Saturday, December 29, 2012

End of Year Wrap Up

It's been a busy couple of weeks (as usual). So lots of bits and pieces to report.

Josef's Bar Mitzvah

Today was my dear friend C's younger son's Bar Mitzvah. Instead of celebrating at their synagogue, they rented the Ashland High School auditorium, cafeteria and gymnasium. We had a lovely lovely Shabbat service in the auditorium. Our friend D, who is the Ritual Director at a large shul in Newton, helped the Bar Mitzvah boy lead the service. Micah and I read the first two Torah readings - Micah was first up, and he was terrific! Everyone was so impressed at this little guy (whom many remember as a baby). I was so proud of him.

Sofia, of course, kept us busy during the whole service. She spent a lot of time combing her doll's hair and putting "makeup" on me (mostly lip gloss), and then sat with her brothers and E (daughter of the guy leading the service; she is also a friend of Sam's from camp). E has beautiful long, straight hair, so Sofia had a great time with her!

Lunch was fun and yummy (C is a great cook, and she made all the food!), and then the kids all went into the gymnasium for games. Sofia of course was right in the crowd.

Near the end, the parents started gathering in the doorway to watch: the kids (led by a professional gym teacher-type guy) were playing some sort of dodge-ball/tag game. Sofia meandered through the gym, and occasionally tackled someone. Usually the shorter boys, occasionally the tallest (C's nephew, over 6' tall). The two shortest boys are my friends' sons. One was rather confused as to what was going on, but eventually she got off him. The younger kid....well, it was just hysterical. We were standing with the kid's parents. We watched as Sofia just totally tackled the boy, twisting his arms and putting him in a head lock. We watched as his brothers practically peed in their pants laughing, and as Sofia's brothers...did nothing. And we watched as another friend's sons came over and got her off of B.

My delicate flower.

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Russian Adoptions

I'm heartbroken about this. It's bad enough that the thousands of "healthy" children in Russian orphanages will no longer be eligible for U.S. adoption. The really terrifying tragedy is for the kids with Special Needs.

In Russia (heck, in most of the world), kids with Special Needs are given up at birth. They may live in a Baby Center for their first year. But then they are transfered to the worst-of-the-worst orphanages. And when a child with Down syndrome reaches the age of 4 years old without being adopted, that child is then placed in a regular old mental institution...for the rest of their lives. (which, of course, are incredibly short, since they receive almost zero health care).

I can't describe it better than this lady, who actually did adopt Kirill after a long struggle.

But now, Putin as signed into law a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

I am heartsick about this. And I do not know what we can do. I just do not know.

So if you DO know something, please post!

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Christmas Weekend

Last Saturday was my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Truly a miracle (a miracle that they have not killed each other!). David was still flying back from Ireland, so he missed the "party", but we (the kids and I, my sister and her family, and my parents) had a private room at a nice Italian restaurant in Hartford. It was a nice evening.

David met us at my folks' house, where we were to stay for the next few days (although the boys actually stayed at my sister's house two out of the three nights).

Sunday was spent with David's family - met his folks at the store, but then we all went out for Chinese buffet.

Monday, however, David and my mother had a horrible argument, so that made the next 36 hours less than perfect. Very tense. We took our kids and my sister's twins, and met Laura and Lilie, to go bowling/laser tag. In the evening, we left Sofia with my parents and met my sister and her family to see The Hobbit.

We went to my aunt & uncle's house for Christmas day. My aunt J is Catholic, as are my cousins. Uncle P is my dad's youngest brother. Such a nice day. I thank Facebook for improving my relationship with my uncle; I think he finally realizes that I am NOT a clone of my mother ;)

Sofia LOVED the Christmas tree (she's been begging for a tree all month), and spent a long time re-arranging the ornaments. She also had a blast helping hand out gifts. She's not that into her own possessions. She just enjoys giving (and unwrapping). She hummed her way through all the gifts; so excited.

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Handing out Candy

Speaking of Sofia's penchant for giving...

At today's bar mitzvah, as well as at the bat mitzvah on the 16th, Sofia did something special. It's traditional around here to throw soft candy at the bar/bat mitzvah child, for a sweet celebration. Then the little kids run up and collect the candy.

Usually kids keep the candy.

But Sofia is different. She collects a big armful of candy, and then makes her way back to our seats (we usually sit in back), handing out pieces of candy to people! She did it today, too. She comes back to our seat with just ONE piece of candy, but she is SO happy to hand candy to others (sometimes she has to use a little force to get them to accept it).

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Newtown, CT

Another "no words" topic.  But I had five kids here all that afternoon (my own three and two others), and there was no way I could stay hovering over the news.

I certainly do not think that there should be armed guards in every school. We can't pay enough teachers and librarians. How the heck are we supposed to pay guards?

I worry when my boys get too "into" a violent video game. And I have long talks with them about that kind of violence.  And I generally do not let them play that kind of game, although sometimes it slips in.

They are good about it. And gentle and caring. And loved. And supported.

I hope that is sufficient to keep them safe.

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Acupuncture

I love it!

I've been going since the week before Thanksgiving. It's a more Western setting than when I went a few years ago, big on relaxation as well as treatment. But it's working. I have not had a migraine since I started (even after eating my uncle's delicious-but-usually-migraine-inducing fried eggplant). I can feel a difference in the fybromialgia pain. And my massage lady was amazed at how many muscles she could get to!

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 Tefillah

I'm trying not to think about this over vacation, but once school starts up again, I have to design a family-friendly Shabbat service for the day school Shabbaton on January 26.   A service that will both satisfy the prayer needs of the handful of more ritually observant, and that will not alienate those who want a shorter service. A service that will involve the students and engage the parents. A service that will be everything to everyone.

I know. Not possible.

And it's a special Shabbat (Shabbat Shira, when we read about crossing through the Red Sea) as well as Tu B'Shevat, the "birthday" of the trees holiday.

No pressure.

So if you have any ideas or suggestions, please please please share!

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Snowboards and Sleds

Sofia has spent every day this week asking to go Sledding. Back in November, I bought her a new, pink sled (for $5 at Target).

So yesterday I made Micah and his buddy take her sledding on our front hill. Which had barely a dusting of snow on it.

But at least she went.

Meanwhile, my parents bought Sam a snowboard (and boots, bindings and helmet) for his bar mitzvah, so yesterday David took him up to southern NH to go boarding (David skis). They had a good time, but Sam was so sore this morning from trying to do turns.

Micah and I prefer to be indoors.

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Another Sleep Study coming our way

We took Sofia to the Sleep Clinic at Boston Children's Hospital on Wednesday. (Actually, we also took the boys and two other kids with us!).

I had made the appointment a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed that her apnea-like symptoms were particularly bad. She did have a stuffy nose, but her sleep was so very uneven. And she continues to wake and come in every night, and moves constantly.

So off we went. They could not find any record of the sleep study from two years ago, which I thought had been bull&^%$ anyway (the technician kept yelling at me to keep her flat on her back, which is definitely NOT how she sleeps).

So we are scheduled for another study, this time in Boston (last one was Waltham) next week. Should be interesting. Meanwhile, I have to track what time she goes to sleep and what time she wakes up. And they suggested we make her bedtime a bit later; apparently, kids with DS don't "need" as much sleep as typicals sometimes (certainly Micah is not a big sleeper, too).

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Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a sweet, happy, and healthy New Year. May 2013 bring peace and joy to all of you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Daughter is a Party Animal

The kids and I celebrated my friends' daughter's bat mitzvah today. They had the service today, a Sunday, for several reasons:

1. The mom has a lot of family who are Orthodox and would not have been able to stay near enough to the synagogue (there are no hotels near that shul).

2. It was still Hanukah, so there was still a Torah reading even though it was Suday.

3. They had about a gazillion people, and the sanctuary there is small, so this way there was just about enough room (with extra chairs).

Anyway, the kids and I (David is in Ireland) got there a little late, and the service had already started. The place was packed. I was hanging up coats, the the boys were distracted talking to their friends, who had walked in with us. So we managed to lose track of Sofia just long enough...

