Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Leaving well enough alone...

Today is one those days that I hate being a technophile. Why I can't leave well enough alone is beyond me. A friend of mine gave me an idea for an improvement in my home network and what basically ended up happening is that I launched a cyber-attack on myself. My network is down as is my phone since I rely on my network for my phone. I'm such an idiot.

What's worse is that this setback comes on the heels of my commitment to prioritize and be more productive but instead, I spent 6 hours trying to resolve the problem (which I didn't) and now I'm in a holding pattern as I wait for a replacement.

I feel like I went out on the field and got trounced 49-0. It's humiliating. I know, I know, it's days like these that make you stronger and you learn from the mistakes more than the successes....

Monday, August 29, 2005

Productivity as the driver of growth...

Economists often cite productivity improvement as one of the key indicators of improving economic welfare.

I've been thinking about the need to improve productivity a lot recently. Here are the two equations that I'm working with:

Let a=the time I devote to work
Let b=the time I devote to my family
Let c=the output I am required to deliver at my job

Pre-Erez, it was something like this

a(work)+ b(home)= C

Post-Erez, the equation has changed. I have to increase the amount of time I devote to my family, since it requires more of me, but actually increase the amount of output at my job even though I have less time. I have to increase not only because I need to remain constant, but because of the calibration associated with increased expectations given that I've set a standard for performance and it is natural to demand improvement.

So, it is something like
.9a(work) +1.1b(home)=1.4C

The question then is, HOW the hell do I do that?

It's going to take a while and yes, it's scary, but I think a lot of it has to do with the two P's of Productivity and Prioritization.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

That's what friends are for...

Special call out to our friends who did unusual support activities for us in the post-birth tiemframe.

This of course does not minimize those who did more "traditional" activities such as preparing meals, loaning chairs and tables, etc. They are far too numerous, but the unique requests that were made and acted upon include:

-Natan Zimand who made the trek to Home Depot for an eye-latch hook and a programmable thermostate
-Joe/Debbie Cohn for thank you note stationery
-Marci Bloch for bacitracin
-Felix Kushnir for a video camera (twice)

We are so fortunate to be surrounded by so many fantastic, generous, and un-selfish people.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A night out for the team...

Tamar is generally recognized as one of the best Israeli folk dancers in the world. No joke.

When Calanit was 3 months old, we took her to the weekly session where Tamar goes and had her dance in the Baby Bjorn (fantastic invention). This past week, Erez, got his chance on the floor, with big sister Calanit doing some more sophisticated moves.

I joke that with the bar so high because of Tamar's talents, that our family is a bit like the Chinese gymnast program. From an early age, we have our kids focused on becoming gold medalists in Israeli folk dance, though there are no competitions to speak of given its Socialist roots.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

As children grow...

Erez's arrival has reinforced for me how time flies when kids grow. I look Calanit and think about how big she is now. We were on a walk last night and ran into a couple whose son had just gotten married. Naturally, the conversation turned as parents to the major lifecycle milestones.

Last night, I got very emotional thinking about the day when Calanit will be all grown up or when the time will come when she doesn't run to me saying "Abba" at every possible moment. "Abba," which is father in Hebrew, is her answer to most things. It makes me feel great.

The last couple of nights, she's been having some difficulty sleeping and when I walk in her room in the middle of the night, she reaches over the bar of her crib, wraps her arms around me and just holds on. I pull her out of the crib and she clutches on to me for safety.

Make no mistake about it, I don't enjoy getting up at 2.30am, but somehow, the feeling of your daughter looking to you for comfort makes it worthwhile. It's tough to cherish htose moments when you're exhausted, but as I think about how time will fly, I work harder to appreciate how much she needs me and unconditionally loves me right now.

It's these little things that I try to remember. On our walk, I must have sung the alphabet for her about 100 times (she kept saying 'again') and towards the end, she was picking it up (not entirely of course), but these are the little moments that make up a life, I suppose.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

First family (of four) outing....

After spending most of the last few days in the house, I decided that we needed to get out and about. The humidity has broken and the days are beautiful. Paternity leave won't last forever and neither will the summer.

It took us a while to get going (we're still figuring out the multiple kid thing), but eventually we made our way to Glen Echo Park. It's possible I'd been there as a kid, but I don't remember. There was nothing spectacular about it-it used to be a playground for the rich trying to escape DC summer and now it's got a mini-artist colony, a theater, and a playground.

