My daughter is standing on my shoulders. Literally. She is pulling my hair over my eyes. She is pushing Cheez-It in my mouth. She is kissing my cheeks. Normally, this would make me laugh.
Except I am at work. During this particular Zoom meeting, my daughter has planted herself on me and will not be moved.
My coworkers take it well. They laugh and ask if they can have a Cheez-It. She laughs and yells, “CONGRESS PASS MY BILLS!” I am blessed to have a very supportive, kind, and flexible workplace, where my daughter’s constant interruptions evoke laughter and smiles instead of frustration and anger.
I am less amused than they are. I liked it when my life had more structure. Working at work. Focused on my family while at home. I never had to exit a meeting because my daughter was having a potty emergency. Peppa Pig was not a constant presence in the background of every meeting. When I was with my daughter, I never told her to go away or get out or bribed her with chocolate to leave me alone during a very important panel. Yesterday when I asked her if she wanted to play, she told me she had an important conference call with Minnie Mouse and stomped away. I couldn’t blame her, I was mad at me too.
I miss the feeling of focusing on one thing at a time. Of slipping on high heels and pearls to walk into an office, and knowing that for the next eight hours I was going to be diving into the work I love. I love working. For me, work has always been a vocation, a calling, something that fulfills me and lifts me up. I also miss the feeling of slipping the pearls into my purse, throwing on sneakers, and walking into preschool. The happy scream of “MOMMY!” and hugs that knocked me over as we laugh and laugh. I loved leaving my work self behind and getting on my hands and knees to be princesses and dinosaurs and ballerinas driving trucks.
Now everything is different. Work is home. Home is work. Everything has blurred together since her school closed on March 12. I thought we’d be out for two weeks. It has been four months this Shabbat.
There are moments when I really don’t know how we will make it through the day. My husband has been declared an essential worker and leaves before dawn most days. There are days I lose my temper at both of them, and then beat myself up about it. There are days when the three of us and all of our responsibilities and needs feel like an enormous knot I will never be able to fully untangle. The day she accidentally smashed a giant glass bowl of coleslaw moments before a work event, covering everything, including me, in glass and mayonnaise. The day she opened up the front door and walked right out by herself. Baruch Hashem I heard the door close behind her and came running.
Then there are really beautiful days. Days where my daughter plays sweetly and colors while I happily work away. When having her next to me all day is joyful and sweet. Days when I watch her twirl during her virtual camp ballet class and smile when I start to see it actually look like she is dancing, her jerky toddler movements turning toward a more graceful kid. Days we harvest our first garden and laugh in the kitchen together. Days we lounge on blankets and eat outside. What could be a better lunch break? What a gift to spend extra time with my little girl on a sunny day. She loves to sunbathe and curls up in my lap. We name all the bees. There are lemonade stands and camping trips and dinosaur marches and fairy tea parties all in our tiny D.C. yard. Then I have to go back inside for work.
I am angry. You should be too. You should be furious. Our government has completely abandoned us. It has assumed that women can simply shoulder this crisis alone, continuing to work full time while teaching their kids full time. As if our paychecks only buy luxuries, as if our jobs are but mere hobbies to consume idle hours. Our government has abandoned families where two parents must work, the majority of our country, thrown up its hands and said figure it out. Our leaders are wildly out of touch with reality - most American families cannot survive on one income. This isn’t surprising given that this President has no grasp on modern American family life. He inherited millions. He has bragged for years that despite having 5 children, he has never pushed a stroller or changed a diaper. I will be demanding to be represented by someone who has a basic grasp of the daily realities of the working American family. You should let this anger drive you to action this election.
As the debate about whether or not it is safe for kids to return to school heats up, families will face impossible choices. I am angry that the conversation has become so deeply politicized and that the leadership has been so poor, that even if school opens we aren’t sure we can trust they are safe. I don’t know what we are going to do. Truly, I have no idea. There is no long term planning during this time of grave instability.
Shabbat is an opportunity to take a brief break from the anxiety, from the anger, from the grief that fuels this moment. I don’t know when we will go back to school. I don’t know how we will get through this, my family, yours, but I know we will. Until then there is Shabbat, with chocolate and espresso cake. Shabbat Shalom
Chocolate Espresso Cake
This moist cake is chocolaty and rich, with just enough coffee flavor shining through.
1 cup good quality cocoa powder
4 tablespoons espresso (the drink, not grounds)
1 ½ cup flour
1 ½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk dairy replacement (the kind that comes in a carton kind, not the canned kind)
2 large eggs
Cooking spray for a Bundt pan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Tell your rowdy, rambunctious little one they can help if you dare.
Add all dry ingredients, and use a large whisk to whisk until light and fluffy. My daughter loves to do this.
Beat together wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients and beat until combined. Spray the Bundt pan with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the Cake starts to naturally pull away from the sides. Cool completely. This should take about 45 minutes.
Run a butter knife gently along the sides to loosen. Invert onto a large sturdy cutting board. Tap the top and sides of the Bundt cake and say a little prayer that it comes loose.. Let it sit upside down for 5 minutes, then it should slide out easily.
Decorate with Chocolate Glaze. I like to completely cover the cake for maximum chocolatey-ness, but you could also pipe daintily.
It really doesn’t get any easier than this rich, delicious chocolate glaze. This helps take our moist lovely cake over the top, but is really lovely on a variety of pareve desserts!
One bag pareve dark chocolate chips
1 ½ stick of margarine
Approximately 1 cup coconut milk
In a large pan, begin melting margarine on medium heat. When the margarine is about halfway melted, turn heat to low, add the chocolate chips, stirring constantly. When the butter and chocolate are melted and thoroughly combined, add half the coconut milk and stir constantly. Add more if the mixture is too thick. It should be glossy, chocolaty and rich but easily spreadable.
Cool slightly, about ten minutes, and glaze your cake.