I came out of the coat room, and started asking where she went. I followed the trail of nodding heads...until I spotted my daughter. Front and center. On the floor in front of the center steps leading up to the bimah (the "stage" where the Rabbi and Cantor stand). The Cantor (who is a friend) was hovering nearby, trying to block her way and/or argue with her. He should have known better. As I got near, she very purposefully started marching right up the steps.

I smoothly raced up and grabbed her. People commented later that I looked as if I'd practiced that move a lot (YUP!).

We found a seat, and she mostly settled in. The Cantor kindly came down to tell me that his office was unlocked and there were toys in there she could play with; we did spend the last 20 miutes of the service in his office. Much thanks!

The best was when we threw the candy at the bat mitzvah girl (we throw candy to shower the child with sweets, to celebrate the sweetness of the occasion). The younger kids are invited to come up and gather the candy after it is thrown. Sofia of course was the first one up there, and got a big handful of the candies. Micah went up after her, but couldn't find her. Then I spotted her...center aisle again, this time handing out candy to people sitting in seats!

After the service, we all got into the cars and headed over to the Elks Lodge in Natick for the party. It was a tight squeeze, but the party was lovely. Sofia took one look, shucked off her coat, threw it at me, shouted "Here, Mom, hold this" and ran to the dance floor. And stayed there just about the entire time.

I had to grab her during the "Coke & Pepsi" game so she wouldn't get trampled, and I had to hold her in my lap (on the floor, of course) during the candle-lighting ceremony so she wouldn't be in every picture. But otherwise, that child did not stop dancing.

And she flat-out refused to dance with ME, but had no problem asking all sorts of other adults to dance with her. Friends, strangers, she didn't care. As long as it wasn't Mama.

I did have to drag her out of there eventually, but she had SO much fun!

The boys had  fun too, although granted not as much as their sister. Sam had a headache most of the time, but he sat with his friends. Micah also had friends to hang out with.

I drove two other kids home; one is still here 5 hours later (hopefully his father doesn't completely forget about him; but I guess I can just bring him to school tomorrow...).

Pictures soon...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IEP Meetings and other crazy slices of life

We had Sam's IEP meeting (ok, Part 1) today. So many different things to report.

I've hired an Educational Consultant to join us for this set of meetings, since we are talking about transitioning from his tiny Jewish Day School environment into a considerably larger high school next year. I don't feel like we needed an Advocate, as that usually indicates an antagonistic relationship. I think the Public School team and the Day School team have all been FANTASTIC advocates for Sam over the years. I just wanted a Consultant's-eye-view of things, so we don't miss any important details. So I had a great initial meeting with the Consultant the other day, and she raised wonderful and thought-provoking questions.

Today's meeting had our typical cast of thousands:
- me
- David
- Sofia (who had an Early Release day; I was armed with her video player and her Mobigo game)
- the Consultant
- the Learning Specialist from MWJDS
- Sam's English and History teacher from MWJDS
- the Team Liason
- the Ashland Adjustment Counselor, whom he meets with every 6 days
- the Ashland Reading teacher who teaches him every 6 days
- the Speech/Language specialist and the OT, both of whom are on Sam's team as the Technology advisors.

It was bittersweet for me: the OT has been on his team since first grade, and is also on Sofia's team, and she's leaving the district in a few weeks after 19 years. I feel like I'm losing a great friend and a champion for my children. And she proved even more what a champion she is with her comments to me about Sofia after Sam's meeting (more below).

So as usual, we only got about a third of the way through the actual IEP document, but we made some terrific progress.

One slight monkey-wrench that was thrown in last week was that a representative from Gann Academy, the Jewish high school, came to talk to Sam's class, and now OF COURSE Sam wants to go to Gann. Which would be lovely if
  1. We had another 0 after David's salary
  2. We lived about 30 minutes closer, and
  3. Sam didn't have such the learning and emotional issues he does have.
I'm willing to go look, and to discuss it with the school, but I honestly think the pressure at Gann would be way too much for him. Mr. Perfectionist is still freaking out because he got an 80 on a math exam. He's an all-or-nothing kind of kid; no grey area for him. In his mind, 80 = fail.

Sigh.

Anyway, we'll continue the discussion next week, and start making some visits to the guidance counselor at the public high school (who also phoned in to the meeting for a few minutes). All in all, a good start.

On the way out, the OT pulled me aside. With one foot out the door already, she could tell me as a friend that we really should start re-evaluating Sofia's supports and placement. Her current Inclusion Class has well over 20 kids in it, and without a 1:1 aide, Sofia is not getting nearly enough attention and help. She said the other staff all agree (including the wonderful classroom teacher), but since the ideal class setting for her somehow does not exist this year, no one is able to speak up. As she is on her way out, she can say it, and knowing the Kind of Mother I am, she knows I'll be able to actually do something about it.

Which means that now I have to figure out WHAT to do about it.

So I'll be trolling my DS and Special Needs chat boards for ideas. Please comment or email me if you have a suggestion! (I don't want to jump on the chat boards right now. The DS community lost another child today: parents rushed child to ER for what they thought was a stomach bug, and she ended up coding. A team of 17 docs worked on her, but she lost the battle this afternoon. Terrifying and so very sad.)

Meanwhile, middle child informed me the other day that "I don't like Maturity." Ok. I'vebeen doing a lot of considering of him. I sometimes call him "Peter Pan" because he so very desparately does not want to grow up. I also call him Oedipus! The other day I sang him Tom Lehrer's "Oedipus Rex" on the way to school. When he got out of the car, he said, "Bye. Love you - but not too much!" That kid cracks me up!!!




Saturday, November 24, 2012

TurkeyDays

Wednesday was a busy day. The boys only had 3 hours of school. Sofia had a Publishing Party in her public school class. That was interesting. There are something like 24 kids in her class, so it's really busy. But the other kids (mostly the girls) really treat Sofia like a baby. It's interesting. I had a long chat with one of the aides (the one we LOVED last year; but she's not in that class as often this year). We did a little brainstorming, trying to figure out how to get the kids to treat her like a peer.

We decided on a combination of things. The new principal is a very large man with a booming yet gentle voice. He talks to the kids like real people (as opposed to the assistant principal, who uses one of those sweet sicky voices some people think they need to use when talking to children). So we will have him talk to the kids, but I will also bring in some books on-topic. (Suggestions?!)

After I picked up the kids, we came home most of the rest of the afternoon. David stopped by for lunch, and I had to run out for an orthopedist checkup and then later for more acupuncture.  But for most of the time I was home, I wrote a little book.

video


Yeah, I know, some of it is a little over the heads of first graders. But I felt better.

Anyway. (that took me another 2 hours to make the slide show. I kind'a get distracted by stuff like that...)

Thursday, we tried to sleep a little later, but Sofia was not so cooperative. She keeps climbing into bed with us at around 2am, and she's getting bug. And Heavy. And she doesn't BUDGE except to take up more space. The past few nights, I have ended up moving into her room around 5am just to get some space.

Anyway, I made my sliver dollar pancakes with my new cast iron silver dollar pan. Love it! The kids watched the parade on TV. And we made it out of the house by noon-ish.

Since the Pike was bumper-to-bumper, David took a back road route. Pretty, but still took 2 hours.

Got to my sister's house. Brother-in-law and nieces were cooking and watching football. We settled in. My sister was on call, so we had not expected to see her, but she managed to get out ("The hospital was totally dead" is not really the phrase you want to hear from a cardiologist!). My uncle and aunt and one cousin showed up around an hour later, then mom's cousin and his wife, and eventually (4pm) my parents.

Sofia likes to take pictures of the television:
 Sam looking cool:
 The "triplets" (the twins are 6 weeks older than Sam):
 My Dad (on the right) and my uncle Phil:
 My cousin (he's so handsome!):
 The Kiddie Table:
 Unc:
 Sofia shows off her ballet moves:

 Post turkey couch potatoes:

We were supposed to sleep over, but my sister and one of my nieces were not feeling well. I thought it would be better if we went home. So Friday we tried again to sleep late (yeah, no such luck!)

