Tuesday, February 27

Germs Invade Casa Kasamba

As a mother and wife, I know that I can’t afford to be ill.
But for me it was always a toss up- which is worse; my husband getting sick or my kids….
That is until now.
(Drumroll please, maestro)

Let’s weigh things up:

If my husband gets ill (Chas Vesholom!):
- I must pander to his every need
- I must seem to be sympathetic
- I must pretend that I don’t mind that he can’t do carpool/help with homework/get fresh bread in the morning.

If my kids are unwell (Chas Vesholom!)
-I must clean up their ‘returning of semi-digested food’ (Ahem…)
-I must clean up their ‘rapidly digested food’ (Ahem, once again)
-I must pander to their every need
-I must hear, “I’m not weeeeeelllll” every two minutes on the clock
-I must advise them on exactly what they are allowed to eat as often as I hear the above
-I must sit through my mother’s lectures on how to make power drinks in the juicer to bring the kids back to health
-I must enjoy their presence as they stay home from school

Yup, hands down, it’s the kids.

And there is nothing more heartbreaking than children who were formally Tasmanian Devils turning into overcooked spaghetti.
Especially, if they miss something big, like a simcha or a party or a Yom Tov.

A day before Asparagus turned two, she got chicken pox and her birthday party had to be cancelled. This didn’t stop many well meaning and kind relatives and friends from giving her presents from a safe distance by the door. It’s just that one relative (yes, you know who you are!) who shall remain nameless, who gave Asparagus her favourite present which was; real Barbie makeup. Now, you do the math. Combine makeup and chicken pox and what do you get? A big sticky technicoloured mess.
Epilogue- she has a souvenir of that gift in the form of a scar on her left cheek, where the makeup got entrenched with the open chicken pox pustule.
Ah, a birthday present that lasts forever.

For the past two weeks, my little four year old Cucumber has been down and out. The first week, she had a severe case of gastroenteritis, which lasted for seven days until she went back to school on Friday. The treatment for that was easy because she wasn’t allowed to eat anything and she exists on air anyway, so it suited her fine. Then, Motzai Shabbos she came down with a fever of 102. In the beginning, she was so cute with it, with her cheeks all rosy and her eyes all glassy, but then she got all miserable. So, I called the doctor over to my house (you see? There ARE benefits to living here!) but he couldn’t find anything else sinister, so he just recommended that I give her over the counter medicine to bring the fever down.
Uh, I’m sorry.
What was that he said? Give her WHAT????

Let me explain: Cucumber is a ‘nil by mouth’ kind of girl. She barely eats, detests family favourite staples- such as pasta, pizza and potatoes and exists by the grace of G-d. She does NOT take medication. And so in spite of cajoling and begging and even bribing she refused to take anything until three days later (the totally white night before last) her fever spiked at 105 degrees. By then I just forced her to take a suppository and bathed her until the fever came down. The doctor came to see her again yesterday and saw that she has a full blown case of Tonsilitis and prescribed antibiotics, which he happened to have in his case, and mixed up the solution for me on the spot. (Take that, UK detractors!)
UH, wasn’t he listening???
Which part of ‘she-won’t-take medicine’ did he not get???

However, extreme times call for extreme measures, so I brought out the last gun in my arsenal: Diddles.

Diddles are the 2007 equivalent of Holly Hobby from the 70’s and Hello Kitty from the 80’s and 90’s. They are the stationary du jour for all the well stocked 4-7 year olds. They have cute pictures of frolicking mice in hot pinks and lavenders. Apparently, it’s all the rage to trade them at school. BUT, being as Cucumber is my fifth and youngest child, her pleas for Diddles actually went unheard and unheeded. Thank goodness I was so negligent in providing her with the accoutrements necessary for popularity in the nursery set, because now I had something to bargain with.

With the promise of Diddles, she finally took her antibiotics.
Then this tiny, feverish girl brought me her boots and her coat.
I said, “Cucumber, it’s okay, we can go tomorrow to get the Diddles, when you’re feeling better!”
“Uh, uh” She answered, “I want to go NOW.”
So I bundled her into my car and set off to the only stockist of Diddles in our area: Toys R US.

