Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kvell and Tell

kvell/k(ə)vel/ - Verb: Feel happy and proud.

Today, not only were there services in the main sanctuary, but there were three different kids' services - preschool, younger grades, and grades 3-6. So the boys of course went to the 306, which is held in the chapel, and today was led by the rabbinic interns.

Apparently, Micah was volunteering for just about everything, and Sam was also very involved. But when I stopped in, they were in the middle of the Torah service. Sam had already carried the Torah around the room, and he was at that moment acting as Gabbai, the person who follows along as the reader reads from the Torah. The Torah has no vowels or trope (melody) markings, so the gabbai follows from a book that has both.

So Sam was already proud of himself, and I was pleased to see him participating so happily. But I have seen him do this job before, so it was not a surprise to me that he could do it so well.

The really cool thing was that Micah, when I walked in, was wearing a tallit (prayer shawl), and had a card saying that he would have the second aliyah. The aliyah is the honor of being called to the Torah - not to read, but to say a blessing before and after the reading.

Usually, children under the age of bar/bat mitzvah do not get an aliyah, but since this service was specifically for the kids, they were able to. But Micah's never done this before. And he's never studied the blessing before.

So I was blown away when he read it - in Hebrew - absolutely perfectly! Cool as a cucumber, too.

I am so thrilled that my boys love the big-kid service this year. They are both very comfortable with tefillah (prayer), and really love it. Micah, in school, frets when his classmates are slower to learn a prayer than he is, or when he sees the older kids doing something that his class has not yet learned.

Meanwhile, Sofia and I did spend a bit of time in the preschool service, and she loved marching in the Torah parade (in the preschool service, they used stuffed toy Torahs!). But she was also really happy to be in the main sanctuary, exploring thr large box of childrens' books in the back of the room, or sitting with the Rabbi for the closing prayers.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Clean Carpet

A friend of ours gave our number to the local Kirby Vacuum rep, and today, I got the entire bedroom carpet cleaned and shampooed for FREE. Took over 2 hours. Of course, she showed me the machine and all the nifty attachments you could get with the machine. But the darn thing costs over $1000, and ...oh yeah, I'm ripping out all the carpets this year and getting laminate flooring.

But it's sure nice to have this room clean!

Flooring has been ordered. Just waiting for an install date. Yeah!

Sam and his class returned from Teva camp retreat last night. They had a terrific time. "I didn't like it - I LOVED IT!" was the response form several of the kids. They presented to the whole school at Shabbat this afternoon, with cute skits and songs about what they learned.

I scored a "Belle" dress for Sofia at CVS this afternoon. I usually don't buy costumes, especially before Halloween, but I could not resist this little dress, and it was 25% off. She's wearing it now. I have the feeling she'll be wearing it all weekend. :)

Micah now has a "Happiness Journal" that he carries with him (EVERYWHERE) to record anything that makes him even remotely happy. Obviously, leading the pre-Shabbat prayers at school (birthday kids get to lead) didn't make him happy - he looked like he'd just had his fingernails peeled off.

Hosting a few of Micah's classmates and their families tomorrow night for a movie night. One family going through a very bad cancer bought, this is to let them know how much we love them. Of course it's at my house - it was supposed to be at the school, but not enough families could come, so I was ..... gently manipulated guided into offering to host.

It's been nice having my husband home all week. Next week, back to travel and "single-parenting" again. Boo hoo.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


In this poignant drama, Anita Feldman (an extraordinary debut by Alejandra Manzo) is a young woman with Down Syndrome. Lovingly cared for by her mother (Oscar® nominee Norma Aleandro), Anita helps run her small stationery store in their Buenos Aires Jewish neighborhood. Everything changes on July 18, 1994, when a car bomb explodes outside the AMIA Jewish community center, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds. Disoriented, Anita wanders the city for days – trusting to chance and deeply affecting everyone she meets." In Spanish with subtitles.