David and Micah took a ride for a few hours. I eventually got Sam and Sofia out and we braved Best Buy. Sam bought himself an Xbox with the last of his Bar Mitzvah spending money.

Then we headed up to my friend R's house for a wonderful day-after-Thanksfiving celebration. We had three kosher turkeys! One smoked, one grilled, and one deep fried. (I liked the grilled).


 Sam and his friends (they've been together since kindergarten, although they have grown considerably):

Shul this morning, and then I had another acupuncture appointment. Then we just hung out all afternoon. Relaxing. Sort of.




Monday, November 19, 2012

Keeping Busy

I guess ranting paid off. Saturday evening, my blog was listed as one of technorati.com's Top 10 "Movers" in the Living-->Family list! So Cool!

That certainly puts the pressure on, though. Now I have to come up with something interesting and worthwhile, to keep my status.

Uuuuuhhhhhhh.....

Ok, news report here at home: David and Micah both have a bit of a tummy bug today. Micah stayed home, but of course David went to work. I think Micah will be fine tomorrow. I'm guessing David...not so much...

We had our extra Sam this weekend, who is always a pleasure. He used to be great friends with our Sam, but now he and Micah do more together as my 13 year old sinks into sullenness. So Saturday evening, the two younger boys went down to the basement, and brought up an old Mac Quadra "pizza-box" computer. And proceeded to take it apart...and put it back together. They were incredibly excited about doing this. And very efficient. I did not find any spare parts on the kitchen floor.

David came home from San Diego late Saturday evening, so on Sunday we took the three boys and Sofia to the rock climbing gym in Worcester. Our Sam had a fabulous time, and wanted to stay much longer. The younger two boys did not have as much fun, because they were too young to belay (be the person holding the rope on the ground while the climber goes up). Since only Sam and David could belay, they had to wait their turns a long time.

I spent the two hours chasing Sofia around. She wanted so badly to "climb" using the ropes, but in reality, she is just about as afraid of heights as I am. When I took her over to the Boulder wall (the kind of climbing wall where you don't need ropes), she could only climb about 1 foot up before she got too scared. So it was a long afternoon for me!

Had choir rehearsal last night. I'm in the Temple Israel choir, and we have performances coming up. First we are singing at the New Members Dinner on Friday November 30. Of course I forgot to sugn up for the dinner, and now it's sold out. Which means I have to find a Shabbat dinner where I can leave the kids in the middle of dinner and go over to shul to sing. Which is probably what I wanted to do subconsciously, since going to a communal dinner with my three children when David is traveling is NOT my idea of fun.

The second concert is the following Friday night, during services. Mostly we are doing the same pieces, with one or two being held in reserve for the second concert. Some of the pieces are really nifty. I especially like the Applebaum "Funky Dreidel". But this is the first time I've ever been in a non-auditioned choir, and it makes for an interesting sound. I'm trying hard to keep the sopranos on pitch (yes, I'm a freakin' soprano! Yikes!), but it doesn't always happen. I think the audience will like it; I just don't feel it's the best thing I've ever been involved in. The standards set by The Zamir Chorale are difficult to overcome, and I was there for 10 years. We do have several other former Zamirniks, and I think most of us are having the same attitude.

Anyway...

Gearing up for this weekend. I ONCE drove home on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I will NEVER do that again. So Wednesday we are here, and all the kids have a half-day of school. I have a foot doctor appointment in the afternoon, but otherwise I don't know what we'll be doing.

Thursday we head to CT for the day. Dinner is at my sister's house, although she will be on call at the hospital the whole time. So her husband and one of the twins are doing the cooking, and Sam has decided he wants to go down early and help. Which would be lovely except that my brother-in-law doesn't want all of us coming early.

So maybe we'll go see my sister-in-law (David's sister), or maybe my in-laws. Or maybe we'll just go down later, and Sam can help me cook here in the morning instead.

Friday we are back here for a party at my friend R's house. Haven't seen her in too long, so I'm looking forward to it. And I'm TRYING to plan to see my in-laws on Saturday, but they are not capable of making a decision this far in advance. So we might be free for the weekend. Not sure. I am skipping my 30th high school reunion, though. I don't want to be a yo-yo, going back and forth to CT every day. Too much driving.

At school, I'm still wearing multiple hats. Mommy. WebMaster. Tefillah Coordinator. Preschool Program Teacher. Tefillah Teacher. It's getting a little frustrating. Tomorrow David and I are meeting with the Head of School, and perhaps we can get some better answers as to how much value I am adding.

But meanwhile, I do the work, because face it, I DO love it! Today I got to show the first grade teacher how to make an email list, and I made a video slide show for tonight's event at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, and I updated some web pages, and I continued archiving photos, and I planned a Tallit Workshop for the Eighth graders to do while the 6th graders are at Teva next week.

We decided to do another Tallit workshop because right now the 8th graders are not using the tallitot (prayer shawls) they made in 6th grade. They each made their own very unique piece, and all was good until the Rabbinic Intern who was running the workshop then made them put the atarah (neck piece) that they made together on each tallit. The materials for the tallitot were all very soft and flimsy. The material for the atarah was a very stiff canvas. Totally busted the project.

So now I make Sam bring his big tallit (the one he got in Israel for his Bar Mitzvah) in for All School Tefillah, but otherwise he doesn't use one. And none of the others use one at all, although I know they have them.

So this time, we are aiming for a little more conformity (I know, the irony, right!).

Plain cream-colored material, all with the MWJDS logo, but then all made individual by each child. And they can be left in school. And they should be used in school for daily tefillah. We'll see how it goes.

I'm excited by it, and I think the workshop at least will be fun. Whether the outcome is what we want remains to be seen.

In other news...

My Facebook feed has been chock-full of wonderful support for Israel. Lots of positive messages, along with a few pointing out some blatant lies the Palestinians and several major news organizations are selling to the general public. The most interesting has been the recycled photos. Apparently, the Palestinian news organizations are taking photos from the conflict in Syria, photos published several weeks ago, and recycling them as photos from Gaza. There are several shots of a man holding a small injured child. Touching, I'm sure, but the same couple is shown in the exact same picture on news reports from Syria weeks ago!

So while all my Jewish friends are posting about supporting Israel and about how the Palestinians are lying, staging "news" reports (another shows the injured guy in the first frames then getting up and walking away in later frames), once in a while one of my non-Jewish friends posts something. And that has been...interesting.

Not chilling, at least. But certainly not as clearly supportive of Israel.

Which is making me want to "share" more of these links that my other, more activist friends, are already posting.

Which is not my regular style.

Sigh.

Ok. If I don't get back on here before Thursday, I wish everyone (in and out of the country) a sweet and happy Thanksgiving. And I pray for PEACE to come to Israel speedily and in our day. And please, keep all my friends and Temple Israel "family" members who live in Israel safe. I'm especially thinking about two young men who made aliyah last year and are now serving in the Israeli Army. Please, keep them safe!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ranting about Conformity

David is away this week, coming home (hopefully later tonight, possibly tomorrow morning) from San Diego and Mexico. Which means I had to take Sofia to her Reading School today.

Sofia takes part in the monthly Learning Program, a special program originally designed by the Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County. The program and the materials that come with it are terrific. But it meets once a month on Saturday mornings, half an hour drive from home, so my deal with David was that if he wanted Sofia to go to it, he had to mostly be the one to take her. Of course, I end up doing most of the work with her at home, but at least this gets him involved.

While the kids are in their class, the parents get together for a learning session of their own. And almost every month, when David returns from the Learning Program, he spends a good 24 hours ranting and raving about Sofia's education. Are we doing the right things? Are we doing enough? Is the school cooperating? Are they just treating her like a baby? Why aren't we fighting for more?

It's exhausting for me to keep up with all his questions, mainly because he does not have the day-to-day interaction with the school(s). He is also hearing from the parents who attend the program, none of whom are from our own town. Massachusetts schools as a whole are really good, but of course every town (and every school) is different. So experiences vary widely. And there's also the differences each individual child brings to the discussion. What works for Sofia may not work for another child, and vice versa.