We found the theater and looked around inside. It was air conditioned and just as Tamar was about to nurse Erez, we heard voices. Until then, we had been alone and Calanit was running around the stage and seats.

Anyway, I turn to see who it is and I did a double take...it was former Congreswoman Connie Morella.

There were 6 adults in the room and we just started chatting about her new role (ambassador the OECD in Paris), the fact that she was robbed in the last election, and that I had interned in her office 15 years ago. She said hi to Calanit.

It got even funnier when her escort, the daughter of a former congressman (Gude) told me she was looking for an oral historian...which is what my mom does.

Just a funny anecdote. Who would have thunk it?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Macgyver would be proud...

One of the natural disasters which struck us this summer (actually twice) was that the storm drain outside the basement door was covered by leaves during a tremendous rainstorm which resulted in water entering the basement in significant quantities.

Now, this would be bad enough, but it got worse due to the fact that the “man cave” where I spend A lot of time and a huge investment in technology resides is only feet away from this storm drain and what’s more, when the water did enter, it came to rest (thanks to some rugs) only a few feet away from the machines, preventing a major disaster.

I’ve since sprung into action. All of the technology components have been raised off the floor, including the computer on an old ironing board. The door has been packed with old t-shirts. I’ve talked to a few people whose suggestions were basically “keep clearing out the leaves” and came up with a cheap, homegrown solution that would make Macgyer proud.

Using some plastic gates that Amy and Chuck Fox gave us to prevent Calanit and Erez from sliding through the staircase banisters, some old stereo wire, rocks, a brick, metal mesh and metal wire, I’ve created a cantilever canopy and a plastic dyke that allows water, but not leaves through. I’ve also created a mini-canal to prevent the overflow of debris into the well during major storms.

I guess this is what happens when you watch a lot of “Modern Marvels.”

Monday, August 22, 2005

Making the moment last

Sunday was a great day in the family’s history. Erez, our new son, had his bris (ritual circumcision) and we were surrounded by friends and families for hours. There was good food and conversation and I did my best to take a mental snapshot of the moment (as well as numerous digital pics) to savor the day.

As afternoon turned to evening turned to night, I found myself not wanting to go to sleep. I wanted the day, the moment to last forever, since I knew it was a once in a lifetime moment.  I ended up just doing things, cleaning up, organizing, whatever so that I wouldn’t have to go to bed.

It’s so hard to keep hold of those very precious moments.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Our son's name...

Our son’s name is Erez Yavniel Epstein. Erez is the Hebrew word for Cedar Tree. Yavniel means “G-d will build.”

As many of you know, Erez possesses the distinction of being born on Tisha B’av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, which is quite possibly the most devastating and solemn date on the Jewish calendar. It is a day during which we fast for 25 hours and mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem in 586 BCE at the hands of the Babylonians and in 70 CE at the hands of the Romans.
The date has also been witness to a number of other lowpoints of Jewish history including the torching of the city of Betar, massacres in Europe during the Crusades, and the issuance of God’s decree forbidding “Dor HaMidbar” the generation that experienced the exodus from Egypt firsthand, from entering the Promised Land..

However, within the ashes of the destruction of the Temples lies the hope of Redemption. Our tradition teaches that the Messiah is supposed to be born on the 9th of Av.  Many of you and others have remarked on this tradition and offered us encouragement along the lines of “maybe he’s the Messiah?”

And as a potentially interesting side note, there is a story in the 28th chapter of Genesis about Yehuda (which is Jeremy’s Hebrew name) and Tamar and another tradition dictates that the Messiah is a descendant of this union.

So, we had two things in our favor and at first, we (meaning Jeremy) thought, “now that would be cool to be the parents of the Messiah,” but then a few things dawned on us. I’d like to give special mention to David Bloch for helping me flush out the potential downsides to being the parents of the Messiah. Lawyers are very talented at showing you the glass half-empty side to things. No offense, Tamar or Dad (

First of all…you have to recognize that there’s a Venn diagram going on here. The Messiah is born on the 9th of Av, but not everyone born on the 9th of Av is the Messiah. It’s kind of like being nominated for an Oscar, you’re in the running and that’s a nice honor, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll win. You don’t want to count your Messiah chicks before they’ve hatched.