Now, you have to understand, Joan of Arc walking towards her fatal barbeque wasn’t half as much as a martyr as my little Cucumber. The image of my poor child shuffling down the aisle of the mammoth superstore in her pyjamas, dragging her booted feet behind her, is indelibly etched in mind.
Her skin was a shade of duck egg blue but she sported a determined look in her eye and when she saw her prize, she went in for the kill. She picked out a hot pink folder with a selection of notelets and then said,
“I’m not feeling weeelll. Can you carry me?”
Which I did.

Monday, February 26

School Never Ends

An evil poem that redeems itself.

School Never Ends
To say I dislike school fundraising dinners and school shows
Would be a form of major understatement I suppose
Because you’d think giving a donation would be enough
But sitting through speaker after speaker- man that’s tough
Even though I know I must support my kids’ school
My eyes glaze over before I’m even seated as a rule.

Blahdi, blahdi, blah; education is the key, it is the core
Yeah, I sort of got the message eighty dinners before!

It is said that it is much better to give than to receive
If that’s true, we gave already- so why can’t we leave?
I think I just take umbrage at the whole phrasing
I mean, just who put ‘fun’ into the word ‘fundraising’?

And then comes the school shows which get the kids all excited
With all the hype- you’d think they were about to get knighted!
To get close to the school is a nightmare- parking is a real kafuffle
Then once you’re inside to get good seats, again you have to shuffle.

But as soon as my sweet treasures did what they had to do
Which usually entails them saying lines that are oh so few
I still must stay for another three hours, which is a whole day shot
It’s not like I’m interested in your sweet little darlins- I’m really not
But before all of you start jumping right down my throat
Don’t be all self righteous cuz we’re all in the same boat!
So calm down, count to ten and then take a breather
I know you’re not much interested in my kids either!

Wouldn’t it be so much better if the school was able
To come up with a precise schedule and timetable
So we could come on time to watch our own offspring
And then waltz home right after- not missing a thing!

Okay, okay I know I’m being a tad bit mean
After all, I know we’re all on the same team.
As Lady J says, all yiddisher kinder are ‘ours’ not ‘yours’ or ‘mine’
And the way she says it, you know that it’s not just a line.
So would it kill me a few times, for a few hours a year
To enjoy other peoples children that they hold so dear?

And to say that I can’t stand school dinners, I can’t really afford
Because my husband is the chairman of the school dinners board!

So I will go to both and I promise I will try to enjoy and smile
But I will be thinking about writing another evil poem all the while.

Saturday, February 24

Give Them a Hand!

Erev Shabbos in Jewish homes across the world (or at least in London), women such as myself, are busy playing ‘beat the clock’ before Shabbos comes in.
Not so in Monsey NY.

Erev Shabbos in Monsey finds the average Eshes Chayil in the nail salon.
On Friday afternoon, completely organised and relaxed knowing that they have Shabbos completely prepared at home. (Halevei of mir gezucht!)

In Monsey, there are as many nail salons as there are Minyanim. In spite of this, these ‘manicure havens’ are all really homogonous and their staff are literally interchangeable.

These nail salons are all owned and operated by Koreans although to the untrained Monsey eye, they all look Chinese. It is always run by the one Korean ‘Mamasan’ (okay, that’s Japanese. Sue me.) who can speak ‘Engrish’ so she can translate to the rest of her workforce that do not. Ironically, although they can’t say a full English sentence, they all have nametags with monikers stolen straight from an All-American cheerleader squad. You can have your nails done by Jenny, Jessica or Tiffany. They all smile at you sweetly, then yell at each other in Korean (which the Monseyiites would swear is Chinese) then smile at you sweetly again. They won’t understand any of the bright, witty, remarks and observations you make. Although they will laugh politely. Quite possibly at you.
What a waste of good material.

They grab the hand they need to work on and tap your rings to show that you must remove them. Then before they remove polish your nails, they say the only three words in English they know, “You pay now”. Which of course you do, making sure to tip them well so they don’t spit in your polish. You choose from a selection of nail polishes with names like; Moda Skooda, Ador-a ball, Raisinuts, Prima Ballerina and Limo Scene.

When you are done they deposit you by a huge table covered with nail dryers. They then carefully move your sheitel to the side (knowing that it is just a tug away from coming off) and proceed to massage your neck. After around one minute of bliss, they take their tiny fists and start to rhythmically beat you on the back until you thank them profusely or scream, “Mercy!”
In vibrato.

