Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End of December

First, I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year, and I hope that whatever holiday you may have celebrated (or still be celebrating) was wonderful.

I just returned from a quick trip to West Palm Beach, Florida, to visit my 100 year old grandmother, Doris. But I should probably say "100 years Young":


We should all be like this lady! She is quite amazing. Still lives alone. Stopped driving only last year (she said her eyesight isn't as good anymore - although she only wears glasses for reading!). Loves to dance and drink and cook and play cards.

I could only escape my family for three days. David and the kids drove me to the airport Friday evening, and I landed in WPB at midnight. She kept me up until after 2am, looking at the photos from her 100th birthday party (which I had missed, back in October). I had brought her a digital photo frame and put all the pics on that. She loved it.

We went to the mall Saturday morning. Shopped a bit, went out to lunch. She thought perhaps she wanted to buy an iPad! However, I convinced her that a Nook Color would be what she needed - and Saturday afternoon (15 minutes before the store closed), I raced back to buy it for her! (I also got to spend a few hours poolside. AAAAAAHHHHHHH!)

Spent Sunday, which was Christmas day, setting up her Nook and sitting by the pool. Thankfully, the Clubhouse has WiFi, so she'll be able to download books there. She likes the ability to make the print bigger. I also set her up with email, but I don't know if she'll actually use it.

Sunday night, we joined thousands of other Members Of The Tribe for an ancient ritual - in our case, deli, rather than Chinese Food. Extremely long line to get in, chock full of folks from Central Casting - old Jewish folk, mostly from New York, but a few Israelis and Russians, too. And the visiting "children" of all ages.

The wonderful thing about South Florida, and especially about eating out, is that you talk to EVERYONE. Everyone wants to make a comment, or ask how your food is, or tell you their own complaints and woes. It's a riot.

(Actually, at lunch on Saturday, I got into a conversation with the ladies next to us about Special Need Adoption - two of them work for an agency in Philly!).

Still: Romanian steak with onions, kasha varnishkes, homemade stuffed derma. Heaven's got nothing on Boca.

Spent Monday morning at the pool and then took Grandma grocery shopping. Then it was time to come home. So sad to leave. It was sweet - on the phone I asked Micah if he wanted me to bring him anything back from Florida, and he said "Can you bring Grandma?" I really wish I could (well, no, actually, I wish I could stay there - its' much too cold for her here!).

So my 100 year old bathing beauty:

will stay home:

With her digital photo frame and her Nook, and her granddaughter will try hard to go see her again soon.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...David took the kids to shul and then in the evening to Kosher Chinese (the REAL custom!). Sunday he took them down to my uncle's house for Christmas, and Sam went home with my sister and the twins for the week. My folks will bring him back Thursday (so it'll be nice and peaceful here for a few days!). Yesterday, David took the little ones to the Chipmunk movie (yeah, means I don't have to go!!!).

The two kids were VERY happy to have Mama back. Micah, who had been calm and mellow all weekend, was bouncing off the walls, and Sofia kept clutching me. Mama can't go away for more than a few days.

The rest of December was nice. We had a Bat Mitzvah on the 17th, my dear friend's daughter, who used to be in Sam's class. Micah didn't come to the party, opting for an afternoon with his friends instead, but the rest of us had a blast.

Hanukah has been nice and mellow. A few new movies and video games, an RC Copter for Micah, snow hats for the boys, a "Cowgirl Jessie" doll for Sofia. Simple pleasures.

Sam bought himself an iPod Nano - with his own money! He's trying hard to grow up.

Laura's boyfriend installed a new laminate floor in the boys' bedroom - it looks FABULOUS. We rearranged the furniture, so the room looks much bigger. Of course, there is still a large pile of stuff in the hallway to be sorted through, but we are trying to throw out (or donate, if appropriate) as much as we can. Of course, for all his trying to grow up, Sam would only get rid of about 3 stuffed animals ;)

I'm happy.

Just simply happy. Not ecstatic. Not overjoyed. Just pleased with life in general. I love love love working at the school. I love being a mommy. I love my husband (although I do wish HE were happier, but we're working on it - work is very stressful for him). I have wonderful friends, near and far. I have a nice house, which is getting nicer (hopefully in time for the Bar Mitzvah in June!). I have some cool tech toys (I got a slide converter, and am working on digitizing a carton-load of my dad's slides; I also took his old Super8 movies in to be digitized, and found a reel from my mother's childhood, that my grandfather had made, that ended with my parents' wedding!).

Life is good.


Oh, and Dear "Anonymous" - I will not be publishing your hateful comment. Sometimes you have made a good point - notice that now I block out faces of background folk - but your way of saying things is so nasty. Please thing about how "words hurt" before you type. Take a deep breath. And feel free to use your own name. I do not publish "Anonymous" comments.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Mild and Relaxed week (for a change!)

So we dropped Sofia at school on Monday, and the boys and I ran errands. This included a jaunt to the Mall. Sam bought himself a new iPod Nano with his own money (amazing!!!). My parents had gotten him an iPod Touch last year for Hanukah, and it has both music and games. And it is the first thing we are likely to take away from him when he misbehaves. So he figured if he wanted to listen to his music, he'd better get something that was JUST for music (much less likely to be punished for music than for games).

Micah stressed over a decision at Game Stop. Ultimately we had to go to the store three different times during the week, and he finally got something (with birthday gift cards) yesterday. Exhausting! But at least he is enjoying his new Wii game (a Zelda title, not sure which).

I "worked" at the school all day Wednesday, which was fun. I really love being there and working with the kids and the office staff. But I had the oddest dream at the beginning of the week. I dreamed that I went to Professional Development Day, and all the classroom and Hebrew teachers were brand new, so just the office staff and the few "specials" (art, gym, literacy) were familiar faces. We had to go around and introduce ourselves and tell our plans for the year. But after each person spoke, they left the room. And I was the last person to speak. So it was only me and the Office Manager left.

I handed out Torah portions to Micah's classmates for their January 25 "debut" reading. They had read a paragraph as a whole class together last year, but this time they each have their own one or two lines to learn. They were very excited. And the 3rd graders looked on with varying degrees of jealousy - their turn is next, and they will read in May.

Anyway, while I was with Micah's class, his friend A (my "adopted brother"'s younger daughter) said to me "We're having lobster tonight, and I don't like lobster, so can I come home with you?" Too cute. She did come tagging along with us, to Sam's dentist appointment (she and Micah stayed in the car and did their homework), then to drop Micah at gymnastics, then to shul for Sam's first lesson with the cantor, then back to gymnastics. Her father and brother met us and we took the kids out to dinner (so really, only her mother and sister were having the lobster anyway!). Craziness, but still fun.

Another of Micah's classmates and her mom came for Shabbat dinner, which was really nice - mom is my friend, first from shul and now from the day school. Nice evening.

Lazy weekend. We skipped shul (no babysitting, and I just did not have the energy to chase Sofia around), and all the kids got haircuts in the afternoon. Sam convinced me to let him get what David calls a "high and tight" - very very short on the sides, and very short on top. Fortunately, the kid has a gorgeous head and face, so it's not too horrible, but really not my taste.

Evening, Micah went to his friend J's sleep-over party, but knew in advance that he would not want to sleep over. I dropped Micah off and picked up J's brother, who was coming to our house for sleepover with Sam. They watched a couple of movies, and I could leave them with a sleeping Sofia while I went later to pick up Micah.

This morning, more movies, more hanging out. David finally returned from India, and we picked him up at the bus at about 3:45. Home, take-out sushi, and he passed out right away. Got Sofia to bed, and helped Sam work on his Social Studies project some more. We think the model is done (three story house! thank heavens we remembered I own a glue gun!).

I finally made plans to see Grandma. David's suggestion: I am going by myself the weekend of Christmas. I leave Friday evening (landing quite late), and come back Monday afternoon. He will take the kids to my uncle's house for Christmas day. I get two-and-a-half kid-free days with my grandma. YEAH!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What happened to November???

So when last we "spoke", there was a mouse in my closet. Mousie continued to terrorize me for the week. On Thursday of that week, my friend D came over to help me clean the closet, and we managed to put together 25 bags of things to be donated! I have a very clean and organized closet now, and I found some old clothing that fits me again, which was nice.

David returned home from Copenhagen, and on Sunday, we went to the MWJDS Gala. Micah's class was presenting, and Sam's class was ushering, so I got to have all my boys dressed up.


My friend H and I wore sequins - I remember wearing this to my 30th birthday party! Very excited that it fits again, even if the overall shape is a little different than 16 years ago.