Second… how do you discipline the potential Messiah? I mean, do you say, “I don’t care how many souls have to be redeemed or people raised from the dead, you need to eat your broccoli.”  Or, since our tradition states that the Messiah will arrive on a white donkey, you might be in a position of “No, you can’t go outside and ride your white donkey until you finish your homework!”

Third…you have to deal with the fallout from other parents.  I can see getting calls along the lines of “look you really need your son to pick up the pace in Chemistry. I can’t have my kid coming home saying, ‘hey mom, a 75 isn’t so bad, the potential Messiah only got a 68 on his test!”

As it is, however, we’re not going to have to confront that issue because for better or for worse, Erez is not your guy as far as open position of Messiah goes.  The reason I know that is because there’s the small technicality that there’s a subset of Jews who, by definition, can’t be the Messiah. The tradition has it that the Messiah is a male descendant of King David, who was a member of the tribe of Judah. Since our family is a descendant of the tribe of Levi, my boy is out of the running.

The Bible tells us that King Solomon chose the Erez, the Cedar Tree as a key building component when he erected the first temple in Jerusalem. The Erez connotes youthful sturdiness and is the subject of awe due to its sheer height. Indeed, the Midrash-a commentary on the Torah-states that the Tamar, the palm tree, and the Erez are equated with righteous individuals because, as opposed to most other trees, they can be recognized from afar. It is our hope that Erez will aspire to the lofty heights of righteousness that so many of his ancestors exemplified and that he will, in time, gain the trust of family and friends as a sturdy, reliable confidant and supporter.

It’s not easy being the most prominent tree in the forest and that status brings with it the challenge of exercising humility over arrogance. Therefore we have given Erez the middle name of Yavniel-meaning God will build-to remind him of both the source and purpose of his life. It is God who provides the nurturing of the Erez and the Erez is only as valuable as the purpose for which is it used by the builder. Even the tallest tree stands below heaven. We pray that Erez will provide shelter and comfort as he exercises Ahavat Habriyot- love of people while maintaining Yirat Hashem-fear of God and the recognition that he too stands below G-d.

Just as God chose the Erez as the primary material for both the Tabernacle and the First Temple, we hope God will use Erez to promote his divine presence wherever he goes and enable Erez to do his part (Messiah or not () to bring about the ultimate redemption.

In bestowing Erez’s name upon him, we recall my beloved grandmother, Bella Silton. Known for her spark and her “I call them as I see them” philosophy, Nana Silton’s life was irreversibly changed when her son’s soul departed prematurely from this world. Though we miss her terribly, we pray that she has found comfort as their souls have reunited.
     When a woman of 95 years passes away, it leaves a void if for no other reason than the fact of her raw endurance. Even in this era of seemingly routine miracles of science, a lifespan of 95 years is quite impressive. We think of this towering feat of endurance and tribute to the will to live as we name our son. We hope that his days are as least as numerous as Nana Silton’s.

Though there won’t be too many days when you will find me quoting Hillary Clinton in a positive light ( I will echo her sentiments that it does take a village to raise a child.  I want to just tell you how appreciative Tamar, Calanit, Erez, and I are for the communities of which we are members. This week, we truly discovered what it means to be part of a community. The KMS community was overflowing in its generosity, offering to make meals, bring over extra chairs, and tables, and run errands like picking up bacitracin ointment for the little guy.  Our families have been a source of non-stop support from the moment my mom arrived to stand watch as we raced to the hospital to this past full weekend where my mother in law-a veteran of 7 kids herself-imparted her wisdom on how to handle more than 1 kid.

My team at work makes me want to cry with joy. Seriously, how many people can say that? My colleagues were insistent that I take this time with my family and have more than willingly stepped up to handle all of my responsibilities.  I guess the downside is that we’ve confirmed that I am dispensable and Erez’s Bar Mitzvah will be in Bangalore, India.

Those of you here are part of the village that will help raise Erez (and his big sister) to a life of study of Torah, Chuppah-the wedding canopy, and Ma’asim Tovim-good works.  In your next fulfillment of this role, we’d like to ask those of you who are physically able and who can bear the heat and humidity (which I guess leaves four of you or so) to serve as his escorts as he makes the 7 minute walk from the synagogue to enter our home as the newest link in the chain of Jewish males who have the physical mark of the covenant between God and the Jewish people.