So today it was my turn to go (since he is away). And I discovered another big problem.

Conformity.

Here's the specific issue that really fired me up, but there were many other pieces:

Within our learning packet today, which was about teaching our kids how to Add, there was a page with pictures of hand-signs for numbers:

(note, this was not the actual page, but these were the signs being used). These are the American Sign Language (ASL) signs for the numbers 1 through 10.

This took us to a side conversation that really irked me. One of the moms had run into a problem, because of the number 3.

Look at the Three sign above. Now look at this hand sign:
Notice the difference? In ASL, that sign means "W", but for non-ASL users, that is usually the hand sign for "3".

The discussion went along the lines of "we should not have spent so much time forcing our kid to learn the ASL number signs, because now he has to UN-LEARN them in school".

When I asked why not just educate the teacher as to the difference, they pushed back. "This is how they do it in public school."

BULLSHIT!

ASL is a Language. Which means that child is bi-lingual (at least; there are several families that also speak another language at home). Which means the school has to accommodate that!

Which very basically means the kid should not have to unlearn his ASL hand-signs!

Of course, my mind does not stop there.

I started listening to the questions various parents were asking. And I got SO frustrated! There was so much angst about making their kids meet the homework expectations, and only a little about making the homework meet the expectations for the child (to be fair, the conversation did start off with making the distinction between making a fair accommodation and making the work too simple).

But no one was thinking Outside The Box.

What is the point of homework?

To practice skills already learned in class, to help cement those skills into the brain.

Which means homework should not be for first learning. It should be practice.

Which means that is the child has not learned something yet, there should not be homework on that topic.

I hate homework. And I've told every one of my kids' teachers that if my child can't do the homework at least mostly independently, then my kids will not do the homework.

And, because the boys are at the day school, which is small and creative and prides itself on child-centered learning, I've never had a problem with this theory.

And because Sofia is in an Inclusion class but gets lots of her own individualized work, I have gotten only agreement from the public school.

So what I don't understand is, WHY do parents strive for their kids to be JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE? Why not strive for their kids to be THE BEST INDIVIDUAL LEARNER that child can be?

In "modern" society, we have identified key skills that are important: basic reading, simple math, etc. These fall into "Life Skills". We then go on to identify "higher learning" skills like Algebra.

Ok, I have no problem with that. Buy why does every child have to learn the same way? And why does every child have to DO things the same way every other child does them?

I know I live in a creative community. In our town, there are many families from other countries. There are many cultures and languages. We as a family are immersed in the Jewish community. Two of my kids have learning differences that require accommodation.

Why can't we just appreciate and integrate each difference, rather than try to iron everything out into one flat picture?

If a child speaks another language at home, yes, let them primarily speak English in school, but let the teachers be cognisant that there might be some words that cause "translation" issues.

(Great story to that point: our former Head of School has a grown son with DS. When he was little they lived in Israel, and then when they moved back to the states, he went to public school. One day, the parents were called in because he kept yelling "Die! Die!" at some kids who were teasing him. Turns out, he wasn't yelling "Die." He was yelling "Di" - די, which means "Enough"!

Ok, I've been sidetracked by too many questions from my children since I sat down to write this. But in summary, I do not want my kids to be like everyone else. I want them to be comfortable being who THEY are. Individuals. With individual skills, talents, failings, likes and dislikes.




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November dribs and drabs

Ok, I do think it's been two full weeks since my last post again. Ugh. So much to catch up on.

The hurricane was not a huge trauma here, although we continued to monitor all our NY and NJ and CT friends without power for so many days. We lost power in the late afternoon for about 5 hours. As soon as the power went out, we shut down most of the battery-powered electronics, figuring we should save the battery in case power was out a long time. Only exception was that Sofia insisted on watching a movie on the portable DVD player, but that battery only lasts 1 hour anyway.

The three kids and I ended up playing Monopoly by flashlight, which was interesting. Sofia was very enthusiastic about paying money, even when she did not owe anything.

But power was restored by bed time. I was a bit bothered to see how much they relied on it; Micah got completely hyper when the power went on, which made me lose my temper.

Tuesday, they had no school (a lot of folks were without power that day), so we had another lazy day. I did go out to run an errand in the morning, and took Sam shopping, and later took Sofia to her make-up swim lesson (since she would miss that Thursday).

Wednesday was back to normal. Evening was of course Oct. 31, Halloween. Ugh. First time David has ever missed it. But it turns out the boys are really getting too old! Sam ended up going out with his buddy across the street and another local kid, and they went without a grown-up this time! Very exciting (as long as they have cell phones...). Micah opted not to go with them, and he doesn't have local friends. So he stayed home and handed out the candy. I gave Sofia an option to go to a few houses, but she did not want to. So it turned out relatively relaxed. The three of us stayed home and handed out candy. They watched some movies while I packed. And Micah had Sofia sleep with him that night, to give me a break!

Thursday morning, bright and early. Got me and Sofia ready, woke the boys up, dropped Sofia at school, and I was off to the airport. Headed to Fort Lauderdale, for the SuLaM Shabbaton. SuLaM is a a project of Ravsak, which is the consortium of independent Jewish day schools. The Shabbaton (Thursday through Sunday) was a chance for a school leader, educator and lay leader to get together with folks from other schools and discuss.

It was energizing. I went with our Head of School (B) and our Director of Teaching and Learning (G). G and I started brainstorming when we met up at the airport, and pretty much did not stop until Friday afternoon. Everything we discussed led to another idea. I ended up with 12 different project plans!

It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun and interesting learning. I hope we do manage to implement at least some of what we learned.

Saturday evening after Shabbat we had free time, so my friend B who lives down the street from the hotel were we were staying joined us for Havdalah and then drove me up to see Grandma. My parents were still there, too (they were supposed to be there Monday until Friday, but they moved their flights to Wednesday/Sunday because of the hurricane). So B did a great job of keeping my folks busy while I got to talk to Grandma. Who looks FABULOUS and not nearly the 101 years old that she really is!

I had planned in great detail for the care and feeding of my children and husband while I was gone. David didn't get back from his trip (he'd left Monday morning before the storm) until early Friday morning, so the three kids slept over my friend D's house on Thursday. And since I was traveling, OF COURSE one of my kids was sick! Micah had 101.8 degree fever on Thursday evening. Sigh. So Friday morning, after D dropped her kids and Sam at the day school and then Sofia at her school, she dropped Micah back with a still-asleep David.

Fortunately whatever he had did not last long, and he was better by the time I got home on Sunday. Sofia developed a bit of a tummy bug all week, but nothing to keep her out of school.

Last week is mostly a blur. Tuesday was a Professional Development Day, with a really interesting speaker, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano. I left the kids home for the morning. Brought my co-worker's daughter home with me after lunch, and took the four kids off for errands and appointments and voting. Had a REALLY interesting conversation after voting, about the MA ballot questions (one was about assisted suicide, and another about medical marijuana).

Lots of meetings and work and appointments all week. Micah's piano teacher is keeping a very fluid schedule this year, so I never know if we have piano on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Sofia is doing swim class on both Tuesday and Thursday, plus gymnastics on Monday. This week, we also had a make-up gym class today (Wednesday) to make up from the day of the hurricane. (Sofia was clearly paying attention when we planned the make-up class. She was totally expecting there to be MAKEUP involved. We had just enough time after picking up the boys to run home, put some lip gloss and cheek sparkle and eye shadow on her and grab a pair of pink plastic high heels. She looked FABULOUS.)

Had the 8th grade Parlor Meeting with the Head of School tonight. I hosted. Which meant we went through three bottles of wine, and the parents stayed until 10:20. I love my friends.

David is in San Diego this week. He's actually going to a client site over the boarder in Mexico each day, but they are sleeping at the hotel in San Diego.