We had a nice time, and Sofia had fun at home with a babysitter ;)

Another week, more mouse trauma. Signs of droppings in hallway, in David's bureau drawers, and in Sofia's dresser drawers. David left for Atlanta. Sam's sensory integration issues with sound kicked back up, first time in years, so he started wearing earplugs in school, which he has not needed to wear since about 2nd grade.

Wednesday evening, all hell breaks loose as I actually SEE the mouse in Sofia's room! Call my neighbor, who thankfully comes right over (he's the go-to guy for nature incursion; he once removed a tick from Sofia's neck long ago). Head lamp, gloves, box, ready to work. The boys were fascinated, and followed him in to Sofia's room, while I had to keep her out. Poor Sofia had no clue about the mouse; she was just aware that there was a Man in her room and her brothers had locked her out.

Anyway, they were not able to catch the mousie, but he set some traps. David, during this episode, was in the Atlanta airport, wishing he wasn't on his way home! He had been traumatized as a small child - he'd reached in to scoop dogfood out of a 50lb bag, and a bunch of baby mice had crawled up his arm. So my husband is NOT the one to handle rodents!

It was NOT a peaceful week. No sleep, between Sofia in our bed (couldn't let her sleep with the mousie) and listening to every little noise.

Friday, finally, the trap was sprung. Sam said he wanted to "man up" and remove the trap, but on first try, he came screaming out saying "Yikes, you can see the tail!". But he did it. Very proud of him.

Veterans Admin came and took 20 bags away, and I brought the rest to Savers (Epilepsy Foundation). Whew.

Bat Mitzvah on the 19th in Worcester - I had to read Torah, which meant that, in addition to being exhausted from no sleep, I was completely stressed out. But I did ok. After services and lunch, we came home and David and I both slept 3 solid hours. We left Sofia and Micah home with a sitter and took Sam with us to the party. It was nice to see our Worcester friends, but kind'a disturbing to see the 13 year old girls dancing to songs with lyrics like "I'm So Sexy" and "Shots for Everyone". Sam had fun with his friends (past MWJDS students and a friend from Ramah).

Sunday we went back down to CT for Lilie's birthday party, which was busy but fun.

Ok, that brings us to Thanksgiving week. Getting a little more sleep, but still coping. Sam's OCD kicked in, along with his 12-year-old attitude. Tuesday morning, I had to take him to his reading group, but could not get him out of the car, because he was so upset and stressed about going. I had to get someone from his IEP team to come out and get him out of the car. And when he came back, he was fine, proud of how he'd done in class, calm and happy. I was a total wreck.

But we finished the week, met up with Sam's former teach and a lot of MWJDS friends for lunch on Wednesday, and did a few errands.

Getting better, finally. Thanksgiving day, we took a lot longer to get out of the house than we had expected - didn't leave until 2pm - but it was moderately restful. And we went to my sister's house, with my folks, mom's cousins, and dad's brother and his family.

Actually had a nice time. My uncle was really nice to us, and we had a nice time talking to them. It was a nice change.

Sofia borrowed Hannah's coat:

Sam hangs out with my cousin Paul:

Sofia gets comfy in front of the football game:

Slept over, but came back up before noon on Friday. Fairly peaceful weekend. We'd hoped David's folks could come up on Friday, but they were swamped with work. So it was just us (could not get anyone else last-minute!). Saturday, it was a lovely day, so we went to the Ecotarium in Worcester. which was fun. Sofia INSISTED on going on the train ride, so she and I sat there for 45 minutes waiting for the next ride, while David took the boys to the Planetarium show.

We stopped at Wegman's on the way home. Wow. I'll have to go back there on a week-day when it's not crowded and I'm not shepherding kids. Wow.

At night, I made Rack of Lamb. I'd bought it before Passover and it's been taking up freezer space. I'd hoped ot have company to share it, but it was just us. Which ended up ok, because it took three times longer to cook than I'd thought it would.

But OH MY was it DELICIOUS!!!!!!

Today, later morning and then we dropped David at the Logan Express bus - he's off to India for the week - and saw the Muppet Movie with friends. I think the other two moms and I should have gone without the kids, 'cause we had a blast!

Went over to N's house tonight for dinner after the movie. I helped her son set up his new iPod and laptop. It was good to see her - it's been a few weeks.

The boys don't have school tomorrow - Professional Development Day - but Sofia does, which means the boys and I can go run errands and maybe see another movie that she wouldn't liek. Then back to normal. I am trying to figure out how the heck to go visit my grandmother, but she insists I should NOT bring a sick child, which is a problem. I have had at least one sick child all semester (Sofia's got a horrible stuffy nose). So I have to figure out who can take care of my kids while I go down to Florida for a couple of days, and David is traveling non-stop for the next month or so.


A nice shot of my kids, Nov. 6 when my parents came to visit:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

And because it wasn't already stressful...

There are mice playing tag in my closet every night, and venturing into my room at 4am. UGH.

Pest guy came yesterday, but I put in another call today - the mousie actually knocked over a bag of stuff by my desk!

I apparently have a HORDING problem...I have mostly emptied out the walk-in closet, but there is just SO MUCH STUFF to go through.

Someone please come keep my company!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Feelin' the "Special" in Special Needs

So my parents did come up yesterday, but not until late afternoon. Which meant that we all went shopping together, rather than leaving my Dad and Sofia home, and then out to dinner.

My mother likes to shop. It is her favorite activity, and she is very, very good at it. Which means she is not fast. She is thorough. She searches for the correct size, she weighs the options, she considers.

And did I mention we had Sofia with us?

So that was NOT MUCH FUN. Sofia has about as much patience as...uh, ok, Sofia has NO patience.

We did put her in a shopping cart - gave her the option of holding my hand, Pop's hand, or the cart, she chose the cart - but she wanted Mama, not Pop, to wheel.

The store we were in has very narrow aisles, which means my daughter could engage in octopus behavior, and grab just about EVERYTHING. And then throw it into the cart.

Once she finally climbed out of the cart (being the little monkey that she is), she wanted to push the cart.


And fast.

And far.

Meanwhile, my parents and Sam are agonizing over sweatshirts, and Micah is trying to help me keep Sofia from running people over.

And then she got HUNGRY.

At the top of her lungs.

So while they were paying, I took her over to the card store, which thankfully also has food (gift items), and I found a yummy bag of chocolate caramel corn.

A bit longer to shop... and then off to a restaurant.

On the Sunday night after the clocks have changed. Which means 6pm still felt like 7pm.

Which means at 7pm (when our internal clocks said 8pm, half an hour past her bed time), we were still in the restaurant.

Fortunately, we were in a large corner booth, with a solid wall behind, so Sofia could stand and stretch and point and move around mostly without escaping. Her brothers flanked her on either side.

Until she climbed over Micah to get to me and Pop (who were sitting in chairs at the end of the table).

And once done eating (thank HEAVENS Legal Seafood has gluten-free roles!), Sofia insisted on three visits to the potty. Which you just can't ignore, in case she really has to go.

I hit a wall. It was so stressful. And all the while, my folks are being themselves, having a leisurely dinner and discussing the various merits of the food and service - at great length.

We survived, but I was so conscious of how "different" Sofia really is. My parents would expect a 6 year old to sit still. Not an option here. My parents would expect Micah to be happy. Not an option here (he feels very much a second-class citizen, because my folks really spoil Sam, and Sam knows how to play along. Micah refuses to play along, and gets into arguments with my mother.)


And in the middle of the night, there was a mouse in my closet. Which means that this afternoon I will be emptying the closet - a walk-in, 17' long - so the pest guy can get in there tomorrow and remove the critter and plug the hole!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The End of Hell Week

It's really been a tough week.

Last weekend was the Storm. Aside from the weather, it was an ok weekend, mostly relaxing.

Monday night was Halloween. Not my favorite holiday, I hate all the candy, but the kids still enjoy it. David walks with Sofia, the boys go with the pack of neighborhood kids, I man the door at home. Sofia only made it to a few houses before she got too scared, so she and David came home.

And while he was home, we got The Call, that his grandmother, Toby, had died. So we dealt with that, told the boys about it when they came home. Micah, in his way, wanted to hear nothing else about it, and went to his room. Sam, in his way, stayed up stressing and fussing in our room far too late.

Tuesday, other than being sad about Grandma Toby, was actually an ok day. I taught Micah's class their first trope (Torah reading) lesson, and it went really well!

Wednesday was crazy. I took Sofia with me and drove Micah to school. David took Sam to the Ashland Middle School, for reading group. Sofia and I picked him up. David went to work for a few hours, so Sam and I fought about his Hebrew homework, and packed.

Left home around 11, got to New Britain a little early, and made our way to the cemetery. This is the place where all his relatives are buried, and unfortunately, we have been there a lot, but it's really a lovely place. And it was a beautiful day for a funeral - sunny and warmer.