But all of that is ‘de rigour’.
What I find so interesting on my Erev Shabbos Monsey expeditions are my fellow seekers in search of the perfect set of nails. Many moons ago, when I grew up in Monsey, Monsey was run primarily by the ‘Sensible Women Brigade’. You know, the type; sensible shoes, sensible hair, and mix and match clothes. In the good old days, these women would never be caught alive, doing something as vain as getting their nails done.
Not so anymore!
The Sensible Woman Brigade sits alongside the pretty and the pampered and make sure their nails are beautifully shaped and lacquered.
I say good on them!

And what is even better is the achdus the nail-drying tables facilitate. You have double decker women (sheitels and hats) wearing bullet proof tights and sitting beside women wearing very long sheitels with sheer tights, and women who wear no sheitels and no tights at all.
This bizarre gathering of interspecies creates an opportunity for instantaneous bonding where deep, meaningful conversations can take place.
My personal favourite debate is; is it correct to bring a baby to non family Chuppah?

Not once do they discuss kugels or chicken soup.
As I said earlier, these superwomen are super organised. Their food is ready and waiting for them to be warmed up and served. All that’s left for them is to be indulged and improved. After all, you wouldn’t want to greet the Shabbos Queen with mangy nails. These Nashim Tzidkanios look down on their gleaming fingernails as they light candles and bring light into the world and they feel great.
This promotes Sholom Bayis.
I guess that makes Jessica, Jennifer and co. the most unlikely shlichim.
Viva La Difference!

Thursday, February 22

The Kasambamama Helpline

My kids are needy.

They always need something from me.
This makes me tired.
How can I be a good mother when I am oh, so, very tired? Huh?

Hence, using 21 century technology, I have devised a method of dealing with requirements from my five children, while still retaining my last vestige of reason.

So, voila!
It is my pleasure to welcome to
the Mommy Helpline Voicemail

If you would like to know what’s for supper, please press 1.
-If you want milky, press 1
-If you want meaty, press 2
-If you have suddenly become a vegetarian, please move out.

If you have lost something, please press 2.
-If you lost your schoolbag press 1
-If you lost your homework, press 2
-If you have lost your shoes, press 3
-If you lost your pet, use the intercom. Now.

If you have a report due tomorrow press 3

-If your report is on English subject, press 1
-If your report is on a Jewish subject, press 2
-If your report requires two months of research in one evening, dream on.

If you are being bullied, press 4
-If you are being bullied in school, press 1
-If you are being bullied on the bus, press 2
-If you are being bullied by a sibling, press 3
-If you are being bullied by the cleaner, get off the phone and clean up your mess!

If you need an item of clothing that is in the laundry, press 5
-If you need your dirty gym clothes, press 1
-If you ran out of clean tzitzis, press 2
-If you want to wear your favourite pair of knickers even though they are so filthy they could walk into the washing machine… forget about it.

If your sibling is bothering you, press 6
-If your sibling is touching things in your room, press 1
-If your sibling is imitating your every move and word, press 2
-If your sibling read your diary, press 3
-If sibling found your hidden stash of nosh, it’s so gross that you had food in your room; it serves you right.

If you need to buy anything, press 7
-If you need to buy new shoes, press 1
-If you need to buy a new football, press 2
-If you need to buy new Polly Pocket dolls, press 3
-If you need to buy a refrigerator in your room….uh, rethink your needs.

If you can’t sleep, press 8
-If you need a drink, press 1
-If you need the bathroom, press 2
-If you need to do your homework, press 3
-If you need to call all your friends, hand telephone back to me. For good.

If you are not feeling well, press 9
-If you are throwing up, press 1
-If you have a gaping wound, press 2
-If your throat is ‘killing’ you, press 3
-If you have fever, press 4
-If you are dizzy, press 5
-If you have all of the above, hang up. You are 100% faking.

If you feel that you can’t go to school tomorrow, press 0
-please listen to mishnah tapes while your call is being processed….

Still being processed…

Tuesday, February 20

Citizen Kasamba and the Police

I love the London Police.
I know they love me too.
In fact, we have a symbiotic law enforcement/citizen relationship.
Just check out my correspondences with these
'men in blue'.

Dear Mrs Kasamba

I am writing to you regarding the theft of your 6 ft. American flag from the flowerpot outside your home [Case # VB9372A].
Although we appreciate your help in apprehending the perpetrators of this crime, the small trails of dirt from your flowerpot to the street can not be tested for DNA as per your request.

We also feel that this episode, while most unfortunate and difficult for you, is NOT an ‘International Incident’ and does not necessitate the involvement of the American Embassy. Nor does this incident constitute a ‘Hate Crime’.