Sam is stepping up his responsibilities this week, for some reason. He made dinner tonight and last night. Very cool. And this afternoon he and Micah did a lot of cleaning up while I took Sofia to gymnastics, so the house looked presentable.

I got a migraine on Sunday, and by Monday it was a full-body event. UGH. Monday night, I had the boys put some Tiger Balm on my neck and shoulders, and then I used a heating pad to try to calm some of the muscles. Which then threw me into complete joint swelling, so by 2am I had to take a frozen shower to get the swelling down. It got better yesterday, and more-so today. This afternoon I also got a massage. She couldn't even figure out where to start, my whole body is such a mess.

Monday was also Veteran's Day. Micah had a play date, so I took Sam and Sofia to teacher conferences at the day school and then we went down to the Wrentham Outlet Mall. Sam wanted Timberland boots (he was wearing David's which were a half size too large). I needed sunglasses. And Sofia decided to check out the makeup store! She is such a fashionista.

I also went back to the outlet mall yesterday, because I did not like the sunglasses I bought. Switched them for a different pair. Happier. Also, much easier to shop without the kids and the holiday shoppers. I got some bakeware that I just hadn't known I needed... a silver dollar pancake pan, etc.

Oh, and my mom called with sad news today. Her dear friend, Judy Schulz, passed away today. She'd been very sick for a while. But so sad. I'm friends with both her daughters, and my parents are close with the whole family.  So I will go down to CT for the funeral on Friday after I drop the kids at school. Already got the boys a ride home. Just need a ride for the girl.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weathering the weather

Well, it's certainly an indoor sort of today! The kids are still in pajamas (it's nearly 2pm). I only got dressed because I still had my podiatrist appointment this morning (ganglion cyst on top of foot; I am SO glad it's finally gone!). I took David to the Logan Express bus at 4am, and he is now safely in Minneapolis, waiting for his conference (he's presenting on Wednesday).

So far we still have electricity, so everyting is charging, and Sofia is watching PBS.

Micah's a little freaked out by the trees waving over the family room (which has skylights on the ceiling), so he's back upstairs. I'm cozy in my big green chair. Even enjoyed some ice cream.

It was a busy week. Last week, after David took Sofia to the reading group (and I posted about friendship), David continued to pester me about everything the school is doing for Sofia. By late night we had a 2 page list of questions to ask. I did a lot of chatting with the teachers and specialists over the week. Madame Sofia is doing FABULOUS. Apparently she has completed the time-telling unit, and totally 'gets' it. She's reading so much, and her language is just exploding.

In Swimming and Ballet and Gymnastics, she is super-focused and doing great. Big change from only a few weeks ago. It's all just clicking for her.

And she does have TONS of friends, including a little boyfriend in Breakafast Bunch. Very cute.

So that Saturday afternoon, after the reading program, we ended up at Walden Pond with our friends. And on Sunday, we met more friends, this time a couple whose daughter also has that extra special chromosome. We hiked at the MA Audubon Society, Broadmoor in Natick. Beautiful day. Picniced and played until well past closing. The kids had a blast. But it was very interesting seeing Sofia and Miss K, who is only a year younger. K is super-verbal, but since she does not have older brothers who are part monkey, she's not nearly as physical as Sofia. And seeing the DS temper in stereo was certainly ... uh...fun...

The lovely views:
 Dads and Daughters:
 David and Sofia - that's supposed to be a smile:
 Girl Fight! (Notice how Sam just stands by and watches...)
 Fight continues, Mom K steps in, Sam steps away...
 But later, the girls got along, and Sofia tried to give K a lift.

 My children, and a tree.






 Tackle!
 K gives Sofia the Heimlich? Or a lift up...
 Ah, a peaceful moment.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Friendships: Is an extra chromosome required?


Ok, this is for my Soul-Sisters (and Brothers): Does your child with Down syndrome have other friends with DS? Not the “kid I see because our parents are friends” acquaintance. Real, solid friendships with peers with DS?

My husband takes Sofia to the Learning Program reading group once a month. Invariably he comes home depressed and upset. One of today’s issues was about friendship. With older kids/young adults, there are activities like AIM (Advocates In Motion) or Special Olympics where they can meet peers. With younger kids, do you force specific friendships based on the extra chromosome? Or do your family’s friendships come organically from your surroundings? For example, our social life as a family is based mostly on the day school and on the synagogue. Well, Sofia is the only child with DS in the day school, and the only person under age 25 with DS at the synagogue. In her public school, she is the only child with DS in the entire first grade (which also means she is the only first grader with DS in the entire town).

Elementary school is a time when children start to make their own friends, based on mutual interest, rather than on the parents’ friendships.  How does this play out for your child with DS?

Sofia has lots of “friends” at school. I took her in yesterday at lunch time, after she’d been out sick for a day and a half. When we walked in to the cafeteria, four full tables of children screamed “Sofia’s Here!” and practically mobbed her! It was very gratifying. But Sofia did not seem to respond to any one child in particular.  She has only one friend at school with whom she has play dates, the girl she has been pulled with for speech and academic support since they were in preschool. They play together, but I don’t get the sense that Sofia “loves” H in the way that “best friends” usually love each other. (H has learning differences that are similar to Sofia’s, but not T21). Rather, H’s mom and I are the ones who make the play dates; the girls don’t request them.

In the day school, Sofia loves and is loved by her classmates, but they do not have play dates as individuals. When we get together with families, Sofia and her peer may or may not play together. Frequently, Sofia is more likely to be engrossed in the toys at someone else’s house. If the other child wants to play with her, great, but if the other child moves on to another activity, Sofia is perfectly happy to just keep playing with toys.

If your elementary-school aged child has friends with DS, where do they connect? School? Or other activities? Which activities?

One of the reasons I do not do a lot of in-person DS events is Comparison. When Sofia was a baby, I had a lot of problems with other moms, whose kids were not developing at the same pace as Sofia, comparing the children and becoming upset. That distressed me, and I began to shy away from too many direct interactions with other kids the same age with DS. The few friends we have in person have children a year or two older or younger than Sofia (and most are boys), which makes it easier to ignore the developmental differences.

But David goes to this reading program once a month, and sees a bunch of kids with DS who are close to Sofia’s age, who are doing… “more” things… better than… UGH! All the words I hate to use! I hate to compare! So how do I help my husband cope with his need to compare? And is there a “right” answer?

Are we doing Sofia a disservice by not fostering more “peer” friendships at this age? By purposely doing “regular” activities as a family rather than specific Special Needs activities? Sofia is in the Inclusion class in the Public School, plus twice a week she is part of the first grade class at the day school. She attends gymnastics, swimming, and ballet/tap classes every week. Isn’t that enough? Or not even close?

And does “peer” have to mean specifically Down syndrome? There’s a girl from gymnastics who has Autism. She is two years older than Sofia, but they are a riot together (so much so that they had to be split into different classes, because they were too disruptive together). They love each other. In this relationship, Sofia is the leader; J will follow whatever she is doing (which is why they disrupt the class; if Sofia gets distracted, J follows her.). Is J a “valid” peer relationship?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blogging and more blogging

One of my tasks at school this year is to help the teachers make their own blogs. To this end, I have made my own "teacher" blog, MWJDS Tefillah Blog. It's been interesting to compare the different blogging platforms. When I first started blogging in 2007, Blogger was the clear winner, but now I'm not so sure. The features in WordPress are just as easy (albeit laid out differently).

Anyway, take a look at my Tefillah blog and tell me what you think. And notice the boys in the photo on the home page...

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In other news, I'm home with a chunky-breathing Sofia today. We were up most of the night trying to keep her breathing. Poor baby. The quik test for strep was clear yesterday, but we'll see if it comes back tomorrow with a different story. No fever, just trouble breathing. We've been nebulizing and steaming frequently, and I dragged out the humidifiers already.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Making a Blog Archive

I've been blogging since 2007, which I suddenly realize is a few years. And this blog is my only "journal" (well, for travel, I write the journal entries off-line first). So I decided it would be good to get a printed archive of my blog, just for safety, in case Blogger decided to close tomorrow.