CT is a wreck - trees down everywhere, and at that point, almost no one had power. And the cemetery was muddy. They had to bring the backhoe in to finish putting the dirt on the casket (in a Jewish funeral, usually the mourners and other attendees do all the shoveling of dirt, but it was just too wet).

We got a nice turn-out - a lot of the Long Island cousins, whom I really really like, came up for it, which was sweet of them. We went back to Grandma's house for shiva, so we got to visit people for a while. And just after most of them left to go to shul for the evening service, the power came back on!

We met them at shul (David had gone with his dad, and I had his mom), and then dropped Sam and Sofia at my sister's house, where my parents have been camped out all week (along with several other families!). Then we drove to NYC. (Micah, meanwhile, had a great time sleeping over with friends up here).

David and I were going to NYC to get his travel visa for India (he's going right after Thanksgiving). We didn't get to the hotel until after 10pm. In the morning, I stayed at the hotel for a leisurely breakfast while he went over to the Visa Center. He handed in his passport and all his paperwork and money, and then the guy said "ok, come back tomorrow at 5:30"! It was supposed to be same-day service, but they could not promise!

So we spent the whole day stressing about whether we would get his stuff back in time. And he needed his passport - right now (Saturday night) he's on a plane to Copenhagen.

We spent most of the day walking around the city. Meandering. Nothing really special, but it was nice. Found a good kosher Israeli place, for shwarma and schnitzel. Also had Tea and Scones at an Alice In Wonderland themed place. Very nice.

And luckily, the passport and visa DID make it through the system, so we were able to get them on Thursday evening. Got back in the car around 6:30. Headed back to my sister's house, stopped for a quick bit of dinner, and made it home by 11:15 (Micah was home with a sitter).

Done, right?


Friday morning, Sam is sobbing and choking. His tonsils are completely swollen. I sent him back to sleep (that seemed to be what he needed more than anything else), and took Micah and Sofia off to school. Called pediatrician on the way home, and they said bring him in early.

So we saw one of the other peds, not our regular (but I trust all the docs in that office; don't necessarily like one of them but I do trust them). Dr. T. was quite alarmed, and thought it might be a peritonsular abscess. She booked us in to the Ear/Nose/Throat office - where we had all been patients back when the boys were little and had ear tubes and I got allergy shots.

Unfortunately, the pediatric ENT was not in, so we saw one of the other docs. And they couldn't take us until 2pm, so I spent a lot of frantic time trying to find someone to pick up Sofia from school. It was stressful. And I picked up Micah early (school ends at 2 on Fridays).

Anyway, the ENT did not think it was an abscess. Apparently, there are a lot of weird throat things that can happen with mono, so even though the quick-test for strep was negative, it's not totally ruled out. So the ENT said to have the pediatrician write scripts for a steroid and an antibiotic.

We went back to our pediatrician (we were supposed to be there for Micah's 10 year check up), and she wanted to know why the ENT couldn't write his own scrips! I think he was not used to dosing for pediatric patients. And she also agreed with her colleague that it looked more like an abscess, so we were stressed out for the past 24 hours, watching for symptoms or signs of improvement.

Fortunately, it does seem to be responding to the steroids. Whew! 'Cause the next step was the ER.

We went to our friends' house for Shabbat dinner, which was nice (especially nice since I did not have any food ready!), and slept late today. Except that there was a knock on the door at 8pm, UPS delivering a package for David for work. Which was also a stress-inducer, although we eventually realized it wasn't as bad as we thought (requests for information only).

David went to work, while I tried to get Sam to calm down. Eventually he did. The poor kid is frightened. And a drama king. But I had a serious talk with him about whether he really needed to go to the ER or not. We managed to avoid it.

He came with me to drive David to the Logan Express bus, and then go grocery shopping. I made a nice dinner for the kids - marinated salmon, pasta, broccoli - and we also got fixings for ice cream sundaes. YUM.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better... although my parents are coming to visit...hmmmm...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

David's paternal grandmother, Toby Rothkopf (Toba bat Bryna v'Ephraim) just passed away this evening, peacefully, in her sleep. She was over 100 years old, and in her own home.

We have been expecting this for a while - Grandma Toby has been house-bound and not mentally "with us" for several years now - but it's still a sad shock.

They are still working out the details for burial. The New Britain (CT) cemetery is "closed" because there are still so many trees down from the storm this past weekend. So we are not sure whether we will be able to get in there on Wednesday, or have to wait until Thursday. (Which will be a real mess, not only because of the delay, but because Thursday, David needs to be at the Indian Consulate in NYC at 9:20 am and then again at 5:30 pm to pick up his visa for travel.)

A Normal Week

Well, now we are in the swing of "normal" (for us, that is). Last week was fairly relaxing. Nothing out of the ordinary. Only "special" was Friday morning, I ran my first All School Tefillah. I'm told it went well, but it was waaay too long for my taste. More than an hour. Stressful. But the kids did GREAT. I made sure every child had a part, too, which was nice. The kids at this school ROCK!

Friday night, H and her kids came for Shabbat dinner. Always fun. Her kids are each about 1.5 - 2 years younger than mine, but each pair get a long great. Sam is very relaxed and silly around 5th grade (girl) S, Micah and B are good buddies, and Sofia absolutely worships G, who is in the kindergarten class at the day school. It was anice evening.

Shul on Saturday was long, but really nice. I bounced around with Sofia - she tried the kindergarten service, but then we went to the preschool service, because they had a great "snacktivity" making Noah's Ark and rainbows out of food. Yum. Sam "broke" his toe on Friday night (it's not really broken, but he thinks it is; it's just banged up and hurts a lot), so he sat in main service with David, and I'm fairly certain Micah spent most of his time in the Youth service in the chapel.

After lunch, there was a stand-up Kiddush (just light snacks), but then there was a light lunch if you stayed for the Study Session. Which we did. It was really interesting, and fun to study. The boys were not interested, and spent most of the time in the hallway. Sofia was fine as long as she was eating, but then she had to wander out to the hall with her brothers.

We had one incident - a new member, who really wanted to study, but her very young daughter was making a lot of noise. An older member, who was having a bad day, got up and yelled at us to get the kids out. The new member was in tears. I had to grab her back, and hand her daughter off to the boys (I was VERY proud of my boys for helping!). I was impressed, however, with how the clergy handled it. Cantor (and his Rabbi/wife) had been in the hallway with the kids, so I told them what happened when I took the girls out. After the study session, they came in and sat with us, and the Rabbi came over and ate his lunch with us. We continued the study discussion, very relaxed. There was no mention of the Incident, and the new member was able to calm down a bit.

When the Rabbi stood up, we did mention it, and he was either totally clueless, or brilliant (and if you know him, I'll let you make your own decision...). He was "competely unaware" of the lady yelling at us during the session, and told us how that lady was having a really hard and stressful day, and then said how it really wasn't a problem, just could be difficult for some people to concentrate if the kids got too loud. It was graceful (if it was purposeful), in that he did not denigrate either position - it was difficult for the one lady to concentrate, but those of us with small children have every right to be included, and next time we will arrange something specific to keep the kids occupied.

Anyway, we had a very relaxing rest of Shabbat (we didn't even get home until 3pm!). The rain and then the snow kept us tucked into the house all day. After we put Sofia to sleep, the rest of us played a long game of Electronic Banker Monopoly, which Micah had gotten for his birthday. I HATE board games ("bored" games!), and Monopoly with my three captains of industry is entirely unpleasant for me, but it was still nice. And I went bankrupt fairly quickly, so I could come back upstairs and get ready for bed ;)

Sunday, lots and lots of very wet snow. We only lost power for about half an hour at night (that's what put an end to the game), so we were lucky. The surrounding area is still without power.

I took the boys to see their friend perform in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" in the afternoon, while David took Sofia to his office - she watched movies while he worked. In the evening, we had a nice fire in the fireplace.

Back to school and real life today. The boys are looking forward to Halloween tonight - the dads on the street usually take the kids, while moms are on door-duty. I'm looking forward to some quiet time!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Whew! Holidays are over.

I really do love the Fall holidays. Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the New Year, with its promise of rebirth and renewal. Yom Kippur, solemn and joyful at the same time. Sukkot, the harvest festival, with the fun of putting up and decorating a sukkah and maybe even eating in it. Simchat Torah, raucous dancing and rejoicing in the gift of the Torah.

But, MAN, am I tired!

They just come one right after the other. The boys had 4 weeks of very short school weeks. There's no continuity, no "regular schedule". It's just nuts!

So now the holidays are over, and we can breath, and return to (or start on) "normal".