Tonight was the first night of the Boston Film Festival, with the showing in Framingham of "Anita". I actually got to go on a 'date' with my husband (who is miraculously home this week - the only week for months), along with my friend J, the principal from the boys' school (CK), and a movie theater filled with people over age 60.

It was beautifully acted. Beautiful. The mother is portrayed by one of Argentina's best actresses. The brother was excellent. And the young woman who played Anita was terrific.


At the beginning of the movie, you see the mother painstakingly caring for her daughter, who is probably in her 20s. Some of it was totally "on". At a visit to the cemetery (dad is passed away), mom turns her back for a moment and Anita is gone...wandered down the path to collect stones. But that look of panic on mom's face, totally real.

[Did I mention that the principal, CK, has a grown son with Down syndrome? Just to put it into perspective for you. Two mommies of kids with DS, although her son is in his late 20s, so certainly at a different point than Sofia.]


The mother takes care of her daughter at all times. Helps her undress, talks her through taking a bath. Anita has lovely table manners, and loves helping mom take care of the stationary store.

I wanted to ask CK if the look of weariness that frequently passed over the mother's face was real, or just heavy acting. The tenderness of the relationship, however, was totally real to me.

Brother Ariel is married, but visits each week along with his wife. But he wants to get along with his own life, and doesn't want to have to take his sister to the zoo - he'd rather watch the World Cup game. Sister is disappointed, and you get the feeling this is a frequent occurrence.

Then comes July 18. Mom leaves Anita at the store while she runs over to the AMIA to pick up Anita's benefits check. Anita climbs up on a ladder (which mom had told her not to do), and Boom, the bomb blasts.

Dazed, Anita wanders out of the store, is shepherded onto a bus to the trauma center, and treated for superficial cuts from her fall off the ladder. And then she wanders away. Out of the hospital.

And this is where it gets annoying.

Sweet, innocent Anita, wanders in the cold (July is winter in Argentina, remember?). After a night on the streets, she sees someone using a pay phone, wants to make a call, but doesn't know how. And meets Felix. A down-on-his-luck photographer, fighting with his ex-wife, owing money. You know the stereotype.

And sweet, innocent Anita reaches out her sweet, angelic-looking hand, and of course he helps her!

So Felix takes care of her for a day or two, never bothering to call the police (ok,
this is post-Pinoche Argentina. It took us all a while to understand the fear of the police that would be totally natural there). Then he ditches her on a bus.

And Anita finds herself in her next situation. This time, after the screaming Chinese grocer lady kicks her out of the store twice, aged Chinese mama insists she be helped instead. And she is taken into the family.

Felix even comes into the store and sees her...and runs away.

She stays with the Chinese family (mama screaming all the time), until a robbery scares her away. Sweet, scared, innocent Anita wanders the streets again.

This time, some guys collecting junk (apparently illegally) find a sick and sleeping Anita under a bridge. One junk collector insists on taking her to his sister, a nurse. Sister, of course, fights it but eventually takes Anita in. Even comes to really care for her.

Meanwhile, through all this, brother and sister-in-law are waiting to hear. Are mama and Anita among the survivors? Those scenes, listening to the rabbi and social worker read the list of "those still missing", were harrowing.

And throughout, you can see that brother is torn. If they are both gone, that is one terrible thing. But the horror of having mama die but Anita found scares him *^^*less.

But he keeps looking, while Anita becomes part of the nurse's life. Eventually, they are reunited.



Of course, all the folks in the audience were SO MOVED by this. It tugged every heart-string. Oh, how sweet.


Anita's speech was very clear, and her table manners were excellent. Knife and fork, difficult fine motor skills, perfect.

Yet she couldn't say anything more than "mummy said when the big hand gets to that top number, she'll be back."

No one ever asked her more. Other family? Other things about her neighborhood?

And she knew nothing. Didn't know her own last name - only gave the nickname her mom called her. Didn't know her phone number, address. Nothing.