I had experimented with one service already, but the book I created was more than 600 pages, and would cost a fortune to print. So I looked at a few other services, and I think I found something that will work for me.

I'm using BookSmart, which allows me to select which blog posts I want to include, and (in theory, at least) "slurps" the photos from those posts also. It doesn't always grab the photos, but I think that might be because many of the photos I post on the blog are actually stored in Photobucket, rather than directly on Blogger.

Anyway, I managed to finish the text for the 2007 archive. Pretty cool. I can import it into BookSmart, and then copy it into my word processing app (I use Mellel) and format it the way I like. I could go all the way to print with BookSmart, but the default is to put one entry per page, and there was a lot of wasted space. I wanted to make the text flow better.

It was interesting to see my posts from 2007. Sofia was just a toddler, and Micah a little kid with a lot of really weird Micah'isms. Very amusing to revisit "I'm going to pretend I'm Captain Jack Sparrow; do you want to be the dog?" and stories like the imaginary DVD player that was too loud...

We had a lovely Shabbat dinner last night with three other families, all very close friends. In fact, I think the 18 of us (including the kids) are all going to trek to the Florida panhandle for Passover this spring! We had a great time, good food, many bottles of wine for the grownups, and the kids watched The Parent Trap (the Lindsey Lohan version) and had fun with their friends. We didn't even get home until 11pm.

Which means Sofia and I woke at 8:30, just barely in time to get dressed, eat breakfast, and make it to her ballet class. She actually did REALLY well this morning, participating nearly the entire time. Very proud!

This afternoon we all went to "Pies on the Commons" in Framingham for a little while, and then met our friends at Walden Pond. The guys (my three and their two; the son is one of Micah's best buddies) walked all the way around the pond, but the mom and I were stuck walking with Sofia, which means that we made very little progress and finally turned back around. Sofia really just wanted to stay at the beach and throw stones into the water.

We went back to their house for dinner, and had another lovely evening. And got home earlier.

All are asleep now except me (it's 10:30). G'night!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Simchat Torah, Buddy Walk, and a Photo Book

Tonight was the big blow-out Simchat Torah celebration. Temple Israel does a great job, with a Klezmer band and lots of dancing. The crowd seemed larger than usual, possibly because it was a holiday weekend (Columbus Day) as well.

Sofia had a grand time. She danced so much, and I saw her hold hands with many different people, which is unusual for her. She was very happy. And she got to be on the bimah as much as she wanted!

Sam and his friends got to carry the Torahs as recent b'nai mitzvah students. Sam looked so handsome.

Micah had a blast with his buddies. He is such a happy guy these days.

David even had fun, talking with E & D and M & J, who are our good friends.

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Yesterday was the Down Syndrome Buddy Walk, in Wakefield. It was fun. David wasn't home yet from New Zealand, so he missed it (didn't get home until after 10pm). But we had 15 people on the team anyway: me and the three kids, my friend N and her two, DB and his three, my parents, and Hamenahelet (the former head of school) and her grown son (who happens to have Down syndrome also).

I made bright orange kerchiefs for team Sofia's Fans, and with the Buddy Walk's jade t-shirts, they looked terrific.


I had to return the borrowed wheel chair on Wednesday, so we were back to the jogging stroller. And we did not find out until we got to Wakefield that both rear tires were flat! No one had a bike pump - we asked police, fire, EMT, and event organizers, as well as several random strangers. So Sofia had to settle for a bumpy ride - which at least encouraged her to walk a bit more of the route than usual.

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And I spent a large portion of my free time in the past few days finally making the photo album from Sam's Bar Mitzvah. Here it is:

Click here to view this photo book larger
Click here to create your own Shutterfly photo book.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Our Sheltered World

Hmmm. This Public School business is going to be ... different. I am used to my children's friends' parents being like me. Like-minded on things like food and behavior. Healthy food. Good, polite behavior.

And then there is public school. Now, many of the kids are great, and so far all the parents I have met have been fine. But so different from what I'm used to!

Sofia attended a party this afternoon. It was lovely, in the child's home. Themed for Halloween. There were various stations to play games, and after each game you could take a prize. There were buckets of candy and buckets of toys.

Many kids took one or two items each time. Ok.

But I watched as some of the kids dug in with both hands and practically shoveled the candy into their own buckets.

I was kind of appalled. And no one said a word.

I'm just so not used to the Candy. I hate candy. Micah is allergic to so much, and it's just so darn bad for us. I allow a little bit, so they don't feel deprived, but I don't keep a candy dish filled, and I don't encourage candy consumption. When the kids get home from trick-or-treating (if they even bother to go), I make them sort out the candy and only keep a small amount. (And I admit, a couple of times I froze the extras and handed them out the following year!).

The other thing that was weird for me was the football-worship. I'm just not used to it. Oh, my husband and sons like football. They will watch a game, especially if the Giants are playing. But we're not Sports Fans. We'd rather DO than Watch.

So I'm always boggled by the amount of time, money and energy the rest of the country seems to spend on football (or baseball).

Ok, done with my little mini-rant. I spent a few lovely hours in the Sukkah this afternoon, enjoying the last of the nice weather. (It's raining now). It's gonna rain tomorrow for the Buddy Walk. Boo Hoo.

My children are stressing me a bit more than usual. Sofia was not all that cooperative at dance class this morning. After I had to go in and get her back on track twice, one of the other moms told me I should just go sit down and relax and read my book, and she promised she would call me if I was needed. I SO appreciated that!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

31 for 21...sort of

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month (it's also Awareness Month for a bunch of other things, but DS is what I'm interested in, of course).

Since Down syndrome is also known as Trisomy 21 (meaning there are 3 pieces of the 21st chromosome "pair"), many folks post "31 for 21" during the month of October; 31 posts about DS or their child with DS or their experiences with DS.

No way can I commit to posting every day for the entire month of October! There are days I actually do not go anywhere near my computer (really!). There are days when the only "downtime"I have to even think about composing something puty and witty is while I'm driving the darn minivan around town.

So I'll post what I can, under the guise of 31 for 21.

Here goes...

I have always known I would have a daughter like Sofia.

Always.

When I was 16, I traveled to Israel with United Synagogue Youth's Israel Pilgrimage. Six weeks without my folks or my sister (awesome!), traveling all over the country. Awesome.

One place we visited was Maon LaTinok, which was an orphanage for children with Down syndrome. At that time, in 1981, children with DS were not very well appreciated in Israel, and many were abandoned. So this woman named Hadassah Levi rescued 40 babies with Down syndrome from local hospitals and raised them herself at Maon LaTinok.

One of the most vivid memories I have of that summer when I was 16 was sitting on the floor, playing with an adorable little girl, less than two years old, with braids in her hair. Next to me sat one of the football players in our group, and he, too, was playing with a small child. It was the sweetest moment. And it made me fall completely in love.


Which is why I was not scared when Sofia was born.

And when I was ready to celebrate weaning her, after nearly 2 years of nursing, I planned to mark leaving that phase of my life behind by going to the mikveh (the ritual bath). As I searched for text for the ceremony, I came across another  ceremony...in which the parents made a donation to none other than Maon Latinok!

So my 31 for 21 is this: I have always, since I was 16, known that I was supposed to have a child like Sofia. I just did not know how incredibly beautiful life with her would be!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yom Kippur, Glee, and always parenting

G'mar Chatima Tovah. May you be inscribed in the book of Life and Peace for a good new year. If I have in any way offended or injured you, I apologize.

I am addicted to Glee. Really. I had only watched it on airplanes, but on the way home from NZ I watched the first 8 episodes. Hooked. I actually got a free month of Netflix, and I'm working my way through the entire series. Finished Season One, on to Season Two. Plus I've started on the "live" broadcasts of Season Four.

Which means I now realize something about myself. I am Rachel. I'm singing in the Chamber Choir at shul, and I'm fairly certain I have same personality as Rachel. Not the voice. I have a "good" voice, but not "great". She's got the great voice, for sure. But I've got all the personality traits, annoying or not. Yup. I'm Rachel. I admit it.