Of course, this year it was even more difficult because the kids were all sick, so there were even more missed school days. Sofia ended up missing again on Thursday, and I took her to the pediatrician. Finally, antibiotics for sinus infection and bronchitis. I'm pleased to say that now she is doing great (and her appetite has returned - this afternoon she has been an eating machine!).

So Thursday night we were at shul, Friday I sent Sofia back to school but took the boys to shul. We had to leave "early" - 12:45 and we were just getting to the Haftorah - in order to get over to the other synagogue to prove to the rabbi that we knew our Torah readings for the Bar Mitzvah on Shabbat. So we had to stop and get some lunch (we were starving!).

It was nice to have a private moment with Nicki and the kids, because the Bar Mitzvah was a whirlwind. It was wonderful. Not too sad, just a couple of mentions of Max's dad, but mostly a joyful celebration. Max did great (so did Sam, who also read Torah).

Reception was right after services, at a hotel in Waltham, so Sam went on the bus with the other kids, but Sofia and Micah came with us to the cocktail reception.

Sofia was in a bit of a mood:

And did not want her picture taken with me and Nicki:

But Micah looked sharp:


Once we went into the main party room, Sofia was able to accessorize better:

David looked sharp as usual:

Micah and Gavi and another friend rocked out on the dance floor:

And David and I got decorated as mummies by a variety of children:

It was a really nice day.

I'm glad I went, but I am still sorry I had to miss my grandmother's 100th birthday party. I'm on the phone with my mom now, getting all the details - it was a great party.

In the evening, David and I went out to another birthday party, for my friend, while our old nanny babysat the kids (which made the boys very happy).

Sunday was Micah's birthday party! Sofia was also supposed to go to another party, but it was at Chuckie Cheese, and with the sinus infection and bronchitis, I didn't think that was the best place for her. So we sent Sam off to see Shear Madness with the USY group, and we got everyone set up in the Cole Center in Natick, just a little rec center, for a facilitated gym party.

Perfect. 23 kids and plenty of activity and running around. They had a blast.

The Crew receiving instructions:

Micah had a blast:

Dodge Ball:

After cupcakes, back into the gym for football:


Sofia took the ball:

And then took a break:

Whew. Glad that's over. And I can't believe Micah is 10 years old today!!!!

David is in the UK this week, there are no holidays, no one is too sick to go to school, and life is returning to normal. Finally.


And I finally got thru to my grandmother, who has been running around with all the family down there. Nothing like asking a 100 year old woman how she's doing and hearing "Oh, I'm a little drunk right now"!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sukkot postings

Just took a moment to read my old posts from each October. My children apparently like to get sick for October, because there are several references to medicine and barfing.

Tonight we finally got to eat dinner in the sukkah. It was lovely - sushi in the sukkah - beautiful weather. David was out, so just me and the kids. Over dinner, I talked to them about ushpizin, the special guests traditionally invited to the sukkah (traditionally it was Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David and Aaron).

I asked the boys whom they would invite .

Sam's first answer: "My future wife!"

Micah's first answer "A person." (he was not being cooperative)

Sam's second answer: "my great-grandparents' great grandparents"

Pretty cool. I am proud of that kiddo.

And Sofia perked up with "Yeah! Strong!" and showed off her muscles. Apropos of nothing, but it was awfully cute.

They all went back to school today. Whew. Sofia still has a horrible cough, but she made it. At the day school, there was an assembly at the end of the day, and apparently Sofia followed Mr. D, the principal, all around for the whole thing. Mr. D. was, of course, running the assembly at the time...

Tonight we made scrap book pages for my grandmother (my sister is collecting pages, for the party next weekend that we are going to miss in favor of the bar mitzvah). I had each kid make their own page, and I made my own. Sofia was very impressed with her page (I put the pictures on, but she wrote her name), so she grabbed it and hung it up in her room. I had to wait until she fell asleep before I could retrieve it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I just can't keep up!

Ok, here is the slide show for late September/ early October:

When last I blogged, we had gotten through Rosh Hashanah, and a trip to Salem and to the Big E. Those photos are in the slideshow above.

That week was relatively normal, except that Sam missed most of the week. Fever several days. The boys did not have school Friday, so we went back to the pediatrician on Friday, in between prepping for Yom Kippur.

Laura's car started smoking on her way up to us, so she and Lilie missed Friday night's dinner and services, but they were around for Shabbat/Yom Kippur, and stayed for the Buddy Walk on Sunday.

Saturday morning, before services, I had to take Sam to the hospital lab for blood work. He was not happy. And he was still not feeling good.

Services were ok. It was nice to be in my own community. Sofia stayed in babysitting the whole time, so she was VERY happy. I got to see my friends, and the weather was gorgeous.

Invited a lady from shul for breakfast, which was fun.

Sunday was the Buddy Walk. MUCH fun. Hot!

Monday, Columbus Day, I took Sofia to a birthday party in the morning, and then took Micah to his friend's house for a playdate, and took Sam (and Sofia) shopping for more dress-up clothing for him. He is anticipating several more B'nai Mitzvah parties this year!

Put up the sukkah Monday night - I love our easy new sukkah that we bought last year. I can do it mostly myself. Weather was still gorgeous.

But Sofia popped a fever Monday night, so she stayed home Tuesday. I did send her in on Wednesday, but after a few hours she was sent home. Had fever through Thursday, and still has a horrible cough. Pediatrician says it is viral (Sam's blood work indicated viral, too). Micah has the cough, but so far no fever.

But we sent Sam's bloodwork back for more testing, because he has been falling asleep every afternoon, as well as the minute he gets out of the shower. Found out today he will be tired for several more weeks. :(

So I missed Sukkot services yesterday, with three sick kids (actually, except for exhaustion, Sam is ok, so he had a playdate). I'm SO BORED stuck in this house!!! And it's been raining since the holiday started Wednesday evening, so we have not even been able to eat in our sukkah!

So that's where things stand for now. I'm tired, I'm bored, and I'm just DONE with running this infirmary!

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Already!

Ok, seriously, I promise I'll update more often. September sort of got away from me.

The week of the 19th is just a blur. Very busy, still getting used to schedules. David was actually home all week, and we got to go "out" two nights - both for school events, but still, "out" without children! That Wednesday was a total rush - I had to help with Whimsical Wednesdays (the preschool program at the day school), then have a Team meeting for Sofia, then go get her, bring her back, teach Micah's class, teach another class, pick up kids, take boys to gymnastics, Sofia to her gymnastics, come home and teach my two B'nai mitzvah students! WHEW!

On the 24th we went down to CT. Dropped the kids with my in-laws, who took them to a football game at Central CT, while David and I went to the accountant to do our taxes (yes, in October!). Them met back up with in-laws for kid exchange and early dinner.

Sunday, Sam went on the USY Boat Cruise (and had a lot of fun) and Micah went to a birthday party (and had a lot of fun) and Sofia went to a different birthday party (and had a lot of fun)! Micah and his "gang" from shul all stayed later at the party and played ...um...it was some combination of soccer and US Football. Not quite sure what they were playing, but they were all filthy and drenched with sweat. Lovely. But so happy.

But the next morning, Sam was sick again. Pediatrician put both boys on a second round of antibiotics (Micah's cough was already going into its third week, and Sam was absolutely no better after 10 days of zithromax). Unfortunately for Micah, he's allergic to Penicillin and can't swallow pills (and doesn't weigh very much anyway), so he has to take liquid meds. He's VERY sensitive to flavors, so I have them really strongly "grape" anything, but he still hates the taste.

Fortunately, the meds made both of them better for the rest of the week (although Sam's sick again today! Fever, aches, etc. UGH!).

Wednesday we celebrated Tashlich with the day school community. It's one of the best yearly activities. We all gather at school, and then walk down the street to the park, where there is a river. We reflect on the past year, and the kids write down their wishes for the coming year. ALWAYS the weather is great!

After Taslich, it was an early release day. The 7th graders all walked down to the local pizza place (we're trying to give them some more independence), while 5 or 6 mommies took about 20 kids (lots of extras) to Panera for lunch. It was fun. I drove 4 kids to Panera, got rid of one, picked up Sam and M, so I brought my two and two extras home (after driving M home). The two who came over are siblings, and their mom came for Rosh Hashanah dinner that night. It was nice to have company for the holiday, even if it was a last minute plan.

We didn't go to services at night, since they didn't start until 8pm, but we were there bright and early the next morning. This was my first time going the whole holiday as a congregant in a very long time. Mostly I liked it, although I miss singing. We sit in the Tent - there are 900 people in Sanctuary/Social Hall, and "only" about 400 in the tent, many of us the Shabbat regulars. It was nice. I really love my Temple Israel "family".

I hate going to Childrens' Service with Sofia, but David and I took turns, which was ok. I also got a last minute shofar-blowing assignment; I'm not satisfied with how I did, but I guess it was ok.