You can be sure that we are doing our utmost in solving this theft, however in the meantime please avail yourself of our criminal victims support therapy group sessions. You can phone freephone 0800 566 7872 to find a support group closest to you.

The Golders Green Police force is proud to have the lowest crime rate in the borough of Barnet. We take theft very seriously and we will do our best to bring you a satisfactory result.

Whilst we are happy to hear that you have purchased a new flag, we can not guarantee its safety with around the clock police guard.
May we suggest placing it in a higher place?

Inspector Herbert Blakely
Golders Green Police Station
Finchley Road

Dear Mrs Kasamba

Enclosed you will find an official report for you to relay the details of the double decker bus driver whom you feel to be a menace to society.

When filling out the forms, please use explanatory adjectives.
Rather than describing the bus driver as a ‘beady eyed troll’ I would find it easier if you could just describe his general demeanour in as much detail as possible along with the exact date and time you witnessed his reckless driving. Please refrain from using the Indie 500 as an illuminating feature.

Mrs Kasamba, I feel that I must reiterate what I said to you on the phone, that writing that you could hear his evil laugh right through to your car, will only make it more difficult for my colleagues to take your report seriously.

Thank you for your concern with public safety.

Superintendent Ian Marcy
Commercial Vehicle Unit
Traffic OCU HQ 6th Floor
Empress State Building
Lillie Road
Earls Court, London

Dear Mrs Kasamba

On behalf of the entire Golders Green police station we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for single-handedly removing the gypsy problem from our streets.

People just do not realise that by giving these travellers money, they are encouraging soliciting and the harassment that often accompanies this. By calling us every time you saw them begging, we were able to mobilize our units and consistently collect them and take them to the edge of town.

It is my understanding from our many chats together on this subject, that it is the fact that they take their many babies begging with them, subjecting them to all kinds of inclement weather, that bothers you. However Mrs Kasamba, opening up a gypsy creche facility would not stop the problem and might possibly exacerbate it as well.

It is also not possible to remove one of their many gold teeth to sell, in order to provide sustenance for the entire group.

Once again we thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of the community and I regard it as an honour to be on your speed dial.

Sergeant Thomas Fielding
Golders Green Police Station
Finchley Road

Monday, February 5

Rabbi X and the Gilgul Cat

I was so excited when Rabbi X moved into the vicinity.
I read every one of his books and he had answered questions that I had since I was a child.
One day, I was driving with Asparagus and I spotted Rabbi X walking on the street. I was so overcome to see the great man himself that I shrieked, “Look, Asparagus! There’s Rabbi X!”
Asparagus was very perturbed and cried out,
“Ma, what do you want me to do?”

It all stems from my hero worship.
You see to me, Rabbi X is the biggest celebrity there is.
Living in London, I see people the secular world considers to be the brightest stars and it doesn’t curl my sheitel one bit.
I have seen Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Elizabeth Hurley, Kate Moss, sharon Stone, Richard Gere, Courtney Cox, and Tom Cruise to name a few.
They do nothing for me and I have no problem talking to them and asking them to move if they are in my way.

But then there’s Rabbi X, the man who is privy to the mysteries and enigmas of the world. To me he is the real icon, the absolute higher form of being that everyone can look up to for inspiration.

Then one fine day, Rabbi X and his family moved in bang across the street from me!

Well, I am not exaggerating when I tell you that it took me two whole years to get up the courage to speak to him. My kids knew about this and would shout, “Ma, Rabbi X is outside!” to which I’d respond by looking out the nearest window.
Even watching him take out the rubbish was spiritually uplifting. BH, his wife has got to be the nicest person in the whole world, otherwise she would've taken an injunction out on me, for sure. She knows that I am in awe and that I revere her husband as one of the 36 tzaddikim and she also knows that I’m a bit, well, mad (in the deranged sense, not in the angry one).

One of my other neighbours told me that she woke up in the middle of the night on Shavous and looked outside her window and saw the most bizarre scene. Rabbi X’s house was well lit and the entire roof was covered with pigeons. But, here’s the kicker; no one else’s roofs had even one!
(cue theme from Twilight Zone)

It’s great having Rabbi X across the street because:

1- If I run out of his tapes while I am cooking, I can run across the street (in my cooking tiara, naturally) and get some new ones. I actually told Rebbetzin X that she is so lucky that I am so considerate that I listen to Rabbi X’s tapes instead of forcing him to stand in my kitchen and talk while I cook.