So my boys think I'm nuts (but as I type this, Sam and his friend A are watching Glee with me). But I will watch these episodes until I am all the way through the series, and if Glee is my way of avoiding reality, so be it.

Parenting continues. Sucks a lot, but worth it. Yesterday, I took Sofia to Children's Hospital in Waltham, and she had two great check-ups. Endocrin was a breeze, since we'd done her blood work a few weeks ago. Her numbers all look terrific - levels have gone down, BMI great, growth perfect.

We went out for lunch, which was fun. Then back to Children's for cardiology. It was a wicked long wait, which was annoying. Sofia did NOT like the EKG, and she refused to take the stickers off her chest until bath time (and even then, it was a struggle). Her blood pressure was very high, which makes sense because she hates the cuff, so we'll monitor that. But we managed to get a fairly decent echo-cardiogram, too, and the news was great. Blood flow terrific, no leaking. They don't want her back for 2 - 3 years!

Micah stayed home "sick" yesterday. His sinuses have gotten the better of him, and he was totally wiped out. Went through three boxes of kleenex in one day. Poor boy. But he went back to school today. He's better out of the house.

Sam is...Sam. Freaks out when things go wrong. Happy when things go his way. Sigh.

So I settle in to watch Glee, with my kids and my extra kids. So nice.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Shanah Tovah - Happy New Year

I wish all of you a sweet, joyous and healthy New Year. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life and Peace.

Rosh Hashanah was lovely. I'm in the Chamber Choir for shul, and we did two pieces - Zacharti Lach and Halleluyah, both by Lewandowski. So I had a couple of rehearsals during the week. I thought there would be another soprano, but she got sick and never showed up at services. And I'm not really a soprano, so it was HIGH. But fun, and we sounded good.

Sunday evening we had Erev Rosh Hashanah dinner at N's house with a few other families. Nice time. Laura and Lilie came up, too. The two little girls made a bee-line for G's closet when we arrived, and both left wearing "new" clothing. At one point, however, Sofia came out and REEKED of perfume! Turned out the boys had sprayed the boys with Axe! Sofia had to take a bath before we could leave for home. (She loved it!)

Monday, services in the tent were lovely, but the choir was singing in the Sancutary/Social Hall (our shul has two services for the holidays; the Rabbi and Cantor are Team One, and the Rabbi Emeritus (Harold Kushner) and Chazan Sheni (Joel Sussman from Safam) are Team Two. They alternate services. So first day we were inside with the Cantor, and he was nervous about us so had us come in waaaay too early. So I ended up bouncing between the two services for a while, which was disconcerting. But the singing went well, and I managed to hear at least most of Rabbi Kushner's sermon.

We had a lovely dinner at our friends' home like we do every year, and went home early. Laura and Lilie couldn't stay the extra night this time :(

Second day was easier in terms of logistics, since everything I was doing was in the tent. But with Laura gone, David and I had to watch Sofia. She did manage to stay with us for nearly all the service, rather than going to Youth Services. We arrived fairly early, and for some reason the tent service was going VERY fast - after 30 minutes, they were already on the Torah Service. People actually missed some assigned honors because we got to those parts too early.

But Sam read the Prayer for Israel (mostly in English, with a couple of lines of Hebrew) really well. He looks so handsome in his suit and his (very large) tallit. Such a young man!

I also blew Shofar later in the service, right before we sang the two choir pieces. Whew.

Our house for Tuesday, with N and the kids, r and her girls, V and our "old lady friend". Very nice time.

The rest of the week has been busy. Sam's really having trouble adjusting to 8th grade, so he's keeping me hopping. Sofia had her new ballet class this morning and it went GREAT. She even enjoyed the tap portion of the class (I guess most of the schools here do both in the intro classes). She stayed engaged the whole time, and the teacher and assistant were both terrific. WHEW!

So I took her this morning, but then David switched with me, and I took the boys to shul so we could be on time, since I was reading Torah. He and Sofia arrived long before it was my turn, so we need not have worried.

Going to celebrate our friend E's birthday (belatedly) tonight. Yeah! Getting ready for the next few holidays, and for the Buddy Walk on October 7. My parents are actually coming for it this time!

Monday, September 10, 2012

My kids' brains...

I am constantly amazed at how my children think!

A Leap of Cognition

A few days before school started, we were cleaning out Sam's dresser drawers. (Who really needs 35 pairs of formerly white sneaker socks?) Sofia, ever so helpful, reached into a drawer, and pulled out something.

"Oh! Tallit!" she exclaimed.

And sure enough, it was a Tallit Katan, the small under-garment that Sam used to wear (in his "more" religious days back in first and second grade).

Now, I was thrilled enough that Sofia knew what a Tallit was. But later, I realized how much more of a cognitive leap that had been.

Your standard Tallit:

 A Tallit Katan:
They don't really look very similar, do they? And consider that David's Tallit is cream colored with burgundy stripes, and mine is pink and fits like a cloak.

How did she recognize the basic similarity?!

I am amazed.

Also amazing is seeing how my sons do the same thing so differently from each other. The fifth grade Torah project at our school is a really big deal. Every week, the students - working with their parents - have to write a Summary and Commentary for two portions of the Torah, until eventually they have written for then entire Torah.

With Sam, it was challenging to get him to read the materials, since at that time he was still struggling with reading comprehension. His Summaries were short and tended to focus on just one part of the portion.

Well, I've started working with Micah. And what a difference! Micah's first summary was two full pages, typed! (Of course, that's way too long, and this evening we worked it down to three paragraphs).

It is fascinating to work through the material with each of them. They have such different ways of seeing things. Very specific, very unique.


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In other news, we tried Ballet Class this afternoon. Sofia was VERY excited, and actually got herself strapped into her car seat (which for some reason she had moved to the front; I made her move back again):




We went to the ballet studio around the corner from our house. At first, I thought things went great. She has been talking about ballet for a full year now, and was really excited. She watches the Bella Dancerella DVD constantly, and was showing off what she knows of the ballet positions.

I watched from the observation window, and after a while, I took a walk around the block.

And when I came back, it had all fallen apart.

The class had switched from ballet to tap, and Sofia totally lost interest. And the teacher did not try to keep her involved. When I returned, Sofia was off in a corner, playing with the mirror.

I stayed in the class for a while, trying to get Sofia to cooperate, but it was no use. The teacher, by that point, was just ignoring her even when she did get in line.

I ended up walking out with Sofia in the middle of the class.

I was so upset. It was one of those "Special Needs" moments that really feel like a punch in the gut.

But I turned it around, quickly. Instead of driving home, we drove straight to the other dance studio in town! I had tried going over earlier in the day but it wasn't open yet. This studio is larger, and I had been afraid of it; I was always the chunky, clutzy girl in ballet class, and all those lovely ballerinas really throw me off guard. But several of my friends' daughters (mostly girls Sam's age) have been taking lessons there for years, and love it.

So I took my daughter (still wearing her tutu) into the school. And had the most wonderful talk with the director.

Sofia will be taking a ballet (and tap, unless she does not respond to the tap) class with a very specific teacher and very specific assistant. The class is for 5 year olds, but developmentally that will make sense for Sofia.

And it meets on Saturday mornings at 9am. Sigh.

Which means 1. she will miss class once a month so she can go to her reading program, and 2. we'll be late for shul. But it's worth it.

The director said she has a very different philosophy than the other school. "Every child deserves to dance." I immediately fell in love.

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Ok, I can't tear up, because my eye hurts. It started hurting Friday, was worse Saturday (when I had to drive Sam out to Worcester for a bar mitzvah; it was nice to see so many friends at that shul!).

Sunday morning, I woke up looking like Quasimodo. My eye was completely swollen shut, and hurt like the dickens.

So off to the ER we went. Now I'm on antibiotics and hot compresses, and today I saw the ophthalmologist, who also prescribed steroid/antibiotic drops. Whew.

Bar Mitzvah!

You know, I totally forgot to post anything about the Bar Mitzvah! So here it is...