After services, our friend K and his 4 kids came over (wife home recuperating from knee surgery). Good to see him. I made brisket and chicken and soup and things like that. Laura and Lilie arrived a little later in the afternoon, and we all collapsed into naps - the weather was very overcast all day, which does not make it easy to wake up! Missed the real Tashlich service, but that's ok, since it monsooned during that time anyway.

Friday services were fun. I love watching Sofia and Lilie together. They love being together, and they get along better than friends, more like siblings who aren't fighting. It's sweet. They hold hands, they consult with each other, they play together, they copy each other. Since the tent was even less crowded on Friday, the girls sat nicely with us in services until it was time for Laura to take them upstairs for the Childrens' Service. Sofia, on both days, did a lot of dancing during services. I especially liked her Dance Interpretation of the Shema.

Sam wore his suit both days, and looked SO handsome. I wasn't the only one who thought so - he was generally flanked by several young ladies from USY. Sweet. He helped lead Ashrei on Friday with other 6&7th graders. Micah, meanwhile, ran around with his gang most of the time. I know they did go to their age service, but I frequently spotted them outside, too. I'm just glad they are so comfortable there, and I am comfortable letting them be on their own.

We went to our friends' house for our annual lunch, and had a wonderful time as always. Got home around 5, and at 6 another set of friends came over to celebrate Shabbat (VERY light dinner - gefilte fish and soup only!).

Saturday, we went with my friend N and her kids up to Salem, to the Peabody Essex Museum and then walking around Salem. Fun. And yesterday we went to the Big E, in Springfield. Also fun! I'm SO tired now!

I promise more pictures and more stories about the weekend, but I need to go get Sofia from public and bring her to the day school!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A New Week

Friday was a little smoother, but not before I got in a fight with my mother. So that's been hanging over my head all weekend. But it is what it is.

Friday evening, instead of a real Shabbat dinner, I let me wonderful friends talk me into joining them at a local Chinese restaurant. There were 14 of us (yeah, David made it home from Israel in time!), so it would have been too crowded to pull off a last-minute Shabbat at home. It was fun, but LOUD, and crazy. Who told us to have all these kids?!

Sofia was wearing her new tutu, which I had bought that afternoon in preparation for the dance class she will hopefully be taking.

She wore it all evening into the restaurant, but fortunately I convinced her to change before dinner was served :)

Saturday morning we went to shul. I attempted to get Sofia to stay in one of the childrens' services. She just could not concentrate. First we went to the K-2 class, where one of her MWJDS classmates was. No go. She was too busy moving books around and ordering people to change their seats. So I took her to the preschool service, which she usually does ok at. No such luck. She would not pay attention, kept requesting the Gummy Bear song, and was too wild for the littler kids. I ended up with her and Micah out in the courtyard, throwing leaves down the storm drain.

It was interesting to see. I'm not sure if she's just wild now because she's getting used to Kindergarten schedule, and needs more down-time than she's getting. Or is this another major shift, a split between her and her peers?

That afternoon was Ashland Day, the town carnival/event. There are booths advertising all the local businesses, booths for all the school activities, and a bunch of bounce house type rides. Sofia had a grand time on one of the slides, going over and over and over again. But she could not concentrate on anything else. Many classmates and school friends came up to say hi to her, but she would generally not acknowledge them.

The nice thing about Ashland Day is that the boys can go off with their friends. Sam had three of his best buddies, who both go to the public school, so he took off immediately. It took Micah a little longer before he found his friend, but once J arrived, they took off together. We made the boys bring their own money, although I did buy lunch for Micah. Sam was completely independent, and very happy. Ah, cell phones!

Sam's friend came back to the house with us, and when his mom arrived, I invited them both to stay for dinner. She's a wonderful lady, and an old friend of mine, too (her kids attended the day school for a few years in the early grades). It was nice to get to see her again.

Sunday, David took Sofia to TWO birthday parties. It was a busy day! Again, Sofia had a lot of trouble concentrating on much, and was very easily distracted. I hope this is just a "getting used to the new year" thing.

I dropped Micah at J's house, and they went to MiniGolf with Kadima (the junior youth group from the synagogue). He had fun, despite having a massive allergy attack the night before (from pollen). Poor kid. If I could "fix" anything about any of my children, it would be Micah's allergies, no question.

Sam came with me as my helper to teach a tzitzit tying workshop at the Reform synagogue in Framingham. It went well, although much faster than the two and a half hours they had scheduled. I was glad to have Sam with me; he was a good helper. And his friend's cousin was in the class, so he knows her.

As soon as the class was done, I got a blinding migraine. Had to wait int he parking lot until I could drive! So home to nap under a dark blanket. David took Micah into Newton to pick up kosher Chinese food for dinner - yum. Lots of leftovers for tonight, too.

Taught three classes in half an hour this morning! Gotta figure out the schedule better. Of to pick up Miss Sofia for her transition from public to day school now.

Here's a slide show from the past couple of weeks:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

That Didn't Go As Planned...

Well, today was an "epic fail". Thursday is supposed to be my day for myself. I had planned to get errands done in the morning, including a manicure/pedicure, then do a yoga class at noon and then meet up with a friend for a few hours.

Well, first I was awake 2am - 3:30 because of Miss Sofia again.

Got the kids to school, blew shofar at the day school (we blow shofar every morning for the month before Rosh Hashanah).

Drove off, thinking I would run a couple of errands before the nail place opened at 9.

And noticed that the Temperature gauge on my car was all the way to maximum H. :(

My air conditioner has been failing for the past several weeks, which I was mostly ignoring. Then I realized that it also controlled the defroster, which I could not ignore. Last week I'd done a price check at the place I usually go. I had planned to go tomorrow to another place near home.

Well, fortunately last night I'd spotted a coupon for an AC Recharge, and had it with me. So off I went to Direct Tire in Natick.

And waited a while, before realizing it would take another hour or so before they even knew what was going on.

Not wanting to miss out on my mani/pedi, I walked to a different place - Nails & Co. in Sherwood Plaza. Nice place, but pricier than Nails 2000 or Tokyo Nails.

At least I got my mani/pedi mostly done before Direct Tire called back.

Large hole in Radiator. Radiator - and associated hoses and things - needed to be replaced.

With the coupon, it all came to.... $1398.00. Yup. Unplanned expense.

AND... they needed the car until 4:30 pm.

Which meant I had to swap a carpool for the boys (thanks, M!). And figure out Sofia.

Fortunately, my friend who I'd planned to see came up anyway. We met at the mall, had lunch, shmeid around, then went to pick up Miss Sofia at school. Home, watched Shrek (and I fell asleep - second time I've fallen asleep on a playdate this week!).

When the boys got home, I got all three kids settled, and my friend drove me back to Natick to get my car. I LOVE that Sam is old enough that I can leave them all home for a quick errand! Still wouldn't leave them at night (speaking of which, can anyone babysit on Tuesday night next week?!). But for daytime, it's a big help.

Got the car, paid the money. At least now it's working (well, except I still need to get the transmission fluid changed - this is the third place that's told me to do that).

Home, to a MISERABLE 12 year old. He can't do his homework by himself, but id I don't do all the reading and writing for him, then he doesn't think I am helping him. And if I ask what he needs and he doesn't answer, and I start doing something else, like playing with Sofia or making dinner, then he gets angry. And he wanted to clean up the basement RIGHT NOW so he can move down there and get his own room, 'cause he's the ONLY one in his class (of 6) who has to share a bedroom.

Oh, woe is me. Get over it, kid!

Nope. MISERABLE. Culminating in his swearing at his brother, and then me taking his phone away. Indefinitely.

So, I would like to go to sleep now, and have an easy day tomorrow. OK?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Endless Day

I think it's Wednesday, right? But didn't Wednesday start 48 hours ago? Or more?

It's been a long, slow, busy week. Let's see....

Friday evening I took Sofia and Micah and his friend to dinner with the rest of friend's family. Little crazy - restaurant was too loud and every one in our party got a bit antsy. But it was still fun, and nice to see the parents (my friends) being really goofy and happy together.

David got back from the Berkshires around 11, having brought Sam to the bat mitzvah girls' house and had dinner there. He said all the girl cousins were "flipping their hair" at Sam!

Saturday morning, I took Micah to shul, but David took Sofia to the Learning Program, a special reading program for kids with Down syndrome. He really wants her to do it, so he gets to give up shul and take her...

Afternoon, my friend and her son came for a playdate with me and Micah. Evening, I finally got to ride in the new toy (David has a "company car"...the kind of car you get if you are already married to your "trophy wife". ) David and I went to Providence, to my favorite restuarant on Atwells Ave, Potenza (ok, the name changes every time we are there, but it's Chef Walter's place). It was lovely to be out with my hubby, on a gorgeous night. We had a really nice time.

