baby to continue the Alyn Ride series. Those of you who have absolutely no interest in this will only have to endure (or skip) two more posts after this. Since you still may be interested in the Baby, I can tell you that the arrival of the Baby completely wrecked my summer and fall outdoor training schedule but I don't hold it against her. That's saying a lot!

I was not looking forward to this day's ride. It was basically 40 flat miles, south from Zichron Yaakov to Tel Aviv on major highways. No hills, no climbs, no nice scenary, dangerous clogging (all 325 riders were going on road today) and lots of waiting again.

Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. It turned out to be a delightful day. 75 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, the roads were bearable and there were a couple of nice surprises.

We left Zichron Yaakov at about 8:30, an hour later than the other days. I stayed near the front of the pack all day, just behind the testosterone teens. That is the safest place to ride because the slower riders tend to be more dangerous, particularly when riding bunched up. We had a nice tailwind all day so it was very easy riding at a fairly decent pace.

The first rest stop was at a gas station - mini shopping area. I was able to nail both a Magnum ice cream bar and, more importantly, my first decent cup of coffee all week, a large cappucino. Gevalt! I was also able to work on my tan (a biker's tan; very goofy. Head and neck, arms and legs from just above the knee to just above the ankle).

The closer we got to T.A. the wider the highways. By the end we were riding on the shoulders of major roads. It's not my idea of the ideal ride but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I managed to avoid getting clipped by an 18 wheeler. Thankfully, there was an area where we road on backroads through nice farm lands.

Lunch was at a very lovely park just outside downtown Tel Aviv. The mayor of Tel Aviv met us there and made a presentation. It was pretty silly but the press was there so the hospital got some good pub. Lunch lasted a good hour longer than it needed to but we were used to that by now.

Finally, we made our way into downtown T.A. This was the coolest part of the day. The police closed off all the streets so we were able to fly down Hayarkon to the hotel. Wild.

We got to the Dan Panorama early in the afternoon and were able to really relax before dinner. I hung out in the lobby, mellowed out with a couple of glasses of red wine, had a very nice dinner and went to sleep.

All in all, a surprisingly pleasant day.

Only one more day left. The climb to Yerushalayim, including the ridiculously difficult ascent of Ramat Raziel; the hardest climb yet.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Baby, Part IV

"What's going to be with you, little one".

I ask the Baby this question as I feed her at 3 in the morning. She is staring up at me with her big black eyes, drinking her bottle intensely, completely unaware of her circumstances, oblivious to the fact that one day someone in authority may call and say it's time to go back.

Go back to what, I wonder?

Those questions are always on my mind. Always. I know it's the same with MHW. We don't talk about it much but I know they're also on her mind. As painful as it would be, MHW still davens (prays) that the Baby's parents should be able to care for her one day. I think that's what she davens for. At worst, she prays that the Almighty will do what's best for the Baby. I am not so good. I daven that the Baby should stay with us. I am not the Almighty but I know in my heart of hearts that staying with us is what's best for the Baby.

I know this is probably a violation of "Fostering 101", but I can't change how I feel. I was smitten from the minute I laid eyes on her. It only grows more intense the longer we have her.

She is loved, fussed over, protected, secure. Our kids are nuts over her. Other than the fact that she can't nurse her, MHW treats her exactly the way she treated all our other babies. And there is no more devoted mother than MHW.

We joke about what will happen if the Baby does stay with us. Another siddur play. Another chumash play. Even worse, another Uncle Moishe concert. Just when you thought you were safe! These are sacrifices I would gladly make!

We have no control over the situation. In fact, we have almost nothing to say. That's the way the system works. We can only pray that the system does the right thing, not what's politically correct, and does not fail the Baby. If the right answer is that the Baby belongs back with her biological parents we will be heartbroken but accepting. If the wrong answer is that the Baby should go back to her parents but the system does it anyway, we will be heartbroken and devastated.

"What's going to be with you, little one?"


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Baby, Part III

Once, when I was president of my shul, one of the members complimented me on something or another that we did. I responded with something like, "oh, it was no big deal". The member, an older and wiser man, took me aside and said, "you need to learn to accept a compliment more graciously". I have taken that advice to heart. I understand that as uncomfortable as I am being on the receiving end of compliments, it is indeed something that I need to do graciously so as not to hurt the compliment-giver's feelings.