Sitting there, with David on one side of me and CK on the other, I kept thinking about my five year old daughter. And about CK's son. Even now, Sofia is starting to be able to say Rothkopf. She would certainly talk about Micah and Sam, along with other people in our lives. Yes, I have a 'taggie' on her, pinned to her shoe, with her name, address, and our phone numbers - something this overprotective mother would not have bothered with, since she was always with her daughter.

But Sofia would know how to use a phone. She might not dial the right numbers, but she already knows how to pick up a phone and dial (randomly, I have learned the hard way).

CK said no way would her son have gone hungry - he would have charmed food out of anyone. I could see that with Sofia, too. "Hungry!" Not meek.

Maybe that's just a family difference. My family, as well is CKs - not especially shy or retiring people. A quieter family may produce a quieter person.

But really.

CK asked, when the movie was over, what was the point of making the "foil", the pivotal person, someone with DS. My answer is equally cynical - because they could. Her sweet, angelic presence "deeply affected" all these less-than-perfect people she ran into.



Like I said, beautifully acted. But long, and emotionally manipulative. Which made it disappointing. But did I mention beautifully acted?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just Keep Swimming, swimming, swimming...

We roll merrily along as usual. Micah's birthday party has morphed - I got him to narrow his list to about 11 other kids, and I found a decently affordable magician, so we are having it at home. If he really really wants a pinata, it'll be out in the driveway, hanging from the bedroom window. No more dents in my walls, please.

Sofia started her new gymnastics class today. The My Gym in Framingham had to close this summer, but the corporate office took it over. So this afternoon's class was taught by a guy from North Carolina who is up here to train new staff. He was good, knows his stuff, and it was fun to watch Sofia adapt to a new teacher. When he tried to do the warm-up routine in a different order than last years' teacher, she insisted on doing things in the CORRECT order! He just has to learn not to mention Food or Home, 'cause she drops from whatever she's doing and heads for the door...

But really, the difference a year makes is amazing. She follows almost all the steps, really stays with the class (ok, "class" is kind'a generous - there was only one other kid!). She knows how to do things, and when she needs help, she knows how to ask. Cool!

Sam is getting ready for his class camping trip to Teva, the Jewish ecological retreat center. I love their Philosophy Statement:

Thousands of years ago our ancestors lived with a keen awareness of their dependence on the natural systems that support life. Through their daily interactions with soil, water, and air, they developed a great respect for the Earth and sensed the presence of the Divine within all of Creation. Although many Jews today have lost this connection, our ancient relationship with nature is nevertheless reflected in Jewish law, in our prayers, in the celebration of our holidays, and in the core values of our tradition.

The Teva Learning Center exists to renew the ecological wisdom inherent in Judaism. By immersing participants in the natural world and providing structured activities which sensitize them to nature's rhythms, we help them develop a more meaningful relationship with nature and their own Jewish practices. This process also facilitates personal growth, community building, and a genuine commitment to tikkun olam, healing the world. All Teva programs are built on a thematic progression - from Awareness to Interconnectedness to Responsibility.

I saw a documentary on this place when I was taking "The Place of Nature in the Bible" a few years ago. I'm totally jealous! Sam's whole class is going, I guess along with 6th graders from one of the other area day schools, for 4 days. He leaves Monday, which happens to be Micah's birthday.

But David will be home all next week, so it's sort of a trade. We even have a sort of "date" planned - Tuesday we are going to see a film at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, about a girl with Down syndrome.

He's been traveling again - Chicago this week, he's on the plane to come home now. And over the weekend, he went for a "Guy's Weekend" up to Maine. My girlfriends and I decided that we needed to 'let' the guys get away, but I guess the guys didn't really know what to do, so they fixed the toilet and went for walks and drank a bit. Sort of an organized playdate for our husbands.