Sunday I had to leave with the kids early to go get Sam. David stayed home, because he had to leave at noon for the airport. He's back in Israel for the week. I drove out to the Berkshires, got Sam, and took the kids to the Hancock Shaker Village. It was nice. Ice cream and a bite for lunch, before heading home.

Instead of going straight home, we went directly to Chabad for a Shofar Workshop. The boys got to make their own shofars! Very cool. I spent a lot of time bouncing between the boys and Sofia, who was eating dinner in the cafe. Fortunately, I knew a lot of people there, so I could leave her under someone else's watch for a few minutes at a time.

We were all so tired when we got home that night!

Monday was a "normal" school day - I went in to Sam's class and the kindergarten in the morning. Sam had tutoring after school, so I took the others for ice cream while we waited. In the evening, Micah had his first piano lesson, with a new teacher who comes to our house. YEAH!

Tuesday morning Sofia woke at about 4am, and wandered around for a while. I finally got her back to sleep at 5am. Today she woke at 2am for a while. I am SO tired now!

Yesterday was actually sort of easier. In the morning, I had to pull Micah out for a while to go for a skin checkup. Then I had to teach first and fifth grades - both went well. And I did not have to pick up the boys, they went with the carpool. So I was able to relax a little bit. Took the kids for sushi.

Today was just endless. Like I said, woke at 2am for a while with Sofia. I think it's a combination of her belly hurts (I gave Miralax this morning; hopefully tonight will be better) and just adjusting to a long school day. I have to blow shofar every morning at school right after drop-off. Then today I had to go get the invitations for my grandmother's 100th birthday party run off. Then worked out, and then came home and fell asleep for an hour! A few more errands, including stopping at the local ballet studio....

Hopefully Sofia will be doing a special needs dance class called Perpetual Motion on Tuesday afternoons. They need 5 kids to sign up in order to have the class. So spread the word!

Picked up Sofia, raced back to the day school. Today's session with Micah's class was better, because I was stricter (so was their teacher). Also made them all afraid. I'm trying to teach them the Torah service, and I said that at the next All School Tefillah they would have to lead it. They paid attention after that!

Then I went in to the kindergarten, to do a shofar workshop with them (including Sofia! although she was so tired, she spent most of my time rolling on the floor looking at a Barbie book). I brought three of our shofars in, and let each kid try to blow them. Thank heavens for alcohol wipes! It was fun.

Raced to shul, to make sure we actually have everything reserved properly for Sam's bar mitzvah. Apparently (as I'd discovered yesterday) we did not! So I'm a little nervous. It should be ok, but we have to find out about the tent I want to put in the courtyard, which is even more necessary now that there is an aufruf (blessings before a wedding) with an equally large family that same morning. So there will be just ghastly amounts of people!

Back to get Sofia, who left kindergarten early and sat quietly in the car with me waiting for the boys. Got Sam a buzz cut (his choice) and got Sofia's bangs trimmed. Got a snack for Micah, then dropped him at his gymnastics. Then off to Sofia's gym. Sam and I tried going to the post office, but the desk at Trolley Square closes at 4:31 - and the postman there is VERY nasty - and we got stuck in bad traffic trying to get to the office on Route 30. So I will mail the invitations tomorrow :(

Got Sofia, got Micah, got home. Did not realize both my bnai mitzvah students would be showing up, but that went well. They actually prefer to work together, which is good. Then dinner for the kids, bedtime for Sofia, dinner for me, clean up, and now it's 11:15. Good Night already!

Oh, but one more thing: At the beginning of the month, I was the featured interviewee in the Jewish Family Service of MetroWest's newsletter! Here is the interview

Francine Ferraro Rothkopf:
The Gift of Community
by Julie Wolf, JFN Newsletter Editor

Synagogue, school, and Internet -- all provide Francine Ferraro Rothkopf with a sense of community that sustains her. A longtime resident of the Metrowest area, she and her husband, David, live in Ashland with their three children, Samuel (12), Micah (almost 10), and Sofia (6 1/2), who has Trisomy 21, more commonly known as Down syndrome. In this interview, Francine talks about the value of community in her family's life.

Your maiden name is Ferraro -- not exactly a common Jewish name. Were you born Jewish, or are you a Jew by choice?

This is one of those weird family stories: I have a picture of my paternal grandparents on their first date. On the back is written "The Future Mr. & Mrs. Langer." It wasn't until they had dated for a full year that my grandmother found out Grandpa's last name was really Ferraro! Having grown up in the Garment District in New York, Grandpa spoke better Yiddish than most people, and could "pass" well enough for the times, and he'd really wanted to date her. Of course, once it was discovered that he was not actually Jewish, there was upheaval on both sides. ... My great-grandparents stopped being observant once my grandparents married, and it wasn't until my father explored his own intellectual curiosity of Judaism, and later married my mother, from a traditional Jewish home, that we brought Judaism back solidly into the family.

My parents were very committed to their involvement in our small synagogue in Bristol, Conn., and I think that is where I began to develop my obsession with community. But for sure, having a last name like "Ferraro" was always amusing, especially on synagogue and USY letterhead. ...

Your daughter, Sofia, was born with Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome. As the mother of a child with Trisomy 21, what have you found to be some of the misconceptions about the syndrome?

... Down syndrome affects people of all ages, races, and economic levels. Although a woman's chances of having a child with DS increase after age 35, more live births of children with DS are to younger women, because older women are more likely to have prenatal testing, and more likely to abort. Approximately 92 percent of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome are aborted.

That last sentence gets to the heart of problem. OB/GYNs still present a diagnosis of Down syndrome as a terrible tragedy, and are not always quick to provide accurate, up-to-date information. The diagnosis is no longer terrible. I acknowledge that, had I been born with that extra chromosome back in the mid-1960s, I probably would have been put in an institution. But the world Sofia and her peers face is so vastly different. With preventative medical treatments (children with DS faced increased risk of cardiac issues, childhood leukemia, thyroid problems, hearing or vision loss, skeletal problems, and a few other issues), people with Down syndrome are able to live healthier, longer lives. With the developmental and academic supports, such as those provided by Early Intervention and Special Education services, they are able to accomplish amazing things. Early support (EI showed up in our home when Sofia was only three weeks old!) is key. Think about how much a typical baby grows and learns in the first few years; children with the developmental delays associated with the extra chromosome need extra help to achieve those milestones. ...

The world of Special Needs Mommies on the Internet is bursting with love and support and cheer. I have friends now from all over the world; on our recent trip to Israel we were able to visit with friends there. I hear about the struggles friends go through in other states and realize we are very lucky to live in Massachusetts, where both the medical care and the education are available. My "DS Mommies," both near and far, are a terrific resource for parenting Sofia.

This year Sofia is starting full-day kindergarten in Ashland, but she'll also be attending the MetroWest Jewish Day School. What were some of the special arrangements that went into enrolling Sofia at MWJDS?

I am SO excited about this! I have been involved with MWJDS from the very, very beginning, so I always knew I wanted all my children to go there. When I got my prenatal diagnosis for Sofia, I was very clear: Sofia would be attending the school when she was old enough. We had the incredible luck to have Carolyn Keller as head of school, because aside from her tremendous commitment to the school and Jewish education in general, she also has a grown son with Down syndrome. She knew firsthand what it was like to send two children to day school but have to send one to public school.

Sofia attended preschool in the Ashland public school system -- children with learning disabilities are entitled to a free public education beginning at age 3 (per IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). The folks in Ashland have always been aware of how much we wanted Sofia to go to MWJDS, but also of how much we want to make sure she gets all the services and supports she needs. And they have been terrific collaborators.

The idea for "partial participation" did not crystallize until this past June. Although everyone at MWJDS was committed to having Sofia become a student there, we also needed to make sure that what we did was really in Sofia's best interest. If we had to bring in all our own therapists and specialists (Sofia needs speech, occupational, and physical therapy several times per week, in addition to learning supports), the cost would be astronomical. Were I to schlep her back and forth between schools all day, she'd never have time to learn anything (and I'd be a wreck!).

So ... we developed a special curriculum [at MWJDS] for her, following the kindergarten's Judaic studies. ... [Attending two afternoons a week], she will be a full member of the kindergarten class. ... While it is too early to predict how things will develop, we are confident that this first step will be a positive one for Sofia, our school, and our community. The folks in the public school have been fantastic advocates. We are so very blessed by the whole project.

A few years back, you contributed to a book called Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives. You wrote about "The Gift of Community." What inspired you most?