The reason I bring up this story now is because of a compliment my family and I received yesterday from Tamara regarding our caring for The Baby (and the many we get just walking down the street with the Baby). I graciously accept the compliments. Thank you.

But they still make me very uncomfortable. They are nice to hear but so unwarranted.

I do not have the words adequate to describe the joy that The Baby has brought to our home in the last 5 months. How do you explain your feelings when a baby smiles for the first time. Or when you get her to laugh by making goofy faces. Or when she wakes up in the morning and coos for 15 or 20 minutes before she realizes she's hungry. Or when she clutches your finger when you feed her? How do you explain what it means when your kids fight over who gets to hold or feed her (last Shabbos as we were sitting down for Kiddush, my younger daughter said, "I call her for after washing!"), how they fawn over her and love her. Who could ever have imagined that at age 50 I get to help raise the cutest little neshama that you can imagine. I get to see her every development. And, with age, I appreciate each and every step, perhaps more than I did with my own kids when I was younger and more foolish.

And what are the costs? So we wake up once or twice in the middle of the night. Big deal. I get right back to sleep. So we don't go out as frequently? We were never big out-goers. There is no sacrifice at all. We are the beneficiaries. That is the truth.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Baby, Part II

Wednesday morning and still no baby. OHEL called and asked how she was doing. When we told them that she had not been delivered the previous evening they were surprised but called the state agency and found her. (Five months later it's still sketchy what actually happened that night.)

The new arrival time was now Wednesday afternoon. By the time I got home from work, she had already arrived, been bathed and eaten at least once. It's amazing how one little creature can completely turn a house upside down. Our daughters were completely flipped out over her and, I must admit, so were MHW and I. As much as you try to convince yourself that its just another fostering gig, there is something very different about a baby.

(I know that previous sentence sounds harsh. But it's true. The only way to protect yourself emotionally when fostering is to view it as a job. Your job is to care for a child in need for as long as you are asked to. It doesn't mean you don't love the kids. It means you approach the fostering as a responsibility that you've undertaken. I know this is hard to understand but ask anyone who's done it. My point is, with the baby, it was totally different. It was impossible to remain detached).

The baby was very cute. As hard as it is to imagine in a ten week old, she seemed to be in shock. She hardly reacted to anything, including all the fawning over her that our daughters were doing. She had this almost scary blank look as if she felt nothing. It was sad. Thankfully, this blank look started to disappear the very next day.

Virtually the only thing we knew about the baby was where she came from and that she drank four ounces of formula every three hours. So, MHW and I took turns through the night. Feeding her became an extremely bonding event for me. As strange as this sounds, I don't think I ever bottle-fed any of our other children. MHW was very big on nursing and nursed each of the kids for a long time. Three of our kids went straight from the breast to the cup and the fourth may have had a bottle for a short time (but not when she was an infant). Despite having to wake up in the middle of the night I found myself loving the act of feeding the baby (it helps that I have the ability to immediately fall back asleep).

In the days and weeks that followed we started to learn a little bit more about the baby and her circumstances. One thing that became very clear was that this was not going to be a short term gig. Five months later it is clear that it still isn't going to be a short term gig. This makes things very, very complicated.


Friday, December 02, 2005

The Baby, Part I.

At 2 p.m. on On July 10, 2005 our lives changed. I was sitting at my desk when I picked up the phone. It was MHW. "OHEL just called. They need to place a ten week old baby girl and they are desperate. They have no one else. What do you think?"

I told MHW pretty much what I tell her every time OHEL calls with a placement. Basically, since she bears most of the burden, I always say, if it's ok with you, it's ok with me. This time, however, after discussing it for a few minutes I said, "This is totally nuts, but if it's ok with you, it's ok with me." She said, "Good, 'cause I already told them yes".

We knew virtually nothing about the baby or her parents except that she was 10 weeks old and healthy. (The truth is, 5 months later, we don't know all that much more).

We were told that the baby would be brought over later that afternoon. We had no carriage, no car seat, no diapers, no clothes, no formula, no bottles, no baby bath. MHW made one phone call to one of the women from the shul and by later that afternoon we had everything we needed, and more. A week later we received a suitcase full of clothes from one of our friends who has a baby about a year older.

I left work early, figuring MHW would need some help and because our younger son was leaving to Israel that night. No baby. And no one called. MHW stayed up all night. Still no baby.

OHEL called in the morning. "How is the baby doing?" Oh boy.