2- I can ask him any question.
Of course there are a few I would never ask, such as: Why do socks disappear? Why doesn't anyone name their children ‘Adom’ and yet there are loads of Chavas? (Thanks E!) Why do airlines trust passengers to only take their own luggage? Why can’t I keep my lips closed when I put on mascara? Why is it called ‘right’ when we go the opposite of ‘left’- does that mean left is ‘wrong’?

3- My kids have a great role model.

4- I feel like my whole street is protected by the Torah he learns day and night.

And then, there’s his cat.
Rabbi X’s cat is a gilgul cat.

That cat is a well travelled soul in the body of a mangy, fat feline.

Apparently the cat choose Rabbi X’s family and not the other way around.

He is not a normal cat.
A normal cat runs from you when you try to swat it with a broom.
A normal cat doesn’t win a staring contest.
A normal cat doesn’t give you ‘attitude’ when sitting on your car.

Yes, this cat has been around this way before. Most likely he committed sins so heinous as to require him to itch at fleas and pick at other people’s (namely mine!) garbage. I know that when ensconced in the bodies of animals, recycled souls retain memories of past lives. Every so often I tell him (okay, shriek at him) “Ich bein moychel zein!” three times, to which he just looks at me like a drunken sailor; which he probably was.

I wait for my words to take effect and hope that he will drop dead and move into the light. But alas, it is not I who must offer reparations to this creature, but someone else.
I think it was definitely the master plan to have this cat’s lack of middos addressed to by Rabbi X.

In the meantime I back out of my driveway at the crusty calico’s peril.

Go on stupid cat.... make my day.

Friday, February 2

Some Day My Prince Will Come

When I was 19, I bought the most exquisite shoes.

They were Italian made, black leather with a spiked four inch heel.

They were Ma Rabu maasecha Hashem, for only Hashem could have imparted the knowledge of how to create such a design.
They were truly breathtaking.

I felt they deserved a spectular debut, so I decided to save them for a special occasion, which presented itself in the form of my cousin’s 25 wedding anniversary party in Staten Island.
(Okay, so I was desperate to wear them already.)
On the ride home, Kasamba Papa noticed that one of the car doors was opened. So on the highway, we all open and shut our doors.
Everything was fine….or was it?
No it was….NOT!

One of my beautiful, magnificent shoes had flown out the door right onto the Palisades Highway.

I felt sick with loss.
Later that night, as I hobbled back into my parent’s home, I thought,
“I was not meant to be parted from such beauty!”
I took my lovely lonely abandoned and newly single shoe and said “My darling shoe, you will see your mate again, for when I find my true love, you will be reunited with your one and only”
I then placed the shoe in a Lucite box upon my shelf, awaiting my Prince who would bring me my missing shoe.

That summer my parents and I went to LA.
In front of a kosher restaurant I spied the most beautiful automobile known to mankind. It was a silver white cloud Rolls Royce convertible.

I was SURE that my shoe was in that car.

Now, my parents are not easy to embarrass. In fact that whole vacation was spent with my mother introducing herself to celebrities as if they should know who she is. She’d say “Don’t you remember me? I’m Kasambas Mama!” Okayyyy. Get the picture?

So when I went up to the Rollers chauffer and insisted that my shoe was in that car, my parents were….
So proud.

They were cracking up when I was arguing with the poor driver that "Yes, I know that the owner is in the restaurant, but my shoe really is in that car!”

The guy got more flustered when I insisted that the owner was single (he was) and that although the owner had never met me (he hadn’t) my shoe had magically ended up in his car. Finally, I put the guy out of his misery by saying that I would ask the owner of the Fabmobile himself.

When I went inside the restaurant, I saw the Roller’s owner immediately; because he was the only one sitting there. As soon as I saw him I decided that building a Bayis Neeman with someone on the basis of their car was not such a good idea. Really, it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the guy was pushing seventy. As sure as I had been that my shoe was in that car, I knew then that it was not to be.

And so, I went back home, sans shoe, and more importantly
sans Prince.

When I met Mr. Kasamba, I told him about my missing shoe and asked him if he had it. He responded the response that went straight to my heart. He said,
“It’s only a stupid shoe.
I’ll buy you plenty of shoes!”

And bless him, he has.

(All together now; ‘Awwww’)

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