... My essay is about how the folks in our community and family embraced us when we announced Sofia's diagnosis prenatally. Our wonderful friends from Temple Israel threw us a "baby seder" before Sofia was born, and people from the shul and the day school cooked us so many meals once she arrived, I think it was three months before I had to cook again! We felt so loved and protected within our community, and we were -- and still are -- so grateful for how everyone has taken part in raising Sofia.

A candid question: Do your sons ever feel that Sofia overshadows them or takes more of your time and energy than they would like?

This was my parents' big worry when we told them Sofia would have Down syndrome: "How will this affect the boys?" But kids who grow up with a sibling with special needs have more of a chance to develop qualities such as patience, kindness, supportiveness, acceptance of differences, compassion, helpfulness, empathy, dependability, and loyalty. That seemed like a pretty good "gift" to give them!

To read more about Francine and her family's recent trip to Israel, or to learn about resources geared toward families with children with special needs, visit her blog at http://fbfrothkopf.blogspot.com/.

Friday, September 9, 2011

End of the Week

Yeah, we made it through the week. It was a little rough, and a lot of wet!

Let's see... the pool party on Monday was lovely fun, except Sam and A got into a terrible fight. So we have decided the families need to take a break (we can still have grown-up time!). We will keep the two kids apart as much as we can, given that they are two/thirds of their entire class!

Tuesday, I "worked" in the morning, going to tefillah (morning services) with Micah's class. Micah was the leader. Unfortunately, Micah also did not feel good at all. A few hours later, I pulled him out to go to the pediatrician. Turns out he had an ear infection. AND his thyroid was enlarged, so then I had to take him over to the hospital lab (our peds does not do blood work). Still waiting for results, which is frustrating.

Raced back to school in time to teach the 5th grade - they ROCKED, which was cool. Then back to pick up Sofia, then back to get the boys (which was insane, 'cause even picking Sofia up a few minutes early, I was very late for the boys).

We have since worked out the pickups. My friend J will pick up the boys on Tuesday, so I don't have to race, and on other days I will pick her up 20 minutes earlier. Whew.

Sofia LOVES Kindergarten! (In both schools). She even loves Breakfast Bunch. Every time I say "Kindergarten", she says "Happy". It's wonderful. And she transitioned between the two schools very very easily.

Sam hit his head on the ground at the pool on Monday (he was trying to balance between two chairs. Then he hit is head during recess on Wednesday. Then he hit his head during gym today! UGH. Massive headache, poor kid, but so far he's ok.

Wednesday was crazy. I had a dentist appointment, then race to get Sofia and bring her to the day school. Drop her and race to Micah's class for my 1:00 session with them. Micah's class was ...uh...more as I had expected them to be (DIFFICULT!) this time.

After school Wednesday (so nice to have all three kids in one place!), we drove Sam home, because he had a ton of homework, then back up to Framingham. First dropped Micah at his gymnastics place, then took Sofia to hers. Both have 4:30 - 5:30 classes. Places are 10 minutes apart... After class, picked them up, home, quick dinner, and bar mitzvah student.

Today I took my boys and my "Friday Child" (extra kid, regular Friday carpool) home, plus Micah's friend A (another A, I know...). We walked up to pick Sofia up at school - it's finally lovely out again. The kids played, and then David came home.

Now David and Sam are on their way (in David's new toy) to Western Mass, to drop Sam off at a camp friend's house. He's going to a Bat Mitzvah in Pittsfield tomorrow. So I have Micah and his friend, plus Sofia; we are meeting friend's family for dinner in a little while.

Have to go play Monopoly now...

Monday, September 5, 2011

First Week done, one more start tomorrow

Wow. The first day at MWJDS was great. We all gathered in the front parking lot (the building has undergone a town-of-Framingham makeover, and we currently have no field and no playground, although playground is "on order"). Sofa was not supposed to attend in the morning, but as soon as she saw her friends in line, she joined the group. I walked in with the kindergarten class, helping out another kid.

Miss Sofia walked in the line, went to the girls' bathroom with her friends, and got back in line, walked to the classroom, found her name and put it in the right place on the board, found her desk, and worked on the first project - all without help!!! I was so proud of her!

I did pull her out after that, and we stopped in to the parent meeting in the cafeteria, where she distributed (or redistributed) car tags around the room.

Then we headed over to the public school.


What a difference. I'm going to have to get over it. The day school encourages a warm, nurturing, welcoming environment. Public school...strives for satisfactory and standard. "We'll wait for the last family to arrive" (in silence). Poor Sofia had to be dragged in to the school. I went early, so I could go speak to the Early Care (Breakfast Bunch) ladies...although the people who were there were the After Care staff, not Breakfast bunch.

Sofia was not happy to be in school, and it was very disoriented - she is in the exact same hallway as she has been for the past three and a half years for preschool, but all the preschool folk are gone (moved to a different building) and the kindergarten has moved in.

And they join the first and second grades, sharing all the resources, including cafeteria and playground.

Kindergarten: Mrs. P's class has their snack FIRST THING IN THE MORNING (apparently because some kids don't eat breakfast...however, Sofia will have had breakfast at home AND at Breakfast Bunch by the time she gets to class.). Lunch is at 11:30. Playground break - for KINDERGARTEN - is 2:20. Dismissal is 3:10. There are 18 kids in this Inclusion classroom, and two adults. TWO adults. 18 kids. Sofia is NOT the most difficult kid.

She gets some free play time right after lunch. I'll pick her up on Mondays and Wednesdays right after that, to go to the day school. On the other three days, the assistant teacher actually leaves early, so Mrs. P is expected to handle dismissal for all 18 kids alone. So I will pick Sofia up at 3:00, which gives me just enough time to get to the day school by 3:15(ish) to get the boys.

I have to remember that it will be OK. Not fabulous. Not spectacular. Not excellent. OK. And OK in Massachusetts is still WAY BETTER than OK in many other places.


So after kindy visit at the public school, we had a quick picnic, and then Sofia did go back to the day school and join the class for a few hours. Loved it. I was of course late for the first pickup, but she did great (but I apologize publicly to her teachers!).

Oh, and it's going to be a fine line between the relative lack of attention she'll get in the public school versus the one-on-one aide at the day school. I have to make sure we do not coddle her too much at the day school. She CAN do everything, she just needs a little guidance.

While Sofia went to kindergarten in the afternoon, I got to teach my first class! And it was Micah's class, which is the most difficult, because it's combined 3/4 grades and has a huge variety of...personalities... But I did it. Whew! And Micah was relatively well behaved.

Both boys have been really tired all week, getting back into the rhythm of school. They also are having a lot of allergy problems (this is one of the only seasons that really bothers Sam). And with the barometer being up and down, I've had a few migraines and a lot of muscle/joint problems this week. Not feeling great.

Friday night, we had Nicki and the kids and another couple from shul (who had been without power most of the week). (Oh, Friday morning, Sofia went back to MWJDS for another hour). Lovely evening. Saturday, shul, then relaxing at home (I had a migraine, so napped, while Sofia dumped all the DVD boxes...on top of me...).

yesterday we went up to the Butterfly Place in Westford. Nifty. Lots of gorgeous butterflies. But Sofia was racing through, and I spent most of the time telling her not to touch and not to blow on them! And the boys were less-than-impressed. They are in a very unenthusiastic mood recently. Not fun to be with.

Afternoon, I insisted we go to the pool for one last time. Our neighbors were there too, so the boys played with their kids, and the grownups got to talk while watching Sofia jump in over and over again. The water was very cold! But she kept going. It was nice.

Today we are off to a friend's house in the afternoon for pool party and BBQ. Kindergarten for real tomorrow, and I think I'll start teaching...

Happy Labor Day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Starting Kindergarten!

My Big Girl

It's been a VERY busy week. I ended up getting sick last week with whatever Sofia had in Israel, so it was a very quiet and mostly uneventful last week of vacation. Micah had a great time at camp, but came home ... changed...into a misogynistic pig. Before we'd gotten all the way home, my mother had hung up on him, Sofia was yelling "Mad Micah!" and I had offered to pull over and let him walk (after he announced "I won't be helping out around the house as much any more."). Got home and fought with David and Sam. But he woke up back to normal. Whew.

Twice while he was gone, the three of us went up to school, each for different meetings. Sofia met her kindergarten teacher (and helped wash the play-food), Sam met his new reading teacher, and I had a great meeting with my new boss, the Head of School, and supervisor, the new Director of Teaching and Learning. Both of whom I've known for years: HOS used to be the music and art teacher when Sam was in kindergarten, and DTL goes to my shul.

I felt totally overwhelmed and out of my league, because they are both very learned, Judaically, but they are also both very kind. HOS gave me a great pep talk about how he thinks this is such a perfect job for me. And I met again yesterday for a long time with the DTL, and that went great.