Meanwhile, we had fun. Shabbos dinner on Friday evening was back at H's house with J's family. The kids all get along, and the three of us ladies spent about an hour hiding out upstairs and talking. It was nice.

Saturday, Samuel and I both read Torah in the Family Service. He did great. I did ok, was glad my 10 year old friend was able to gabbai for me on the second portion. Lunch at shul, and then...Sofia walked out of the shul. I turned my back for a moment, to put my coat on, and she was gone. Eventually, the cantor's wife found her ...IN THE PARKING LOT. We think she went out the front door and wandered around the building to the back.


But she was fine (and miffed that I got so angry at her!). Micah went to his friend's house, and we took an extra Sam home. The two Sams played downstairs, Sofia played upstairs, and I rested a bit. Then I took them shopping. Sam got his first personal invitation to a bar mitzvah party, but the bar mitzvah kid informed him that he had to wear a suit for the service! We found a suit, but it was too big. Poor Sam is in-between sizes just now. Too big for a 10, too small for a 12.

Quiet night at home. Sunday morning, dropped Sam at another friend's house, and took Sofia and Micah to the Maccabees pre-K program at the day school. It was fun. We stayed and played on the playground for a long time after. Picked up Sam, fed them lunch, and when my sitter arrived, dropped Sam at another friend's house. Then I got to go to a fundraiser at a Spa & Gym. Cool. My friends and I all got our hair blow-dryed out (straight - really fun, since most of us are curly). I also took a pilates class - ouch! Won a gift certificate to Lucy, a store in the mall.

David was home when I got home, but left the next morning for Chicago. I can't wait to see him again.

Scheduled Sofia's visit with the Behavioral Psychologist at Children's today! They called, from the referral from the Downs clinic visit. Going in a couple of weeks. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October in the air

I love love love October in New England. It is simply beautiful. The colors, the crispness. Everything.

Except this year I am getting migraines! Usually they are mostly confined to the J months - January, June and July - because the barometric pressure is all over the place. But with last week's rain, I guess my system is confused. I've had 4 migraines in 4 days. NOT FUN!

First migraine happened right in the middle of the Buddy Walk. I spent a good stretch of the walk holding onto the handle of the stroller as David pushed it, keeping my eyes closed and hoping I didn't trip on anything (or anyone, especially Sammy, who kept jumping in front of me).

Buddy Walk was fabulous. I want to say "as usual", but really, this year was the best, because RACHEL COLEMAN from Signing Times was there!!!!! Here are my photos. Sofia and I were both completely mesmerized as Rachel sang, and I nearly burst into tears along with lots of other moms as she comforted a sobbing and grateful mommy on the stage. Even more fun was that my friend K was inside the Hopkins suit, so I got to see her, too!

Sofia wanted nothing to do with a life-size Rachel and 7' tall Hopkins, but Micah has the potential to become a stalker when he grows up. He wouldn't leave them alone!

We were joined by our friends and our sitter, and it was a gorgeous October day.

In other news...not too much else going on. Micah should probably win some sort of Emmy Award for Most Dramatic Taking of Medication. It takes him a full 10 minutes of gagging and spitting to drink 2 teaspoons of zithromax liquid, even with the added grape flavor (he hates cherry meds).

Sam completed 6 weeks of cleaning his earring, and now we upgraded to a tiny gold hoop. Very very cool.

Monday, the kids had no school, but David flew out to Michigan again. So I took the kids to help me do a mitzvah. An older couple who are dear friends of ours are both having physical ailments - spinal problem for him and broken rotator cuff for her. We went to their house and helped clean and take out the trash. "We" of course is kind of a stretch. Sam had a complete "OCD" attach because he hates garbage. Micah ended up getting a trumpet lesson from the guy, which was great both for Micah and for the wonderful man. Sofia found tea-party toys (my friend S refuses to grow up!). It was a lot of fun.

After that, I actually took my kids to the Mall, and did not sell any of them! We got Sam his hoop earring, and looked at a lot of stuff and had lunch. It was ok. Fun, even!