FABULOUS. The kid totally ROCKED it, wearing "The Tallit of Power"

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One thing I did learn is that the formal photos should NOT include grandparents and great grandparents or great-grand-uncles. Took a bit longer than expected, and lots of "what about this" whispers...

But we got lots of beautiful shots from our wonderful photographer. We did formals on Friday before services, since sundown was so late. Then we changed outfits, had a lovely service, and then a really nice dinner at the shul. Only had about 24 of us, but it was nice to be able to sit and relax and visit. My cousin and David's best buddy both came in from California.

Shabbat morning was awesome. Packed crowd. Standing room only, really! And that's with adding three extra rows of seats in the back. It was just so warm and wonderful. The celebration of the ufruf (pre-wedding blessings) was lovely - the couple and both sets of parents danced on the bimah together for a moment. Everyone was so happy. The weather was gorgeous. The bride's father had put a tent in the back parking lot, so between that and my brilliant idea of renting long tables (instead of using rounds), there was plenty of seating for everyone. Yummy lunch.

All afternoon, people came back to the house. Lovely weather, and much fun being with friends and family. Every bit of food was eaten!

Sunday morning, adorable. Perfect. 35 kids, 20 adults. Relaxed, fun, and exactly what a Bar mitzvah party should be. "About the kid". Whew!

More photos:
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SR047

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back to Reality?

Well, that was a busy week or so...

It's Sunday night of Labor Day Weekend. I can see now why I blog better when we travel: I have more time!

Ok, the first few days home were just a blur. Sofia and Sam kept me awake until after 5am the first night, so it really took a while to get back on schedule. Lots of sleeping at odd hours. Fortunately, we had a lovely Shabbat dinner at D's house.

Last Sunday, I think I was finally back in the right time zone. The kids and I drove up to Biddeford Pool, Maine, to spend the day at my friend H's beach house. Fun fun fun!

Sofia loves the sand and the water:
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Sofia and G:
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Meanwhile, Micah and B dig a hole:
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But the highlight of the day, for the kids, was The Boat. My friend's husband had spent the summer working with their son B and nephew to build a boat from scratch, out of materials found in their garage. The task that afternoon was to transport the boat down to the launch area, several hundred yards down the road.

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It took C and the 6 kids about 45 minutes to figure it out, but eventually they got the boat on the roof of the van and down to the water. Then everyone got a ride!


It was such a nice day. We got home late, around 11 pm, and I had too much coffee in order to drive that far, so I was awake much later.

But we still got up early again the next morning, and this time headed south, to Sakonnet RI, where another friend has a beach house (I love these family homes...)

S's son, who is Sam's age, wasn't there, but her daughter, a year younger than Micah, was there, as was of course S's mom, whom I adore. I've been visiting there since right after college, and it's really special.

The kids had a blast jumping waves:
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Terrified me. The undertow is very strong there, because of the way the cove is shaped, so it took a lot of energy to keep Sofia from floating away, especially since she has NO FEAR.

Whew.

Tuesday was a somewhat relaxing last day home before school. Micah had a couple of friends over, and Sam had an orthodontist appointment. We also stopped by the public school so Sofia could meet her teacher and see her new classroom - which is STILL in the same hallway she's been since she turned 3!

In the evening, Micah's friend's mom took the boys to laser tag and bowling, and they did not get home until 9pm. It was nice for Sofia and I to have the quiet evening to get ready for school.

Sofia was so excited! She even packed her own lunch (although I had to fight with her to leave it in the refrigerator over night).

So, Wednesday, bright and early, First Day of School!

My First Grader:
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My Fifth Grader:
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And my Eight Grader:
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Sofia went to Breakfast Bunch at the public school no problem. The boys were excited to see their friends, but nervous about being in a new building (MWJDS finished leasing Framingham' Juniper Hill public school building, and this year we are renting space from Temple Beth Am).

First day is still a blur - I know I had coffee with friends, then a meeting with the Head of School. This year I will be doing some teaching/tefillah coordination, but also more Web work. So I worked for a few hours. Then went to the gym.

Picked up Sofia at 3pm - she had a great day, but was very tired, and grumpy. Growled alot, which I really can't stand.

When we got to MWJDS, one of Sam's teachers was already outside getting ready dismissal, and she gave me an earful about my son. Apparently he did NOT like the homework contract, and slammed it down and refused to sign it, and it was downhill from there. UGH.

When the other teacher came out, she also told me how he'd behaved.

On the whole ride home, he RANTED. All sorts of complaints. Most based on fantasy.

- "They promised us we'd be in the new building [on property the school purchased years ago] by 4th grade!" [well, kid, there IS no building yet!]
 - "We have to use a bathroom pass! Public School doesn't need a bathroom pass!" [Uh, yes they do]

Lots of complaints about being mixed with the sixth grade class (the two teachers will split between 6th and 8th grade, and the two classes will do non-academics together; there is no 7th grade).

And the homework thing was way over the top.

I was shaking by the time we got home. Got the boys settled, took Sofia off to her gymnastics class. Had a long phone conversation with Sam's teacher. Came up with a plan. Got home and gave him a very serious talking-to.

Thursday morning, Micah got a ride to school with another family, and after I dropped off Sofia, Sam and I went to the public school. I met with the sociologist while he had his reading group and then he had his other group. [trying to keep my son's issues slightly more private as he gets older, but basically, he gets support from the public school.] It was good. Very useful conversations.

His teachers said he had a MUCH better day. And they appreciated the apology letters I'd had him write.

Whew.

Ok, so Thursday 12:35, I pick up Sofia to bring her to MWJDS. When we got to the school, first stop is always bathroom. Her new aide was going to then take her down to the learning specialists' office to review schedule, but Sofia spotted her classmates, and went right in to the classroom. Took her place on the rug, and participated like she'd never left. It was a fabulous day.

And I'm pleased to say her new public school teacher is also all in favor of this split-shift. It's really good for Sofia.

(A side story to illustrate how good: this morning, Sofia was helping as Sam and I cleaned out his dresser drawers. She reached in, and said very clearly "Tallit" as she pulled out a tallit katan!)

Friday, Sofia did not have school (public had an extra long weekend), so coffee, gym, and then I took her to Children's Hospital satellite in Waltham for her very tardy blood draw (I think we were supposed to be there in April). She was so funny: most kids take a stuffed animal with them. Sofia brought her water shoes.

She does NOT like blood draws (as expected), and yelled at the techs and me when we were done. Held her arm behind her back for several hours, and is still showing off her boo-boo.

We picked up the boys, and went off to meet my friend N and her kids for a swim at another friend's pool. Then back to N's house for a while, and out to dinner. Poor Sam: they put a kiddie menu in front of him. Not cool.

Saturday morning, Bar Mitzvah for Sam's classmate. Great service, and Sofia sat on my friend J's lap, playing with J's scarf, for an incredibly long time. (Up until now, Sofia has been afraid of J, because once I put her in J's car when I had to run into school, and she's been scared ever since).

Rested and relaxed at home after lunch at shul (not our shul, the one with no babysitting, which is why Sofia was in services the whole time). Then babysitter came for Sofia, and I took the boys (and my "extra" child, Sam's other male classmate) to the party.

Great time: my rule is that Sofia can come to afternoon parties, but I'll leave her home for evening parties if I can. Much easier on me. D's husband wasn't there either, so we were each other's dates. Nice to be with my friends, all dressed up. Great DJ, fun party. Didn't get home until 11:30.

My "extra" child is actually now spending the rest of the weekend with us. He went home last night (J drove him), but I picked him up this morning. I took the 4 kids up to Rockport for the afternoon. Nice day. Getting food into them helped the moods lighten. Sofia got grumpy again when I made her stop throwing rocks into the water (after 20 minutes of throwing). She also insisted on climbing the rocks.

Got home around 8pm, fed them, got Sofia to bed, watched the newest Dr. Who with the boys, and now going to sleep. WHEW. I think canoeing tomorrow...

And DAVID is on his way home!!!!!