But I have SO much to do! Have to figure out what each class learns and when, and which teachers need my help on which things. Today I met briefly with some of the teachers about it, so I'm starting to get a better sense of what is what.

Friday evening we had our Shabbat dinner as a picnic on the Natick Commons with friends. It was a lovely lovely night. And David was starting to get sick, with a head cold, so it was good to be out of the house and not stressed.

We stayed home most of Saturday - I actually went to shul by myself, which was wonderful. In the evening, we did go up to Stow to my friend's house for a nice party. It was good to see people.

Sunday was the Tropical Storm (by us; Hurricane elsewhere). We did not have any damage other than lots of branches. A tree from next door fell right across the front of our yard, stopping exactly at the edge of our driveway.


The power went out around 11am. I worked frantically on my laptop until the battery ran out. I wanted to start getting the tefillah curriculum in order.

Poor Sofia did NOT enjoy having no access to her movies! She spent most of the day saying "Watch TV?", and then decided to dump all her toys on the living room floor:


We did not get power back until around 10 am on Monday, so I spent the night listening to items in my freezer melt, but actually we did not lose much. The freezer was packed tight, so things did not melt badly.

Monday, I dropped the boys at a friends' (they all went tubing down a hill!) and Sofia at a sitter's house, and then went to school for my long meeting with the DTL. (Actually, the sitter was her daughter, Emma. And they have two cats. This will be an important detail later...)

In the afternoon, Sofia made a big pile of sticks in the front yard, from all the wind-blow. She had a grand time.

Today was the most exciting day: Kindergarten Visit! Actually, since Sofia is going to two schools, she'll do this again tomorrow. But today was at the day school.

First Kindergarten Visit

She was SO excited this morning! We ended up getting to school early ('cause she dragged me out of the house), and when we got there, she made a bee-line for the Learning Specialist's office. And shoved me out the door with a stern "Bye, Mama!". The LS wasn't ready for her yet, so I hung around and annoyed my daughter, but eventually it was time. They had half the class come at that hour and the other half the hour before. The kids went to the classroom, and the grownups talked with the new HOS.

The nurse visited the classroom (and I think did the nit-checks), and I saw her in the hall. "Oh, Sofia was telling me all about her cat, named Emma!" Despite the confusion, I was so proud that my daughter got that much information out on her own.

The boys stayed home alone for the morning - I love being able to do that! 12 year olds can be pretty darn annoying, but that's surely a plus.

Sofia went to her friend G's house for a playdate, and I put on my teacher hat to do some work for a while. Then picked up Sofia, picked up an extra kid for a playdate with Sam, and came home.

And had an anxiety attack.

Multiple pressures:

- School is starting tomorrow
- I am starting to teach tomorrow! and I feel not so ready and very overwhelmed. And it did not help that so far I have not been "announced" with the new teachers, so I sort of feel like an imposter. It happened during the parent time this morning; all the "new staff" were introduced, but I was not mentioned.
- David is away for a few days, and...
- the driveway is getting redone tomorrow, and...
- his new "toy" is arriving tonight (a sports car - I don't want to talk about it. Suffice it to say, he's in his mid-40s.)
- October 22 is looming.

October 22? What's wrong with that?

Well, remember my friend N, whose husband tragically ended his life last April? October 22 is their son (Sam's best friend) 's Bar Mitzvah.

And it's also the date of my grandmother's 100th birthday party.

In Florida.

Up till now, my parents have fully supported that I should be at the Bar Mitzvah. Sam and I both committed to read Torah, and N keeps repeating how important our family is to them and how we have to be there.

Well, someone did not give me a chance to explain to my grandmother why I would be missing her party. Someone just told her "Francine won't be there because of some bar mitzvah."

Of course, my 99 year old grandmother was miffed. "I'm not important enough? I only turn 100 once, you know!"

I tried explaining over the phone, but 1) she doesn't hear so well, and 2) she'd already decided to be miffed.

And then my parents changed their tune. And my father called to tell me how upset he was, and that it would be enough if I just flew out after the bar mitzvah service and got to the party late. Nope, we ALL have to be at the party, at 6pm. In Florida.

So now I have to weigh two very hard things:

The RIGHT thing


Pleasing my family

Honestly, I start hunching over in pain whenever I think about this. Which is why I went in to a full-blown panic attack this afternoon.

So enough about that. David's "toy" is going to arrive in about 20 minutes. I have to go figure out what I'm going to teach Micah's class tomorrow (because their teacher has to go to her mother-in-law's funeral - in Florida - tomorrow, on the first day of school, so I have to go in for what will be my "normal" time slot with the class). Which means Sofia is starting MWJDS tomorrow!!! (And she had public school Kindy Visit in the morning!).

Here are the gorgeous pictures of Sofia playing with the sticks, and of today's event.

Oh, and a cool article about Dyslexia.

Monday, August 22, 2011


The taxi arrived prompty at 8pm, to take us to Ben Gurion Airport. Our flight was not until 11:55, so we had plenty of time to check in and get everything done. Had to get the VAT Tax refund done, get some dinner for everyone, and look at the Duty Free shops. (I almost got fooled - saw the same yad - Torah pointer - Micah had bought, but for "50" and in better condition. Turned out all prices were in US$, so that was WAY more than the 85NIS I'd paid.).

Sofia was not feeling well again, and still refused to eat. Fortunately she slept most of hte time on the airplane, and also fortunately I had three overnight diapers for her. She did drink a lot of water (resulting in completely soaked through pjs), which was good.

The flight, although smooth,was possibly the worst international flight crew I have EVER seen. Really had no idea how to interact with people (and especially with children). It did not affect the Rothkopf family directly - our kids are very good and quiet on planes, and slept most of the time), other than not having our Kosher meal request listed. But as frequent travelers, David and I were appalled at the flight crew's behavior.

The woman who made the Safety announcements in English seemed to be only semi-literate, and kept mispronouncing words (my favorite was "we'll be dumming the lights"). She also gave the wrong flight number (said "979" instead of "797"), which resulted in half the forms for customs being filled out incorrectly (I had a long chat with the customs guy when we arrived in Philly).

They also managed to break our stroller! UGH. When we got to Boston, we filed a claim. David will bring the broken stroller back next week when he goes on his next flight, and they will "try to repair it" (not possible, the aluminum post is completely chopped in half) or offer a replacement.

The bathrooms on the flight were beyond disgusting, and that was from the start of the flight. David composed a letter to the CEO of US Airways, listing all the complaints. Appalling.

Sofia continued ot be feverish throughout the flight, so I guess it was good that she slept most of the time. In Philly, I found some Children's Advil in the store, and it took three of us to hold her down to get the liquid into her. However, that was the turning point. I did speak to the pediatrician once we landed in Boston, but she has been clearly on the mend since we got home. Whew.

I'd called Tommy's Taxi from Logan, and the dispatcher said to give another call when the Logan Express bus got to the ramp in Framingham. Which I did. And we waited half an hour for the promised van - finally taking a JFK van instead. Cleaner, nicer, and actually there (we think we saw the Tommy's van pull in as we headed down the road...).

Home by 11:30 am. Unpacking, laundry, showers, and figuring out life. David and Sam went to David's office for a few hours, while Micah and I finished packing for camp.

I took Micah to the bus at 7am today (my brain was so muddled, I actually got lost going to the JCC in Newton!) for his three nights at Camp Kingswood's Gesher program. I think I am more nervous than he is. At least he knew one other kid, a girl from MWJDS, two grades below him. I was a nervous wreck driving home after the bus left.

I got upset yesterday when I called my grandmother. Apparently some well-meaning relative told her I was NOT coming to her 100th birthday party, but without explaining in detail the reason why. Which is not just "a bar mitzvah", but "the bar mitzvah of Sam's best friend, whose father, one of David's best friends, committed suicide this fall. The bar mitzvah where both Sam and I are reading Torah, and where our whole family is needed to help my dear friend and her children celebrate a joyous occasion while mourning a sudden and mentally violent loss."

So I tried to tell this to my grandmother on the phone, but she does not hear so well. I had intended to write her a long letter about this once I received confirmation of the party date...which I did not receive until after we arrived in Israel. So I will be writing a letter to her today, but I'm already the worst granddaughter in the universe.

Which I guess would be easier to handle if I was not so jet-lagged, worried about my children, and withdrawing from my meds (I stopped taking my "mother's helper" in J'lem). Ugh.

So now it's 10:15, I'm blogging and catching up on emails, Micah is still on the bus to Maine, Sam is supposed to be reading but is probably playing on his ipod, and Sofia is watching "Mulan" while spreading tea party items throughout my room. And refusing to wear a shirt, although she does have on a very pretty skirt.

I have to nap...