Now I'm trying to figure out Micah's birthday. He wants to have a party, and has 27 kids he wants to invite. He just cannot pick a place to have it. So tonight I sent out emails asking for quotes from magicians, and I'm considering actually opening my home to Micah's friends... something I am REALLY not so thrilled to do. Micah's friends are...well...a whole bunch of 7, 8, 9 and 10 year olds. Mostly boys, but some girls, too. And sicne his birthday is October 25, I cannot just plan to throw them all outdoors. I need an indoor space. UGH. Of course he refuses anything like Teamworks or PumpItUp or gymnastics or Tae Kwan Do. Maybe the arcade, but they want $15 per kid, which is a bit much. I really just need a big room.

Gotta go work on the Winter Lights Gala Auction!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Well, my first experiment with Crock Pot cooking came out YUMMY. I copied a "recipe" from my friend D, and since her idea of a recipe is the same as mine ("some of this, some of that, oh, and don't forget that...") I was able to come up with a most scrumptious stew. Onions, garlic, leeks, lots of mushrooms, soup, stew beef "for tzimmes" as the package said, carrots and celery. YUM.

My neighbors came for Shabbos dinner, and we had a lovely time. Their little girl is one of Sofia's best buddies, and it was cute to see the two girls in action. But Micah wasn't feeling well. So this morning, he REALLY wasn't well, and I took him to the pediatrician at 10:15. Fever, blurry vision, tummy ache, the works. Quick test for him was also negative, but ugly throat and swollen glands, so meds for him too.

Which fortunately we started before noon, so that in 24 hours he will no longer be contagious and we can go to the Buddy Walk!

So Micah and Sofia and I stayed home most of the day, while David and Sam went into David's office. They came home for a little while, and Sam and I went to check out the new bead store in town. He was a kid in... well, a bead shop, not a candy store, but you get the idea. He had a blast.

Brought him home, and they both went back to work. I'm waiting for them to pick up sushi for dinner.

In other news, the Trisomy 21 Online chat board I was so involved in when Sofia was born has just been reinvented on Facebook. Let me know if you are interested in connecting. Unfortunately, the impetus was a sad one - yesterday, a little girl named Renee passed away. She had cystic fibrosis as well as DS. Very very sad.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Long delayed update

It was a long couple of weeks, very busy but fun.

Tuesday 9/28 I got to chaperon Micah's class field trip to see Mr. Cohn's sukkah. There were reporters, and we got a very nice writeup with 3 photos in the MetroWest Daily News.

It was fun to accompany the kids. Besides really wanting to see this sukkah (I studied with Mr. Cohn, and his brother was one of my professors. I've been hearing about his very special sukkah for years, but this was my first visit.), I got to observe Micah's class in action.

Poor Micah is having a tough time. He is the oldest kid in the class, and waay more mature than the other boys in the class. But he's still a little boy, so the girls get ticked off at him, too. Third grade is a transition year. And to make matters worse, his buddies in second grade are no longer sharing a classroom with him (last year they were combined, this year separate).

Ok, anyway. It was fun.

Wednesday was a whirlwind. I have GOT to find a babysitter to help with Wednesday driving. Both boys have appointments every other week, and now Sofia is going to have gymnastics.

But after all the appointments, we drove down to my friend D's house in Sharon for a wonderful dinner in her sukkah. I love D and her family. And the food was yummy!

Thursday was Shemini Atzeret. Rather than sit in shul another day, I dropped Micah and Sofia at a friend's house for playdates, while Sam and his friend and I met up with several other families at the Farm. We spent about an hour cleaning shallots (until I had an allergy attack!). Then picked up the kids, and playdate continued at my house. (Actually, I think Micah stayed at his friend's house, and Sofia went to preschool). Sam had over the new kid in the class, and it was great. He's a very sweet boy and really really happy to be at MWJDS this year.