The walk will commence immediately following the conclusion of the next, VERY brief set of remarks from from Erez’s paternal grandfather (his maternal grandfather, as you saw, has already done enough for one day!)

Thank you very much for taking the time to share this simcha with us.

The New Guys Big Day

The “New Guy’s” Big Day….

Since Jewish custom is to refrain from calling a boy by his given name until he actually becomes a “member of the team” when he undergoes the Bris-ritual circumcision, Tamar and I have been calling him “the new guy,” “baby boy,” and a variety of others, including “Paco.”

Today, at 4pm, he will become a member of the Jewish people, aka MOT-member of the tribe and will get his name. Stay tuned.

It’s been wild to see how Calanit has been reacting. During the day, fantastic. Kissing him and giving him hugs, helping to rock the baby seat. At night, she’s been having trouble going to sleep and been getting up in the middle of the night. Don’t know if/what the connection is, but that’s the fact.

Two is obviously more work than one, but so far, we’re still not sure how much exactly since the outpouring of support from our community and families has been stupendous.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Career transition point...

I remember when I was in my mid 20's that it seemed to me that many of my male friends in their early 30's were in physical therapy for injuries sustained due basically to the fact that they were no longer 15!

Needless to say, I have a nagging injury right now and I think I need to get a PT.

My latest observation-and I'm not saying it is widespread-is men in their late 30's and early 40's who are facing a career change or job transition.

I'm wondering if that's the point in your career when you're not senior enough as to be invaluable for your accumulated wisdom and you're not junior enough to work for low wages and ridiculously long hours.

There's also a career pyramid which narrows as you progress and obviously, more people than not, will be on the "out" side of "up or out."

The question then is: how do you prevent this from happening?
Focus solely on the career to the detriment of your family?
Start your own company w/all of those attendant risks and be the boss?
Do whatever you can to win that effort but have a back-up plan in case you don't?

I did an interview today with a guy who's got a family of 5 and with a new baby, I sure felt sympathetic, but he wasn't the right fit. It was tough. I felt for him, I did, but it wasn't the right business decision. Sucks, huh? But that's the game.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Change of kid perspective...

Calanit spent the last two days with her grandparents as we adjusted to the newest guy.

I picked her up and brought her home tonight (she'll meet her brother tomorrow for the first time).

But what is amazing is how my perspective on her has changed from little girl to big girl. She talks, she stands, and tonight, for the first time, she got all of her colors right in the little book that we read. I wanted to start crying as I realized fully that she is now a big sister. Her identity is being shaped and she doesn't even know it.

A beautiful community....

I'll tell you. I really appreciate the community we live in. Ever since the baby was born, we've been getting calls from people:
"What can I do to help?" "What food can I prepare?"

It really is something.

And you know me, I'm not shy :-) I've been selectively outsourcing tasks large and small ranging from pick up some bacitracin ointment at CVS to dinner next Wed. And people are more than happy to do it.

It gives me such an appreciation for the values that we share and our willingness to help share the load during challenging, transitional times.

A special call out to my colleagues at work--they've been awesome as well, picking up the slack as I move out on paternity leave.

Makes you appreciate the word "team" and how an individual doesn't make a society.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Baby Boy Epstein has arrived...

The nurse was right on the money: 2.47am

Sunday, August 14 2005
Hebrew date-9 Av, 5765
7 lbs 6 oz.
19 inches
Mother and baby are healthy.

In the hospital ...

I feel like we're at the end of a TV reality show?.

Since we don't know what we're having (in terms of boy or girl), but we have the names of each, it's like we have two finalists on stage and we're saying?."and the envelope please," so we will know who it is.

Anyway, we're in the hospital. Tamar's just received the epidural and the "night and day" transformation has occurred. She's doing well enough and we're playing the waiting game. The nurse has predicted a baby arrival between 2.30 and 3.30 am.

The anesthesiologist is a very entertaining guy of Korean origin was entertained by my limited knowledge of his native language, particularly the term "Imjinwueran" which refers to the occupation of Korea by Japan in 1592.

I tried to piggyback on the hospital network like last time, but to no avail. I'm going to send this from my PocketPC. We'll see if it works.