Unfortunately, however, Thursday morning also brought the demise of "Moishe HaDag", the boys' fish.

Thursday evening was Simchat Torah. Temple Israel does a GREAT job with this holiday. In the evening, we have Klezmer musicians, and dancing all around the sanctuary and social hall with ALL the Torahs (I think there are 9 or 11). Sofia had a blast - she loves to dance and loves the excitement of waving flags or holding her stuffed Torah and dancing in the circle.

Friday morning was more Simchat Torah, and this time I was one of the honorees - each year three people are chosen. It was nice, but kind'a embarrassing. I was the last, since I was reading Haftorah (I was called "Kallat Maftira", "bride of the maftir/extra portion"). I had to stand under a chuppah (held by four good friends plus my sons), and liten to the Rabbi talk about me. He does great at that kind of thing, and he was very funny. Dayenu (it would have been enough).

My parents came up, and were overwhelmed by the whole thing. Of course, my mother does not approve of all the things I do, which were instrumental in my being chosen, so she wasn't thrilled. Aside from more dancing, we also do this really neat thing in the morning service: all the kids sit on the floor in the center of the Social Hall, while the adults make a large circle around them, and we unroll an entire Torah. The Rabbi walks us through the scroll (Micah and his friends were very intent on following every word and line, and clustered around the Rabbi - it was lovely).

Then, when we return to the sanctuary to actually read the Torah, the aliyot (honors) are called in groups rather than just individual people. So a whole 1/4 of the room was invited up at one time. When my parents returned to our seats, my mother muttered "yeah, we don't do anything like this at our synagogue." Hmmm.

Looong service, so lunch didn't start until after 1pm but overall a wonderful morning. Then my parents hung out all afternoon at our house (nothing like spending a few hours with my mother to make me feel like the worst parent in the universe), and stayed for Shabbos dinner.


Saturday we took it easy. Went to the fish store again, got a lesson in ammonia testing and got another betta fish (the boys call him Lucky but I'm sticking with "Yitzy HaDag"...). So far he's still alive...

Sunday morning, we had Bar Mitzvah prep meeting at shul for Sam and his grade. The kids stayed with the Cantor, and I'm glad Sam was comfortable with the boys form the religious School - there are a few he has become friends with in youth group and some he knows from nursery school. The parents all met in the chapel with the Rabbi and asked all sorts of detail questions about the bar mitzvah year.

Leave it to one guy to drop the "r" word when describing the invitation process. And then he walked out. My friend had to practically sit on me to keep me still.

Oh well. While we were all meeting, Micah and Sofia very nicely stayed in the lobby with my laptop, watching a movie.

Then we drove out to Springfield to go to the Big E, the New England States Exposition. It was hot and noisy and crowded. I had fun. Sam was a bit panicked for a while, but calmed down eventually. Boys discovered "fish on a stick" smoked salmon, their favorite treat. David was a total kill-joy at the carnival part; I let each boy do one carny game, and then he lectured them about wasting money. He realized his error the next morning.

David left again Monday. Quieter week, now that the holidays are over. But Tuesday, as I was driving to Newton Wellesley to get my stitches removed, the preschool called to say Sofia had a fever. I had to have my neighbor pick her up, but neighbor had an appointment so another friend had to then go get her. I met them back at the day school. Poor girl, fever and belly ache.

So no school for her Wednesday, although I had to bring her to Sam's team meeting. And her gymnastics class was canceled, which made life a little easier. Sam did his blue stripe test in Tae Kwan Do, whew.

Sofia was fine most of Wednesday and Thursday morning, so she went back to school....and got sent home with another fever (which I couldn't actually detect on the thermometer). So off to pediatrician. Quick-test was negative, but throat is red, so she's on antibiotics at least until the long strep test results come back.

So she's home today with me. Making a mess.

This Sunday is our Buddy Walk, so I've been busy making t-shirts for the team. One more to go...