1.33am-Tamar's water just broke! Won't be long now.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Holding out...

The other night, we wanted the baby to come, but since Friday, we wanted it to wait. Why?

Well, Tamar did not want to be in the hospital for Shabbat (the Sabbath) and then we had a few pre-existing scheduled items. I gave the sermon at services this morning and while, of course, I would have skipped it...I did work hard on it and was looking forward to giving it.

Tamar had committed to lead a portion of services this evening and so, she wanted it to wait until she had fulfilled her commitment.

And lastly, Tamar's father would normally be the person to perform the ritual circumcision in the event that it is a boy (we don't know yet). The circumcision (bris)(assuming the baby is healthy) takes place 8 days after the boy is born. There's a lot to explain here, but had the baby been born during the day on Saturday (and due to travel considerations), her father would not have been able to perform the bris because he has a HUGE wedding to perform next Saturday night.

Anyway, we made it past all of those milestones.

Tamar has just come home from the synagogue and tells me that her contractions are evenly spaced 5 mintues apart for 1 minute each. She just called the doctor.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Past midnight and still going, but w/o a strategy...

After a short break, she resumed with some squats and now is doing splits and floor stretches.

Our big problem, I just realized, is that we're winging it without a clear strategy towards our goal.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Still trucking...

She claims she's stopping at 11.45. That will be 35 minutes non-stop (that's more exercise than I got today). We'll see. Got to push her to the wall. :-)

Attempting to induce labor....contd-2

Just took a video of her going around the house....and I'm giving her high fives as she laps through the kitchen.

Attempting to induce labor....contd

She just asked for water and I handed her a cup while she was walking. On her next lap, she tossed it to the side of the road. It's like Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France.

Attempting to induce labor....

Tamar's had enough. Lesson here: try to avoid having your wife at full term in August.

She's ready to go and it's 11.30pm on Tuesday night and for the last 15 minutes, she's been climbing up and down the steps and doing laps in the basement and on the main floor. I'm acting as her coach...."you can do this!"

"Heart of a champion! Eye of the tiger, baby!!"

She's showing a lot of heart right now, I must say.

"Pump those arms!"

This is a tremendous display of will, desire, and guts.
It's Tamar vs. Nature and knowing Tamar, as I do, Nature doesn't stand a chance.

Meanwhile, I'm drinking tea and blogging on the laptop in the kitchen.

Tamar vs. Nature, round 2. Ding, ding....

Monday, August 08, 2005


What is it about the human condition that causes envy?

It's not that I spend hours and hours envying others for what they have, but these thoughts do cross my mind.

I look around at all that I am blessed with and pinch myself...why should I envy anyone else? But I. It doesn't make sense.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Virtual Travel

Getting a nice return on the investment of my three years abroad.

I'm not spending much time travelling internationally these days, of course, but I've taped a few shows recently from the Travel Channel called "Passport to Europe" that has highlighted places I've been such as Bavaria, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and others.

Many of the places they go, I too have visited and it makes me appreciate even more the opportunity I had when I was younger.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Playing the Waiting Game...

I feel like a guy who is cramming for a final exam. It's just around the corner and the time available to prepare is shrinking and thus, by perception, it's accelerating.

The baby's due any day now and I am doing whatever I can to deal with the various details of life, both large and relative minutiae, because I know we're going to have significantly limited time in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

No Internet...

About a week ago, our area was hit by a huge storm, which knocked out our Internet and Cable TV (and b/c I use Vonage...my phone as well). Not necessarily the best for a family with an impending baby arrival.

It was a strange experience. The first few days were rough, but after I scheduled the service call, a calm resignation set in and I ended up enjoying the peace and quiet. I spend a lot of time reading and doing some things around the house which I had put off (weren't critical, but nice to haves).

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

2nd Child Syndrome?

I can already see how the first and second children differ…and we don’t even have the kid in hand yet.

With pregnancy number one, our lives revolved around the fetus, monitoring progress, filming Tamar’s growing belly on a weekly basis. Everything was about the baby.

With this one, there’s just so much going on..primarily the fact that we’ve got a 19 month live one running around the house that keeps us occupied.

My parents always said that they treated each kid fairly, but not necessarily equally. I’m starting to get the drift.